Adventures In IT: Episode #109

I have a basic set of rules when I take and call and start working with someone to fix their problem. They’re simple rules that I almost always follow, and in return, I expect–or hope, at least–that the caller will reciprocate and not be a total ass. Because, after, they called me asking for help.


I’ve also had to set some of my rules aside when I moved over to support our sales force. Sales people are a different breed: by nature and by necessity, they’re pushy, impatient and self-centered. But unfortunately, most of them are also unfocused, self-absorbed (which is different than being self-centered), and tend not to completely listen because they allow their minds to be elsewhere, especially when they’re dealing with someone who will not actually directly make money for them.


Never mind the fact that without me to fix their problems, they can’t make the money that they’re working hard to get.


My rules for myself and my callers basically focus on a few key areas: be honest, be cooperative, be polite, and understand that I have no reason to keep you from doing your job. It’s a pretty simple set of unspoken rules, and most of the time I don’t need to worry about people crossing over the line, but it happened yesterday.


Sales dude–we’ll call him “Gomer”–claims to not know much about technology. And he’s called in because he’s trying to install some personal software on his company paid for and supplied laptop. We’ve told him that he needs to run it as an administrator, and given him other pointers in multiple calls to try to get it to install, but he’s still getting an error. So Gomer calls and tells me I need to get this going because it’s so important to him.


Um…That isn’t supported, and we really can’t troubleshoot an installation problem for an application that isn’t supported.


“Oh,” he insists, “I really need this working. And it worked on my last laptop.”


Let me note here that he has told me at some point in our conversation that this software allows him to remotely operate lights at his home, monitor his security system, and operate and monitor his thermostat. I’m failing to see the business need for this software. So I couldn’t give a crap that it worked on the last one.


Gee, I’d like to be able to help, but I can’t help you install personal software onto a company laptop, even if it did work before. This is a new OS with different security rules and settings.


“Well yeah, but I don’t want to have to buy a personal laptop when all I’d run on it is this software. That just doesn’t make sense.”


Wait…You’re calling because you want me to help you save a few hundred dollars? I understand that, but since this software would use the internet to connect your work laptop–with our company data on it–to your home, there’s a security risk that we can’t take a chance with.


Slight pause. Usually, once I start calling data security into question, they give up. But this guy’s made of tougher stuff than that. Or he doesn’t have a conscience. Or a soul.


“I wouldn’t be sending data. I’d just be turning my lights on and off.”


Yes, but the commands require communication ports to be open from your computer to the internet, and we don’t know what ports the unsupported software needs to open to do that communication. I’ll admit that there are points like this that I like to embellish the truth a bit with some good legitimate technical jargon so that they might get lost in the argument and give up.


But not Gomer. “Well, you could research it and get back to me.”


No, I can’t research third-party, personal software, especially when I have to be available to take calls from people who aren’t quite as stubborn as you.


“I just don’t understand what the big deal is. This shouldn’t be that hard to get you to help me.”


Line. Crossed. Without actually spelling out each individual word, I’ve told Gomer I don’t know how many times that he’s skirting the rules, and I won’t let him do that. Or actually, I won’t do it for him. If he’d figured out how to do it, I couldn’t have stopped him. So I went to that point, to actually spell out to him what the problem is.


The laptop belongs to the company, which provides it to him to USE while he’s receiving a paycheck from us so that he can do his job. It hasn’t been given to him so he can create a light show at home from a coffee shop across town. Moreover, it isn’t my job to enable him to be able to do that. It is, however, my job to make sure that his laptop works and that all of our applications and data are safe and sound while in the hands of morons like Gomer. We don’t know if turning on his back porch light for Fido would send a sales report to a competitor or not. And we aren’t going to find out because we’ve tested all of the applications that people actually NEED to do their job and we don’t expand the list without a good reason. Figure something else out.


I was a little more polite than that. But still, there was silence after that last bit. Then one final question: “So what you’re saying is that none of you can help me with this?”


Sigh. Another satisfied customer.


See you tomorrow.