Technical support RANT
November 2002

When a modern operating system or office application has a few bugs, it's little surprise that in millions of lines of obtuse computer programming code someone neglected to include a handler for some rare unexpected condition somewhere. But you know the world is going right into the crapper when you can't get a package of cookies from a simple vending machine without experiencing bugs.

The "exact change" light wasn't on when I used two quarters and three dimes to get a seventy-five cent package of cookies this morning, but sure enough the vending machine's digital display announced "PLEASE USE EXACT CHANGE" when I pushed the button.

Thinking maybe the machine was out of nickels, I scrounged around for a quarter and popped it in, and pressed the button fully expecting a package of cookies and three dimes change. Such was not the case. So I pressed the coin release and got back four quarters and one nickel. I guess nickels weren't a problem!

Three quarters did work, by the way.

At least I did not have to call for technical support to get my cookies, which brings me to today's rant about what passes for technical support from today's computer and peripheral manufacturers.

Let's start with Linksys, now owned by networking market leader Cisco.  Linksys offers competitively priced but cheaply designed products for the lowest common denominator, and provides TERRIBLE support.  These idiots couldn't solve their grade school homework, much less anything that involves networking, yet you have to suffer through an hour of hold time just to talk to one of them.  Then when you finally manage to escalate your issue to third-tier support, which in most OTHER places gets you an honest to goodness product engineer, you instead end up talking to another bozo with poor English skills who not only isn't equipped to solve your problem, but barely knows a PC from a toaster-oven.  I originally thought Linksys' technical support was provided by a colony of Filipino green card holders in Nebraska, judging by the accents and pigeon English.  But one of their staff recently stumbled upon this web page and "corrected" me by ranting in my Guest Log.  Linksys' tech support is actually outsourced entirely to a sweat shop in the Philippines that pays $250 a month.  Thanks, NAFTA, etc.  In spite of their complaints about the work conditions, they seem to have the freedom to surf my web site and play in my guest log on Linksys' time and using Linksys' resources.

Giga-Byte offers products are fast and slick and generally polished, but the support is practically non-existent.  You can't reach anyone directly by phone and emails can take weeks to get answered if they get answered at all. If and when your emails do get answered, they get answered by some fellow in Taiwan for whom English is a third language at best, and the answer is usually a frustrating, useless non-answer, i.e. "Q: Are there updated RAID drivers that fix bus latency on sleep resume? A: The month August very hot. Call vendor."

Sony sells polished looking and WAY overpriced proprietary mediocrity designed strictly to lock you into their brand and extract as much money from your pocket as possible.  Most people haven't figured this out yet but Sony is merely Japan's tool of revenge against the West for WWII.  While you at least manage to get support from people that speak AND truly comprehend English, this is all part of their inscrutable plot and their comprehension of customer needs remains insufficient.  Following in the footsteps of such eminently popular software publishers as Microsoft, you can't get shit in the way of support until you've registered your product with Sony.  Once you've registered, you still must have an Internet connection through which to obtain support via their lowest common denominator -oriented online help system.  If in the absence of an Internet connection you somehow have managed to social-engineer your way to a support person by phone, they actually refuse you the information you need even as the screen-full of relevant help is staring them in the face, directing you to use the Internet instead!  I have two words about Sony: REMEMBER BETAMAX.

Dell is making a killing in today's consumer and business markets by selling systems at prices that seem impossibly low. Their low price point is held a few ways. Although one way must surely be by cooking the books a la Enron, another is by not maintaining a sufficient parts supply ("sorry, we won't have your replacement power supply for two weeks"), and yet another is by instructing their technical support people to make life easier for Dell rather than the customer.  And while the typical neophyte may get a warm fuzzy simply from speaking to someone for whom English is a first language, anyone with an IQ beyond "moron" will quickly be disappointed when simple issues like a missing modem driver are answered with lazy cop-outs like "use the recovery CD". The Dell Dude makes cute commercials but you don't want him giving you tech support!


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