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People Break Down The Items That They're Always Willing To Pay Extra For

People Break Down The Items That They're Always Willing To Pay Extra For

If you are one of the millions of people who are struggling with post-pandemic finances, the thought of spending extra on anything makes you clench your wallet. As much as it's easy to gravitate towards the cheapest possible brand or type of service sometimes it's worth a little extra for a better product.

One service I will always pay the extra is when it's time to go for a haircut and color. If it can't be included in that month's budget, it will simply wait until the next. The reason is for how expensive it is to fix a bad job, or how long it takes to grow out an embarrassing haircut. Heading to the salon at the big blue discount store is not my idea of a good deal.

If I'm not walking out of a hair appointment feeling like a million bucks it's not worth it to me. Thankfully, I found a great local stylist whose prices are great and her work is perfect—looking at you J! In fact, she could charge more, but that's why it's always important to tip your stylists so they know you appreciate their work.

Redditor biancalin wanted to know what other people don't mind shelling out the extra dough for.

They asked:

"What's one thing you're always willing to pay the extra price for?"

No “ragrets” right?

Rainbow GIF by 60 Second DocsGiphy

“Tattoos from an artist that knows what they're doing.” ​ExpressW

Tattoo artist here, please do. Yes we might be more expensive compared to Scratchy Dave from behind the Walmart, but we'll do your tattoo justice and make sure you're cared for, that it stays as it is and doesn’t make you look like a middle-school student's desk.”

“There's a reason why good artists ask for a higher price, and its not cause we want to f**k you over.” Clayman8

Time is a valuable thing…

My time. I used to always try to save money while traveling until I realized I was wasting hours and adding stress to my life. Sure, the bus is $100 cheaper but it's 3 hours longer, doesn't leave when or from where you want, and is a miserable ride. Pay for the flight!”

“I've seen this shift with little things too - ‘splurging’ for an Uber if it's make my trip simpler or even paying to have something done in my apartment building (we have laundry and cleaning services) if I'm stressing about getting it done. It's nice to save money but not at the cost of being a miserable ball of stress.”

“Edit: I just eventually came to view stress and wasted time as a ‘cost’ even if it doesn't necessarily show up on my balance sheet.” montage10

“They say a cheap man pays twice as much in the long run."

“Tools: If you are earning a living with them, you want something totally reliable and is not going to break and work properly every time. They say a cheap man pays twice as much in the long run.”

“I bought up a set of Ryobi power tools for work and for DIY at home they are pretty good. But, when I was onsite and found the batteries take 3 hours to charge. I don't have that kind of time. Also the hammer drill didn't always hammer. I'm a Milwaulkee boy now and I am completely satisfied.” quadruple_negative87

You might even find one at a thrift shop…

“A really good quality winter coat or jacket. To me, it's definitely worth the investment if you live in a country that gets cold winters. Here in Ireland it doesn't snow much in winter due to us being a small island, but we get very cold winters and very wet ones, so you get really cold rain.”

“Paying extra for a really good quality, warm and waterproof coat makes SUCH a difference if you're out and about a lot like I am. It pays for itself because it can last you years.

“I'm due a new one this year, got five years out of my last one and it's still good, but I've lost a significant amount of weight this past year and it's much too big for me now.” LasRua

Ughh layovers…

​“Currently sitting in the airport for an egregiously complicated over-night layover, all to save $80. I'll always pay the extra $80 moving forward.” Trappest_1G_Sucks

“Yeah, everything is more expensive while traveling and additional length of travel time needs to be accounted for. Adding 2 hours of travel time to save a few bucks may seem like a decent bargain when you're buying the ticket, but several $5 bottles of water and the $15 Burger King combo that you eat during your layover will make you regret that decision to cheap out on the flight.” iWillNeverReplyToYou

​“Don't cheap out on stuff that separates you from the ground. Mattresses, shoes, and tires.” maverickaod

“Excellent way to remember that! I've been paying the price for years now (foot surgery), after wearing high heels, having to dress the part in finance, banking, etc., with most every other woman in the 80's, 90's, then with flip flops, with zero support. Glad I've always gone with the good mattress, car & truck tires, and a good office chair where I can and do soak my feet!” 1plus1dog

Safety is worth it…

Motorcycle helmets. You don't need the most expensive helmet, but you should pay what it takes to get something with a decent certification (SNELL, ECE, FIM) and not just DOT. Some technologies like MIPS are also well worth the extra spend.” Bicameral_vtech

​No back pain=worth it.

“As a lady with rather generously sized boobs I'm accustomed, and happy, to pay through the nose for a really good bra. The difference it can make to my day is worth every penny.” CourtneyFish_Lately

Holy crap yes…

Toilet Paper Dancing GIF by The CooligansGiphy

​“Toilet paper. Nothing worse than cheap toilet paper.” Mentalhygienx

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Good tradespeople…

“A good plumber, water damage f**king sucks.” midnight-genius

Many Americans would…

“I'd Pay extra taxes to get things like universal healthcare.” wombo23

Local is always best.

​“Local beef: Since I started buying from farmer's markets, I can't stand most supermarket steaks anymore. This is noteworthy for me because I'm notoriously the guy who can't taste quality in most food products.” Diabhol

Something that will hold up is worth it.

​“Good furniture. My family used to be in the furniture business and we still have things from the store in our homes. Some are now antiques, others are just good, solid pieces of furniture. You can always recover a couch, have a table re-stained, and have a dresser painted. I like IKEA as a place holder, but they generally don't last after a move.” LionCM

You are worth it! 

Love Yourself Dancing GIF by Pose FXGiphy

​“Anything to do with my peace, safety & general well being. I'm worth every penny.” Hot_Paramedic7616

Get out of your comfort zone.”

“I've read travel so much time and disagree, if you like resort vacations and only go to the next beach to relax it's ok, I get it. But if you travel I see everything as a Adventure, don't get the nice hotel room, get a hostel and meet other traveler's at the bar.”

“My best experiences are coming if something comes unplanned. 3000km away from home and my motorbike broke down I need to write in Google translate with the Mechanik, no problem. Get out of your comfort zone.” 0timme

They truly are a treasure…

“True friends. You can only have the best of friends if there is that "extra mile" of effort paid by both of you. If a said person puts a lot of effort into helping you just because they want to be nice, you should push yourself to help him with even more effort and that's how a cycle begins where both parties win in the long term."

“That's how I made very good friends in university. I was the one that needed a bit of help and my colleagues went the extra mile to aid me with courses and I returned the favor twice for that moment. Right now me and my new hommies are in an "endless" cycle of returning the favor for last time."

“Edit: And if a random person goes that extra mile once for you and you never return the favor when you could have, then you are a di*k. Why? Because you Contribute to the other person becoming a d*ck because they might go "that's it, I am done with helping others" just because he put effort into helping you, but you never pay back the favor. That's why some never want to go the extra mile and pay the extra price and thus, true friends are expensive, but they are definitely worth it!"

Good local food…

“A solid local restaurant. I'm lucky to live in a city where you have to go out of your way to go to a chain restaurant. I live in New Orleans so you have to actually leave the parish (county for you normies) to go to one of those bland outback's or olive gardens. I will always pay extra to support local." OPisalady

Their favorites…

​“Shoes, toilet paper, skin products (not necessarily the most expensive, but, I have allergies to so many of the ingredients, when I find one that works, I'm buying several) and antiperspirant...still in mourning over dove discontinuing my soothing chamomile dry spray...RIP”

“Oh, and sanitizers/cleansers. I sorely missed my brand name hand sanitizer, which I used for more than just my hands, when it was in short supply...don't get me wrong, I started the pandemic with 3 extra jugs of the stuff from a previous "do you need anything from costco" ordering mistake, but, still.” DishyPanHands

​Have you heard of LLBean? Those will last decades.

​“Backpack, I used to buy so many Jan sports and stuff and after a year zipper always breaks or the backpack itself tears, I bought a north face 5 years ago and still use it.” Skroooge

One winter in Maine and you’ll understand.

​“Winter tires. Preferably studded tires. Huge difference in the winter, and a potential lifesaver.” beardofdoom2017

​While it’s not in everyone’s budget to splurge on every item these are some good examples of when to spend the extra when you’re able. You’ll be glad you did in the long run.

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People Share The Worst Reactions They've Ever Seen Someone Have After Losing

Reddit user ImaginativeEmpress asked: 'What’s the worst reaction to losing you ever saw?'

A football on the ground with players scuffling in the background

People who are extremely competitive can ruin the experience of any time of gameplay or sport.

Yet, you can't fault them for their passion...until you see them win and run victory laps around you until you're dizzy.

But when they lose? Oof. It can either be amusing or utterly disturbing to witness.

Keep reading...Show less
Unreasonable People Get Brutal Clapbacks
Photo by Nachristos on Unsplash

Many people in customer service are familiar with the phrase, "The customer is always right," but most of the time, that is NOT the case. These employees came face to face with some of the worst customers of the world—and stood their ground in the most satisfying ways.

1. A Hair-Raising Tale

Way back in the day, when I worked in the food service industry, we once had a customer who got a salad and, when she was just about finished eating it, she intentionally placed one of her hairs in the bowl in order to try and get it refunded. Instead, she got the complimentary “I’m sorry” free bakery item to make up for it. This happened several times, and eventually, it got to the point where she was doing this every single day.

Finally, the store manager sat down at her table and told her this was her last day eating in the cafe, and that they would refuse her refund today and refuse her service in the future. She started to say something about the customer always being right—but he already had a brutal reply ready for her. He just put up a hand to cut her off. He said “You cause us to lose money every day. You’re absolutely not our customer. You are a liability, and you are no longer welcome here".

Unfortunately, this confrontation took embarrassingly long to get to. I worked in training support and the issue came to light during an associate-level customer service class. They had been rolling with it for at least a few weeks, hoping she would just stop at some point on her own. I’m not sure if the managers all knew what was going on, but I called their general manager and DM after class and it was taken care of between the two of them by the end of that week.


2. Planning For The Future

This happened not to me, but to my manager. At the store where I work, this one woman comes in every Sunday, without exception. And also without exception, she complains every Sunday. It really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the store or what she’s looking for. She’ll always find something to whine about. So this past time, she said, “I won’t be coming back".

And my manager goes, “Alright, I’ll see you next week!”


3. Is The Cup Half Empty, Or Half Full?

clear drinking glass with yellow liquidPhoto by Anshu A on Unsplash

I was once a witness to a silent owning that I still get giddy just thinking of. A buddy of mine was serving a table and the kid at the table was around eight or maybe ten years old. He gives her an adult glass for her apple juice. The dad pipes up and says he doesn’t want her to have all that sugar, so he needed to take it away and come back with a kid-sized one.

My friend replied that the glasses are all the same size, the adult size just looks bigger because they have thick bottoms. The dad responds that “the adult glass is clearly bigger and LIKE I SAID I don’t want her to have all that sugar". My buddy is a jerk. He gives a super deliberate exaggerated nod, says nothing, and marches to our little service alley behind the bar.

That’s when he put his plan into motion. A few moments later, he re-emerges with a kids’ cup, sets it down beside the glass, picks up the glass, and pours the adult glass into the new one, lifting it progressively higher and higher until the last drop drips down into the glass, perfectly fitting into the kid-sized cup. He then darts the heck off to the kitchen without even looking at the guy, like he didn’t even exist. I exploded with laughter.


4. Language Barrier

This was the funniest customer service retaliation I’ve ever seen in all my years working in retail. This lady was being unnecessarily rude to our gay cashier, and at one point she replied to something he said with: “Sorry, I don't speak gay". Without missing a beat, the cashier responded with: “Well, don’t worry, because I’m fluent in idiot".


5. Making A Snap Decision

This was not at a restaurant or a retail store, but at a visitor information desk at my university. We were having our Education Week event, where parents from all over the country were exploring the programs our school had to offer. At one point, a lady rudely walked up to the information desk, snapped her fingers in the face of the student employee, and blurted out: “Tell me where the Marriott Center is".

The student employee snapped his fingers right back, and said: “Try again".


6. Hitting Where It Hurts

I work in a retail store. One day, this very rude customer threw a tantrum at me, and shouted: "Why don't you get a REAL job?" Annoyed, I decided to strike back. I said: "Now if I did that, what would you have to whine and be mad about?" Unsurprisingly, she did not seem to find this particularly funny. But I felt pretty good about myself!


7. Putting Two And Two Together

I work at a local bar. One night, a bunch of intoxicated people were making a huge mess, wasting our time, and harassing other tables. Finally, I went up to them and informed them that there was an issue. Me: “The manager has decided that all of you need to leave. We reserve the right to refuse service to anyone and your behavior warrants it".

The loudest guy at the table: “Screw you. If you kick us out, we're never gonna come back to this place". Me: “That's exactly the point. Please leave".


8. Spoiling Her Big Plans

One day, a rude customer came into the store where I work and said: “I don't like (insert literally anything here), is the owner in? I know him!” I immediately expressed intense excitement and said: “OMG SAME! I know the owner too! He's not here right now, unfortunately, but I'm the manager on duty today so I'll help you out". She was not amused.


9. X Marks The Spot

cars on road during daytimePhoto by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash

I’ve never worked at a restaurant, but I used to work as a parking attendant in the garage at a local ski resort. I was occasionally allowed to clap back at rude customers, which was always nice to know. The best one went like this. Guy in Mercedes: “Why can't I just park there?” Me: “Because we have a bunch of school buses full of kids coming later and we need to reserve this space for them".

Guy: “But I'm a good driver. C'mon, there's no parking anywhere else!" Me: “Yes, there is. You'll just have to walk a little bit further from your car to get to the elevator". Guy: “But I don't want to do that!" Me: “Too bad". I then left briefly to go to the bathroom, and came back to find the guy and his family getting ready and unloading their equipment from their car—which was parked exactly where I told them they were not allowed to.

When the guy saw that I had returned, he gave me a little smirk, as though he had somehow outsmarted me. Without breaking eye contact, and without saying a word, I immediately filled out a parking ticket and placed it on his windshield right in front of him and his family. Guy: “Hey, what the heck are you doing, man?” Me: “Move your car now, or I’ll tow it too".

And that was the end of that situation!


10. Getting A Little Salty

I once had a guy ask me to bring him some pepper to the table, so I happily obliged. As I'm walking away after giving him the pepper, he snaps his fingers behind my back. He shouts: "This pepper. It's not coarse enough!" I turned back and said: "I'm sorry, but that's the only pepper we have". He goes: "Mmmm, yeah. Well, you can take this back, then. Maybe you could go get me some sea salt instead".

I go: "I'm sorry, sir, but we don't have sea salt, just regular table salt". He goes: "Mmmm, I'm sorry. I must have mistaken this place for an ACTUAL restaurant". I reply: "And I am sorry too, sir. You've clearly mistaken me for someone who gives a hoot about your obnoxious demands. Enjoy your soup!" And that was the end of that!


11. Calling Her Bluff

A woman once complained to me about her cocktail, saying she couldn’t taste the “punch” in it. She asked if we could make it stronger. It was already a double, but we added a splash. She apparently still couldn’t taste it, so she asked if we could add more. She was obviously intoxicated when she arrived and angling to get more intoxicated for as cheap as possible.

Which is why I took her cocktail, apologized that it wasn’t to her liking, and said I’d take it off her bill, effectively cutting her off for the night.


12. A Move Within A Move

woman in blue shorts and black boots standing beside yellow and white truck during daytimePhoto by Handiwork NYC on Unsplash

I work for a moving company. The customers always get mad when we don't have the equipment available for them when they show up last minute with no reservation. “Well, I'll just go to (competitor's name)!” is what they usually say. I would always reply with exact directions: “Great, they are a block north, on the right side. You can't miss ‘em".

This never failed to get a disgusted scoff, but we would always see them again in an hour or so to set up a reservation when the competitors didn't have any equipment either.


13. Old McDonald Had A Farm

My brother was a waiter and was working with a really difficult woman. She ordered the salmon and asked when it got to her table if it was “farm-raised". She got mad at him because he didn’t mention that the salmon was farm-raised when she was ordering, even though it clearly states that it is farm-raised on the menu. She ordered the chicken to replace the salmon, and my brother said “I have to warn you, it’s farm-raised".


14. In The Heat Of The Night

At the store where I work, we have sweet biscuits with icing on top. Every weekend, this lady comes in and wants them fresh, with extra icing. But every time, something is apparently wrong with them. Her main complaint is them being “too cold,” which is usually probably due to the extra icing being added on top of it. We have told this to her repeatedly.

Well, this last time she came in, we gave her the biscuit, fresh out the oven, loaded it down with icing, and she still says it’s cold. The manager tells her the only way to get it any hotter would be to melt the icing in the microwave, which we refuse to do. The lady has a conniption, demanding to know why. My manager, God love her, says “Because sugar is hotter than the seven sons of the underworld when it’s heated up like that, and no matter how much you deserve it, I’ll be darned if I give you an excuse to have a lawsuit against us".


15. Staying Hydrated

round white ceramic plate filled with wafflePhoto by Rachel Park on Unsplash

Table of 10, Sunday brunch, fancy restaurant, I'm hungover. A crowd swarms in at the opening and my whole section is filled at once. I'm efficient and cool. I'm used to this. I get to the big table and preface that water is being brought as we speak. I then begin taking everyone's drink orders. As I'm taking orders around the table, one woman blurts out that she wants water.

She then starts screaming not to forget the water, interrupting her friends and family as they make their meal requests. I acknowledge her each time until after the fourth time. That’s when I lost it. I told her: 'If you ask for water again, I'll make sure everyone here gets water but you". She sinks back in her chair looking dumbfounded. I go put in the order, then head to the bar.


16. A Pocket Full Of Miracles

I slipped a napkin into the pocket of a customer’s jacket. I left a lipstick kiss mark and the words “It was were great...let’s do it again” on the napkin before doing so. This was the same man who openly mocked my colleague who has Down's syndrome. He did this right in front of his whole Christian family, and none of them seemed to mind.


17. Eating His Words

I'm quite feminine for a guy. I don't mind what people say or think about me, and I get confused for gay sometimes. That is an important detail for later in this story. While I was working as a cashier, a customer just walked up to me and started to say, and I quote: "I don't understand why so many gay people work in this restaurant, I don't even know if I want to eat here anymore!"

Lots of my coworkers are, in fact, gay; and the way he said this was... not exactly kind to them. So, when his meal was ready, none of them felt comfortable wanting to bring it to him. So I just did what any sane person would do in my position. I brought him his meal, and you bet I freaking became a full-on Disney princess for like five minutes straight!

I was walking like a model, calling him sweet names, being extremely touchy, and giving him the best attention I possibly could. It was so much fun!


18. One Degree Of Separation

a woman covers her mouth with her handsPhoto by Sincerely Media on Unsplash

A customer at my store was being rude to me recently, so I gave her attitude back. This did not make her too happy. She aggressively said to me: “I’d watch out if I were you. I know your manager". Without even stopping to think about it, I replied: “I know him too. So what?” She was completely dumbfounded and didn’t say another word after that.


19. Food For Thought

An Italian customer, at a cheap steakhouse in the United States, said the following: “My pasta wasn't quite Al Dente". I replied: “You just got off a plane from Italy, ordered pasta at a cheap steakhouse in the United States, and you're surprised it was less perfect than what you are accustomed to? Not sure what you want me to do about that". He had no reply.


20. Going Nuts

I once had a girl ordering a Pina Colada and then complaining about the coconut in it. Apparently, she didn't like coconut and didn’t realize that it was one of the main ingredients in the drink she ordered. So I got her another drink, and she goes: “What are you going to do with the old one? Are you going to throw it away?”

I just looked at her, told her that I do like coconut, and took a sip.


21. The Royal Treatment

a woman wearing pearls and a tiaraPhoto by Lance Reis on Unsplash

I had more than one of these encounters, since I worked as a waiter for quite a while. I remember one particular Karen wanting a sincere apology after insulting and berating one of my best friends there, and since I was the one in charge I had to do it. So, with the biggest smile I could possibly put on, I went to her and said "I'm SOOOO sorry for AAALL the things my co-worker did to you. We here know a lady like you deserves more polite treatment, so let me help you..."

She was smiling like the crazy narcissist she is, clearly thinking she had won. Wrong. Then I added: "Let me gracefully escort you to the door so you can find a restaurant that serves your kind, since you are not welcome here anymore". She was fuming. I still remember my friend’s face when he heard this. Then, as she was leaving, I said something like: "I hope you have a day as WONDERFUL as you deserve!"

She complained to management, but since I was always the "good guy" at work and my coworkers didn't say a thing, they let it pass.


22. Ice Ice Baby

I worked at a restaurant in my hometown for years, and the most common rude thing customers would pull was lifting their empty cup with ice in it and shaking it at me, implying that they needed a refill. My response was always the same: “Are you making music, or did you need something?” Use your words, jerks. I’m not your dog.


23. An Impatient Mental Patient

I am not a waiter, but I was in a restaurant once and this woman comes up to the waiter and goes "Excuse me, but I have been waiting for my food for nearly five minutes now". She had a party table, and a table of eight. The waiter then, calmly, goes to her: "Ma'am, you realize the restaurant is extremely busy, you have a table of eight, and we have minimal staff. It's going to take a whole lot longer than five minutes to cook your food".

Bear in mind, this was a week before Christmas, so everyone was really having their Christmas dinner of sorts. She then huffs and goes to sit down. Five minutes later, she goes back at it again. Woman: "Sir, we have been waiting ten minutes. Where is our food!?" Waiter, (Getting slightly annoyed): "Ma'am, I'm going to have to ask you to sit down and wait patiently, or leave".

Woman: "I want to talk to the manager". Waiter: "Ma'am, the manager is on maternity leave. I'm the assistant manager. And I'm asking you to sit down or leave". The woman goes to sit down. By this point, nearly the entire restaurant was trying to not laugh. The waiter talks to the cook to get the woman's food out first.

Two minutes later, he does so. They eat, leave money for the bill, and then get ready to leave. The waiter comes over. Waiter: "Did you enjoy your food?" Woman: "Yes, not thanks to you though". I could see the waiter was about to lose it. Waiter: "Ma'am, if not for me you would still be waiting". Woman: "I'm going to leave a bad review on this restaurant and get you sacked from your job".

Waiter: "Don’t worry, I won't get sacked thanks to a bimbo like you who thinks everyone has all the time in the world to cater for you". The woman and her party left after that. I never did find out what happened, but I applaud that waiter for remaining so calm under those circumstances. That woman was an absolute joke!


24. One Last Hurrah

coin bankPhoto by Diane Helentjaris on Unsplash

On my last night working as a delivery driver, I was told to keep the change on $12.98 as my tip. That’s when I snapped. I responded by rummaging through my change pouch, taking out two pennies, and tossing them back at the guy, saying “If I wanted your two cents, I would have asked you a freaking question". I then just walked away. This was my final delivery ever, and was well worth it!


25. A Poor Phone Connection

I’m not a server, but I had a few of these incidents when I worked at the Comcast retail center. One guy in particular came in hot and was adamant that we doubled his bill. I look into his billing history and, lo and behold, he hasn't paid in two months. I point this out to him and say, "Let's be real, you haven't paid in two months".

I guess my use of the phrase "be real" triggered something in him, because now he's suddenly complaining that I have lousy customer service skills and that I’m unprofessional. He added that I should go work for McDonald’s instead. I immediately responded: "Yeah, but then where would you have to work?" I know Comcast is evil and all, but taking money from that jerk made my entire freaking week.


26. Getting Some Special Treatment

I once saw an extremely rude guy picking on waitresses and just being a total jerk to everyone around him. There was, however, one male waiter, whom he promptly summoned. Guy: “Another drink". Waiter: “Sorry, we have no more left". Guy: “I don’t believe that for a second. Bring me the darn drink I asked for, right now!”

Waiter: “Oh, sorry. Let me clarify myself. We have no more drinks left… for YOU". The waiter then walked off, leaving the guy all by himself to absorb and process what had just happened. The rude dude then left the place quietly to my great surprise. Maybe not the number one most hilarious comeback of all time, but it was a highly amusing incident to watch.


27. The Ultimate Staff Confrontation

In this case, I was the customer that got confronted—but who do you think was the bad guy? A server confronted me in the men's room when I didn't tip him on top of the 18% minimum that was already added to my bill. And he wanted to fight me. I’ve never quite had an experience like that before or since. Here’s the full story.

So this past weekend, we went to a restaurant for dinner with my girlfriend and her friends for her birthday. We had about ten people and had about five different tabs, each of which included an 18% minimum tip. The service was terrible. The server was incredibly rude all night and would always respond with some kind of sarcasm when we asked questions about the menu.

He took the wrong drink orders twice and blamed us for getting them wrong. He brought all the apps and entrees at the same time and got upset when we said we didn't want the apps anymore. My friend paid in cash and when he brought back change, there was no receipt. She was expecting to see five bucks and some change back.

When the server came back there was no receipt and only four bucks and change there. She asked him to see the receipt, to see if she had miscalculated because she expected five dollars and then some back. Instead of saying something along the lines of I’ll go check or something accommodating like that, the dude got irritated and said that he threw away the receipt.

He then reached for his wallet and said "How about I just give you a dollar if you want it that bad?" That angered us all, so we didn't leave any extra tip on top of the amount that was automatically added. I wrote down "NOPE!" on my receipt in the additional tip line. When I went to use the men's room before leaving, he tapped my shoulder as I was washing my hands and goes: “You think you’re pretty funny with that tip, don't you? Why don't we step outside so I can show you how funny I can be?

I’m like what the heck? I immediately called the manager over and told him the server tried to fight me because I didn't tip him extra. I explained the whole situation to her while the dude was just glaring angrily at me the whole time. Other servers had to calm him down because he kept trying to interrupt me when I was talking to the manager.

I declined all of their gift card offers, because I sure as heck don’t want to come back to a place where the staff is gonna stir up trouble for me.


28. Thinking Inside The Box

woman wearing brown apronPhoto by Steven Cleghorn on Unsplash

For context, I’m a female in my twenties working at a fine dining restaurant. This older guy kept giving me trouble all night. Doing stuff like ordering crudités and then calling it rabbit food and sending it back. At the end of the meal, he says: “Where do I put this comment card?” Me: “See that black box over there? Right in there!”

Guy, thinking he’s being incredibly witty and funny, when he’s actually being a total doofus: “Did you just ask me to stuff your box?!” Me: “Nope, mine isn’t black, sir. Bye! I need to actually help people now". His friends started cracking up and his face turned bright red. I don’t understand people who make inappropriate comments like that in public.

It made the entire meal uncomfortable for the rest of the evening, and his friends were clearly not impressed by the way he was treating me.


29. Just One Of Those Things

This is kind of a long one. I was working in a resort. One of the guests there was a Type A jerk that thinks he's above everything. You know the type. Obviously, he has to be the "group leader" of a table full of four or five other dudes. During my spiel, I tell the table we are out of a certain thing. I don't even remember what it was or why I had mentioned it.

So I start taking the table's order and eventually get to him. Him: "I'll have the THING". Me: "As I just said, sir, we're out of the thing". Him: "Maybe I'll just call my GOOD FRIEND GENERAL MANAGER and they'll find some for me". Me: "You're more than welcome to do so, but the number on the business card you picked up at the front is an office number, not their personal phone. Also, they're the one that just told me that we're out of the THING...

“Maybe if you had called GENERAL MANAGER in advance to let your GOOD FRIEND know you were coming, we could have held some back especially for you". Now, this may not seem all that destructive, but to this guy, at this table full of his colleagues, trying to seem all-powerful, it was freaking BRUTAL. He TRIED to save face, but it failed so darn hard.

Him: "Well, if you can't keep your food in stock, then we probably should have gone somewhere else to eat". The gauntlet has been thrown down. Me: "That's an excellent idea, sir. Would you like me to check if there is a table free at our steakhouse?" Him: "Yes, maybe then I can get some food". He starts talking to the other guys in the group like somehow we're in the wrong here.

They're ALL just looking at him like he's a total freaking lunatic, because he is. I go to the phone, call the steakhouse, and ask if they have space for one. Yes, you read that right. I asked if they had space for a table of one, not for the whole group he was with. They tell me that they do indeed have the room. Good. Back to the table.

Me: "You'll be happy to know, sir, that our steakhouse is able to accommodate you and will have a table waiting when you arrive". Him, in the jerkiest voice he can muster, which is nowhere NEAR as jerky as I could be: "THANK YOU for being of SOME KIND of service". He turns to the rest of the table. "Let's go, guys". That’s when the brutal surprise I’d planned for him came to light.

Me: "I'm sorry, sir, I was under the impression that you would be dining alone and didn't ask if they could take a party this size. I assumed they'd be dining with us seeing as they all ordered items we have available". The guy just looks dumbfounded. And while he's standing there trying to process this new development, one of the dudes at the table chimes in…

Other dude at the table: "Don't worry about it, bro, head on down there. We'll meet up at the resort bar for drinks later". The jerk grabs his drink, says nothing, and walks out. He hits the door and the rest of the table goes into that quiet "What a moron" type of laugh that only men of a certain age and income bracket are able to do properly.

The kind that lets you know this is funny now but come Monday that maniac's world is going to be slightly different in many, many small ways. The evening continues. Yes, this all happened. Yes, I still have even more stories from that night. Yes, I really freaking miss that job. Anyway, the evening continues and sometime after I bring that table their dessert, my GENERAL MANAGER pulls me aside.

General Manager: "What the heck happened? I spent the last half hour getting yelled at by some guy that says you were super rude to him". So I give the general manager a quick rundown of what had happened. I explained that we did not have what the gentleman wanted, so I made him a reservation at the steakhouse. End of story. I said I had no idea why he would possibly be upset.

I pointed out that his co-workers over at (insert table number here) are still around, having a great time. So the general manager goes over to their table and starts talking to them, presumably starting with how their meal was and ending with "What happened with the other guy that I saw with you?" It was freaking beautiful. They had my back the whole way.

They threw him so far under the bus for acting like a jerk that he rolled out the other side and got hit by a semi in the next lane over. They were nothing but complimentary to me, which was a nice bonus. Soon after, the general manager came back over and told me everything seemed fine with them, shrugged it off, and went back to doing whatever GMs do.

Overall, it was quite a satisfying experience for me, and I definitely have no regrets about how I acted! For anyone that has actually read this far, just take this bit of information and carry it with you always: NOTHING infuriates lousy human beings more than someone doing EXACTLY WHAT THEY WANT DONE... monkey paw style.


30. Out Of The Frying Pan, Into The Fryer

people standing in field covered with snow near white and brown wooden housePhoto by Madison Olling on Unsplash

Many years ago, I was working the counter at a ski resort's cafe. On one occasion, this teenage jerk came up to the counter with a container of French fries and said that he didn't bring any money, so he asked if he could just have them for free. I said nope. He said, "But I'm a good customer". And I said okay, but the French fries are for paying customers.

And I then proceeded to take them away from him and pop one in my mouth right in front of him. He had nothing to say to that, but his friend cracked up with laughter and apologized to me on his behalf. Apparently, the friend had been pretty embarrassed by the whole incident. When I turned around after this, all of my co-workers were in awe of how perfect the moment was.


31. Stopping The Gravy Train

My elderly neighbor has some connections at the Boston Pizza restaurant chain and, as a result, always gets free gravy with her fries. One time, when she went to this other restaurant called Humpty's, she asked for gravy. When she was told she would be charged a couple of dollars extra for it, she said: "But I always get it for free at Boston Pizza". The server promptly told her that she could go back to Boston Pizza, then.


32. Did I Hear That Right?

I'm not a server, but I thought you folks might like this one anyways. I worked at Target a few years ago. When it's time to close up, a speaker warns you about 15 or so minutes early and asks you to start to wrap things up. So one day, this lady is going through clothes on the shelf at the speed of a snail. Taking her sweet time. The first warning announcement goes off.

She doesn’t react and continues slowly looking at items. All of a sudden, the recording plays again, announcing that we are closing in one minute. That’s when I came up with a plan. I walk up to her and pretend I know sign language, and start fake signing. She asks what I am doing. I replied: “Oh, I'm sorry! I thought you were deaf, since you clearly didn’t react to the announcement that we’re closing right now".

She had no idea how to respond.


33. Two Meals For The Price Of None

man in white dress shirt pouring water on clear glass bottlePhoto by Dan Burton on Unsplash

I had one of those women who always complains about their food, hoping to get it comped. Which she did. But then she asked for a to-go box. I said: “I thought you didn't like your meal. Are you sure you want to take it home?” She got annoyed. I should have refused to give her the box, but I was new so I boxed it for her. I got no tip of course.


34. Slicing Up His Ego

I work at a, but it’s in North Carolina. This one time, a customer came in and ordered a slice of pizza. This is how the conversation went. Customer: “Is this really a New York slice?” My manager: “How about you get the heck out of here?? Is that New York enough for ya?” The guy actually laughed. It was pretty awesome.


35. Phoning A Friend

I'll never forget this story. I work in retail. To be more specific, I work at a big box home improvement store that deals with a lot of contractors, but I got promoted to a Human Resources position, so I don't work with customers that often anymore. That being said, I like to work the floor still from time to time, just to help out.

One small-time contractor was trying to return three large flat carts full of merchandise from her last job, and she wanted the money back in cash with no receipt. We offered to look through all of her orders in the system to find the receipts, but she didn't want to wait for that. She just wanted the cash right then and there.

So I start ringing up the merchandise, knowing full well that the system won't let me return it with no cash, but I just wanted to show her with her own eyes that store credit was the only option in this situation. The merchandise ends up totaling around $3,000, and I show her the register says "Store Credit Only". She gets irate and demands to speak to the store manager.

I tell her that he's not available and that, even if he was, even he couldn't override the system. She says something along the lines of "I don't know what magic wand you just used to make that happen, but the store manager has helped me do this before, and I want him to do it again. He knows me, and if you tell him who I am, then he will help". Well, I wasn’t letting her get out of there without a healthy dose of humiliation.

So I whip out my cell phone and call his personal phone, "Hey Store Manager! I'm really sorry to bother you on your vacation, but I have a customer here who has a problem that she says only you can fix. Do you remember [Contractor's name]? Oh, you don't? Well, she says you helped her return merchandise without a receipt for cash? You don't remember that? Okay. Yeah, I'll have one of the assistant managers take care of it".

She was NOT happy, and I told her that the only way we could do what she was asking us to do was by having one of the assistant managers call up our Regional Asset Protection manager, who would have to investigate and then decide whether or not to approve it, which could take quite some time. She ended up taking the store credit.


36. Take Me To Church

couple kissing on the road during daytimePhoto by FORMAT arw on Unsplash

I will always remember my personal favorite story about this topic. There was this older couple, around 70ish, who would always come into this chain restaurant to eat every Sunday after church. While the wife was extremely polite, the guy was an absolute bag of jerks all rolled into one. He often yelled and berated his wife, along with the server.

On one fateful day, I was graced with their presence once again. He was being his normal jerk of a self towards me, and even worse to his wife on this particular occasion. Finally, I had had enough of his mistreatment toward his wife and said, “You better watch it, pal, because no matter what you say or what you do, I’ll have at least two minutes alone with your food before I bring it out. Bon appetit!”

The wife absolutely lost her mind laughing. He shot her a mean glare, to try and intimidate her into stopping the laughter. After hesitating for a split second, she continued with even louder laughing. In reality, I never touched his food…and neither did he. But the threat was enough to get the job done. They never came back. I hope the wife is doing okay!


37. Ask A Stupid Question, Get A Stupid Answer

When I was 16 years old and waitressing as my first job, a woman kept criticizing the food during a busy night, demanding free meals. Eventually, she started making personal remarks towards me. I replied with the most savage burn I could think up at the time. "I know you are, but what am I?" Brilliant, I know! She went up to start complaining to the manager, who didn't care and just walked off mid-sentence.


38. Going Down With The Ship

I’m a former waiter turned flight attendant. I fly on a regional plane in which there is a rear jumpseat at the back, surrounded by two passengers on the left, and another two on the right. This means that I am squished right in the middle. One time, some guy was giving me a hard time about being in the back and he was talking smack. My response?

"If the plane goes down, I will be surrounded by four squishy bodies and probably walk away unscathed. That's why I am here, in the back, in the middle, in this tiny seat. Bodies make GREAT padding". The look of silence on his face was priceless. Thankfully, he didn’t bother me again for the entire remainder of the flight.


39. All’s Well That Ends Well

man in white and black pinstripe suit jacketPhoto by 🇸🇮 Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

When I worked in a restaurant, I once waited on a dude and a group of his friends; and he was just generally being a big jerk towards me the whole time. Condescending, snapping his fingers to get my attention, calling me sweetie, the whole nine yards. He also kept claiming that he was a “friend of the owner” and that he should be able to order from the breakfast menu because of this.

Even though I said no and informed him that all of our breakfast stuff is put away, and that this time of day was open for dinner service only. Well, after a while, I decided that I'd had about enough. When he got the bill, because there were so many in his party, I was able to autograt it (meaning add an automatic 20% tip for myself on their check).

I brought him his bill and explained the autograt, and he looked at me and said “Wow, are you really okay with only getting this amount for your tip? I could've left you more, you know!” And I immediately replied, “Oh, don't worry, there's a line below the autograt where you can add even more of a tip if you want!” And I walked away. I guess out of sheer embarrassment, he did end up leaving me more.


40. Take It Up With The Board

Not me personally, but this happened to my manager in a luxury boutique hotel. The building dates back to the 16th century, in an old town with cobbled streets and antique shops. People come for the charm of the good ol’ days. One time, I had a customer leave a TripAdvisor online review. The reason why was insane. She complained that the floorboards in the hotel freaked her out.

My manager responded by pointing out the age of the building and told the customer that next time they would probably be more comfortable staying at a Travelodge. We all laughed our heads off when we read that reply. We even had a guest check in a few weeks later who told me that he’d seen the manager's response to that review, and that it had convinced him to come and stay at the hotel.


41. Spicing Things Up A Bit

I don’t work in a restaurant or a typical retail type of store, but this story does have to do with a customer service incident in relation to selling food. The place I work for is a 24-hour shop, so we are always open regardless of what time of day or night it is. On this one particular occasion, a customer comes in at around midnight, looking for a specific product.

She was something like 65 years old or so and super grouchy, yelling irrationally about how she wants this certain extremely specific thing to cook a dish. We didn’t have it in stock, and as far as I was aware no other store did either. It didn’t even exist locally. It was some super specific, uncommon foreign spice thing.

I don’t even remember exactly what it was called anymore, as this story happened well over a decade ago at this point. Anyway, eventually, after several minutes of this woman’s ranting and raving, our assistant store manager comes up, smiles, and asks if he can be of assistance. We hadn’t even called for him or anything.

He just heard her from all the way in the back of the store and thought he should see what the heck was going on. He asks what she wants and she repeats her ridiculous demands. He politely apologizes and tells her: “No, unfortunately, that’s a product that we don’t carry, but [alternate local grocer that’s also open 24/7] does. It’s just up the street about a mile or so".

She thanks him, and leaves. I ask him about it, knowing that it was clearly a lie, and he says, “No, of course they don’t have it, this woman is clearly out of her mind. But now it’s that store’s problem and not mine". Can’t argue with that! I’ve always wondered what might have happened when she arrived at the other store and discovered they didn’t have it either. But I guess I’ll never know!


42. Dinner And A Show

woman holding black wooden panelPhoto by Timothy Barlin on Unsplash

I was a customer in this case, but I witnessed the whole thing. I was waiting for my to-go order of fried chicken one night and I overheard this crazy redneck jerk giving his waitress a hard time because his fried chicken was unsatisfactory and “not like mama used to make". The waitress literally just stared at him silently for a few moments, then told him to go make it himself if he didn’t like it the way we made it.

She then triumphantly walked off, and the guy just sat there with a stupid look on his face not knowing what to say or do. And then every single person in the restaurant erupted with applause and cheers.


43. Cracking The Code

I once had a customer harassing me over a product that he had bought and wanted to return. He had no receipt, it was well over the return date, and he claimed he had paid for it in cash, so there was no paper trail or evidence of the transaction whatsoever. I told him that the return policy was only valid within 30 days of the purchase, and that he also had to have a receipt in order to receive a refund.

Him: “You’re just paid to say that". Me: “As a matter of fact, I am paid to say that. That’s how jobs work!” He didn’t know what to say. But I never saw his scamming butt in the store again!


44. Now That’s What I Call A Corny Reaction

As the owner, I love this story. I used to own a concession business, selling various novelty food items like kettle corn, shaved ice, etc. One of our weekly shows was very busy. So busy, in fact, that we pretty much had 50 or more customers in line for the entire day, without any break. Admittedly, the wait for our items took a bit, due to these extremely long lines.

However, my staff and I busted our butts like there was an electric cord shoved up our rear ends to give people service as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, this one guy is non-stop whining. I can hear him from 20 people away. So I wait. Once he's just a few people away from the front, I turn to my staff and say, "Time to shut off the equipment!"

The equipment was loud, so turning it off created an odd silence. With there still being more than 50 people in line, I turn to the guy—and left him utterly humiliated. I say loud enough for everyone in line to hear. "Sir, I'm not sure if you noticed how hard my staff is working to get you your kettle corn as quickly as possible. Perhaps, you have some suggestions for us to make it go faster for you".

I can't remember if he stayed, but everyone else in line clapped on behalf of my staff. The customer is NOT always right.


45. There’s Something Fishy About This

person holding stainless steel fork and bread knifePhoto by Seb Reivers on Unsplash

I live in a small town and I used to work in a fish and chips shop, one of two such shops in the town. We were a tourist town, and one of the main attractions was the award-winning fish and chips we boast. I believe our shop was one of the top five fish and chips shops in the county while I was there. People in the town believed we were in massive competition with the other shop, but the truth is we really weren't.

We had more than 25 staff members employed. They had around seven or eight in total. We were serving thousands more customers than them per week, or even per day in the summer. So, on the rare occasion when a customer got angry, they would simply exclaim “WELL, I’M GOING TO [INSERT SUPPOSED COMPETITORS NAME HERE] INSTEAD, AND I WON'T BE BACK!”

They said this as if it was a big deal and would really hurt our feelings and/or our business. We would simply reply by telling them that we don't want them back anyway, and that they should enjoy the food from the other shop. There’s also one little interesting detail that we generally chose not to tell them in these situations. We owned both shops.


46. Down To A Science

We don’t use trays at the restaurant I work at. Instead, you just take what you can carry and go back for the rest, or have someone follow you. I usually just carry one item in each hand so I don’t risk dropping things when delivering customers’ items to their tables. Pretty often, I’ll immediately hear “Uhhh, we’re missing [insert random item here]” in a condescending or rude way.

99% of the time, these comments are from older people. I just always politely say, without missing a beat, “Ma’am [or sir]. I only have two hands". Not especially creative or a witty clapback, but it always shuts them up fast and gives me a nice sense of satisfaction. Why do people have to be so rude to the staff that’s trying to serve them?


47. Minding Other People’s Business

An older woman at my table once asked me what my mother must think about all my tattoos, and I said, “Well, my father doesn’t mind". She didn’t take the hint. I guess it wasn’t a very good hint for someone as slow as her. She then asked “Well, what about your mother?” To which I replied: “She’s dead. She doesn’t do a lot of thinking these days".

Did she stop there? Nope. That would be too logical for someone as dumb as this moron. She then had the gall to say to me: “Did she die of SHAME?” I just calmly said: “Nope. Breast cancer". I then dropped the check and walked away. They weren’t done eating, but her guests looked like they wanted to leave right then and there.


48. Check, Please!

I used to be a server in Muskoka, Ontario many years ago. For those who don’t know, this is one of the most popular upscale summer cottage regions in Canada. There are always lots of celebrities in the area for the summer, and in my day I served burgers to Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn, drinks to Martin Short and Dan Akroyd, and got to meet many other big names.

One time, I had a local nobody at one of my tables who thought he was a big-shot celebrity. He would never tip and would always crumple up both copies of the Visa bill into a tiny little ball—but that’s not the worst part. He would even chew on it the receipts until they were the size of a spitball. So this jerk comes in with a bunch of friends and treats them all to supper, running up a $600 bill.

He then crumples up the Visa bills again into a tiny little ball and flicks it at me with a grin on his face. I swiftly kick it off the patio and it falls into the lake our patio is on. He sees this and says in front of the whole table, "I guess you won't know what your tip is now!" I tell the whole table flat out that he never tips anyway, so no big loss.

I then walk away, leaving them to awkwardly digest what I had just said. But I didn’t stop there. Eventually, they left. At that moment, I immediately called the authorities and reported him on a “dine and dash” claim, because there is no evidence that this guy paid for his dinner since the receipt was in the lake now. I even deleted the pre-authorization from the debit machine, just for good measure.

So a bunch of officers show up at this guy's house and make him return to the restaurant to pay again. He was never a jerk to me ever again.


49. The Ranch Lifestyle

waiter serving beveragesPhoto by Kate Townsend on Unsplash

I was serving a group of 40 people with one other server. As we’re bringing plates out, she asks me for a side of ranch dressing. As I’m bringing the second set of plates out (it took me four or five trips), she asks again. Then again. Obviously, I’m going to bring people’s hot food out before your freaking ranch, lady. Basically, I ended up “forgetting” about her ranch because she wouldn't stop asking when I clearly couldn't physically bring it out yet.

She waits around after everyone leaves. By the way, this was a free meal being paid for by people hosting these people so they could tell them about some business opportunity, so she wasn’t even a paying customer. Once everyone is gone, she asks me in a snobby tone if I was ever going to get her ranch, and without thinking I just said "no".

Lady loses it and literally starts yelling at me. And in my calmest voice (since people don't like you being calm when they’re raging, it makes them angrier), I said "Haha, okay. Maybe don't yell at me," to which she kept yelling. So I again calmly went "Okay haha, but maybe don't yell at me". And after the second one, I could actually see the clarity wash over her.

Like she suddenly developed self-awareness for a split second. My clapback wasn't witty, but she realized she was flying off the handle. It was a great feeling.


50. He Knew Egg-sactly What He Was Doing

One night at the restaurant where I work, the host seated a table for me to serve. It was a couple and their toddler. The two sat on the same side of the booth, kissed, etc., so I knew they were a couple, but the woman looked much older than the man. Like, she looked terrible. I'm sure it was due to substance use of some kind, but regardless it was very clearly noticeable.

So she's super rude to me the entire time. She asked for her eggs over easy hard. Our conversation went like this. Me: “Ma'am, your eggs can be over easy, which is kind of runny, or over hard where they're fully cooked". Her: “Oh, bless your heart, you have no idea do you?” Me: “Ma'am?” Her: “Why don't you get me a real server, and he can make my eggs the way I like them".

Me: “Uhh, ma'am, I know how eggs are cooked. Over easy hard doesn't tell me anything. Do you want them over medium?” Her: “How hard is your job? Honestly, how hard is it to just serve people eggs?” I'd had it at that point. I gave her order to the cook, and of course, he asked me what she meant. I told him to just make them over medium, as I felt like that was what she meant.

I gave her the eggs and she sighed real heavily. Her: “I'm sorry, was my order too hard for you? Did ya not understand me? What the heck kind of place is this that nobody can make me eggs?” I took a deep breath—and gave her the comeback of a lifetime. I said: “Ma'am, I apologize to you, your son, and your grandson. Let me go ahead and comp your meal".

Her face twisted up and got so red that I thought it was going to pop off of her face. “THIS IS MY HUSBAND AND THAT'S MY SON!!” Ohh boy, it was so worth it. “WHERE IS YOUR MANAGER!! I NEED YOUR MANAGER RIGHT NOW!!” I got my manager. He yelled at me in the office, but couldn't prove that I was purposefully disingenuous.


Ending a relationship is never easy.

In several cases, the reasons for doing so might also be unexpected.

More often than not, it simply becomes apparent to both members of the couple that the relationship has simply run its course, and there is no future.

Other times, however, there might be an inciting incident that made staying in the relationship no longer tenable.

Possibly a surprising act by one member of the couple, or a longstanding secret that was finally unearthed.

Keep reading...Show less
Tech Support Horror Stories
Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Most of us have had to perform the unpleasant task of helping our parents out with a computer problem, whether it be an Internet connectivity issue or just trouble opening a file. But these Tech Support Redditors have seen a whole new level of stupidity.

1. White Knight Moment

I spent five years doing IT consulting in a rural town about an hour from Portland, OR. I'd periodically involve myself in the more interesting and complex cases we'd see from our walk-in customers. One day we had a woman come in. She caught my eye because she was in her late 30s or early 40s, and actually quite attractive.

She had short, platinum blonde hair and bright red lips, and was dressed and styled like she was transplanted right out of a 1950s era magazine ad. One of our bench techs greets her and starts talking to her. Right out of the gate I can tell this is going to go badly.

She is panicked and, by the sound of it, tin-foil hat levels of crazy. Well, there goes any desire I had to flirt with her and maybe see if I could buy her a drink. I listen in on the conversation anyways, because it's at least a change of pace from the monotony of my day-to-day.

After a few minutes of her going on about how her husband is spying on her through all manner of devices, my bench tech looks back at me with a can-you-please-come-help-me-and-make-her-go-away look on his face.

I oblige, as I appreciated that the front-line guys respected me enough to ask for my help on these things. I walked up front, introduced myself as the supervisor, and told her that since her issue was so unique and serious, it'd probably be best if our more senior staff handled it. Now that I was seeing her up close, I could tell that under her classy outfit and Marilyn Monroe-esque makeup was a deeply distraught woman.

Her eyes looked baggy and tired. Like she had been up too late crying. Obviously, at this point I'm just playing along. This isn't my first rodeo, and generally what happens is the client claims some individual or agency is monitoring their computer. We tell them our hourly rate for forensics, and suddenly the men in black suits watching them aren't that big of a deal anymore.

Now, to be fair, we actually did specialize in computer forensics and data recovery, working extensively with the local department and a handful of firms on a number of cases where they needed expert help. We even had a guy on staff full-time who wore that hat most days.

The local officers were pretty small-time and farmed out at least some of their computer-related work to us on contract. In the cases where people did want to pay, we would do our due diligence, and prepare a professional report of our findings accordingly. We would meet with attorneys and testify in court, as necessary.

Generally it was fairly benign stuff like gathering chat logs and browser history for a divorce proceeding where one spouse accused the other of cheating or something similar, and wanted evidence to back that up. Back to the client at hand. She insists her husband is monitoring her every move, tracking her vehicle, monitoring her computer, and recording her in her own home. Here's where it gets interesting.

She claims that she knows all of this because he has told her about it. In fact, he has gone so far as to threaten her life if she tries to tamper with any of it. She says she has tried to apply for a protective order against him, but ostensibly without some sort of evidence of his behavior, nobody would take her seriously.

I give her the crazy litmus test and tell her that in order to gather evidence discreetly, we would need two of our senior consultants to investigate. $300 an hour, four-hour minimum. She pulls out her wallet. Well darn, she's serious. We agree to start with her vehicle to check for signs of the GPS tracker.

She says she is parked several blocks away so her husband won't know she came to a computer store (we were in a downtown area surrounded by retail stores). I grab my tool bag and holler at one of my colleagues to join me. The lady, myself, my colleague, and BOTH of our now intensely curious bench techs (all of us in matching company polos) follow this lady down the street to her car.

What a motley crew we must have been. We get to her minivan and begin our process of looking for this GPS device. Now, because of the way GPS trackers work, there really aren't that many places they can really be mounted that are both effective and discreet. We spend some time looking around the undercarriage, rocker panels, and even bits of the interior.

Nothing. Just as I'm starting to lose faith that this may not be quite as exciting as I had perhaps hoped, I make the big discovery. I find the thing. It was tiny, not much bigger than a flash drive, and mounted behind the front grill. But there was something odd.

It wasn't an active device. This device did not provide real-time tracking, rather it used some internal memory and a couple AAA batteries to log GPS data for days at a time. At some point, when the van was not in use, the guy would grab the GPS device, upload the data to his laptop, maybe swap batteries, then remount it to the car.

Good god, this lady was very much indeed Paranoid And Rightfully So. Now that we've established that she isn't insane but that she actually is being tracked by her husband, the tone amongst our team became drastically more serious. Obviously, something sinister is going on, and we aren't sure what, but by the sound of things this lady really is fearful for her life.

She has entrusted us to gather evidence and help her get a protective order against him, which is something I think all of us took quite seriously. We show her the tracker and she breaks down into tears because it's the first evidence she has physically seen. We take photos of it, and carefully install it back where it belongs. I sort of assumed that a GPS tracker on your freaking car would be proof enough for a judge to issue at least a temporary protective order, but she seemed insistent that she would need more evidence to make it stick.

Our next moves have to be conducted very deliberately. She claims that her home is bugged, and so is her computer. We will need to go onsite to investigate accordingly, but it will have to be at a time when both her husband isn't home and when we will be able to quickly create a report for her, leaving her enough time to get a protective order before the day's end.

We couldn't chance him coming home later, reviewing whatever it was he was recording, and finding out that she had taken action to have him investigated. It wasn't going to be for at least a week before there was a time that was just right. We made arrangements with her back at the office and I offered to walk her back to her car.

She accepted, and on the way she confided in me many of the personal details of her life and her obviously horrible relationship with her husband. In the interest of protecting her privacy I'll simply say that it sounded like she finally figured out how manipulative he was, and when she said she wanted out he wasn't about to let that happen.

I asked her again if she really was afraid for her life. Her reply broke my heart. The sincerity of her "yes" was both scary and hard for me to hear. I asked her if she had thought about getting any protection like a weapon, and she said she had, but that he would notice the large sum of money needed to purchase one missing from their joint account.

As the gravity of the situation weighed on me, I offered to let her borrow one of mine. She was awestruck, but I assured her that it was completely okay. At the time, I had several, and I couldn't think of a more appropriate situation for someone to have one. My car was parked close by, and we walked over to it.

I tried to gather some idea of her familiarity with them as the thought of giving one to more or less a complete stranger, especially one that might not know what to do with it, was unsettling to me. It sounded like she had at least a basic understanding of their function. In my mind the pros of her having at least some means to protect herself outweighed the cons, so I moved forward.

We went over the basics of how to use it safely. She was crying, and frankly at this point I pretty much was, too. I gave her my cell phone number and told her to call me if she needed someone to talk to. We hugged for a while before parting ways. It wasn't a romantic hug or anything, it was that kind of hug that's exchanged when someone needs to be held.

Like, when your best friend tells you his mom passed or something. She needed the comfort of knowing that she wasn't alone, that at least one person took her seriously, and I'd like to think that I gave her some hope that things would be okay. The next week was tense as we prepared for our investigation.

My co-workers and I spent considerable time discussing and researching ways to triage her computer to look for evidence, as well as how to approach the search of the house. When the day finally came, we arrived onsite at the specified time armed with our forensics tools, flashlights, laptops...anything we might need.

I set to work immediately on her computers (a home desktop and a personal laptop) while two of my colleagues began their search of the house. I removed the drives from her PCs and I made a clone of both drives. Once cloned, I put the PCs back the way they were and began mounting the cloned volumes and investigating. At first, nothing. Then, I found it.

It was hiding in plain sight, and it was a tag registered to SpectorSoft Corporation. Guess what they sell? Yup. Surveillance software. The PC was running something called SpectorPro, which was capable of monitoring all of the users’ activities, browsing history, keylogging, even sending remote screen captures to a mobile phone or email based on target keywords. It was the full nine yards for monitoring.

I screen capped everything for my logs, shut the system down, and swapped the clones for the original disks to put everything back the way it was. Not too long after, our other two guys found some evidence of their own. Two separate (and frankly, rather rudimentary) cameras hidden in the master bedroom.

One in the closet in a shoebox, one in the smoke detector in the ceiling. All things considered, they were pretty low tech. The contents of the memory cards would have had to be moved off at least once a day, and the battery probably changed at least as often. We didn't touch anything. Lots of photographs were taken.

We went back to the office and compiled all of the evidence into a document for her, and I passed the disk images onto our forensics guy for further evaluation. I met with the client later that day to present her the report so she could furnish it to the court. The gratitude she had for us was absolutely immeasurable. We didn't charge her for our services.

Getting to play a role in stopping her sick husband from engaging in whatever it is he was doing was payment enough. I'd like to tell you that I know how this story ends. I'd like to say that the guy was put away forever, and my supreme IT prowess and white-knightery wooed her into my arms and we lived happily ever after. But frankly, I don't really know what happened. But there was one development.

What I can tell you is that about a week after we gave her our report, I met her for coffee at a place across the street. She looked visibly better. Her puffy, tired eyes were gone, replaced instead by ones that seemed to glisten with warmth. Her skin was radiant and beautiful. She was smiling, for the first time I'd seen. An immense weight had been lifted off of her, and it showed.

She told me that she was temporarily living with her mom and dad, that a restraining order was in place on her estranged husband, and that she was finally filing for divorce. She told me that for the first time in a very long time she felt safe, and that she felt happy.

In the parking lot, she hugged me, both of us teary-eyed, and we parted ways. For me, it proved to be one of the most emotionally rewarding experiences of my career.


2. An Analog Solution

person in black long sleeve shirt using macbook proPhoto by Romain V on Unsplash

I'm not IT, I just happen to be one of the few in our office who knows his way around the computer, so I often get asked for help. Usually it's just “My MSWord doesn't work” or something, but this one really stuck with me.

Co-Worker: Help me, I have to complete this doc in 20 minutes but I can't type anything

Me: What is it?

Co-Worker: Whenever I hit a button, Word just starts putting infinite spaces between letters

Me: Huh.

I go up to her computer. I notice at once that something is off. I look her in the eye, and without breaking eye contact, I move her phone away from the space button on her keyboard. She asks me never to speak of it again. 10 minutes later the whole office knows about it, of course.


3. Oh, Vladimir

man using IP phone inside roomPhoto by Berkeley Communications on Unsplash

When I started working for my current company, there was a customer who was already infamous. He was one of those people who was known only by his first name. Everyone knew exactly who you were talking about when you said you'd had to take a call from Vladimir.

They tried to protect me, as the newbie, from Vladimir as long as possible, but one day when I'd been at the company for maybe six months it just couldn't be avoided. No one else was available but me, and he was in a royal fury. The operator called me up, apologized to me (even she knew who he was) and told me that she had no one else to take him.

I reluctantly agreed to take the call. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this is the exchange the operator had with him immediately before she passed him to me.

Operator: I'm going to pass you to our newest tech.

Vladimir: (shouts) I don't want somebody new! I want somebody who knows something!

Operator: (shouts back) She knows a lot, Vladimir!! (slams down receiver, passing him to me)

Vladimir's a fairly intelligent guy, but he gets frustrated super quick, and has a very hot temper. I swear, sometimes when he calls us he doesn't want his issue to be fixed, he just wants to let us know the torment our product is putting him through.

He calls us to be a martyr on the line and shout at us about how terrible the product is. And my first call with him was one of those. Luckily, the operator was right. I knew a lot. I had picked up on our products super quick, and the issue he called me about was a piece of cake. The hard part was getting him to shut up long enough to tell him the solution to his issue.

I managed to calm him down and fix his problem. But this backfired on me, hugely. Not long after that I had become his favorite tech. It had very quickly gone from, "I don't want to talk to her!!!" to, "Get me her! Nobody else can solve my problems, nobody!!"

I learned to read his moods like a medium reading tea leaves. Sometimes it was best to meet his fire with the cool exterior of a nurse at a mental hospital explaining why we don't hit other patients, and other times I could only get his attention by spitting flames back in his face.

Other techs could always tell when I was talking to Vladimir because they'd hear a one-sided conversation that went something like this:

Me: Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. Vladimir. Pause. VLADIMIR!! Pause. You know I'm trying to help you, right? Do you want me to get this working for you, or not? Pause. Okay, then let me explain what's happening here...

Many times in my career I've compared what I do to the TV show House. Tech support is a lot like diagnosing a patient. I frequently tell my techs, "Customers lie," (playing on House's "Patients lie") and every time I say it I'm thinking of Vladimir. This is why I swear sometimes he'd call up just to try to prove to me that our product is bad, because he'd frequently lie to me about what did and didn't work.

He'd tell me whatever would mean he needed to be in a panicked state, up against a deadline that he could not possibly meet, all because our products suck. One time he called me up with an issue where I knew exactly what it was. I'd just solved it for another customer the day before. We were on a remote meeting and I could see his screen.

Vladimir: I tried everything and nothing works!

Me: Oh, I know what this is. You need to do .

Vladimir: I told you! I tried that and it didn't work!

Me: (thinks) That's impossible, it has to work when you do that.

Me: What exactly did you do?

Vladimir: I did and it didn't work! Nothing works! I told you!

Me: Can you do it again so I can see the steps you took?


Me: Vladimir, calm down. Can you do it one more time? Do it for me?

Vladimir: (calmer) Fine. I'll do it again for you. See, I do this, and I click here, and I don't see—Oh, it's working this time! You're the best! I always know when I call you up that you'll fix it for me!

A few years later, Vladimir's favorite support grunt (me) was promoted to manager. I was a working manager for a while, trying to manage my team and take calls at the same time, but that proved to not be very efficient, and after years of that I reduced the calls I directly took down to almost nothing. Vladimir was not pleased.

One day he was having a hissy fit and was demanding to speak to no one but me, even though he'd been told many times that I was now a manager and didn't take direct calls. This particular day I was in and out of meetings about another customer who was legitimately having serious issues, and I couldn't make time for Vladimir.

There were times when the operator literally couldn't find me because I was bouncing between conference rooms and upper management offices. At one point the operator came and found me physically. She was crying. She told me about how upset Vladimir was, and how he was demanding to speak to me and wouldn't let her pass him to anyone else on the team, and she didn't know what to do.

I was livid. I still didn't have time to call him back because that other customer's issue was far from over and there were political ramifications I had to juggle, but I knew just what to do. I took a few minutes to write Vladimir a scathing email. I told him that it was not the operator's fault that I wasn't available, shouting at her wouldn't make me come to the phone any faster, and that he was sabotaging his own attempts to get a solution by refusing to speak with the available qualified techs who were happy to help him with his issue.

I made sure he knew the operator's name, and that he'd made her cry. Then I went back to trying to keep my other customer from hemorrhaging blood. Not long after I sent that email, the operator found me again, and told me that this had happened...

Operator: Thank you for calling, how may I direct your call?

Vladimir: Is this ?

Operator: (recognizes his voice, tenses up) Yes, it is.

Vladimir: This is Vladimir. I just wanted to apologize. I did not mean to yell at you. That was completely unacceptable of me.

Operator: Wow... t-thank you! That means a lot to me. Pause. Do you want to talk to tech support?

Vladimir: No, thanks, I just called to apologize. Have a nice day. Click.

That was one of my proudest moments as a manager, making Vladimir call back just to apologize.

He still calls us up every once in a while. I haven't talked to him in years. He's found another favorite, but every once in a while he still tells her about the way I used to do things, and tells her to go ask me for answers. He still lies to her. Sometimes she comes to me and says:

Tech: Vladimir says the last time this happened you told him to do this.

Me: I absolutely did not.

Tech: I figured.

And sometimes I still hear from someone else's cube...

Vladimir... Vladimir... VLADIMIR! Listen to me!...


4. Trust Me

man in black suit jacket using macbookPhoto by Beth Macdonald on Unsplash

I'm not tech support, but am tech support for my family.

Grandpa: My computer won't work and I keep getting this error message.

Me: I'll have a look at it for you.

Does a Google Search of error message

Me: You have some virus software. I'll install Malwarebytes and remove it for you.

Grandpa: I don't want you installing anything on my computer.

Me: But this will help.

Grandpa: No, I don't trust you, I'll take it to Best Buy.

Me: They're not IT, they're salesmen.

Grandpa: You don't know what you're talking about.

Surprise, surprise, it was never fixed, more malware was downloaded and now it won’t even boot up. He still won't let me wipe and reinstall.


5. Going Above And Beyond

Pro tip: You don’t do any work on Friday in IT. If it goes wrong, you’ll be there all weekend fixing it. So, in the spirit of being careful, Friday afternoon drinks were a tradition. 4 pm Friday was happy hour, and the responsibility for arranging the drinks fell to me. No big deal right? Except that this was the day that I finally got an unlimited account with the local drinks store that would be billed to the company automatically. I wasn’t going to waste it.

I did not waste it. Our small 10-person company got rip-roaringly tipsy. There were cans stacked to the ceiling. Chips had fallen liberally to the floor. Someone couldn’t find a bin and filed a chicken wing in the file cabinet, under “C”, for chicken. It was one of /those/ sessions where everyone is just a total mess.

Around 9 pm, after five solid hours of partying, we broke off and headed into the night. I wandered down to a nearby bar and watched some bands play for an hour, downed another pitcher, and smiled to myself that the week had ended. Fate, it seems, is not without a sense of irony. The next event made my stomach churn.

My phone buzzed in my pocket. I ran outside, tripping up the stairs as I went, managed to steady myself against a signpost, and answered. It was the CEO. The primary and secondary route servers were down. I stood frozen in time for an instant, the same way a deer looks at the headlights of an oncoming car, and then asked him to repeat himself.


I cannot stress enough that these two servers were the most important thing our company had. They, in and of themselves, were the primary thing around which our business existed, and all other things were secondary to them. My state was by far the biggest, with some of the biggest content providers in the country attached.

And this was the first full network outage we’d ever had. And it was my problem. And I’d consumed enough drinks that my blood could have been used as a fire accelerant. I yelled…something, and ran off in the direction of work. It was only when I bumped into the glass front doors before they opened that I started to realize how far gone I was.

When the elevator arrived at my floor, and I bumped into both sides of the hallway before making it to the door, I knew I was in trouble. That hallway was only 20 feet long. But it didn’t matter. My wallet hit the card reader. I’d made it.

Habit’s a funny thing. You get so used to the noises, clicks, beeps and responses that you realize something’s wrong in an instant. Something had gone wrong in this instant. There was no response from the card reader. An error, surely? Interference, something new in my wallet? I dug the card out, throwing my wallet on the ground, and badged it on its own.

Nothing. Not an “Access Denied” six beeps, or a “Card Format Unrecognized” five beeps. Nothing. The lights were on, but no one was home. A few feet away, the keypad for the alarm was lit up like a headlight convention. All the lights were on, the screen totally blacked out. No beeps for keypresses. Just…nothing.

The blood drained from my face. The route servers were inside, suffering some unknown fate, our customers probably getting more furious by the minute, and I could not open the door. AGAIN. No, sod it. I wasn’t taking any more of this security system’s issues. I was getting into this datacentre, security system be darned.

You all know what I’d tried before, and I knew as well, so I didn’t bother trying again. My tools, once again, were behind the locked door, and then the light went on over my head. I can’t…go through the door…I can’t…go AROUND the door…I can’t go…UNDER it…but can I go OVER it!? This is the logic of an in-his-cups engineer: Try all the dimensions!

There was a chair that we left outside for people working outside, so in my infinite wisdom, I dragged the chair over to the wall and lifted a ceiling tile. I then hoisted myself up into the ceiling. This did not work as well as I’d hoped because I was not very strong. I kicked and pushed off the wall, scrambling to push myself up onto what I now realized was a very thin wall.

For those not familiar with a suspended ceiling, metal rods are drilled into the concrete block above, and a grid pattern hangs below it. Inside those grids are weak, light tiles basically made of a combination of cardboard and plaster. Looking at the predicament I’d gotten myself into, it became apparent that the only things that were going to support my weight up here were the tie-rods into the concrete.

So I’d hold onto the rods with my hands, and lying prone in the ceiling, then distribute the rest of my weight along the horizontal connectors. I’d drop down onto the file cabinet at the far end of the room, about 15 feet away. This plan was flawless. And it worked…for about six of the required 15 feet, upon which point my hands slipped and I fell through the centre of the ceiling tile, towards the floor below.

By some insane miracle, I landed mostly on my feet, scrambling ungracefully to regain balance, coughing up ceiling tile dust and God knows what else. Probably asbestos. When the coughing stopped, I ran over to the security panel, pulled the power, and plugged it back in. It beeped a single happy POST beep and hummed to life, making normal sounds instead of the endless buzzing it had been making before.

My access restored, I quickly found the problem: A circuit breaker had tripped, and due to a wiring error on the part of an electrician at some point, both route servers had been wired into the same circuit. With a dustpan and brush, I set about cleaning up the nightmare my dramatic entrance had caused.

It was not a small mess—ceiling tiles are about five feet by two feet, and this one had exploded. It took about an hour. After finally sweeping up all the mess, putting the ceiling tile I’d broken to get up there back together, and replacing the one I’d broken getting down, I walked my butt out the door, feeling smug that no one would be the wiser for my ceiling entrance, and I’d have a grand story to tell. Or so I thought.

Monday morning rolled around and I was the last one in. My co-worker Aaron stared at me. Aaron: What the heck did you do to my desk?
Me: Wha?

I walked into the office and stared in horror. I don’t know what the heck I’d cleaned up but it looked like someone had hit a bag of flour with a baseball bat. It was everywhere. How gone was I? What did I spend an hour cleaning? And how in almighty did I diagnose an electrical circuit being mis-wired and split with no electrician tools of any kind? I have no idea.

But what I did know was how to break in. So I documented the procedure and added it to the Tech Support Wiki.


6. That Took A Turn

woman in green shirt sitting in front of computerPhoto by ThisisEngineering RAEng on Unsplash

This one is two weeks in the making. I was instructed to reduce spending in IT by a certain amount before the end of the year. The company as a whole needed to cut 3 million in spending by end of fiscal year because reasons. I was specifically handed a list of "potentials” (AKA potential people) as a recommendation to cut (AKA fire).

First thing I did was collect all of those people. Then I gave them two lists. The number of phone line accounts vs the number of employees, and the number of fax accounts that are inactive. For two weeks those men and women worked hard. They found over 12k phone accounts, that cost 22.95 each, that belong to old users but were still active.

We did the audit on the fax system by determining who has not received or sent a fax in six months. We found over 37k accounts inactive. Of those, 9k had never logged in, 12k were old users and nearly everyone else had set up their e-fax and never used it. The rest were people who rarely faxed as a backup. They wanted their accounts to stay.

So far we were at a little under 1 million a month being spent on useless things. But I wasn’t done yet. I started to go through Vendor programs looking for similar instances. Today came with the promise of a company-wide supervisor meeting. I was about to blow their minds.

CEO: I am very glad all of you are here. As you know, the end of fiscal year is approaching and we must trim the fat, so to speak, for year-end financials and the IRS.

He goes on like this for 20 minutes and then has everyone go around the table. We aren’t supposed to say things like. "We terminated X number of users". Instead we say things like, "We reduced salary cost by X percent”.

Accounting: Our department was able to reduce financial responsibility, in particular salary, by 12 percent, saving the company 80k a year.

CEO: OK very good. Marketing?

Marketing: We reduced financial responsibility by 45 percent. However, only one percent of that was salary. The rest was from programs we had used in the past but had stopped using. We were still paying for them, though.

Me: Which programs were those so I can mark them down?

In her response, she mentioned the stock program I had removed. The one we were paying for in IT. Not marketing. I let it slide.

Me: If anyone else has terminated a program, let me know please and I will take care of anything that needs to be taken care of on my end.

Two more departments tried to claim credit for my auditing work. When it finally came to my time, though, things really took off.

CEO: Well, we are just about out of time IT, I am sorry bu...

Me: I am sorry to interrupt but there is information in my report which is not only vital to this meeting, but will have major implications on everyone in this room and the company.

CEO: Ok. Proceed.

Me: As supervisor over the IT support area I have increased the salary responsibility by 20 percent as a way to save money.

HE: Come again?

Me: Using the list of suggested layoffs from HR, I gathered those exact people for a team to audit all cost-incurring systems that are utilized by the IT department.

Accounting: How does more employees save—

Me: interrupting him Using this audit, we have determined that there are over 100k accounts belonging to various programs, services, and paid software. These accounts either belonged to termed employees, people who did not even know they had the account, people who did not use the accounts ever, or people who simply changed computer systems.

CEO: So what does all of this mean?

Me: It creates the immediate savings of 2.3 million.

CEO: Whistles. 2.3 million. That is what I like to hear.

Me: A month.

Yes, I dramatically revealed that 2.3 million was not annual, it was monthly.

CEO: So let me get this straight. We all here as a company have been wasting 24 million a year on things no one used, terminated employees, and discarded programs?

Me: Yes. And now it’s fixed.

CEO: Why was this allowed to happen?

ME: Your predecessor created this storm and we, as a company, inherited it. I never had the urge to look into these issues as they are not directly IT-related issues. I just refuse to fire my guys for no reason other than to save money. No IT employees are lost in this. In fact, we gained two. These two are part of a team in charge of all vendor accounts. They will approve, deny, create, change, and manage all vendor accounts. Look at it this way. Now we have an extra 24 million to spend on expansion of the company.


7. Locked Out

I work an out-of-hours service desk that provides general IT support to a few different businesses when their normal IT people have gone home. These businesses are often hundreds of miles away and my access to their internal systems is usually anywhere from extremely limited to nonexistent.

This is a gem of a call that I received and typical of the level of stupidity we have to deal with.

Me: Service De—

Caller: I can't get into the building, open the door!

Me: I'm sorry, you're calling the IT emergency line, I can't open a door for you I'm based very far away.


Me: Ma'am, this is an IT emergency line for reporting major system failure or general out-of-hours IT support, as I've said I'm not based on site so can't open a door for you. This was (I say the building address), correct?

Caller: YES!

Me: Okay, well, it closes at 9 pm, it's now 11:30 pm. That'll be why it's locked.


Me: Have you arranged this with management?

Caller: NO!

Me: We'll Ma'am if there's no prior arrangement with management, the building will have been locked down by security as normal as nobody knew you wanted to use the meeting room out of hours.


Me: I'm not based on site as I've already said multiple times, I'm unable to physically open a door from miles away for you. You'll need to speak to your management team for further assistance as this isn't an IT issue and we currently have another caller waiting so I'm afraid I'll have to end this call.


Me: Okay Ma'am, as I've said, this isn't an IT emergency, you're absolutely free to speak to someone, however I'm ending this call now as it's not IT related and we have other people in the queue who need assistance, goodbye.

Caller: YOU FU—

Me: click

For those wondering; this particular business has not provided us with any escalation contacts for their security team. If it's not IT-related, we're totally free to drop that call and move on especially if we have other callers queuing.


8. Well, D’oh

This story happened when I first joined my current company, and while I was not the one that actually had to deal with the problem, I was by-standing and heard the juicy parts from my mentor himself. Exactlytwo2 days before a major festive celebration, we get a call from a user who is panicking because his equipment failed and production had come to a screeching halt.

Now, I work in a company that services equipment in a country with a distinct west half and east half, separated by the sea. This is important, as we are based in the western half. The client was a major refining plant for the petroleum industry. As we normally do, we go through the usual troubleshooting steps.

Did you this turn on, is this connection active, yada yada. But the only answer coming from the user was "yes yes yes" with nothing seemingly wrong. This went on for about half an hour when suddenly our boss comes in. The client's Head of Production had just called him and was apparently livid.

It turns out the machine had stopped working for more than an hour, and the production was severely interrupted until the problem got fixed. Now everyone was in a panic, as every hour the production was interrupted, the client was losing money in the tens of thousands and the client had the right to sue us for any damages that occur as a result of equipment downtime.

The Head of Production was not happy that their internal team was not able to fix the problem, and the client was not making any headway in fixing the problem via phone. To resolve the issue, the head demanded that support be performed immediately onsite. There was a big problem with this. Coming back to my earlier points: First, it's the festive season. Second, they are across the sea, so traveling was a bit of a problem. Still, the head said money was not an issue and they would pay anything for immediate onsite support.

Cue my mentor, who was handed the unsavory task of handling the emergency. Immediately he grabbed his tools and sped off to the airport to grab the next available flight. At the same time, his wife had to pack some clothes for him from home and rushed to pass it to him at the airport.

Due to the festive season, my mentor didn't have choices for flights so in the end he had to take a business-class flight that cost a ton of money. Upon arriving, he was whisked from the airport with a driver, sent immediately to the refinery, and granted immediate security clearance to enter the plant (anyone working in petroleum would know how big a deal this is).

By this time, a good six hours or so had passed since we received the call and it was well into the night. Greeting him in front of the equipment was the Head of Production, the original client who called, and various other senior management personnel, all anxious to see what the problem is.

My mentor is a guy with no chill, and he was also the one originally speaking to the client on the phone. He recounts this part.

Head: So, what is the problem?

Mentor: Wait, let me take a look (He starts to go through the normal troubleshooting checklists, but stops almost immediately)

Mentor: Are you sure you checked everything I asked you to?

Client: Yes! Everything, word for word!

Mentor: Are you absolutely sure?

Client: Yes!

Mentor: Do you remember what was the third thing I asked you check over the phone?

Client: Why does it matter? Just fix the problem!

Mentor: The first thing we normally check is to make sure the PC is turned on (points at the CPU LED indicator)

Mentor: The second thing we check is to make sure the equipment is on (points to the machine LED)

Mentor: The third thing (he brings his hand to a gas control valve, rotates it, and a loud hiss is heard as the gas line pressurizes, and the equipment beeps) is to make sure the gas is on.

Client: ….

Head: ….

Everyone else in the room: ….

Mentor: I would like to go have dinner now

After more awkward silence, the head thanks my mentor for his effort and asks the driver to bring him somewhere for dinner. You'd think the story ends here, but there's more! By the time the mentor finished his dinner, it was well past midnight, so he checked himself into a hotel for the night.

The next day he went back to the airport and found out that all flights were completely sold out for the next four days due to the festive traveling. He called my boss to inform him that he was basically stranded, and my boss just coolly said to him "Well, consider this as having a free holiday paid by the client".

So he checks into the most luxurious hotel in the area and spends the next four days basically on vacation before coming back to work. In total we billed the client for ~US$10,000 for the flights, hotel, emergency arrangements, allowances etc. All for 10 seconds to check LEDs and turn a valve.

This is not including the losses from halting the production. It's still one of our most memorable stories that we recount to new hires or clients in our industry. Sometimes we wonder what happened to the client, but he was transferred out of his role not too long after this incident.


9. Catching On

person holding space gray iPhone 7Photo by Bagus Hernawan on Unsplash

Like most people, I too have parents who are largely tech-illiterate. But over the last two years, I've been making a conscious effort to get my parents (especially my mom) to understand computers better. I'm a big believer in the ol' give a man a fish, and you'll feed him for a day, teach him how to fish, and he can have food for life mentality.

So rather than showing mom how to resolve her every problem, we go through a process of: what do you think is wrong? and how are you going to solve it?

Now admittedly, things do get incredibly frustrating in this process, and it can often take ~1/2 hour up to 1 hour to resolve issues. BUT, it has slowly been working. So today, mom came to me with a problem, and as usual, seemed to explode it way out of proportion.

Mom: My phone is broken.

Me: What do you mean?

Mom: The camera doesn't work.

Me: What do you mean exactly?

Mom: When I go to the camera app, it says connection cannot be established

Me: So have you tried anything to resolve it?

Mom: I turned it off and on again. But that didn't work.

Me: Uh huh.

Me: So then I booted the phone into recovery mode.

Me: (cue disbelief)

Mom: And then I wiped the cache partition.

Me: (sustained disbelief)

Mom: But when I rebooted the phone, it still didn't work. So I thought the problem might be larger than that.

Me: ...

Mom: So I went onto several forums, and a lot of other people describing similar problems said it turned out to be a hardware fault.

Me: How the heck did you know how to do that?

Mom: I Googled it.

Me: (cue jaw drop) So...I guess your phone is broken.

Mom: Yeah. That's what I told you in the beginning.

This is the same person who two years ago didn't even know how to use the volume buttons on her phone, now troubleshooting all on her own...Mom, I am so proud of you. You've now been granted admin privileges.


10. They Are Out To Get You

woman in gray cardigan holding white ceramic mugPhoto by Laura Chouette on Unsplash

So yesterday was strange, to say the least. We had a meeting that was scheduled for noon, so the beginning of my day was pretty mundane. At noon I walked into the conference room for the video review. The head of IT was in there as well as the executive vice president of IT and technology. The conference started hilariously as none of them could get the head of HR’s video working.

I walked her through how to fix that as it was a simple error.

Me: Have you tried unplugging it and plugging it back in?

HR Lady: Oh duh. Should have known it was something stupid like that.

We started the conference and HOOO BOOOY. It quickly became clear to me what was going on. She was gunning for me hard.

Her: So I have in front of me 19 complaints against you this year. Can you explain these?

Me: That’s it?

Her: Clearly not expecting that. Uhh yes. How do you explain it?

Me: Well as you well know, each complaint is different and most do not have merit.

Her: So you are saying these complaints were made…incorrectly?

Me: Yes that is exactly what I am saying.

I then pulled out the same folder she probably had.

Me: On Feb 12th, this man complained that I refused his request.

Her: Good one to start with. Explain it.

Me: He wanted me to put a folder on his desktop that would allow him to transfer items between his local desktop and another server. This was not possible. I offered him several alternative options but he refused each one.

Her: So this was impossible?

Me: Technology wise of course it is possible. But the solution would never EVER get the approval.

Her: Let’s move on to the next one. A different user claimed that you were rude to her on the phone and hung up on her.

Me: let's play the call log.

The call log is me being professional while she politely berates me on the phone…until she cusses me out. I end the call and send it to HR.

Me: Your predecessor said I handled it well.

Her: Ok let’s move on to the lady who had to wait for extra days to get her laptop back from you. She said you helped her three days in a row and finally took an extra four days to get her laptop back to her.

Me: You mean the lady who yelled in my face? Yeah, I remember her. I had to go to the hospital that Friday so none of my work got done.

Her: I see the note here. You thought you had a hernia but it turned out to be a UTI?

Me: Thanks for repeating it here…Yes. Anyways, the point is her laptop was finished within two hours of me returning to work. The four days she is talking about is because we had a three-day weekend.

The meeting went on like this for well over 30 minutes as we ran through each complaint with only one that was legitimate. That was when I misread a technical error and had to fix it 30 minutes later. Oh well. Then came the real kicker.

Her: Let’s talk about the fire you started.


My Head of IT: HE STARTED!? (same time)

Vice President: Wait what?

Her: Per your report. The fuse box was overloaded when the third rack of servers plugged in and started a fire inside the wall that ended up burning out most of the building.

Me: Yes that does sound correct. What you’re failing to mention is that the circuit breaker was not an actual circuit breaker. It was a bypass installed to bring the building up to code. The fuse box had cabinets built over it so that the owner could hide it. That’s why it caught on fire.

Her: How was this missed.

Me: I don’t know. I am not an electrician, I am not a state building inspector, I am not omniscient, and I am certainly not omnipotent. I went in to set up an office.

Her: You appear to have an excuse for everything.

Me: Yes it's called “Cover Your Butt”. You literally have that on a poster in your office. But then it got ten times worse.

Vice President: (to me) OK, That is far enough, you have made your point. Remember that she holds your job in her hand.

Head of IT: Like a small bird. (Yes, they really said this)

Vice President: Thank you. So you do need to show her some respect…that being said. (Talking to HR Lady) He is right. (Turning to me) Do you want to keep your job?

Me: Yes.

Vice President: Then never take a disrespectful tone at a member of the senior management again. I expect a written apology to her by the end of the day. No further action needs to be taken here. (Turning to HR Lady) As for you.

HR Lady: Yes?

Vice President: You will apologize to both of them by the end of the day yourself. While he was disrespectful, he is not wrong.

He then stood up and gathered his things.

Vice President: Hopefully this is the last I hear of any animosity towards upper management, or animosity coming from upper management. Good day people.

He left and I went back to my desk, apologizing for the attitude I took with the head of HR. At 4:55 PM the email came in from the head of HR apologizing for her role.


11. The Phantom Hand

This happened last week:

Boss: Hey, I didn't know we could print on our fax machine

Me: Sorry? That's not a printer, just a fax machine

Boss: Nope, it prints as well. (This is all while showing me some pages that came from the fax machine). I printed this document and it came out of the fax machine instead of the printer. I was surprised myself.

Me: It is not possible. The fax machine is just a fax machine.

Boss: Well, then where did this come from?

Me: I have no idea, but the fax is not a printer.

Boss: I will prove it to you. I will print this other document.

Me: Go ahead.

10 minutes later

Boss: Hey, the fax machine is finally printing. It took a bit but it is now printing that document I told you.

Me: Seriously? This can't be. The fax machine is not a printer. Let me see and I try to figure out what's going on.

I printed out the journal report from the fax machine and I see the last entries are from a number in Hong Kong. I check the number and it belongs to our branch in Hong Kong, so I give them a call. Finally the puzzle is solved.

Me: Hey boss, I know what's going on with the fax machine.

Boss: You realized it is a printer as well?

Me: Have you been to Hong Kong lately?

Boss: Yes, I was there last week for some meetings.

Me: Did you try to print anything while you were there?

Boss: Yes.

Me: How did you manage to get your printouts to come out of the printer over there?

Boss: I had to configure their printer in my notebook

Me: Have you checked you are not still printing in the Hong Kong printer?

Boss: Why?

Me: Well, you have been printing all the time in the Hong Kong printer. The printer is beside a secretary, who thought your documents were very important, so she faxed them to us.


12. The Old Switcheroo

woman in black headphones holding black and silver headphonesPhoto by Charanjeet Dhiman on Unsplash

This happened during my tenure at a mid-sized call center in 2001. Like most call centers, a ticket was required for any IT problem mainly because we had around 500 users online at any one time. Most of the users understood this and followed the rules pretty well. Except for the new supervisors.

Most were in their early 20s and it was usually their first time in any type of position of power. Hey, now that they have an inbox/outbox and their own stapler, they must be important. Liz lived up to this to a ridiculous degree. Every problem led to a panicked call to us followed by a dash to our office when told to open a ticket.

"This has to be fixed right now" she would wail "I'm a supervisor". Since most of her problems would be resolved with a couple of keystrokes, I decided to nip this problem in the bud. As soon as she would call, I knew I had a couple of minutes as she made a mad dash down the stairs to pound on our door to plead her case in person.

Now Liz was just a stunningly good-looking girl so most of my co-workers (also in their 20s and as awkwardly nerdy as you would imagine) would jump to help her. I, however, was in my early 40s and fortunately immune to her looks. So I took to using a remote desktop to fix her problem while I knew she was heading towards our office.

I would begrudgingly follow her upstairs to "see" the problem, which was already fixed. She would swear that it wasn't doing whatever before and that it must have fixed itself. After about the fifth time I did this, I dropped this on her. "Liz, I'm a happily married man and I just don't like you like that. If you don't stop trying to get me alone like this I'm going to have to go to HR".

Liz started using the help desk after that, and me and my co-workers shared a laugh every time one of her tickets came in.


13. No Reply

Me: Hello, Service Desk

Caller: You need to help me right now!

Me: ...

Caller: HELLO!

Me: Help you with what need to explain your issue


Me: Well, if this is an external company I suspect there's not much we can do. May I remotely connect and take a look?

Caller: Whatever just fix it

Me: Okay please show me the messages that you've sent and received...

The caller brings up her sent box with about 50 messages sent to and then her inbox with about 50 automatic replies saying she has contacted an unmonitored inbox.


Me: You're sending emails to a do not reply address. This is why it's happening. As you can see from the multiple emails they've sent back to you. You should be using a different email to contact them.


Me: Can you see my mouse?

Caller: YES!

Me: Can you see this address in the "To" field?

Caller: sigh YES!

Me: What does it say?

Caller: donotrep...

Caller: oh

Caller: click

Yes, goodbye caller, you have a fantastic day now!


14. It Wasn’t Me

I used to be a shift team lead for a hosted outsourcing company that provided our own software to various financial institutions. Some of these companies were very small and only had a single box. Some were larger and had a pair of boxes. Others had more for different functions.

Some did all their own development, others paid us to do their development and bug-fixing work for them. One of the most important things we handled was physical backups. Each box had its own backup schedule, where it would back up to IBM Ultrium tapes. Each morning, one of our tasks was to remove the tape from the previous night's backup, scan the barcode and send them offsite to our secure storage facility.

Once that was done, we'd make sure that the scratch tape for the next scheduled backup was loaded and ready to go. This one company we dealt with had both a live and test environment, and had their own in-house developers. Initially, they were both backed up nightly but due to a cost-limiting exercise, the IT manager on their side submitted a change request to limit the test system to one backup per week, to be carried out on a Friday night.

No problem. Amend the backup schedules and update the documentation to reflect the change. All sorted. I wasn't there when all of this happened, but it was all included and documented on the shift handover report when our team took over, so we knew we didn't have to load tapes for this particular box until Friday.

About eight months later, we received a ticket from one of their developers. This happened on a Thursday afternoon. I bet you can see where this is going.

"Help! The library on the test system was just accidentally deleted. Please can this be restored from last night's backup urgently?"

My tech who received the ticket confirmed with me correctly that they were now on weekly backups on this particular box, and the most recent backup we had was almost a week old. My tech relays this back to the user in an email. The user calls back immediately.

"No! That's not good enough, if that's the most recent backup you have that means we've lost almost a week's worth of critical work. I need to speak to your supervisor immediately!"

I duly took over the call. "Your colleague has just informed me that you've stopped backing up this system daily! This is unacceptable”.

"As I heard my colleague explain, the backup schedules are decided by your company. This decision was taken on your side to reduce the backup frequency from daily to weekly. You need to speak to your IT department for clarity on this”.

"I'll do that, you haven't heard the last of this!"

About half an hour later, another one of my guys gets a call asking to be put straight through to me. "Yes, this is John Smith, the Systems Manager from Company XYZ. I've just had an interesting conversation with one of my developers stating that you've stopped doing our backups that we're paying you to perform. Just for your information this call is being recorded and I've got a conference call with our solicitors in 15 minutes whereby if this is not resolved satisfactorily by that time, we will be filing a lawsuit for the cost of our lost development work, and a recording of this call will be used as evidence”.

Wow, talk about aggressive. I explain to the guy that eight months ago, someone at their company submitted a change request that we reduce the backup frequency on this system from daily to weekly, and this was carried out as requested. It escalated from there.

"Well that's just insane. Nobody here would have done that. I need the name of the person who submitted the request as well as the person on your side who actioned the request without verifying that the request was received from an authorized member!"

"OK, well I wasn't on-shift when that change was made but it will have all been documented on our ticketing system, bear with me a second. Ah, here we go. So the request was made on April 12th this year by a John Smith, Systems Manager. That's you, right?"

"Uhm, that's not right, there must be another person here with that name”.

"You've got two John Smiths, both working as Systems Managers? Does that not get confusing?"

"No, erm. I don't recall asking you to do this”.

"Well, we have the email saved to the original ticket, along with several emails back and forth where we asked you to clarify a couple of points, and also a scanned copy of the signed change form where you've written your name and signature. Did you want me to forward these over for your solicitors? Although I suspect you might already have copies of them if you check your sent items folder”.

"Erm, no that's fine thanks. I'll let the developers know that you can't recover the file”.

"That'd be great thanks, is there anything else I can help you with today Mr Smith?"

He hung up. I printed off the ticket and dug out a copy of the call recording to forward around to the team, and I added this to my training guides for new hires as an example of why documenting everything is critical.


15. Unicorns Do Exist

a computer screen with a bunch of code on itPhoto by Chris Ried on Unsplash

Some time ago, I got possibly the best bug report ticket ever filed. A piece of software I'd written would completely mess up under extremely specific circumstances, upon encountering web pages written in a way I thought completely insane. What I naively didn't realize is that a lot of web pages are written in a completely insane way.

So, one user happened to run the software on one of these little HTML monstrosities, and it broke. An average user, if they would even consider such extreme measures as reporting the bug, would write something like: Expected behavior: It works. Actual behavior: It doesn't Reproduction steps: Visit a website.

I've seen way too many tickets like this. This user wasn't an "average" user though. This guy was a unicorn. The bug report included a link to a tiny page hosted on a VPS of his that would cause the bug to occur. He had enough knowledge and did enough testing on his own to write a minimal example that still triggered it. I still have that ticket printed out and pinned to the wall right above my desk.


16. It’s All Downhill From Here

I received a ticket from a company we provide IT infrastructure and support to. The company is a marketing company with specific requirements and budget, so there was no going away from tower PCs. One day I received a ticket from their department manager asking me to remove the ugly boxes as they don't need them.

I decided to call and explain about the boxes...

Me (On the Phone): Hello, this is IT Support

Department Manager (DM): Oh good, you're calling to arrange collection, I would like the boxes collected in precisely one hour as we are going to a conference later.

We were talking about disconnecting about 40 PCs!

Me: No, I'm not calling to schedule a meeting, but to explain that if we remove these boxes, you won't be able to use the computers

DM: Do you think I'm stupid?

Me: No, I'm just explaining that you won't be able to use your computer without the computer being connected to the screen

DM: What are you talking about? I don't look under my table to use the computer. Look you obviously don't know what you're talking about, I want to talk to someone who knows about IT. Oh, I also want your first name and surname so that I can make a complaint!

Me: I’m not giving you my surname for data protection, and I do know what I'm talking about. Trust me, if you remove the actual computer, the box you are referring to, you won't be able to use the computer.

DM: Slams the phone down!

I closed the job, documenting everything. A week's gone by and we get an Emergency call-out, stating that none of their computers are working. We arrived to find all the computer towers have been cut free from their cages and removed.

Me: What happened to all the towers?

DM: I got a professional team to remove the boxes! See, it is possible!

Me: No I don't see, now you can't use the computers!

DM: What a lot of nonsense, just get the internet working so that we can use the computers again!

Me: No, what happened to the computers?

DM: Are you stupid or something? They're here! referring to the monitors

Me: Ok, ok, what happened to the boxes?

DM: They took them to the dump

Me: Right, you are telling me that you threw away leased computers which are worth $1,300 each? I want to speak to your boss. Now!

DM: He's in a meeting

Me: Get him now! This is very serious.

DM: Ok

DM's Boss: First you refuse to do your job and now you pull me out of a meeting? Where are all the computers by the way?

Me: He threw them away and we need to get them back now as they had sensitive data on them.

DM's Boss: Where are the computers?

DM: You mean the boxes?

DM's Boss: YES!!!

DM: They are heading to the dump

We drove to the dump but there was no record of these computers being brought in. Two weeks later, the company suffered a data breach, which along with the damage bill caused the company to go into administration.


17. Not My Problem

I was a student back when this story takes place and during the summer I managed to get an internship as IT Admin. The work was quite nice, I was doing helpdesk stuff but also things with servers. Anyway, support of users was one of my tasks. The company was from the automotive sector—airbags/seatbelts etc.

I was working in a production plant connected with offices, so I had to support both facilities. One time I get a call. That was unusual, as we always reminded users to write tickets, which were responded in real-time so it took like 10 minutes before I contacted this incident submitter. Call was more or less like:

“For God’s sake, what are you doing with the scanners? The whole line has stopped and we are completely blocked now, we can't do anything without them, they're not working and showing errors”. The line was about a 10 minute walk from my office so I stayed on the phone while I was walking there.

"Ok, tell me what is going on, calm down”.


"Please calm down, we have not been doing anything with that line for months”


At this point I was already thinking about different ways of ruining her, but still played it cool. I finally arrive at the line and ask her to hand me a scanner. All the people from production line were standing there with crossed shoulders and looked at me like "Here you go, you messed up so fix it huh" and the leader said something like "Oh here you are, now make it work”.

The scanner was nothing fancy, all you had to do to make it work usually was enter a username and password. So I take the scanner and look at the screen. Back at her. Back at the screen. I couldn’t believe my eyes.

"Were you asked to change password recently?"


"Because the screen says that you have typed the wrong password 5 times and you are always reminded that after this, the scanner blocks for 20 minutes. And by the way, you have three backup scanners so why you didn't use them? You messed up, not me. And it's not ok to talk like that to any employee of the company, so I will report it to YOUR manager. We have call recording enabled on our mobiles” (we didn't, but she could never know).

"Ugh....ummm, emmm”.

"Yeah, bye”.

I told the story to her manager. She apologized officially to the whole IT team, brought some of the cheapest cookies from the store, and basically pretended to be sorry.


18. Be Still My Heart

man in blue denim button up shirt standing beside white metal framePhoto by Sammyayot254 on Unsplash

I've been out of the office for about a month so the day-to-day happenings such as construction and desk moves have not been communicated to me. This morning I get to the office at 7:30 am and one of the facilities guys comes up to me and casually says, "The electricians are cutting power to the server room sometime today”.

Enter Panic Mode Now...

I state that they can't just turn off the power to the datacenter. There is a process that needs to happen for downtime. People need to be notified, other buildings need to prepare for continued manufacturing without access to work orders, all that stuff. I start messaging management asking what the heck is happening.

Management asks if we can run on the generator while power is off. I have no answer for that so I run off to find the facilities manager and electricians to ask. The electrician informs me they did not need to turn off the electricity in the server room, they just need to do it for a portion of the office. My datacenter is safe.

If anyone needs me I will be hiding under my desk softly sobbing from this horrible experience.


19. Butterfly Effect

Since the day I started at this small company, I noticed their workstations were horribly out of date and reaching end of life for support and depreciation. I worked with a developer to get our in-house software to run on new machines. It ended up being the worst thing I could have done.

Fast forward about a year when the project is complete and the application can now finish its processing in 10-40x less time depending on difficulty. We have everyone on new systems that run like a dream and everyone is thrilled with how much more we can do in a day. The department head sends a wonderful email about the new time it takes to process.

The backlog of work is now quickly shrinking for this team, and their department head has to stop calling in per-diem workers. Slowly, we fire employees as there's not enough work for them. Fast forward another year and we've fired some 20 people (about 27% of our company). I was friends with many of them. I still feel bad five years later.


20. Take A Load Off

Here I am, another calm morning before the storm. I sip away at my Dr. Pepper and take a bite of donut. The queue is clear and the emails are quiet. Then, as is to be expected, the phone rang. I clear my throat and pick up the receiver with a cheerful "Hello, how can I help you?"

"Good morning, my computer won't connect to the internet”.

We run through some basic troubleshooting, have you restarted the computer, is the cable plugged in, are the dummy lights on, is your computer turned on. Still nothing, so I resign myself to a brisk walk down the hall to see what's going on.

As I enter the room, I begin double-checking everything we talked about over the phone. The cable is plugged into the computer, the indicator lights are on, but they keep flickering out for a second. Seeing this, I begin tracing the cable back to where it's plugged in. This room is set up terribly by the way, so the Ethernet cable is run around the room so the person can have their desk where they want it.

As I trace the cord, I find out that it goes through a closet, then out the other side and into the wall jack. I go to check the connection and notice the cable is tight, really tight, like I can't move it an inch tight. The effects of my Dr. Pepper start to take effect and the connections are forming. I open up the closet and find the culprit.

There are coats hanging from the Ethernet cable. We're talking big, heavy coats. The poor cable was under so much strain that it was being ripped apart. I quickly removed the coats and then made the person aware that Ethernet does not make for a good coat rack.

Once the weight was removed, everything started working again and I was off to finish my breakfast.


21. Where’s My Money?

man in black shirt wearing black headphonesPhoto by Sigmund on Unsplash

I work an out-of-hours service desk supporting multiple businesses. This particular business is an educational institute, and this particular discussion took place between myself and a student;

Me: Hello, Service Desk

Caller: I CAN'T PRINT!

Me: Okay, what actually happens?


Please note, the caller’s tone is very rude and I've reached my rude tolerance by this stage

Me: Yes, we've established you can't print. What actually happens? What errors are received? What does the printer do?

Caller: It tells me to top up my print credit as I have a negative balance of -$49


Caller: HELLO!

Me: I'm sorry, I don't see the issue here. You'll need to clear the $49 outstanding balance before you can print

Caller: But I don't owe you any money!

Me: Okay, are you saying this balance has been added to your account in error?

Caller: No

Me: Can you please explain what you mean?

Caller: I was photocopying loads of personal pictures yesterday and since then I have this balance. But I don't think I owe this as I didn't get any warnings when photocopying

Me:... But you're aware there's a charge for photocopying?


Me: Okay, so I don't see why you're disputing the balance? You used a photocopier for a large job and as a result of this have a negative balance which will need to be cleared. Regardless of "warnings" or not, you still used a service at the end of the day and need to pay for what you've used. You've just admitted you knew about the charge before using the service.


Me: Okay, you'll need to clear the balance on the account first by topping up


Me: It's 11 pm. I'm not sure what you're asking me to do. If you want to print, you'll need to clear this balance by topping up your credit


Me: You said you used the photocopiers?

Caller: YES

Me: Presumably you have the documents you photocopied?

Caller: YES

Me: So you have photocopied documents that you haven't paid for. The photocopiers should not be used for personal use either. What is it that you need to "urgently" print right now?

Caller: I want to print a banner for a party

Me: So, again you're using the printing facilities for personal reasons - in clear breach of the policy you agreed to. You've also called an IT emergency line and claimed this was "urgent".


Me: Thanks for calling. I'll report this to your school office for further investigation but I'm unable to deal with this on the emergency line. Goodbye click


22. Candy Crushed

I'm a Network and Server Administrator at a hospital, but I occasionally field help desk calls as well. So, one day I'm slow, so I'm helping answer some calls when one of our Switchboard Operators calls.

Me: IT.

Operator: Hey, I have a problem.

Me: OK, what's up?

Operator: I've been playing Candy Crush on my phone and it keeps messing up.

Me: What do you mean? Is your phone disconnecting from Wi-Fi?

Operator: No, I just can't seem to beat this level no matter what I try.

Me: trying not to laugh Uhhh, I'm not familiar with that application. Each department is supposed to have a Super User for their applications, which handles tech support between the users and the vendor. Have you engaged your Super User?

Operator: getting angry No, smart Alec, I didn't.

Me: Holding back laughter as well as Jimmy Fallon on SNL I'm sorry you're upset ma'am, but all I'm doing is trying to help you by getting you to the most appropriate channel for support of your issue.

Operator: I thought that you may have played this game before and that you may be able to help.

Me: No ma'am, Candy Crush isn't an application that the IT department uses or supports.

This was the most humorous call I've gotten. What made it so funny is that the user was getting so mad that I couldn't help her and that I was laughing at her. I mean, come on.


23. Wearing Different Hats

Our company HQ building has big conference rooms. Despite not being in the events or hosting business at all, we sometimes rent those out if we don't need them ourselves. We only offer little service but that makes for a fair rate, all usually easygoing, not much work, and earns a few extra bucks.

The day this story took place was one such time: A company that had rented our conference rooms before had booked them again, but this time for a completely different occasion, hence other guests in our house. Regarding technical equipment and support the rules were simple: We as the host provide you with one high quality projector per room, one HDMI cable, one audio cable if you want to use the room's speaker system, and one Wi-Fi voucher for each of the devices people need to present from.

Everything other than that is your own business as a guest. Last year's autumn, when this happened, both the IT team and our facility department were very short on staff thanks to a bad stomach flu going around. Preparing the conference rooms for renters hasn't been of my duties for years anymore, but due to the staff situation and still knowing how to do it, I helped out.

Usually our main janitor prepares the room layout and our internal catering woman stays on standby for the guests, but both were sick. The only option to fill in their positions on short notice was to borrow Lucy, an apprentice from another department. She was fresh from school, had only started her apprenticeship a few weeks ago, and didn't mind doing something completely different for a day.

Naturally, she needed instructing and some help with her newly assigned duties. It took longer than usual, but together we made sure everything was perfectly prepared in time for our guests. Prior to their arrival I had briefed her to call me personally if the guests require any IT help before I had to leave.

Since I passed the conference area on the way through the building a little later on, I checked on Lucy and the guests. Quite a few had already arrived, but everything so far was good, projector and sound worked, she felt comfortable enough to handle the job, everything's fine.

Half an hour passes by, then I receive a first call from Lucy. The guests wanted to know where they could get Wi-Fi vouchers. Dang, my bad, forgot to tell her. I sent her to the front desk to fetch one per device the guests need for their presentations.

Ten more minutes pass. Suddenly another call.

Lucy, sounding strangely nervous: "Could you please come down? The guests need help with the Wi-Fi…”

Since I'd never interacted with her before today, I couldn't quite place if the tone of her voice indicated a problem, or if she was just a little insecure and stressed now...Something felt off, though.

Me: "Sure, don't worry, I'll be there in a few minutes, just gotta finish something real quick”.

Upon entering the hallway to the conference rooms, I could already hear an irritated woman's voice heavily berating somebody. Not a good sign. Worried now, I picked up my pace and turned around the final corner, only to find poor little Lucy cornered by a suited woman in her 40s whose voice I had heard, absolutely barking at her about not delivering what they paid for.

Lucy was visibly shaking a little, probably getting close to a panic attack. After hearing my footsteps her eyes immediately made contact with mine, looking anxiously for help.

Me, sharply: "Excuse me!"

Woman: "WHAT? Now who the heck are you?"

Me: "I'm from IT and here to help you with the Wi-Fi issue Lucy has contacted me about. What can I do for you?"

Woman, still in a very angry tone: "We were promised Wi-Fi vouchers in the lease contract for the room, but SHE—" pointing her finger directly at Lucy, almost stabbing her in the eye, "refuses to hand out any!"

Lucy, seemingly on the verge of tears now: "But I...I gave you one for your laptop, your tablet, and your guest speaker's laptop…”

Woman, shouting down on Lucy again: "AND WHAT ABOUT THE OTHERS? We have over 100 people here and EVERYONE needs Wi-Fi, you stupid worthless—"

Those words really hurt and this new, unexpected situation became too much to bear. Tears welled up in Lucy's eyes. Before seeing this, I already had more than enough of this woman's behavior, but now I snapped. This had to stop.

Me: "HEY! STOP. Calm down. Keep those insults to yourself, where are your manners?! Back off of her, she's just doing her job and following policy!"

Woman, turning to me, cocky look on her face and maximum disdain in her voice: "Who do you think you are, telling me what to say or do, huh? And what stupid policy?! We were promised Wi-Fi, and that's what we're getting from you”.

Me: "The contract clearly states the IT policy for external guests, which—"

Woman, cutting me off: "DON'T. CARE. You two drones are utterly useless and should get fired! Get me the manager in charge, NOW!"

Me: "Alright. As you wish. Be right back”.

With that, the woman stormed off, back into the conference room. I gestured Lucy to come with me and she immediately followed, glad to get away and barely keeping it together. We made our way around the corner, back to the elevators, when I stopped and put my hand on one of Lucy's shoulders, getting her to look up at me.

Me: "I'm so sorry you were treated like that. Are you OK?"

Lucy nodded and took a deep breath, slowly regaining her composure.

Me, continuing walking with her: "Listen, you don't have to accept this sort of behavior, neither as an apprentice nor as anyone else. Feel free to simply walk away next time and report to a manager”.

Lucy: "OK. I will”.

Me: "Don't let those hurtful words get to you. Forget everything she said, you were doing a great job. Really, I mean it, and I am very proud of you for standing your ground”.

We reached the elevators and entered one. I pushed the button to the executive floor.

Lucy: "Where are we going now?"

Me: "My office. At least, I will. You go fetch a cup of hot chocolate or whatever you like from the machine next to the elevators, it's free. Have a seat on the sofa then. I'll be back in a few minutes”.

Lucy looked confused, but complied. Meanwhile I went through the adjacent hallway door and into my office. Earlier in the day, I had changed from my slacks into jeans (which I keep in my wardrobe for such occasions) earlier and left my suit jacket and tie by my desk. Now I reverted those changes, made a few quick phone calls, and returned to Lucy all dressed up. Her eyes grew wide. There was something no one there knew.

Lucy: "This question might sound stupid now, sorry, but...who are you exactly?"

Me, smiling: "I do work in IT, but I am the CIO. Since so many of my people are sick right now I'm filling in for them. That's why I helped you set up the room instead of Ben, who'd usually do this. And now, since that lovely woman down there asked for management attention, we'll teach her a lesson in respect. Follow me”.

With that we made our way down to the conference rooms again.

Me, mockingly straightening my tie and suit jacket: "Lucy, would you please be so kind as to inform our guest that the manager in charge is here now?"

She grinned and did as requested. Immediately I could hear a faint "Finally, everything takes too long around here!" Before the woman hurried through the door toward me. When she recognized me, she froze in her tracks.

Me: "Hello. I'm the CIO and therefore the manager in charge regarding your issue, with whom you demanded to speak”.

Calmly I walked towards her, reached into my jacket, and gave her my business card. The woman took it, but not being able to throw anybody under the bus apparently left her without a plan and speechless.

Me: "Now that I got your attention, I have three things to tell you.
One: You stated that you “were promised Wi-Fi” and that you “want to get what you pay for”. You signed a contract stating that you get Wi-Fi access for every device needed for your presentations, which we delivered. We neither can nor will provide access for all attendees of your event. Our network, our rules. Period.
Two: Your condescending, rude tone is bad enough in itself, but intimidating employees, especially a minor like in this case, absolutely won't be tolerated around here. I expect a sincere apology of yours to Lucy and myself”.

She slowly found the ability to speak again.

Woman: "OK, I apologize, that was not very professional of me. But—"

Me, interrupting her: "That's a massive understatement and doesn't sound terribly sincere to me. Furthermore, point three: Verbal assault and intimidation are against our house rules, which we strictly enforce and you agreed to adhere to by signing the rental contract. This alone warrants your personal removal from our premises.

Also, you apparently invited more than 100 people, which you weren't allowed to do and violates fire code rules, since the maximum room capacity is exactly 100, as stated in the contract. Due to now multiple breaches of contract and said fire code violations, I herewith have to ask you and your guests to leave.

By the way, according to internal consultation we have not the slightest further interest in renting out our rooms to your company, considering the circumstances. Please gather your people, personal belongings and then leave our premises”. Chaos broke loose.

She of course threw a massive hissy fit, questioned my authority some more, and needed to be guided out by security. The other people from her company were confused and understandably not amused, but cooperated in a civil manner.

A week later, she had her lawyer send us a letter claiming unfair treatment and requesting a refund, which gave our lawyer a big laugh and the opportunity to lay out to their counterpart how they breached the contract in great detail. That was the last we heard from them, thankfully.


24. The Battery’s Low Upstairs

person holding low battery smartphonePhoto by Alexander Andrews on Unsplash

I had a person come up and say that they have been transferring some files for hours and it's only at 61%. I have a look and find that they are not transferring files at all. All they've done is plug their video camera into the computer, and the 61% is the level of battery remaining on the device. The person has been watching the battery drain for hours.


25. Not So Useless After All

I used to work at a small structural engineering firm with about 10 engineers as a project engineer, so I used to deal with client inquiries about our projects once we had released the blueprints for the construction of the project. Most of the time we did house projects that never presented a challenge for the construction engineer.

Most inquiries were about not finding stuff in the blueprints. If you have seen a structural blueprint, you would know that space is a valued commodity, so being a Tetris player is a good drafter skill. Then this call happened. I introduce to you the cast of this tale:

Me: Your friendly structural engineer. Big Boss (BB): The chief engineer of the company and my direct superior (gotta love small companies), aaand Incompetent Construction Engineer (ICE).

So one day we received a request to do the structural design for some houses that were meant to be on a suburban development, basically the same house with little differences built a hundred times. In that type of project, every dollar saved can snowball pretty fast so we tend to do extra optimization that on normal projects might be overkill.

Because of this, some of the solutions we do are outside what most construction engineers are used to. That was the case for this project.

ICE: One of the beams you designed is collapsing.

ME: Are you certain? Can we schedule a visit so I can go take a look before we start calling our lawyers?

ICE: Sure, but I'm telling you we followed your instructions to the letter, so I'm confident it was your design that was deficient.

Before going to the field, my boss and I decided to do a deep review of the project. We rechecked the blueprints, ran the models again, even rechecked the calculations by hand. We found no obvious mistakes on our part, so we started getting on a battle mood. We were going to shift the fault to the construction company. #1 rule of structural engineering conflict solution: It's always the contractor’s fault.

We put on our battle outfits (visibility jacket, helmet, and steel-toed boots) and went to see the problem.

ICE: See, the beam is collapsing! We had to scaffold it because it kept deflecting more and more!

Now, we could SEE the beam getting deflected at simple sight, and that shouldn't be happening. We asked ICE for a set of blueprints and started checking. Then we saw the problem. A column that we had considered and that was central to the design was nowhere to be found, neither on the blueprints ICE gave us nor the real thing.

Keep in mind that it had no apparent reason to exist because it functioned differently than the usual designs.

BB: Well, it appears we messed up. The blueprints that we sent them don't seem to have THAT column. I better start calling the lawyer and insurance because it appears to be our fault.

I was not entirely convinced. Remember, I had just reviewed the project, so I was confident that column was on the final blueprints. We usually delivered a set of signed and sealed blueprints and a digital PDF version so they could make copies and give them to their people more easily.

So I asked ICE for the sealed blueprints...and surprise! The column was there. I was free to breathe again, rule #1 was not bypassed.

Now it was a matter of knowing WHO messed up.

ME: The blueprints you gave us are inconsistent with the ones we sent. Did anyone modify them?

ICE: Oh, sure I did. You put a column there that was too expensive and was doing nothing. I asked one of our engineers if we needed it for some code compliance reason and he said that if it was not structural it had no reason to be there, so I deleted it on our working version of the plans.

That was all we needed to hear. We just went to his boss, told him he had modified the blueprints without our say so and that we were not liable for the failure. That day there was one construction engineer job opening and some happy workers got extra pay by rebuilding that part of the house.

If a structural engineer says something is needed, then you better believe it is. Oh, and it’s always the contractor’s fault. I'm so happy to work in an industry where "The client is always right" doesn't apply.


26. A Blast From The Past

About 15 years ago, I was a bright-eyed coder still in college. My family was poor. I often did some freelance jobs to afford a living in my college city. One of the companies I coded for was dedicated to importing metal, cutting it based on the customer's preferences and selling it. I had coded them a simple local network program automating the preferences of the supervisors in the office and supervisors in the workshop, then it stored the data in their accounting program.

Today about 10 am, I received a call from their boss.

Boss: hello. We need you here in the city urgently. Your program stopped working.

Me: Excuse me? I do not recognize the number you're calling from. Which program of mine?

Boss: Don't you? I’m speaking about the program you made for our company.

Me: Oh...The one I made years ago? You're still using it?

Boss: Yes we are. But today in the morning the program stopped working.

Oh, nostalgia...Anyway. I decided to troubleshoot quickly, learning about the details. Thankfully I have archives for all my codes, even my first-ever program. Of course, even coded 15 years ago, a program doesn't suddenly stop working in a day. I try to find out what has changed. Nothing seems to have changed since yesterday. Maybe a blackout? No. Changes in network? Nope. Changes in any hardware? None...

It will indeed take time.

Me: All right, I guess I can't solve it from afar. I seriously doubt it's a problem in my code but just in case, I will provide you the source codes. It's possibly a simple problem in hardware and you wouldn't want to pay me for that. A local tech will do it for much less.

Boss: Pay you? Why should we pay you? It's your program. Fix it.

Me: (after a hearty laugh) It's a freelance job I did for you literally 15 years ago. As you're the witness to, it had worked well until this morning. Even if it was the product of a giant company, the support would have been dropped already. Think about it, Microsoft has dropped support for XP. You can't expect me to offer free support.

Boss: We still want you to fix it. How much would you charge?

Me: I'm working for another company already. First, I'll have to ask for unpaid vacation. Then I'll bill all my expenses to you in addition to my rate per day. I doubt it'll take more than a single day, though.

Boss: It's too much.

Me: I know. That's why I urge you to find a local tech and have him have a look. If it's proven that the problem is my code, I'll happily send you the source codes and then you may have it updated to your heart's content.

Boss: I don't understand why the passage of time should change it. It's your program. You should fix it.

Me: It doesn't work like that. Anyway, I'll be awaiting your call from this number.

He hung up, still muttering about how it's my program and I should fix it for free.

I'm dreaming about the future now.


27. That’ll Be The Problem Then

I work for an ISP that deals only in DSL-type connections. No satellite or mobile or anything.

Client: Hello. Where's the Wi-Fi?

Me: I'm sorry sir. You're going to have to be a bit more specific?

Client: I'm paying for this service! This is terrible, it hasn't been here for about a week now! It's usually right here on my phone. Where did it go?

Cue about ten minutes of troubleshooting, until…

Me: Well sir, since the devices connected by cable seem to be functioning okay, we should check if it's an issue with the Wi-Fi functionality of your router. Do you have a spare router we could test with?

Client: Yes, but I can't swap them now.


Client: I'm not at home right now.

Me: Well, where are you?

Client: Mozambique.


28. Black Out

person using black laptop computerPhoto by freestocks on Unsplash

After recovering from my stroke, I was in desperate need of work. So desperate, I took an overnight shift at a webhost for tech support. Most nights it was pretty calm and people that called on my shift were usually just looking for more help with their website than just troubleshooting, but night staff had the time and it helped break up the monotony of the shift. Occasionally I would get gems like this.

I get a call and the guy is frantic on the phone. After finally getting him to confirm his username and password, I ask which website of his is down. I type the URL into my web browser and surprise, I get his website, no issues. After poking around some more, I still can’t find any issue.

It is at this point that we get into basic PC troubleshooting and the following transpired.

Me: Okay, are you using a MAC or PC?

Customer: PC

Me: Can you click on the start menu and type in CMD.

This is where the problem became excruciatingly clear.

Customer: I cannot. The screen is black

Me: deep breath Is there a light on the front of your monitor or your tower?

Customer: No

Me: deeper breath Is the cable plugged into the back of the device, and can you trace that cable back to make sure it is plugged into the wall? If you have a power strip can you see if it is in the “on” position

Customer: rustling I think it is, but I cannot quite tell

Me: What do you mean you cannot tell?

Customer: I can't tell, it’s dark

Me: Dark?!? Can you turn on a light?

Customer: I could get a flashlight, but there is no power

Me: head desk I assure you sir, your website is up. You can check it again when you have power back.


29. You Get What You Pay For

I do IT Hardware support for a college. Coming in one morning, I hear my phone ding for a new email as I am pulling in off the freeway. I pull into the parking lot and pull out my phone to see the following email.

“Our department ordered fifty new laptops that just came in this morning. We need IT to install the latest Windows on them along with the following software (a long list of software follows). These computers need to be ready to go by 10 am tomorrow morning so we can use them for the first class”.

I check to see if this was forwarded by my boss or his boss. Nope, it was sent directly to me. No ticket, no purchase order information, I didn’t even remember seeing an order for new laptops in any department come through the system in the last month. So I go to the office and show my boss, who reads the email and tells me that he never had a request for new laptops so he has no idea what it is about.

After a few minutes of trying to call the department with no answer, I agree to walk over and see what this was about. When I get to the Department Office, I finally track down someone who knows what is going on and she leads me to one of the classrooms with a pile of boxes in the center of the room. My heart just sinks.

There before me, a pile of new 7-inch Windows tablets with attaching keyboards sat. I pick one up and look over the specs. Low-end tablets, barely enough memory to run Windows 10 (installed) but would never run the up-to-date Windows, and nowhere near able to run any of the software that they were requesting.

Needless to say, I was a little scared about this. I asked her how these were even ordered through our system and she tells me that they bypassed the system and ordered from a web company to get a better deal. I know that there was no reasoning with her, so I ask if I could take one down to the office to get a look at it and she agrees with the stern comment of “These need to be ready by tomorrow! Make sure it happens!”

Back at the office, I show off their new toy to the rest of the staff and my boss. None of them are happy. There is no way we can install any software on these, let alone connect them to our network so the students can log into them. My boss emails the Department Head asking why they didn’t go through IT to get the computers and she responds with the same answer I got earlier, they were cheaper this way.

He lets her know that we couldn’t fulfill the request and that they would be better off returning the computers and that we would work on getting them ones that would work with our network and software. It went from bad to worse. They can’t do that because the website had a no-return policy. Not only that, but they hadn’t used a purchase order for it, they used the department credit card.

So now we are stuck with fifty Windows 10 tablets that the department can’t really do anything with and the Department head is demanding answers as to why no one told her that we couldn’t use those. For some reason they keep emailing me instead of talking to my boss, so I am getting the front end of the disaster here.

We finally get to a work around. The tablets are set up on the Wi-Fi network and we have to create a generic user account for each tablet along the lines of “DepartmentTab01” and then make sure that no one would be able to log into the network with another computer.

They were delivered to the department a week later than they wanted. I wish it stopped there, but of course it didn’t. First day with the tablets, a trouble ticket comes in saying none of the tablets would connect. I get to the classroom and the teacher had written one of the usernames on the board and was trying to have everyone connect to the Wi-Fi with that one username.

What is really bad is that we had a printed set of login instructions hanging right by the board that she used. Then they wouldn’t charge. Turns out, the tiny barrel plug that these things used had to be pushed in all the way to get a connection. Even just a little short of the mark and they wouldn’t charge. None of the tablets had been plugged in properly over the course of about two weeks.

And we still get a random request for software to be installed on these. The students won’t even use them because the keyboards are just too small to type on unless they have the hands of a seven-year-old. Why do departments do this to us? I really wish we had a purchase system in place where all computer requests go through us.


30. Know Who You’re Firing

white Apple Macintosh classic II monitorPhoto by Jarrod Reed on Unsplash

Back in the Dark Ages, around 1993, I worked for a medical transcription firm as their Systems Administrator. We were doing some cutting-edge IT stuff, in getting transcriptions printed at the hospitals remotely, things like that. It worked really well, until it didn't.

I was the only Systems Admin in this city, so I was on call 24/7 and was averaging three hours of sleep per night, when I could go home and trying to catch little catnaps here and there when I could. Anytime something would go wrong on the hospital side, I would have to go to the hospital and fix it.

A few months after I started, two of the Vice Presidents from the corporation relocated to my city, since we were the most productive city with the highest profits. The first thing they did was come up with an excuse to fire the current director, then they took over operations themselves.

At that point, my job went from taking care of our systems to taking care of the doctors’ computers too. I did what I could, but I was also sending out resumes. Then I was told to go to a hospital and see why the printing stopped. I remember this day. I hadn't been home for two days and had been going nonstop for 18 hours.

I get there, and someone had unplugged the modem. I plug it back in, a call comes in and jobs start printing. This doctor walks over and tells me that one of the vice presidents told him that I would go out to his house and work on his home computer. I politely explain to the doctor that I can't do that, and that I'm heading home to get some sleep.

Then I head back to the office to pick up a few things before heading home. As soon as I walk through the door, I get escorted straight to the vice presidents’ office. Both vice presidents and the office manager are there. They proceed to start chewing me out.

I just started laughing at them. I'm the only person in 1,000 miles that knows anything about this system. They lose their temper and tell me I'm fired and I have to leave immediately. I really said, "Thank You”. Then left.

This was December 15th, my oldest son's birthday. On the way home, I stop at a Mom & Pop computer store where I know some of the people to drop off a resume. They tell me that they have no openings right now but will call me when they do. I talk to a couple friends while I'm there, then head on home.

The only thing I'm worried about is telling my girlfriend that I got fired. I walk through the door, and she's at work. I see the answering machine blinking, so I hit play. It’s the Mom & Pop Computer Store saying their primary Novell Engineer just quit, and asking are you still available. I call them back and let them know I'll be there tomorrow.

That began a much more peaceful career, with better pay, rotating on-call and most every weekend and holiday off. By the way, the medical transcription firm imploded. The vice presidents were fired. They floundered for about a year and were bought up by a competing firm.


31. Catching A Big Fish

Some years ago, I get an offer for a side job. I nearly always have something going on the side, but it happened that I didn't right then. The guy who made the offer was a friend of an acquaintance. I didn't know anything about him and he lived about four hours from me.

We spend some time talking online, and it seems like a good gig. Basically, it was writing some shipping/warehouse software. He wanted me to travel down to meet him, expenses paid. I agreed.

When I got there, things seemed a little bit sketchy, but often people who are starting small businesses or running one-person businesses don't have much capital. So I didn't think too much about it. I should have run right then. We met in a restaurant. He told me about the job...again. I patiently listen to nothing new, wondering why I had to travel for this.

Then he tells me I need to come meet his client. That his client won't sign the contract until we meet. Okay, fair enough. I think his client wants to see if I'm capable. We go to the client's place of business. Right before we go in, this guy tells me not to worry about anything he might say. If I have any questions, ask him afterward.

So, he presents me to the client as an employee. Other than that, things are fine. I don't get to see any of the computer equipment. I don't get to see any of the existing software, because we aren't building off the existing software. After we leave, I question the "employee" bit, and the guy says he doesn't want his client to know he's using contract labor.

Well...okay. If you're just starting in business, you want to look bigger than you are. We get down to brass tacks, and the guy has a whole elaborate system set up for work production and payment. I think it's overly elaborate, but whatever. I'm not planning to cheat the guy, and if he's paranoid, that's his problem.

He would front me some money, about a week's worth. Every day, I would upload the current source code to the cloud. He wanted to pay by the hour, so I would keep a time sheet of hours worked. Personally, I think this is plain stupid. If I give a price for completed work, then I carry the extra time for mistakes. If he pays by the hour, then he carries the price for mistakes. But some people pay for work. Some people pay for the time your butt in the chair.

Every two weeks, he would pay based on the time sheet hours. This works out fairly well…until one day. The first time he missed a paycheck. I notify him that I haven't received payment and I keep working.

When I hit the one-week mark (the amount of the initial advance), I keep working but I stop uploading the source code. I get a paycheck. I start uploading the source code again. Next time I send him a time sheet, I get a phone call.

Him: You're cheating me! I can see it on your time sheet. There are three days here where you put down hours you didn't work.
Me: What do you mean?
Him: You didn't work these three days because I didn't send your paycheck. That's how you forced me to pay you when I didn't have the money.
Me: I worked those hours. I just didn't upload the source.
Him: From now on, you need to upload the source or I won't count those hours as work. But I'll go ahead and pay you this time, even though I don't believe you really worked those hours.

My paycheck finally arrived a few days late, but without the days I supposedly "didn't work". I calculated where I was on hours worked vs hours paid, taking into account the initial front money. It was good, so I kept working. When I reached the end of the paid hours, I stopped working, and stopped uploading.

I get another phone call:

Him: Why are you not uploading source?
Me: I've run out of money. You didn't send a complete paycheck last time. If you want me to keep working, you need to pay me.
Him: You're cheating me! Do you think I'm made of money?
Me: This is what we agreed. If you'd rather switch to a pay for work delivered, I can do that.
Him: No! You'll cheat me out of more money. I can get some kid out of high school to do this for less than I'm paying you. If you don't start working again, you will lose the whole project.
Me: Why don't you go find that high school kid?

That was the end of that. Or so I thought.

About a month later, I get a frantic phone call.

Him: You have to fix this!
Me: Fix what?
Him: The client's computer system has been compromised. Everything's gone!
Me: Don't you have another employee now? The one that took my place?
Him: But he's just a kid. He can't fix this!! Can't you at least give me some suggestions?
Me: What exactly happened?
Him: It's the systems admin. He got fired. He took down the whole system.
Me: Why did he get fired?
Him: We didn't need him anymore. The system was up and running fine. After he left, he remoted in and erased all the operating systems.
Me: Well, you've got backups. Reload everything.
Him: We can't. He got the job because he had unlicensed copies of all the operating systems we needed. He used those to set up the network. Now we can't reload without buying licenses.
Me: ....

After I hung up, I had a good laugh, and realized that I'd dodged a big one with that company. That was the end of that. Again, or so I thought.

Early one Saturday morning, I'm sleeping in. Enjoying a well-earned day off. Phone rings.

Me: Hello?

It’s the FBI.
FBI: This is a Special Agent from the FBI. I need to ask you a few questions about this company.
Me: I don't work for them anymore.
FBI: It concerns the computers that were compromised.
Me: I wasn't employed there when that happened.
FBI: Yes, but your boss got some advice from you at the time? He says you can confirm the incident.
Me: He did call me. I talked to him for about 10 minutes.
FBI: Good. I need to verify exactly what he told you about the damage done.
Me: He told me the operating systems had been erased.
FBI: Yes. Can you estimate how much monetary damage was done by erasing the operating systems?
Me: Well, none. They didn't own the operating systems, so it's not like any property was damaged or stolen.
FBI: They didn't own the operating systems?
Me: That's what they told me. They were running unlicensed copies.
FBI: He told you that??
Me: Yes. He told me that the systems admin, the person who compromised the system, brought the operating systems with him. After they fired him, he took the operating systems back. But he said they were unlicensed, so I don't know that they legally belonged to the sysadmin.
FBI Thank you for your cooperation.


32. Mystery Solved

This is a second-hand story told to me 20 years ago by someone who was already a veteran systems administrator back then, so it could have happened in the 80s or early 90s. The scene is a factory making heavy machinery. They are modern and the factory floor had terminals connected to a mainframe for tracking parts and whatever else they needed it for.

One day a systems admin gets a call from the factory floor and after the usual pleasantries the user says: “I can't log in when I stand up”.

The admin thinks that it's one of those calls again and goes through the usual: Is the power on? What do you see on the terminal? Have you forgotten your password?

The user interrupts: “I know what I'm doing, when I sit down I can log in and everything works, but I can't log in when I stand up”.

The admin tries to explain that there can be no possible connection between the chair and the terminal and sitting or standing should in no way affect the ability to log in. After a long back and forth on the phone, he finally gives up and walks to the factory floor to show the user that standing can't affect logging in.

The admin sits down at the terminal, gets the password from the user, logs in and everything is fine. Turns to the user and says: “See? It works, your password is fine”.

The user answers: “Yeah, told you, now log out, stand up and try again”.

The admin obliges, logs out, stands up, types the password and: invalid password. Ok, that's just bad luck. He tries again: invalid password. And again: invalid password. Baffled by this, the admin tries his own mainframe account standing: invalid password. He sits down and manages to log in just fine. This has now turned from crazy user to a really fascinating debugging problem.

The word spreads about the terminal with the chair as an input device and other people start flocking around it. Those are technical people in a relatively high-tech factory, they are all interested in fun debugging. Production grinds to a halt. Everyone wants to try if they are affected.

It turns out that most people can log in just fine, but there are certain people who can't log in standing and there are quite a few who can't log in regardless of standing or sitting. After a long debugging session, they find it. Turns out that some joker pulled out two keys from the keyboard and switched their places.

Both the original user and the admin had one of those letters in the password. They were both relatively good at typing and didn't look down at the keyboard when typing when sitting. But typing when standing is something they weren't used to and had to look down at the keyboard, which made them press the wrong keys.

Some users couldn't type properly and never managed to log in. Others didn't have those letters in their passwords and the switched keys didn't bother them at all.


33. Taking Me On A Journey

turned-off MacBook Pro between cup of coffee, iPhone, notebook, and penPhoto by Unsplash on Unsplash

Me: Hello, Retail IT. This is Daniel.

Caller: Hey Daniel. I’m in a big bind here. I'm a district manager and I’m doing a presentation in 15 minutes and my laptop crashed. I'm kind of freaking out here and don't know what to do.

Me: Oh no. Well, I'll have to have a desktop tech give you a call and help you with that.

Caller: Well, is there any way you can help me? Not to be that person, but I'm really freaking out here and I have no time left until my presentation....

Me: Ok, well what's your laptop showing?

Caller: It's not powering on. It showed like a blue screen and just turned off on its own and now won't turn on....

Me: Yeah. That doesn't sound good. We might have to replace your laptop....

Caller: Oh my god....(starts crying)

Me: Oh shoot.....

Caller: I worked on this all week! I can't believe this (starts sobbing)

Me: Ok. Please don't cry. Let me see what I can do.

Caller: (continues crying)

Me: Alright. So when you worked on your presentation, it was a PowerPoint right?

Caller: Yes... (sniff)

Me: Did you have it saved on a network drive or just on your computer?

Caller: I'm not sure. I think just on my computer...(sniff)

Me: Ok, I'm willing to bet you saved it on the network drive and didn't know it.

Caller: Ok.

Me: I have to search like a million folders. Can you tell me the name of the presentation?

Caller: Yeah. It's (he tells me)

Me: Ok. Let's see. Got it!

Caller: Shut up..... (sniff)

Me: Ok so I’m going to save this. Send it to your email. You have a phone or iPad right?

Caller: I have both!

Me: Ok. Are you in a conference room?

Caller: Yeah!

Me: Do they have Wi-Fi?

Caller: Yeah... I think so....

Me: Ok. Try to find out the Wi-Fi and connect your iPad to it.

Caller: Ok. Emails are coming through. I see yours......Oh my god......OH MY GOD!!!

Me: There ya go! I don't know the connection of the conference room but there should be a way to airplay your PowerPoint from your iPad to the tv or whatever they have.

Caller: Oh my god... (crying) I can't believe it. You saved me!

Me: Not a problem. Glad I was able to help

Caller: Next time I'm at the office, you're getting a drink and a long hug!

Me: Sounds good. Hope your meeting goes well.

Caller: .........................

Me: Ok Bye?

Caller: Hahahahahahah. So. My laptop just turned on....It wasn't plugged in and I guess the battery was gone. Ha ha ha.....

Me: ...................................

Caller: Hello?

Me: (crying)


34. Never Say You’re Sorry

My client provided a PSD file that she wanted converted into an HTML file. The PSD was 600 pixels wide. I sliced and diced the file, converted live text where possible, uploaded the HTML page to the server and provided her with the URL. I then get a frantic email which turns into the below conversation.

Client: This is terrible! Everything is so much bigger. It looks nothing like the PSD I gave you.

Me: What do you mean "so much bigger"?

Client: It's huge! You have to re-code this so that it matches what I provided

Me: (utterly confused) So that I know exactly what the problem is, could you provide a screenshot of what you're seeing?

Client: (Sends a screenshot of Photoshop and Safari side-by-side. They look identical)

Me: They actually look the same to me. They should both be 600 pixels wide. I didn't alter the PSD at all

Client: (Tech savvy enough to know how to "inspect element" in Safari) Okay, yeah, it's 600 pixels but why is it so huge?! This is unacceptable. I'm going to send this job to someone else to re-code.

At this point, I have no idea what to say or do. I decide to look at her screenshot again and this time I notice her Safari window says "33%”. Evidently the zoom setting on her Safari browser was at 300%, but in the screenshot she sent me, it was scaled down to fit on the screen (which defeats the entire purpose of sending a screenshot to show the discrepancy).

Me: Can you make sure you're not zooming in in your Safari browser? Your screenshot looks like that might be the issue

(No reply)

Several hours later, the client emails me again for another project, not mentioning this issue at all.

Me: By the way, is that other project approved?

Client: Yes.

No apology or sign of humility. This client does this kind of stuff all the time. I'll never understand how she is smart enough to know about pixel width and analyzing image properties, yet still pulls out stuff like this.


35. All In A Day’s Work

My friend bought a Netflix box for a tv, and when it wouldn't work, she asked me to come set it up. I couldn't get there until after work, and when I did it was working. She said she called Google to fix it (it was not a Google product, nor does it use any Google services) so I thought she googled the company number and had them fix it.

I wanted to show her it wasn't Google she called, so I checked the caller ID. I couldn’t believe what I saw. It was Google. After a while on the phone a Google tech support guy helped her set up an unrelated product for free. I guess Google really is a helpful service.


36. Burn It To The Ground

MacBook ProPhoto by AltumCode on Unsplash

I'm not in tech support. In fact, none of my job descriptions ever included anything remotely resembling tech support. Yet, life finds a way... As a long-time nightshift worker who often hung out with the local IT folks, I was "promoted" to an honorary tech support role. It was a win-win (win-lose?) scenario for the guys as they could chill at home while on call, in the meantime I resolved low-level on-site issues and had something interesting (or at least different) to do in addition to my boring desk jockey job.

A few companies later, when the buzzwords "business intelligence," "data analysis," "data-driven decisions," etc started to pop up on the corporate bingo, I was already involved in these things at my current workplace. As usual, my job description had nothing to do with it, but I had to manually create a lot of reports, and work with a lot of data.

I'm as lazy as it comes, so if I have to do the same task twice I'm going to spend an unreasonable time (trying) to automate it. The result of my laziness was a PowerBI dashboard hosted on SharePoint. It had a lot of moving parts and tried to do way too much. It was also a horrible mess, but I tried to keep it as organized as possible. My team's standard reporting tasks, which were taking usually an entire week at the end of each month, condensed down to a few hours, which in theory could've been less.

So, in addition to my standard role (which I performed "above expectations" according to my annual reviews) I was the local BI developer/data analyst/ad-hoc tech support. At every salary increase cycle I always had to ask for a salary at the top of the range of the role which I had on paper, citing the above reasons.

The company always fought tooth and nail and it was always a painful and a bit humiliating experience. (Un)Fortunately, after a few years they decided that "Now that you've built these solutions, we don't need you anymore, we only need to hire someone to maintain it. You are fired”. According to my contract this would mean I'm still employed for another 60 days.

I made sure to double-check everything and tried to make sure that everything goes smoothly when my replacement takes over. There was just one problem. By the time my notice period was up, they still couldn't find anyone as they'd been advertising a wonderful "3 in 1" package. Yep, my successor was supposed to do everything I was doing...

My last day was at the end of the month, and I pushed out one more update under the watchful eye of my supervisor. As soon as they saw that everything had updated, security came in and my boss said to delete everything from GitHub as it's an external site and a security risk. I tried to explain that it's tied to my corporate email and it would be best to keep it alive and transfer ownership to my successor, but they wouldn't budge and told me to delete it.

Okay then, let's nuke it from orbit. I told them that there's a local copy (duh) on my work laptop and also on OneDrive (not in my private folder) they said IT will take care of it. Apparently that meant a deep cleanse of my laptop without retaining any of the data (while the "she's on maternity leave" woman's laptop was still in a locker after four years...), so the only remaining copy was in my former team's shared OneDrive folder.

A month passed, and my former boss called me asking for help. They still haven't found a replacement, unsurprisingly. Not wanting to burn any bridges and because I'm an exploitable idiot I told them sure, I'll help, toss in a steak dinner voucher for two at a local mid-range restaurant and I'll help. They were dragging their feet, despite the fact that my ask was significantly lower in value than what the contractor rate would've been and I knew they could expense it anyway.

After a day or two they gave in. I hopped on my bike, signed an NDA, got a laptop, and asked a team member to add me to the Teams channel so I can start working. As I started to poke around on OneDrive, I couldn't find my backup folder. After a while, I went to ask my former boss where they moved it, as I can't find it anywhere. His response made me almost do a spit take.

"Oh, we deleted them, didn't seem important. There were only a couple of files though, I'm sure you can easily do it again". Those "few files" were the result of hundreds of hours of experimentation, trying to figure out how the various systems work together, and without documentation there was literally zero chance of recreating it in a short amount of time.

"Can't you just restore from that online hub thing?" Not really, as you specifically asked me to delete it despite my protests...I left without getting my steak dinner. A few days later, they've called me again asking me how much would it cost make a brand-new dashboard.

Apparently some corporate bigwigs overseas were using it for their PowerPoint meetings (remember, it included global data) and were pretty angry that the fancy charts were gone. I may or may not have found a relatively recent local version of the Git report, which I may or may not have used to do some of the number crunching as my old corporate laptop could barely handle anything. I may or may not have forgotten to mention this obvious security breach and billed out my hours as I've been creating everything from scratch.


37. That One Didn’t Land

I work for a surgery center. So does Sandy. Sandy is a very kind (gullible, evidently) older lady who mans the switchboard phones. This is about the day I upgraded Sandy's computer. This is about the day I made Sandy cry.

Me: And there you are. Do you have any questions I can answer about your new setup before I go work on the other tickets today?

Sandy: Well, how am I supposed to use it?

Did I mention this was a particularly off-kilter day, and I had deployed the machine without a keyboard or mouse?

Me: Oh, these new machines don't require keyboards or mice any more. There's actually a neural implant, very low power and completely painless. It makes it a truly wireless experience, and the procedure only takes about 45 minutes. We have you booked for operating room seven with Dr. Smith at 12:15

Sandy: But...but I...

At this point, Sandy's eyes start to bug out and she bursts into tears.

Me: Oh my God! I'm so sorry! I'm joking! I just forgot your keyboard and mouse. There is no implant, I was pulling your leg. Please forgive me! I'm going to go get your keyboard and mouse right now!

This was many years ago now, but I still feel bad about it. Luckily she calmed down (and found it funny) a few minutes after I explained that I was joking.


38. That’s Between You And Your God

I have a horrible client. People like him should be forbidden from hiring web developers.

He calls me, mad:

Client: "Hey! I was under the impression that this website would work on a laptop!"

Me: "It does. It's a website"

Client: "So if I were to get on a laptop right now, you're telling me it would work?"

Me: "Yes...Like I said, it works on a laptop”

Client: "How in world would you know that?"

Me: "Well, 1) I wrote the website, 2) this ain't my first rodeo, and 3) I USE A LAPTOP!"

Client: "You have a laptop?!"

Me: "Yes! You've seen it. It's my primary computer"

Client: "And it works?"

Me: "Yes!"

Client: "Neat!"

Me: "Do you have a laptop?"

Client: "No”


Client: "Should I get a laptop?"


39. Karma Comes Back Around

a plate of meat and vegetables on a tablePhoto by Parnis Azimi on Unsplash

A few years ago, I was sent to our Italian office where the three Italian IT guys were to train up their new IT Support Guy on how to manage his help desk stuff. Things were going really well, and one day they decided that we should all go out for a traditional Italian meal—a Turkish Kebab.

We got to the kebab shop and I'm trying to read the menu and getting some help from the team. The guy behind the counter can fortunately speak English and he wants to practice, so we get talking and I place my order of 1xAwesomeKebab.

He then asks me what an English-speaking guy is doing in Italy. I made a big mistake. I tell him that I'm here doing "IT Stuff". That was all he needed to hear. About 15 seconds later I have this knackered old laptop running Windows 7 with a Turkish operating system that "won't work" and there's an error when he tries to do stuff with it.

I tried to help as he was preparing my food and I like helping people anyway. My kebab turns up and I slowly ate it over the course of about 20 minutes while I tried my hardest, using context and experience, to figure out what was wrong from the description he gave me that "something was wrong with his internet connection and it didn't work".

I managed to work out that it looked like his network card was broken and non-functioning and that he could maybe try re-installing it from the original disks he had or get a cabled connection so he could get the drivers if he didn't have the disks. He seemed happy with this and brought us our bill.

He went round the table collecting the money and when he got to me he said, "Not you my friend, today, you eat for free!" The kebab was totally worth the impromptu tech support.


40. Oops, My Bad

I got a message from a friend saying someone they knew wanted to replace the broken screen in their laptop, and that they already had the replacement screen. I got in contact with him, and he asked if I could come to his place of work to replace the screen. I said I would as long as I had permission from his boss, turns out he was the owner of the company.

The next day I showed up at his work and he gave me his laptop. He showed me to an empty desk in the accounting/stats department, and I replace the laptop screen without any trouble. He was in a meeting so while waiting for him to finish, I hung out in the accounting/stats department. I see two older gentlemen working on an excel spreadsheet, one was reading off each number while the other was putting it into a calculator, and reading the results back.

They were doing this to calculate the sum of hundreds of numbers and started over twice. I thought was about to blow their minds—I was really about to ruin their lives. I introduced myself and showed them how to get excel to do it automatically for them, and I said, "this way it will only take you minutes to do a sheet instead of hours". I then heard a loud "You are all fired for incompetence".

Turns out the owner had been in the doorway listening. After everything settled down, he told me, "I have been waiting on that sheet for two days, and you did it in under a minute”. He ended up giving me $200, and has sent a lot of work my way over the years.


41. A Bunch Of Morons

I own a small IT company in Georgia. At one point in my life, I was a pretty decent technician but these days my job is mostly shaking hands. I try to work a ticket or two every day though just to keep in shape so I can talk intelligently.

Today one of our system monitors alerted us to excessive login failures at one of our largest customers. This is an alert that is set up to let us know if someone has failed to log in successfully several times and is designed to give us a heads-up if there is a brute-force attack happening.

We have the threshold set pretty low and we get one alert a week just on the shared computers usually. But this one was different. This alert was on a fax server at one of their smaller remote locations. No users typically are at the fax servers, so I decided to go ahead and investigate. I fired up screenconnect and was greeted by the Windows login welcome screen just spinning.

After a few seconds it hit the password authentication window but almost instantly blinked out of it and was trying to log in again. RED FLAGS immediately! I watched for another 30 seconds or so and saw it hit the login screen again and fail the password check three more times again almost instantly.

Clearly this was some sort of bot trying to brute force its way into the system. This is a pretty secure system as things go and we take things like this incredibly seriously. I am trying to rack my brain and figure out where an attack like this would even come from and why it would be hitting this server, which is much less exposed than a lot of other things on the network.

I grabbed two of my senior techs real quick and put them on the case to try and figure out what was happening and where this was coming from. We didn't want to log into the system because it might have a keylogger going and we didn't know what the situation was, so we were pushing out commands on the backend. Everything kept getting weirder and weirder.

We couldn't find an outside source hitting this machine in the firewall or through the switch. So one of my techs said, "Maybe it has something already on it trying to brute force itself that will phone home once it gets a domain login???" So we decided to isolate the machine on the network to test this theory.

Sure enough, the attack continued even with no communication from the outside. It didn't make a lot of sense though. If the machine was already compromised, there are better ways to get passwords? Maybe this is an amateur attempt? So we start looking for rogue processes. Not much is really running on it and everything looks pretty standard.

Regardless though something is causing this, so we start terminating whatever looks like the most likely offenders. No luck, every 30 seconds three failed login attempts about as fast as you can blink. Eventually we are digging deep. Nothing is working. We deploy a tech to go pick up the server and bring it back to the shop and get it off their network.

In the meantime, I call management and let them know we are seeing an attack on their network and we are investigating. This place is only a few minutes away, but as the tech is driving over the attacks suddenly stop. One of the processes we had deleted stopped it.

But the last thing my tech deleted was a HUGE server process on the machine. Panic sets in. I play through in my head the thousand machines we have running on this same process that might also be compromised. I am pretty close to a full-on freak out at this point. My tech goes ahead and reboots the server to see if the assault continues.

After the reboot though, it was quiet. We pushed out a temporary admin account and new password and went ahead and logged into the box to start poking around. We dug into the event viewer security logs to see what was going on and started to see all of the audit failures. Weird thing though, they were all trying our admin account and they were all coming from the local machine???

If you have ever seen this kind of attack normally what you find here is a bunch of common names and account names being tried from various overseas IP addresses. You will see several logins under "john" and "chris" and "root" and "admin" and "local" etc and normally it would not come from the local machine. If you already have malware running on the local machine, there are a million better and less obvious ways to collect passwords.

The server had just come back up when my technician got into the remote office. That’s when we finally figured it out. As he walked in, the front desk receptionist said: "Hey when you get done with whatever you are here, for this machine next to me keeps beeping at me". She waves at the fax server. My technician walked up to the fax server, picked up a catalog off of the enter key, and then promptly called back to let us know that we are all a bunch of morons.


42. The Harpy Rises, The Harpy Falls

a man sitting in front of a laptop computerPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

I have been working my way up the food chain at the little IT company I'm with. The clients I deal with, I treat much like I did customers at Starbucks. Compassionate, caring, empathetic, blah blah good customer service, blah blah. And this has put me in good favor with all of our clients that I've dealt with.

One in particular is a mid-size, regional company that specializes in giving sociopaths a lucrative opportunity to exploit people less strong-willed than them. I'll let you determine the field. They are not my primary "station," but I help out there when the ticket queue gets overloaded. We can call them SlimeCo.

Most of the folks there that I deal with, while slimy in general, are quite pleasant towards me. I'm the cheerful guy with the laptop who doesn't make promises and just does what needs to be done, unlike the three other burnt-out techs stationed there who make hard deadlines they never meet. But there is one woman here who is beyond help.

Ever see that episode of Kitchen Nightmares that had the husband and wife pair where the wife was just completely convinced she could do no wrong and that everyone was out to get her? That's this woman. Not literally, but a bit-for-bit duplicate. She is a problem for everyone, and my pleasant demeanor doesn't mean anything to her because I'm just trying to ruin her life.

I avoid her like the plague because I have more important things to deal with than her 15 tickets about the same goddarn stuff that has been resolved over and over again. We'll just call her The Harpy from here on out.

It’s the fourth of July, and I'm up at my friends' cottage for the long weekend, and it’s 2 am. It happened so quick. I get a call from a number I don't recognize. I answer, because at 2 am it could be important. Something could be wrong at home, or with my family or what have you.

Me (groggily): "Uh...hello?"

The Harpy: "Finally someone answers. Aren't you guys on call or whatever?"

Me: "I'm sorry, who is this?"

Harpy: "Who do you think it is? It's The Harpy from SlimeCo. My goddarn laptop keeps restarting”.

Me: "How did you get this number?"

Harpy: "Why does that matter? You're IT. You're on call. That's how it works. Fix my laptop or I'll have your job”.

Me: "This is a personal cell phone and I'm not on call, ever. We don't have 'On-Call Support'“.

Harpy: "If I can get a hold of you, you're on call. And this laptop you gave me isn't working. It keeps restarting and I need it to do my job”.

Me "I'm 200 miles away, I have no internet access so I couldn't remote in if I wanted to, and it's a holiday weekend. SlimeCo is closed until Tuesday”.


Me: "I'm sorry. There's nothing I can do. I'm not going out looking for an internet connection at two in the morning on a holiday weekend just because you decided you need to work right this second. I'm not even a dedicated SlimeCo technician. I'm only there when support is needed, and I haven't been in the branch since last week”.


Me: "You know what? You're right. I just need you to submit a ticket so I can get to it in the system and I'll head right over to the nearest Starbucks”.


Me: "Yep. You're right. Go ahead and place the ticket and I'll head right on over to Starbucks and remote in and get this all taken care of for you right away”.

Harpy: "GOOD”.

She hangs up. I immediately put my phone on silent. My laptop is sitting comfortably in its docking station back at the main office, 200 miles away, the nearest Starbucks is about 40 miles away, and I go back to bed, about ten feet away. I check my phone in the morning.

61 missed calls.

14 voicemails.

Two hundred and thirty-nine emails.

Alternating between personal attacks fired off like text messages and submitted tickets. Funny how her laptop was stable long enough to submit around 50 tickets and another 180-ish emails.

I blocked her number after that. I got into work today, and my boss had a similar situation. She kept calling his phone, long into the night.

Boss: "You're nicer than I was. I just told her to enjoy her holiday weekend and hung up”. But here’s the best part. My boss spoke with upper management after, and when I came into that office (as I normally do on Wednesday), I was immediately escorted to the board room by two security guards. The President, CFO, Chairman of the Board, SlimeCo's lawyer, our IT firm's lawyer, and my boss were all at the table.

I found out my boss had threatened to file a proper suit as a result of The Harpy’s behavior, on my behalf. It was explained to my boss and I that The Harpy, while an obvious problem, is a high-earner for the company and they would not fire her. However, it was discovered through an internal investigation that she had, in fact, gotten the numbers of all of the techs out of the CFO's Blackberry.

We don't know how she got into the Blackberry, but what we do know is that the CFO left his Blackberry unattended, which is a serious security compromise and also a breach of the contract between the company and my IT firm. Some very strong words were exchanged between SlimeCo's officials and my boss.

The lawyers agreed that it was, in fact, a serious breach of contract leaving any data available to unauthorized users, and it was made clear that the contract in place would be terminated at the end of the meeting. It was later explained to me that, given the nature of the breach, we'd basically have an "all hands on deck" situation where every available tech would report to SlimeCo and start pulling servers, switches, and any other leased equipment.

Estimated time of dismantlement was about two and a half hours. There was also the phrase "wood chipper for hard drives" thrown in there. I don't know if this was literal or a figure of speech. For the next two hours I was not allowed to leave the room.

My boss, his lawyer, and SlimeCo renegotiated the contract on the spot. A 36% price hike, increased security improvements, and a couple of other things that went right over my head. The lawyer then pointed out that I was still well within my rights to, and asked if I would be, seeking court action. I asked what my options were. Before he even got it out of his mouth, SlimeCo started talking about a "settlement" to keep me from going any further.

Without going into too many specifics there, a check was cut (and immediately cashed because they ain't gonna play me for no fool). The Harpy was put on actual probation, my boss gave me the rest of the week off—billed to SlimeCo—so I can have an actual vacation, and I'm no longer going to do any service at SlimeCo. Not the outcome I expected, at all.


43. I Want University

I work as a student IT for my university (for obvious reasons I won't name the institution). Part of what I do is watch over the computer labs that are open for students to use. As it is summer when I’m writing this, there are not too many students that come through, but a couple of weeks ago I dealt with the most incompetent, contradictory, and confusing person I have ever had the displeasure to come across.

One day while I am sitting at the lab’s help counter, a blonde woman walks in. She has on lots of make-up and looks to be in her mid-20s. I could tell she was going to be an issue the moment she sat down at a computer and immediately looked towards me with what I can only describe as a look of fear.

Sure enough, within a few minutes she shouts out in my general direction, "HI I AM HAVING SOME PROBLEMS". I try to get her to explain but, getting annoyed, she insists that I come over and help her. I really wish I hadn't. She was staring at the log-in screen just saying, "What’s this?! What am I supposed to do with this??!!" all while flicking the mouse around uncontrollably.

Not wanting to be rude, and just assuming she may not be that familiar with computers, I explain that the login screen for these labs simply wants your university username and password, the same for the Wi-Fi and every other service. She responds with, "Ok, yeah, but why does it look like this?!"

At first, I thought she was referring to the way the log-in screen looked—we had just upgraded all the lab computers to Windows 10, so she may just have not been used to it. I explained to her it’s the same as other labs, we've just updated to Windows 10. She responds, saying, "Ok ok but I want the university, not this". Starting to get weird but ok, I manage to get her to log in all the while she is sighing and huffing and puffing.

What I noticed was how fluent she was with the keyboard, which contradicted my initial thought that she was just not accustomed to computers. So we finally log in and...she’s even angrier, clicking like crazy on random icons and getting quite upset, saying this isn’t working why is this like this.

Our computers have a lot of science and math software on them and she hovers over a random icon and clicks it, starting the application. When it (obviously) didn’t open up "the university," she started to freak out asking what the heck this is. I explained that it was graphing software used mostly for physics students...she promptly yells at me "WHY THE HECK WOULD I WANT THAT".

How should I know…you're the one who opened it! At this point my co-workers are getting interested and I can see them laughing as I try to help this woman. She kept saying "I DONT WANT THIS, I WANT UNIVERSITY!" Which did not make any sense. I tried to get her to open the browser. She said "WHAT?!" “Ok open up Google Chrome?” "WHAAT???" “...Uh, the internet. Open up the internet”. "SIGH I DONT WANT THAT, I JUST WANT UNIVERSITY". So I open it for her and sure enough when the default university page opens up, she starts typing away and everything seems fine.

Cut to 10 minutes later and she’s back complaining that it isn't what she wants, "Can I just have a guest account?". At this point I noticed she was completely ignoring my two other female co-workers and kept asking me (am male). I explained to her we don't give out guest accounts, and that also a guest account is kind of pointless because she has her own account.

"But I don’t want other people to get my stuff!" “Ma’am, nobody but you can access your account. Your files are saved to the account”. This is when the problem becomes obvious. "Yes, but if someone goes on this computer they are going to get my phone number and other info!!"

I then try to explain to her that our files are saved on a server and not on any individual computer in the lab. This seems to be the most complex and foreign concept she has ever heard, and she’s arguing with us every step of the way. Again, completely ignoring most of my co-workers. She keeps asking for a guest account and I tell her for the 10th time "WE DON"T GIVE OUT GUEST ACCOUNTS IN THIS LAB".

She then plops her chest on the counter, trying to show some cleavage. "Please…can I just have a guest account". I tell her no we cannot give her one, and that it wouldn’t help! (Whatever help means in this case, I do not know). At this point a more senior staff member walks in and asks her what the problem is.

Upon getting a deluge of nonsensical ranting, he says, "Well if you do not feel comfortable with Windows 10, the other labs on campus still have windows 7". Her response, "I DONT WANT WINDOWS, I WANT UNIVERSITY". I snap telling her that WINDOWS IS AN OPERATING SYSTEM, UNIVERSITY DOESNT MAKE ANY SENSE.

She gets extremely angry and then leaves. To this day I still have no idea what she wanted, or how someone who seemed to be able to use a computer and yet was also so computer illiterate at the same time could exist. My only semi-plausible explanation: Mac user?


44. Some People Can’t Be Helped

So among the literally thousands of calls I've had in my four years in tech support, this guy really took the cake. It was the apotheosis of all those calls. It was the most infuriating yet (in hindsight) hilarious call I'd ever had in my life.

He came in on a fairly quiet Saturday morning, and the conversation started quite normally.

Me: "Good morning. How may I help you?"

C (Customer): "Yes, hello. I just woke up to my wife and kids complaining there's no internet and the television isn't working either”.

Me: "Oof, that's quite inconvenient. I'm going to have to check where the issue might be and try and fix it”.

C: "Thank you”.

He gave me his postal code and house number, I confirmed his details and ran a scan on his address. There was absolutely no signal. I needed to do a basic troubleshoot with him first.

Me: "Do you know where your modem is, sir?"

C: "Yes, it's next to my front door”.

Me: "Good. Could you please tell me which lights are on or blinking on it?"

C: "There are a couple of lights on...not as many as usual, though”.

Me: "Is the 'online' light on?"

C: "No”.

Me: "Ok, your modem is not receiving any signal, then. I'm going to have to test if the problem is in the modem or the signal towards your house. For that, I need you to turn off your modem for about 30 seconds. Could you please do that?"

C: "Umm, no?"

Me: "....... I'm sorry?"

C: "That sort of thing is YOUR job. I'm not touching that modem”.

Me: "You only need to pull out the power cable, wait 30 seconds, and plug it back in”.

C: "Like I said, that's YOUR job. Send someone over to fix it”.

I was not sure if he was joking or not. I was just baffled at the hard turn this conversation had just taken.

Me: "Sir, there is a basic troubleshoot we need to run with all our customers that solves like 90% of all—"

C: "I don't care! I'm not getting paid for this, so I'm not doing your job! Now send someone over!"

Me: "I can't very well send our technicians over, just to restart your modem, sir”.

C: "You can, and you will, and you'll compensate me for the time I haven't received any of your services!"

Me: "I don't care much for your tone, sir. Either you cooperate with our standard troubleshoot, or I cannot help you”.

C: "You've got a pretty big mouth there, missy! What's your name? I'll issue a complaint against you!"

I gave him my first name, and he demanded to know my last name.

C: "Scared to give me your last name, hm?"

Me: "No, just not obligated to give it to you. You've been very rude to me, so I won't give it to you”.

C: "You think you're so high and mighty because you're on the phone! I know where your HQ is! I'm driving over there right now, and you'd better make sure you have your eyes open when you come out, [my first name in a mocking tone]”.

I snickered at the thought. He lived about 175 miles from our HQ. Plus, he only had my first name and he had, of course, no idea what I looked like.

Me: "If you would rather take three hours to get here and then another three to get back home, rather than taking 30 seconds to restart your modem, you're welcome to do so. I'm now terminating the call and issuing a threat warning. Have a lovely day”.

I hung up before he could respond and reported the threat to my manager. He made note of it and put it through to our second line to pick this further up. I wish I could say the story ended there. Unfortunately, it continued as soon as I resumed taking calls. Not five minutes after I got back to work, I got him on the phone AGAIN.

Me: "Good morning, this is [name] from—"

C: "HA! There you are! You think you can just hang up on me!? I'm taking this to court! I'm cancelling our services as of RIGHT NOW!"

Me: "I've issued your violent threat, which we've recorded, by the way, to our second line, sir. I'll add that you wish to end your contract. They'll call you back within two hours. Goodbye”.

I hung up again and he thankfully didn't try to reach me again after that. I did learn afterward that he had, in fact, taken this case to court...and lost. His services were cancelled five months before the end date of the contract, and he had to pay for the remaining five months. I hope it was worth it to him.

I did not press charges for the threat since I never took it seriously. I mean, I literally laughed it off. Thinking back on it still makes me snicker. I'm imagining him driving for three hours, arriving at our HQ, asking all the women who left the building their names in the hopes he could do God knows what to one of them, then driving back home for three hours (not to mention having to stop for gas, which costs a lot here) and still have his wife and children complaining they have no internet or television. Idiot.


45. Don’t Cut Out The Middleman

two computer monitors sitting next to each other on a deskPhoto by Mohammad Rahmani on Unsplash

This happened at a university in Germany, around the turn of the century. The physics department had quite a nice setup for the students. At the beginning of term the new students had their accounts created by one of the student supervisors. I was the middleman between the student supervisors and the real techs who kept the system running.

So I somehow got stuck with the support when the supervisors didn't know what to do. One day a student, Samantha Melina Butler, was sent to me. She was quite into computing but had no idea why she had problems with her account. She was able to access her account, but she couldn't write to some files. On the other hand, she had discovered that she could read nearly all the files in other people’s accounts—even in the accounts of some professors.

I asked her to log into her account and opened a terminal. I looked at her files, but everything seemed in order. She shouldn't be able to access this stuff. Suddenly I looked at her username. She had asked for her initials: Samantha Melinda Butler: smb. When I looked that up, I saw the student supervisor had made a big mistake.

Samantha and had all the rights of the “ServerMessageBlock” (smb). And every user was a member of the group smb. The student supervisor who had created Samantha's account didn't even get why this was his fault.


46. User Loser

A customer of ours has all their server and networking equipment support through us and the helpdesk services from another company. I went on-site to investigate a network issue when I was suddenly interrupted by a very aggravated employee of theirs. She is insistent I would come fix some issue on her workstation like RIGHT NOW.

I explain to her I can't, we don't do their support. The following conversation unfolds:

Me: I'm sorry, but I don't do user cases.

Her: WHAT did you just call me??!

Me: (puzzled) A user?


After that there's no calming her. She fumes on about being insulted and listens to no voice of reason. In the end I just ignore her and finish my work. The next day my boss comes to me about having received a complaint about my conduct. He says he's very surprised about the accusation as I'm normally pretty calm and professional about what I do.

I explain to him what had happened, and my boss bursts into laughter and walks away.


47. Everything AND The Kitchen Sink

So this just happened like a minute ago. One of the team leads in my department was having trouble getting something to work in Excel and pinged me for help. I asked if she could email me the spreadsheet so I could take a look myself, and she sends me a link the spreadsheet on her desktop.

I began rubbing my temples because I knew this particular person well enough to know that a simple explanation would not be heard, processed, or acted on. But I had to try anyway. I responded explaining that I can't access files stored on her hard drive, and that she needs to send it to me as an attachment.

She responds by saying "It's on the desktop, if the link won't work just open it". I again explain that her desktop and my desktop are not the same thing, and that I am no more able to open items on her desktop than she is of opening things on mine. This is when it got downright ridiculous. She responds that she's opened the recycle bin. And I have a recycle bin. Therefore since we both have recycle bins, I should be able to open things on her desktop.

This is the point where I dial back the professionalism and let my tenure absorb the hit if she pitches a fit. I say excuse me, get up, then turn on the kitchen faucet. I work from home and I know from prior experience that it's audible from my home office. I sit back down at my desk and say "I've just turned my kitchen faucet on. Do you have any water in your sink?"

The silence lasted a good 10 seconds, and I swear I could almost hear the hamster wheel in her head straining. And she finally says, quietly and clearly trying to sound as neutral and unflustered as possible, "OK that makes sense, I'll send it over as an attachment”.


48. A Big Mouse Problem

I owned a computer shop. We donated to a local county nature center by installing a network on the campus, which consisted of several one-story buildings elevated a few feet above the ground on pilings. We ran the cables and installed the networks in the required locations, and installed and configured the routers.

We have learned that it never works to give things for absolutely free because then there is no end to what people will ask for, so we asked them to pay the wholesale cost of the cable… that’s it. Everything else, including labor, was free.

About a year later they started having random network ports go intermittently bad, and the problem seemed to be getting worse. They asked us to troubleshoot. We went out, found the problem was that rodents had bitten into some cables in multiple locations. Sometimes but not always this severed one of the wires at the point of the bite, but sometimes the wire would still work.

This intermittent fault took several hours to figure out. Since they had not actually bitten chunks out of the cables, just bitten into it, the cable appeared undamaged visually. The way we found the problem was to run a hand down the cable looking for a kink or something and feeling the little nick. Close examination showed the bite. Once we knew the problem, it required rewiring a few runs and telling them they had a bad mouse problem, and to get an exterminator.

The diagnosis and repairs took 16 man-hours on-site (two people, all day). For this we charged only for the actual cost of the replacement wire itself. I couldn’t believe what happened next. About 30 days later, I get a call from the county accounts payable.

AP: “We have found conclusive evidence of fraudulent billing on invoice (the bill for the network diagnosis and repair) from your company. Since the amount is under $100 and this is the first instance of a problem from you, if you agree with the assessment and promise never to do this again, we will ban you from doing business with the county for one year. If you agree, we will send paperwork to that effect”.

Me: “(!!) No way will I agree to that. This was a donation of our time, and we only charged for the wire so it wasn’t a freebie. We did nothing wrong. Why do you think we did?”

AP: “We ran the diagnosis and bill by our IT department as a random check. They said there was no possible way your explanation of what was wrong and what you did to fix it could be true. You can dispute this, and we will have a hearing. But if we do this and it goes against you, you can be permanently banned from doing business and may even face charges”.

Me: “I want the hearing”.

So here we are at the hearing, before a county board of something or other. This is where it all came out.

AP to their IT guy: “Look at this invoice. Do you remember us asking your opinion of this? What was that opinion?”

IT Guy: “Yes. It said the network was losing connectivity to specific drops, and the problem was due to a bad mouse. I said there was no way a bad mouse would have that effect, especially on other computers on other ports”.

Council Guy to me: “Do you disagree with this? Can you explain how a bad mouse could do that?”

Me: “Yes. It bites the wires”.

IT Guy: “…What?”

Me: “Look at the invoice. It does not say "a computer had a defective mouse”. It says there was "a bad mouse problem”. Rodents. Bit. The. Wires. We installed new wires. We donated our labor to do so, and provided the wire at cost”.

IT Guy: “That…does make sense”.

AP: “Well, OK. We’ll drop this one. But we’re going to be watching you!”


49. You Don’t Know Jack

I had been working as a small office's systems administrator for a little over two months when Jack was hired. Jack was a paid intern whose mother was friends with my boss's wife. Jack grew up in the wealthiest county in the state (where my boss lives) and has had everything he ever wanted.

A sense of entitlement that hung around him like the smell of five-day-old socks was the first thing I noticed upon being introduced to him as he went around the office. "Jack this is our,”. My boss introduces me in that way that old bosses who don't use computers often do.

Jack extends his hand. "Oh, cool. Nice to meet ya".

I shake. "Welcome aboard".

Jack is very eager to get started doing...whatever. "Will I get a business email?" as if this is the most interesting thing ever. Adorable, I think.

"Eventually, yes. For the moment though, we have a shared email for interns on staff. I'll get you the credentials shortly". Most of the interns use the shared email for a while until getting their own. Just standard procedure.

"You run the firewall, right?"


"So you can block and unblock sites?"

"Yes". Jack's eager smile is contagious.

"Cool! Nice to meet you". He waves and the boss and Jack and he leave to go be introduced elsewhere. Now, dear reader, you might be wondering why I would call Jack the worst user ever given his politeness and general smiling demeanor who has some understanding of what I do. That's above average when it comes to users. Well, we're only getting started here with Jack.

The first thing Jack did was complain the moment he was out of earshot. He apparently explained to the boss that it really would be professional to have his own email given his experience and the fact that he was really more than just an intern. See, Jack knew his stuff, and if he complained to his mother, she would complain to the boss’s wife, who would complain to the boss.

My boss, figuring an email is a small thing to ask for, had a request to set up a personalized email account for Jack on my desk within the hour. This was not to be a good start of a relationship with one's IT Guy.

Day two, I got an IT ticket for the room where the interns work. it's a large open office with a bunch of computers and printers where the interns print stuff all day long. Because it's such mind-numbing work, they tend to play music off of Pandora or Spotify in there. The ticket says:

"Hey, we're having issues with Spotify. Not super important, but please help if you're free! Thanks”.

Aw, those guys are always nice to me. An hour or so later, I have a few free minutes and I head down. I check out Spotify and find the issue and fix it. Jack is there and watches closely.

"We can use Spotify here?" he asks.

"Yep," I reply.

"Pandora works, too," another intern adds. Everything checks out and I leave the happy-again-they-can-play-music interns and Jack. A couple hours later, I got a note on my desk that made my blood boil. See, the boss knew I allowed people to play music and such at the office. But he now believed that Spotify is a HUGE security risk, leaving holes in our firewall through which everything from viruses to malware to cyberterrorists could come through. The boss was unhappy that I would allow such a threat to exist in our system, and ordered me to close it up.

I called the boss. When I asked who told him these incorrect things about Spotify, his answer was: Oh, Jack did, of course.

I explained that Spotify was not a threat, and that Jack was simply mistaken. Jack, however, was on the other end of the line, in my boss's office, on speakerphone, and interjected: "Dude, it's alright if you didn't know about the security issue. But don't try and make me look bad for your mistake”. I'm stunned as the boss hangs up the phone after demanding I fix it.


50. Not Your Usual Day At Work

This story has been causing me grief and I just need it to share it to finally feel calm. I live in Mexico and things are not exactly pretty. Thankfully I know how to watch my back and don't make enemies, but sometimes, destiny catches up with you.

I had finished my training and got a certificate that allowed me to work in a computer store and repair computers. I arrived early, everything was normal until 1 pm. A guy comes in and wants his hard drive wiped clean and a brand new copy of Windows 7.

I didn't ask many questions, just took it to the back and started working on it. I gave the case a nice cleaning and removed the dust, boot it up, then manure hit the fan. I hear the front glass break, and people started yelling. This man starts yelling at my boss and the client who initially came in to get down, and before I could react someone comes to where I was and shoves me down.


Me: Nothing!!! I didn't get to touch it! I was just cleaning it!!!!

Them: LIES!!!!

Me: Check it yourself, everything is intact!

I heard someone else come in and take the PC away. It felt like hours until they decided to retreat back and run away. Once I recovered from the shock, I stood up and headed to the front. My boss was on the phone, crying. I didn't even hear the sirens…then I noticed the original client was missing.

I was not allowed to see the security footage, but the client was taken away, he was identified as a cartel member, and his body was discovered hours later. If it wasn't because I needed the money, I would have quit immediately. I never learned what was in that hard drive. I'm better not knowing.