Whenever a piece of technology breaks, who's the first person we call? Our fellow IT worker, of course! Unfortunately for them, sometimes our requests are a little on the ridiculous side.
Helpdesk and IT workers on Reddit reveal the dumbest situation they've had with a customer. Content has been edited for clarity.
Didn’t See That One Coming
“I work for a company that provides contracted IT support to mostly small businesses. We do, however, help larger companies and organizations that have their own IT staff when they need assistance with large migrations or in specific areas they lack expertise in.
I get assigned to a multi-hundred-hour contract to help a neighboring county’s IT department with a complete reconfiguration of their library systems’ network. This included the main library and three branch locations. My main contact (we will call him ‘Bob’) was ‘Director of Information Technology,’ and had a holier-than-thou attitude about everything concerning technology.
The contract was supposed to include the following:
The IT department for the county had every single device in the entire county set to static publicly routable IPs with no NAT and no firewall rules. Everything was wide open. The domain controller was even configured to disable the built-in Windows firewall on all computers.
I knew immediately that this was not going to be pretty, but I had no idea how ignorant Bob would be about everything. Bob was supposed to maintain the employee’s computers, servers, etc. – my contract was only to help reconfigure the IP scheme, routing, firewall rules, etc.
Immediately upon receiving the contract, I was called every single day about mundane IT tasks.
‘How do I configure POP3 in Outlook?’
‘How do I create an A record in DNS on my server?’
‘How do I set up a wireless Access point?’
‘What does CAT5 mean?’
Needless to say, I burned through 75% of the contracted hours before I really got down to what I was supposed to do in the first place. After completely consuming all allotted hours and not having the ability to finish configuring the remaining two branch offices, I politely emailed the county board explaining what had happened, requested more hours for the contract, and gave very, very detailed instructions on how to complete the project if they decided to not purchase any more hours.
I received the most vitriolic response from the board. They said that Bob was completely unsatisfied with the work, that I was incompetent, that I had no idea how to work within a budget, and that they couldn’t understand how the job had not been completed even with the additional requests from Bob.
This email was sent just two days before the contract ran dry. I had asked a few questions, including what IP addresses he would like for printers.
In the end, the county never renewed the contract and the job was completed by a new hire at the county straight out of two-year college using my instructions and free advice from me via phone.
Fast-forward to three months later. I am contacted by the county sheriff’s department to assist on a case that had been traced to the library’s public IP (I’ve been sworn into federal and state courts as a computer expert multiple times, and I already knew the library’s network setup). Guess who was the culprit? Bob’s computer had over 200 GB of illicit images.”
Must Have Been Awkward To Work Together
“I once got a call from a user saying they were unable to access a certain file on the shared drive. I always ask for the user’s permission before remoting into their screen, but this time I thought ‘it’s inevitable that I will need to connect, I’ll do so right now whilst she is still explaining the issue.’
So as she was explaining she couldn’t get on to some work-related website, I had connected to her screen and saw a series of tabs open in her browser.
The first one was something along the lines of, ‘how to deal with persistent diarrhea and heavy period flows.’ Now I should have just clicked away and wiped that from my memory, however in a nervous fit of idiocy I closed that tab. She then angrily said, ‘Oh right, you’ve been looking at my screen?’
As she said it, I was already reading the next tab which had a title similar to ‘heavy periods and intimacy with your partner.’
By then I was trying to just desperately close the page and disconnect from her screen, and every time I moved the mouse to close the VNC window, she moved the mouse to try and click the tab away. So there we were both panicking, her slightly angry and embarrassed, be slightly horrified and even more embarrassed.
I finally managed to close the connection, and then nervously mumbled, sorry. Thankfully, she then said, ‘I’ve got another call coming in, is it ok if I call you back later?’
I was so happy, i said yes and put the phone down.
At that moment I thought ‘Oh no, what have I done?’
I decided to head out and take an early lunch. I walked downstairs and told my colleagues that I’m going out for lunch and asked if anyone needed anything. Just as I was heading out the door the lady with heavy periods and diarrhea came running out of the office, thrusted a £5 note into my hand, and said “please can you get me some Imodium Instants?”
I, still a little shocked and surprised, just said sure, and I didn’t even really take in what she was saying. But sure enough, 10 minutes later I was stood in the chemists buying her anti-squits tablets.
That was about a year ago, we still work together and it is still pretty awkward. And I never ever remotely connect to a user’s PC without their permission after that day!”
Well, That Was An Easy Fix
“I worked at some local radio stations fixing computers. I got a call from the head marketing director for all the stations. She was describing a dead laptop battery, so I asked if the laptop was plugged in. The question made her very combative.
After a few minutes of trying to get her to troubleshoot the problem over the phone, it was clear she wasn’t doing any of the steps. When I arrived, I immediately went to the power strip. The power strip was plugged in…into itself. I pulled it out so she could see it.
She became very embarrassed, stammered a bit, then became very angry. She was a problem user and had numerous issues with her computer. She brought up previous issues, blamed the past issues on my incompetence, and said that I plugged the power strip into itself.
I began to get fairly angry at the accusations. Quickly, I plugged the power strip into the wall, and turned the laptop on. I looked her dead in the eye and said, ‘Then why does it work now?’
I turned and exited her office as she was screaming at me.
I’ve never been so close to losing my professional composure in my whole career. It took her three weeks before her computer problems became such an issue that she apologized.”
“I Was Speechless And I Just Hung Up”
“So, a lady called in as her printer had arrived (I only deal with employees of the company) and wanted my help hooking it up. Knowing it was a Windows 7 machine, I told her to just plug the USB cable into the computer and it should automatically do the rest.
She called me back and said it won’t show up, it’s not doing anything, etc. I asked, ‘Is the power plug-in plugged in?’
She said, ‘Yes. Of course.’
So, I talked to her for over an hour doing different things (it happened to be a computer that WASN’T on our domain, and I had to instruct her step by step where to click, she didn’t know what a taskbar was, nor what the start menu meant, so this was rather difficult.)
After about an hour, she said, ‘I’ll have to call you back.’
She never did. A day later, I called her back and asked if we could finish setting up the printer and she said, ‘Oh. I didn’t call you back because when we got off the phone, I realized that I didn’t plug the power into the wall, once I did that it worked. Thanks though.’
I was speechless and I just hung up.”
“I was working with a call center doing DSL/telephony support and a very distraught Ph.D. student called me. She told me our horrible service wasn’t working (She only bought it a couple of weeks ago and it has never come online), and she needed it now for her essay writing.
I started with the usual stuff and tried to see if I could communicate with her DSL modem from the provider’s side. It didn’t work, so I asked her what lights were blinking on the modem. I could now hear her walking over to the modem, and she said none of the lights are blinking.
At this point, I start thinking we’ve sent her a bum modem, but just before I send her a new one, I asked her to check if it’s hooked up correctly to the outlet. She answered she ordered the wireless model and of course it iwan’t connected to anything since it is just that. After this, it just took a few minutes to help her get it connected to the outlet and to the computer (which didn’t have a Wi-Fi adaptor of any kind) and she’s up and running. She thanked me, but managed to berate the company for doing false advertising with the wireless thing.
To add to this, I got another call about 20 minutes later from the same customer. The switchboard was set up so that customers who dialed in again, after trying something which required them to hang up the phone, would come to the same representative if available.
She didn’t recognize my voice, and went on to demand a refund for the two weeks her internet was down.”
A Lot Of Damage In A Small Amount Of Time
“So, I’m working IT at my college, and it’s move-in day at the dorms, the start of the fall semester. We as techs are roaming the hallways of the dorms to help the enfeebled little freshmen connect to our network, set up their computers, and otherwise present a friendly face to the new students and their annoying overprotective, and overbearing parents who pay our salaries through tuition.
Anyway, I’m going about my business and I hear from a student their connection to their desktop isn’t working. Now it’s a simple matter when you’re just plugging in, you connect the cable and enter your username and it just goes. Wireless for laptops is normally where the trouble happens. I go to look at the physical connection and see that the cat 5 cables is jammed, rather forcibly, into the phone jack, not the ethernet port next to it.
I ask who might have done this particular task, as it doesn’t seem like the girl whose computer it was would have the force required to make that happen. She said a dad was coming around and ‘helping’ people connect their computers. Long story not so short, I track down said ‘helping parent’ and catch him, mid-swing, using a hammer to force the Ethernet into the phone jack.
I then swallow my, let’s call it rage, tell him that he can’t do that, he’s ruining the cable, port, and not doing anyone any good. He argues with me for a bit, I try to avoid telling him he’s a complete moron in front of the group of people who had gathered. He calls me a name of some sort and wanders off. I tell campus safety and the RA’s that if they see him with a hammer anywhere near, anything to take it from him and talk him out of the building, and then call one of the techs in the backroom to come out with some new ports. We figure out he got to about 15 dorm rooms with his hammer before I caught him.”
At Least The Macro Was Scrapped?
“There was this guy that we worked with that almost everyone hated. A regular buzz light year. A kiss-up. Just the perfect guy you want to punch in the face to get rid of his smug smile. We used HEAT to enter tickets, which would be attached to our log-in identities. This guy decided to write a new script to make tickets ‘easier.’
What this script did was take the ticket form and turn it into a series of pop-ups asking you questions. So, instead of just tabbing through a form, putting in the phone number and username and problem type, you would get a popup asking ‘What is the customer’s phone number?”‘etc. I think it was just a macro script, but I hated him and I hate it.
So one night after hours I was mocking him with my coworker friend and was showing him the stupid script he wrote. I put in a bunch of random answers since it wasn’t a real ticket, but when it came to the ‘What is the problem?’ box I wrote in ‘You suck butt,’ because in our minds we were referring to the guy we hated. Afterward, I X’ed out of the script and we laughed about how stupid the thing was, mostly because everyone naturally hates popups, so why not turn the entire thing into a series of them?!
Next day, I come in and immediately get whisked away to the boss’s office. In his hand is an e-mail from the CTO, Chief Technology Officer, a man I have only met once because he works in the admin building with all the big shots. He had received an email, from my email account, with a trouble ticket that told him he ‘sucked butt,’ and was understandably confused.
The guy we hated had written into his macro script an auto-send! Apparently, once you start the script, that ticket WILL be sent out, even if it’s not completed. Completely idiotic script which breaks all GUI conventions. So, I had inadvertently emailed the CTO and told him he is a butt sucker.
Thankfully, the CTO was a rational guy and realized I probably did not mean to do this, and I explained that I was just messing around with the new script and I had no idea it was being sent out. I took some heat, but they scrapped that darn macro because of it. So awkward.”
At Least They Can Laugh About It
“It was late on a Thursday evening when I saw the problem, the bracket that holds the heatsink onto the CPU in our main server had broken and the heatsink wasn’t clamping to the CPU very tightly. I had spent most of the afternoon and evening trying to work out what the problem was. The server was shutting down every 30 minutes or so. I went through a raft of ideas before seeing the problem totally by accident when I knocked the heatsink and it moved. The motherboard would need replacing, but nobody had any of the same motherboard in stock.
It was pretty old at the time and due to be replaced, but I was still a couple of months away from doing the upgrade. I decided to strip it apart that night and see what I could do to keep the heatsink stuck to the CPU for a few more days until I could get a new motherboard. So after stripping it down and looking at the problem, the plastic had broken in such a way that it would be easy to glue. So I decided to glue it with superglue and replace it as soon as possible, it was about 3am by the time I got to this stage. I had the two parts that needed to be joined in my hands, but was having issues holding them together and doing the glue at the same time.
When I tried to squeeze the glue, it wasn’t coming out very well, so I squeezed a bit hard. I squirted superglue all over my hands and dropped one of the pieces of the motherboard I was trying to glue, I tried to save it before it hit the desk and failed. I ended up with both my hands and both motherboard bits glued to the desk pretty well, after that I just broke up into fits of laughter, picturing the staff coming in to work expecting the server to be fixed but seeing me with my hands stuck to the desk asleep or something. Anyway, I managed to rip my hands off the desk slowly over the next 20 minutes or so and glue the motherboard, which worked flawlessly until the new one came.
I still had a laugh when I saw the desk in the lunchroom with glue and hand prints on it. We have since replaced both the desk and the server.
A Record Was Set That Night
“I work in my Companies NOC (Network Operations Center) and usually the job is pretty chill. The best thing I can think of happened just this last Saturday night. One of our 7609s decided it was time to lose a card (CPU card, fantastic). This instantly caused massive issues all over the state with our e911 system, our connectivity between our CO here in town and our Data Center where the 7609 is. Our SAN lost all visibility to the outside world (it hosts the email and DNS servers for about 15 ISPs here in Montana) and also to the inside world (our local LAN lost all DNS, IM, phones, internet, etc.
I called up our Net admin to told him what’s going on. This was actually the second time the CPU card decided to mess up that day. This time though, it didn’t just fail and lock itself, it failed and completely died. So we called one our of transport techs who could go down un-slot the card and replace it with a spare and then hard reboot the 7609.
This went well. The new card was in, and our Net admin was on the phone with Cisco to get a ticket opened and find out what the heck happened and to get the spare card configured. Meanwhile, I was the overnight tech and I was getting absolutely hammered with calls. Our e911 sites were getting ghost calls and ANI failure calls left and right, the ISPs we support calling me asking why they had no email and customers can’t browse, and then most of the companies who we do broadband transport for calling in asking why they lost visibility to their locations that route through that 7609. BGP couldn’t do anything to re-route all this traffic because our other 7609 across the state saw the router up, saw the link-up, but because the config on the card was no visible BGP was like ‘Well, forget it! I’ll still send everything it’s way!’
About an hour later, our Net admin came running into our NOC and tells me he and Cisco couldn’t figure the Spare card out. It locked itself, they couldn’t get into it and thus couldn’t configure it. He said he will need to drive down and swap it with another spare in the AM. He was able to fail the 7609 over to the secondary CPU and everything was back up and stable.
Things were good finally. Everything calmed down and was back up and working. We declared the outage over and the night became nice and quiet again. Then an hour later, it took a turn again.
The spare that was swapped into the 7609 was in the primary spot. These things are designed to use the primary if it is active and if not switch to the secondary. Well, the locked spare they could not get into and configure had decided to wake itself up, unlock its config, and tell the secondary ‘Hey. I’m alive. Send me your config and I’ll take over,’ like it’s supposed to. This would’ve been fine, except the spare that was swapped in had an older iOS on it they tried for an hour to update. When the primary re-activated itself, it copied the config over from the secondary card. When it did this, the outdated iOS had no idea what all these VRFs and VLAN configs it was receiving were, and basically deleted all of it. Once again, we were down, everything was broke, and I was once again one man answering six phones as fast as I could. Well I lied a bit, I was answering calls for 5-10 minutes because our phones once again went down and we were completely dead in the water.
I called out net admin back. He came back into work. Failed the card over to the secondary and had the on-site remove the spare card from the 7609. When they got that all done, he couldn’t figure out why the system was broke. Well, when the spare was removed from the primary slot, the secondary kicked back in. Except since the primary had taken its config and dumped all the VRF/VLAN info it had, the config was copied back over when the primary was removed so the secondary lost 90% of its config. Our net admin spent an hour reconfiguring the CPU by having to copy/paste all 800+ lines of programming back onto the card. He got that all done and he jumpws in a car with the head of our netops group and they take off with two brand-new cards that are configured and ready to go.
This all began about seven at night on Saturday and finally at eight in the morning on Sunday, the card was swapped in and everything came back up. Thirteen hours of torture, and I was able to go home. As I mentioned before, I am the overnight guy and getting 100 calls a month is about average for me. I toll over 160 calls just that alone.”
Was There Ever Really An Issue?
“When we were young, my dad ran a computer consulting service and was the primary engineer in the company. This was a fairly small company, so he got stuck doing a bunch of Sys Admin stuff too. There was one client, in particular, an engineering firm if I remember right, and he ended up spending a lot of time at and many of the admin users were not tech-savvy to say the least.
The HR director was particularly demanding and would call for lots of little things, which was a pain because this client was about two hours out of town. There was one problem in particular that she would call about every couple of weeks where the monitor would distort the image on the screen and try as he might, my father could never replicate it when he drove out to work on it.
One day, he’s on-site for a different issue and decided to see if she was still having the problem. She confirmed yes, she had the problem creep up immediately after he left the last time, but didn’t want to call in again. So she lead him back to her office, where he realizes she’s been cleaning up her desk every time he has an appointment with her scheduled, including the numerous family pictures that she has stuck all over her monitor with magnets.”