PAT PILCHER endures a hellish, traumatising and tortuous tech support experience just for our amusement. (Not really).
One highly regarded tech journalist acquaintance once said to me that, “We’re not freelancing, we’re flea ranching!” He was more right than he’ll ever know.
I can’t do a lot about the cashflow situation, but Microsoft Office is another bundle of paperclips altogether.
Office has come a very long way in a very short amount of time. Gone are the 30+ 3.5-inch floppy diskettes needed to install it. Even CD-ROMs are no longer. Nowadays, it’s all buy online, download and install.
It’s almost painless, too. Using an Office 365 prepaid registration card (supplied by Microsoft), it downloaded, installed and was running in 20 minutes. That isn’t too shabby at all.
At least that was, until my Office 365 subscription expired. Dire pop-ups began to appear, warning me to renew. Powering up my PC saw pop-ups telling me that my OneDrive account would soon get frozen. It was over its 25GB limit (my Office 365 install provided a very generous 1TB of cloud storage).
For sending large hi-res images and documents without killing the email servers of the publishers I write for, OneDrive is unbeatable. Now everything was going to get frozen. MS-Word (upon which I live or die) was soon going to stop working.
I had to renew my Office 365 subscription. Microsoft kindly sent me a 12-month Office 365 subscription pack.
Then the wheels fell off.
I followed the instructions, but no matter what I tried, Office 365 refused to renew. It failed to locate my account details. It also failed to recognise the registration key I’d entered in verbatim.
The Microsoft folk tried to be helpful. I even forwarded them error screenshots. None of their suggestions worked. With a sinking feeling, I was heading to phone tech support hell.
I tried to convince myself that it wouldn’t be too bad. Microsoft are great to deal with. They’d have great tech support. Right?
I dialled the tech support number. It was a local NZ toll-free number. Could I be going to get through this unscarred?
The dial tone changed to ringtone as the call connected. It got picked up and interrupted by clunk-thud. The phone line sounded like a urinal at very busy pub.
My call had been re-routed to some far-flung destination, possiblyTransylvania.
After about 420,000 years, my call got answered.
“Thank yew fir carling Mahkcrahsawft”, said the recorded babblings of a bubbly young American lady. “Please press 1 for…” Twenty years later I heard, “Press 4 for download support”. I stabbed at my phone’s 4 key, hoping it would see my tech issues resolved before I had to apply for superannuation or lost what little hair I still had left.
Dial tone, then my call connected.
“Alow ow may ahh elp?” said an accented voice. The urinal pan at the pub to which my phone was connected grew extra busy. It clearly wasn’t happy hour.
I couldn’t place the accent. It reminded me of the Count from Sesame St. It also had an odd north American twang to it.
It turned out that my tech support guy’s English consisted of what he’d picked up watching Chuck Norris flicks in Transylvanian cinemas.
The third world phones line and the tech support guy’s limited English made it impossible to communicate.
Over the next four decades I went through every permutation of how to spell my name, my email address and so on. I tried phonetic spelling, semaphore… hell, I even tried smoke signals. I was about about to resort to mime.
At this stage tech support guy was also struggling and exclaimed loudly (at least almost loud enough to drown out the hectolitres of used ale hitting the pub’s urinal pan/phone line), “My nipples explode with delight!” Things were looking up! He was a Monty Python fan! Could Python be big with Transylvania tech support?
I guessed that he’d resorted to quoting the naughty Hungarian phrase book sketch to relieve the tedium of talking to foreigners over a phone line hooked into a pub’s urinal?
I chose not to say, “My hovercraft is full of eels”. This was in case that meant something very naughty in Transylvanian.
By now it was getting dark. I’d been on this bizarre conversation with Vlad the Impaler, AKA the tech support guy for what felt like since the Palaeolithic era.
I never got to explain my tech support technical issues.
You see, I began to suspect that Vlad was delaying me and looking to unleash the vampire bats for being such a difficult case. I gave up.
Frustratingly, my tech problem is now unresolved. I still wonder if Vlad is still struggling to spell my surname without any Z’s or V’s. Just how often has he unleashed the vampire bats?
I may be talking out of turn, but might locating helpdesks in an English-speaking country – especially one with decent telecommunications – be a good idea?