Tales from AOL tech support
Courtesy of my friend Vincent Goodwell
I worked for AOL tech support for awhile and all those stories about AOL users being the most jaw-droppingly stupid people in the universe really are true. And I'm not talking about ignorance of computer technology; everyone starts somewhere. I'm talking just pure, liquid stupidity that nothing and no one can even hope to overcome.
I wouldn't even know where to begin. Though I can drop a few anecdotes here
1. About 70% of callers would cite their problem as "the man isn't moving." This referred to the little animation of the AOL guy who did a little running animation when you connected to the service. No matter how you tried to get them to elaborate, they would only say the "man isn't moving" when made the call way harder than it needed to be. I actually wrote a serious proposal to management that they seriously submit a suggestion to the software engineers that the little AOL guy animation become a diagnostic tool for tech people so that people could tell us what he was doing and that would give us a clue as to what was up (modem problem, phone line problem, etc.) but no one took it seriously.
2. The vast majority of callers expected you to tech their problems while they weren't even on the computer, most of them not even at home.
3. Almost all AOL users assumed that AOL tech people could freely enter their computers and do whatever they wanted to them, resulting in a variety of assumptions about what we could and couldn't see or do in regards to their problems. It actually became such a widespread myth that hackers developed a specific AOL virus/trojan that DID actually allow someone to remotely control their AOL software if they knew what they were doing, and most of them got away with it because the people doing the hacking simply told the users they were "AOL staff." The accounts department got the brunt of what this did to the service.
4. When the accounts department got busy, calls were spilled over into the tech department. Nearly ever single call I got involving accounts issues involved someone unwilling to properly identify themselves over the phone despite the fact we had access to every single aspect of their account. In other words, we have to verify the person is the main account holder and pays for it. They almost always refused to give any identifying information, but wanted us to help them anyway. This probably isn't unique to AOL or anything, but it's just another thing I vividly remember.
5. I would say about 5 out of 6 calls, the person could not find the Win95+ start button in the bottom left of the screen. Seriously...if you walked the call center floor, all you would hear echoing all around were people repeatedly, loudly saying "NO..THE BOTTOM LEFT HAND OF THE SCREEN. YES, THE BUTTON THAT SAYS START. NO THAT'S THE RIGHT HAND SIDE...NO NOT THAT, THE BOTTOM LEFT..."
6. Many problems eventually led to the revelation that the person had not plugged their computer in or turned it on. Again, this is something most people think is an exaggerated joke about AOL users. It isn't.
Man....it was just insane.
Please note, however, my criticism of the overall stupidity of AOL users is not to say that AOL tech support was some flawless holy thing. AOL support was pure shit and people were right to criticize many things about AOL's business practices. I hated the job, but it was a lot of money. But even the money could not keep me there once the official company policy LITERALLY became "lie to people and tell them whatever they want to hear to get them off the phones faster."
Oh I forgot the best one:
My call center was almost completely infected by a virus given to us by a customer. All techs were required to have AOL accounts and be logged into AOL as we did our jobs so that way we could chat with each other in company chat rooms as well as help customers through chat and emailing them links and shit like that.
Some guy was bitching about a myriad of problems on his computer and how, in addition to everything else, he couldn't open image attachments right. To prove this, he sent the image he was trying to open to a tech in our center. It was some awful, crude, pornographic image that had some kind of macro virus embedded in it which then infected that computer and then infected others.
I don't think it was intentional, but regardless, that was...fun.
HELP ME VINCENT MY AOL IS TYPING EVERY WORD IN ALL UPPERCASE I CANT STOP PLEASE HELP