My top customer tech help calls for 2012

I am a senior citizen, officially deemed an ‘aged pensioner’ (what an awful term!). I’m happy to report though that I do still feel young at heart…. sometimes!

I’ve spent many years ‘fixing’ computers and my ‘clientele’ has grown from family and friends to friends of friends of friends of friends… well, you get the picture. Following in the tradition of ‘birds of a feather’, the vast majority of my clients are elderly… their computer proficiency ranges from absolute novice to wouldn’t have a clue. This has produced some quite humorous and often frustrating exchanges… patience is a virtue!

Anyway, here is a selection of those exchanges which I thought you might enjoy… I swear they are all 100% true:

  • Client: My emails won’t go. (I deduced that meant her emails were not being ‘Sent’)
  • Jim: Okay, can you please open your browser and tell me what happens.
  • Client: What’s a browser?
  • Jim: It’s what you use to go on the internet and visit web pages, probably Internet Explorer. There should be an icon you click on, on your desktop or on the taskbar across the bottom of your screen… a blue “e”.
  • Client: Okay, got it. But it’s no use doing that.
  • Jim: Why?
  • Client: Because my modem is switched off.
  • Jim: Much laughter.


  • Client: I can’t get the thingee to print.
  • Jim: What’s a thingee?
  • Client: You know, the thingee on the screen you print from.
  • Jim: Do you mean some sort of document… Word or something like that?
  • Client: Yes, but I can’t see it.
  • Jim: What can’t you see, the document?
  • Client: Yes, it doesn’t show when I click on it.
  • Jim: When you click on what?
  • Client: When I click on the thingee, the thingee that shows the thingee.
  • Jim: That’s far too technical for me. Is it something you have saved in My Documents.
  • Client: Yes

After much similar to-ing and fro-ing; it turned out this lady had recently migrated from XP to Windows 7, and old documents in the now redundant Microsoft Works format had been transferred across. Of course, she didn’t have any software on the new computer which could open those old documents for her and allow her to print.


  • Client: Hi Jim, my computer won’t go properly.
  • Jim: Is it not booting up?
  • Client: I don’t know what that means.
  • Jim: When you press the button to get the computer going, is anything happening, can you see anything on the screen?
  • Client: Oh, yes. Everything is there, it just won’t work properly.
  • Jim: Are you getting any error messages on the screen or is it just frozen and you can’t do anything?
  • Client: I can do stuff but it’s taking forever.
  • Jim: Okay, I’ll be right over.

I arrived at this client’s house and sure enough, the computer was running like molasses. I was just about to commence the standard scans and general cleanup/maintenance workover when I noticed icons in the notification area signifying that two anti-virus programs had been installed. I chose what I considered the better of the two and uninstalled the other… problem solved! I duly explained the circumstances to my client emphasizing that installing more than one anti-virus product was a no no.

Now here’s the thing; three weeks later and I receive an almost identical call from the same client. I’m totally perplexed as to how this computer could have slowed right down again in such a short space of time. A quick trip to his house and guess what? Yep, two anti-virus programs installed again!! Un-bee-leave-able!


  • Client: I’m trying to install a program but it won’t work.
  • Jim: Okay, is it a program you downloaded from the net or is it on a disc?
  • Client: It’s on a disc, I borrowed it from a friend.
  • Jim: Is the disc still in the drive?
  • Client: Yes.
  • Jim: Okay, could you eject the disc and we’ll check it for scratches or fingermarks.
  • Client: Okay, I have the disc.
  • Jim: Now look at the underside of the disc, are there any bad scratches or fingermarks?
  • Client: The underside? Shouldn’t I be checking on the top of the disc?
  • Jim: Is the shiny side of the disc on the top, and the label on the underside?
  • Client: Yes
  • Jim: Okay, just flip the disc over so the label is up and the shiny side is down and put it back in the drive.
  • Client (after a few seconds): It’s working!!!


Finally, a word of warning about how unscrupulous techs might take advantage of some of these naive users:

A new client, one who had been referred through a friend of a friend, was having trouble with the display on her oldish XP machine. I quickly diagnosed a RAM issue so took out the 2 x RAM strips, blew out the slots with compressed air and cleaned the connections on the strips with a white spirit. Put the RAM strips back in place… all good.

The client then informed me that she had been regularly paying a tech guy $80.00 a visit to simply remove the RAM strips and then just put them back in again. This had been happening every 2 or 3 months over a period of roughly 18 months. So, this awful tech person had collected in the vicinity of $500.00 total for a repair job, which if done properly in the first place, should have cost around $80.00 maximum. He had successfully turned a one off fee into a nice little regular earner.

By the way; that episode occurred more than two years ago and that same XP machine is still going strong… display and all.

8 thoughts on “My top customer tech help calls for 2012”

  1. I feel your pain. Here’s one of my better ones:

    Client: My computer won’t start.
    BGD: So nothing happens when you start the computer? No words on screen or anything?

    Client: No, just a black screen. It was working fine until our granddaughter used it.
    BGD: Are there lights on the computer, like near the power button and can you hear it running?

    Client: Yes, just a black screen.
    BGD: OK…is the monitor turned on?

    Client: What’s a monitor?
    BGD: The screen that is black.

    Client: I don’t know…how would I tell?
    BGD: You should see a light typically on the lower right edge of screen.

    Client: No light but there is a button there.
    BGD: Push that button.

    Client: Yes! It’s working now.
    BGD: Great…your granddaughter was kind enough to turn the monitor off when she finished using the computer.

  2. Yeah, one of my regular calls consists of “a message says it wants to install something…what should I do? (It’s Microsoft Updates…no matter how many times I tell her). Or, 5 minutes after I leave her house, after showing her how to do something very simple, I get phone call…PANIC!
    Somehow, I cannot convince her that her photos are NOT programs, and she cannot save EVERY email she ever receives!
    And then there’s the frantic calls….Mom, HELP! (Shouldn`t it be the other way around)
    Ah well, such is life….:)

  3. This all sounds to familiar to my experiences. I tutor Seniors (I am a Senior too) in how to use PCs. With some students you know you are wasting your and their time but it is considered impolite to tell them to pack the PC back in the box it came in and get their money back.
    Thge worst is when you have just spent an hour explaining a particular feature and a student then ask you when are they going to learn about what you have just finished. I have been doing this for over 10 years now and I should have recorded all my experiences – it would have made a great book for amusement.

    1. I’m hearing you Gazza! I once had a client whose machine was [almost] constantly infected with malware. He was a ‘downloadaholic’ and forever pressing on the incorrect download button. I had explained the situation to him numerous times. Finally, I spent around 30 minutes going over and over what he should and should not do, and then suggested he download something while I stood and watched. He had a software in mind so navigated to the download page. As soon as the page loaded, up popped a download banner for something completely unrelated to his download, and guess what… yep, he immediately clicked on that download button. I couldn’t believe it!

      And you should still write that book… how’s the old memory? 🙂

  4. I am a 76 year old senior and have dealt with computers since there were computers. I help my senior friends and I run into a lot of the problems you described. Right now, my favorite is a 98 year old man who ends up doing things I never thought could be done with a couputer. The biggest problem he and others have is determining when something should be downloaded because it is a valid update and when the proposed update is a come on of some sort. I have had to get on the phone and do some arguing with sellers. I suspect there are many, and not all seniors, who are duped into buying programs and services that they either do not need or can not use.

    1. I suspect there are many, and not all seniors, who are duped into buying programs and services that they either do not need or can not use.

      Hi Oldanalyst – Absolutely agree, 100%.

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