On Tech Support Uselessness

Over the past few weeks I have interacted with a variety of technical support personnel over the telephone on issues related to hardware and software, and every one of these encounters has been unfavorable. My poor run of luck with technical "experts" began a few weeks ago, when my hard drive crashed on my Toshiba laptop (quick thanks again to Computer Renaissance of Toledo, who installed a new hard drive for me in record time).

I experienced some problems related to the backup files I created using the Toshiba Media Recovery software. Specifically, I wanted to know how to upload the final two disks worth of data, as the software only accepted the first three disks. The first clueless tech told me to wipe the hard drive and start over again, which I was hesitant to do, but I followed his instructions.

Three hours later, same problem.

I called Toshiba back and talked with an even more vacant-eyed support tech. This genius suggested that I download drivers for all my software and peripherals, which had absolutely nothing to do with my problem. It was as if he was deliberately trying to confuse the issue:

Me: "I am not having any problems with drivers yet. All of my non-Toshiba software has yet to be loaded."

Tech: "If you go to the Toshiba webpage, you will find all sorts of useful drivers that will make your Toshiba laptop run more efficiently."

Me: "My Toshiba runs very efficiently, thank you, because there are no programs on my hard drive yet besides Solitaire and IE Explorer to make it run slowly!"

And on and on. Luckily I am married to a computer whiz, and she quickly pointed me in the correct direction (the extra disks contained duplicate data, and my non-Toshiba software was ready to load from our gazillion-GB home external drive).

Then this morning I interacted vicariously with a tech support person via a student in one of my online classes who was having a problem with his brand new laptop. The machine runs Windows 7, and our university operating system is Blackboard, the leading online classroom platform in the known universe. The student was frustrated because he kept getting booted out of a quiz.

The student called the tech support folks, who dismissed his query with a comment that "Blackboard is not compatible with IE-8." This puzzled me, as it boggles the mind that the leading online software would not be compatible with the leading Internet browser. This is almost like saying unleaded gasoline is incompatible with 2010 model American automobiles (E-85 models excepted).

I politely told the student that the techie may have been stoned or something, because I use IE-8 without problems on Blackboard. My very first Google query using the terms "Blackboard" and "IE 8 issues" turned up the solution, which is that there is a quirk in IE-8 settings that can be easily fixed to eliminate the Blackboard booting problem.

Each of the above tech support people are supposed to be experts in their respective fields, yet none of them could provide even a dollop of useful advice. Now, I know that some folks who call tech support centers are clueless themselves, but in the above three cases the person making the queries clearly communicated the problems, and the techies seemed to either be incompetent or deliberately sabotaging the "help" process.

It almost gets to the point where I start thinking that tech support is an utter waste of my time, which makes me question why we as consumers are paying for this uselessness.