The More Things Change…

In the late summer of 1993, I got a temp job doing phone support for Apple Computer in their Austin support center. I’d just finished graduate school, and wasn’t looking for anything more than rent and beer money. My strategy was simply to stay in town for the fall round of on-campus interviews (none of which, as it turned out, resulted in an actual job).

I stayed until mid-December, then moved on. It wasn’t the worst job I’ve ever had, but it wasn’t the best, either. There’s only so long a person can stand to be yelled at on the phone by (mostly) stupid people for the majority of an eight-hour day. Based on this long and very funny piece, things haven’t changed much at Apple Support since then.


26 Responses to “The More Things Change…”

  1. cirby Says:

    Phone support?

    Try working in an Apple dealership. I was at one during the “Mac II” transition.

    Then I got a job at a college, supporting Macs (for a while I was the only official Mac support guy for a 27,000 student university).

  2. Don S Says:

    And then there is the other side, what I call MacAfee Hell.

    I used the MacAfee Antivirus product for 4 years before I had to use technical support – only to discover that MacAfee charges on the order of $30 to even talk to someone who can make a difference. Everything goes through the ‘virus team’ whether it’s a virus or not! And the Virus team charges a minumum of $30 (in the UK).

    I wasn’t and am not a ‘support vampire’ much less a screamer although after a large number of attempts to get past MacAfee’s ‘We Always Charge You Extra’ ‘Firewall’ I confess my good temper was severely strained.

    I’m now an ex-customer currently going bare because MacAfee wouldn’t help me deal with my problem – which is that the software won’t work and won’t reinstall. It does nothing but annoy me with warnings 2 times a day and won’t Uninstall either! I have to pay $30 to get that done!

    And then companies wonder why people scream? I don’t…..

  3. Don S Says:

    Yup. At this point MacAfee is nothing more than a more annoying version of Winfixer – which MacAfee allowed to infect my computer BTW.

  4. Neo Says:

    First, I must state that I am an Apple stockholder.

    That said, I am left to wonder just how long Apple can go about leaving corpses here and there of the many supplier’s that they have often callously discarded. I know that this industry has been reduced to commodity level, but Apple seems to delight in truly pissing off their suppliers.

    In this regard, the three names that come immediately to mind are Freescale (formerly Motorola Semi), IBM and Adaptec, but I’m sure there are many more. The first two were the obvious suppliers of PowerPC devices and the last was a supplier of SCSI products. Both of this supplier lines were long time staples of Apple products but were booted (often with reason) in very unceremonious ways. In the process, Apple owners often have to wade through the swamp of unhappiness that Apple has left behind.

  5. Sandy P Says:


    Uh, oh, trouble on the vodka front, via EU Referendum:

    It was in February last that this blog dealt

  6. Mikey Says:

    My sympaties on that job. It is hard to deal with people who are frustrated, at their wit’s end, and who just spent twenty minutes listening to an automated phone system that doesn’t have the option “talk to a live person”.

    Having been a supervisor, who was called in only when things were getting out of control, I understand both sides. Frankly, I can’t see how the tech support people can stand it, either.

  7. Lily Bart Says:

    The problem with technical support is that they don’t speak English. I am not sure what language the ARE speaking, but I am absolutely certain it’s not English.

  8. Brian Tiemann Says:

    I worked in support for a few years. ISP support, but support just the same.

    I found that it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of thinking that all the people one talks to are idiots. That’s because few of them are computer experts. Otherwise they wouldn’t be calling support. The support people hear from the most clueless people who are the least in their element when dealing with the product or service in question.

    But I always had to remind myself: there’s a difference between “clueless” and “stupid”.

    The people I talked to didn’t know the first thing about configuring Trumpet Winsock or fiddling with the TCP/IP Control Panel settings, and they balked when I asked them to “load” a program (I should have said “launch” or “run”, in retrospect). But these people were teachers, business owners, accountants, truck drivers, farmers, middle managers

  9. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: All
    RE: It’s Not Just Computers

    It’s any situation where you need to provide an answer to a problem someone things is a near life-or-death matter.

    I’m not looking forward to the time I’m going to have to spend in the ‘hot-seat’ for the Master Gardners’ program; a dial-up tech support ‘wiz’ for plants and their ailments/problems.

    However, I will say this about Master Gardners….we got over 50 hours of training before we’re thrown into the hot-seat. I’m just an ‘apprentice’, i.e., neophyte. But it sounds to me like I’ve had more training in identifying the myriad problems of everything from grasses to trees than most computer tech-support types receive before they’re thrown to the proverbial ‘lions’.

    And, I’ve got the state university system backing me up. Not just in Colorado, but every other state university system as well. However, most other states don’t have the sort of ‘environment’ we do here in semi-arid Pueblo, CO.



  10. Chuck Pelto Says:

    P.S. The really KUWEL thing is that in Master Gardners, we can ask the callers to send us digital images of the situation to help us identify the problem and come up with a solution.

    Try THAT with a sick computer and see what you get….

  11. me Says:

    What’s a Master Gardner?

  12. Julie (Synova) Says:

    It’s a certification given by… I’m not sure, the state agricultural extension office maybe. It’s a rank of sorts that you can list as credentials when it comes to plants. You can also work as phone-help at the Ag. extension office when people call in because there is yellow powder all over their junipers.

  13. me Says:

    Gardener then.

  14. Xixi Says:

    “I said right click, dammit.”

  15. Cybrludite Says:

    The worse I’ve found are folks with advanced degrees. In particular, lawyers and doctors. Anything that disabuses them of the notion that they know everything makes them decidedly cranky.

  16. Chuck Pelto Says:

    TO: Me
    RE: Thanks…

    “Gardener then.” — Me

    …for correcting my Colorado dialectic proclivities.



  17. Debby Says:

    I worked AOL tech support back in 1994 when the service first went from text-only to introducing some graphics. The graphics would immediately lead to a GPF, the only (very temporary) solution for wich was the good old “delete and reinstall”, and the major function of the tech support lines was to walk people through those reinstalls. One night I had a caller who, during this process, as I was telling him to type “a:\setup”, was getting some results I’d never heard before, and I’d done a LOT of these. It turns out that he was spelling out the word “colon” instead of using the “:”.

  18. Brian Tiemann Says:

    My favorite was when Microsoft started shipping IE 3.0. People using old versions of Win95 had a copy of IE 1.0 on it, and when they launched it, it took them to a page at Microsoft that was intended to direct them to the new version’s download page.

    Unfortunately, the page was badly written, and had a database error in it. So the user saw something like this:

    Error 88771: Type mismatch.

    So what does the user do? Types M-I-S-M-A-T-C-H. And nothing happens…

    I had to explain to this person what they needed to do to get on the Internet, and what mysteries they needed to ignore. Sometimes it’s better for everyone just to skip trying to explain certain things…

  19. Toddk Says:

    That reminds me of a Jeff Foxworthy joke. “If you stare at an orange juice carton because it says concentrate…youuuu might be a redneck”

  20. Slartibartfast Says:

    It’s a certification given by… I’m not sure, the state agricultural extension office maybe. It’s a rank of sorts that you can list as credentials when it comes to plants. You can also work as phone-help at the Ag. extension office when people call in because there is yellow powder all over their junipers.

    My father-in-law used to have a garden shop in Sanford, FL and the self-professed Master Gardeners that came into his shop were, to loosely quote him, more resistant to instruction than most.

    Oh, and Will: Adam Knight took the post down, so you might want to copy the Google-cached version of it and link your copied cached-version.

  21. Kevin Says:

    Thanks Slartibartfast. I tried to get the google cash and it only showed the new (mostly empty) post.

  22. Michelle Says:

    Congratulations on Best of the Springs – Best Blog!

  23. Ryan Frank Says:

    Anyone have a saved copy of this? Googles cache seems to have updated 😛

  24. TL Says:

    Two and a half weeks without a post from the Martini Man and over a month since any pictures of the Mini Martini showed up. Can anybody out there verify that things are still ok in the Springs?

  25. Greg Says:

    Yeah, where is Martini Boy? Another blog sabattical?

  26. sulizano Says:

    Is this thing on…? Bueller…?

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