Sunday, July 18, 2004

Tech Support

I am not one of those people who keeps up with the latest trends in things.  For example, I had an 8-track player in my cars until 1984 when I bought a Subaru wagon with a cassette player, and it wasn’t until I got the Mustang last summer that I had a car with a CD player.  That goes for my computer as well.  I still have my 1984 Apple IIc in boxes in the closet, and I still use MSN dial-up at home for my internet connection.  It’s slow, but I’m too set in my ways to change to cable or DSL because I’ve had the same e-mail address since 1997 and it’s a pain to change.  Hey, you’re talking to a guy who still has a 1920’s candlestick telephone in the living room.


Anyway, last night I went on-line to check my e-mail.  Outlook comes up and then starts asking me to “sign in.”  I’m supposed to have Secure Password Authentication, but the error message said that the server rejected it.  Hmph.  I tried again.  Same thing.  I checked the e-mail account on the small chance that something went chingada* with the account, but all was normal on this end.  (I can check my account through Hotmail – nothing but spam).  I went to sleep figuring it should right itself in the morning.


This morning, same shit.  So, as a last resort, I called MSN Tech Support.  Now I have a little history with MSN Tech Support.  Last winter I was running into this same problem.  Over a period of three days and seven or eight different phone calls to them, I got ten different reasons for the problem and fifteen different solutions, all of which were pointing to me being the culprit, even though I had done nothing to change the settings on my end.  One of the tech support guys said it’s because I have POP3 e-mail account instead of web-based (“No one’s supposed to have POP3 anymore!” he tells me in a huff.)  He was followed by a woman who told me POP3 is fine but my “parameters” are wrong.  (I think she has boundary issues.)  Finally I got to a guy who said that I need to go into my e-mail via Hotmail and check and see if there’s an e-mail with a blank name and a blank subject line.  I did, and there was.  Delete that, he told me, and all will be right.  Presto.  He said it happens occasionally and they’re trying to get it resolved internally.  “So, it’s not my fault,” I ask him.  “No,” he replies.  Well, what a relief…I feel vindicated.


This morning’s call was not much different – I got disconnected after ten minutes and had to call back, and when I did,  I had to listen to lousy music (The Hollywood Strings version of Stairway to Heaven was my favorite) and brief MSN ads while they were “working to get to your call as soon as possible.”  Fortunately I have a speakerphone in my den (see, I can keep up with some forms of technology) so my neck wasn’t in pain…at least from the phone.  Finally, after about a fifteen minute wait due to high call volume, “Robbie” comes on the line.


Now we all know that Microsoft outsources their tech support to exotic places like India or Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, and “Robbie” has a definite Indian accent.  Not like Fisher Stevens’s character in Short Circuit, but pretty close.  He’s very nice and he asks all the right questions, and I give him all the right answers.  We finally agree that it is not in my computer, even though the Help Desk is saying there are “no known issues at this time.”  “Robbie” confides to me that he’s had four calls with a similar problem and the standard troubleshooting doesn’t work.  He says I can check my e-mail via Hotmail (and by the way, the blank e-mail was not there) and check back with them in 24 hours while they work on it from their end.


I note a couple of things in this exchange.  Even though I didn’t get my problem fixed, I feel like I’ve made some progress – MSN no longer immediately blames the customer, which I think is a step forward.  The second is this nagging question as to why MSN feels they have to have their tech support people adopt American-sounding nicknames.  I know that “Robbie” is in India or somewhere, yet they insist on making them sound like they’re in Utah.  Yes, there is the issue of outsourcing jobs – we know that it’s a lot cheaper to pay “Robbie” and his colleagues in rupees than in dollars – but why hide behind such a transparent cover?  Do they really think that their customers would be upset if they were talking to someone named Sugith?  Their customers call to get their computers fixed, not worry about the international jobs situation.  Just get our computers working so we can blog about outsourcing.


Meanwhile, I’m checking out the pricing on cable modems.


[*chingada – New Mexican Spanglish for “Cheneyed.”]