Strange Help Desk Requests

Recently, IT professionals were asked to provide examples of the more unusual requests they’ve received. Here are some of the responses:

"Could you please install the Internet on my computer?"

"This PC just performed an illegal operation! Will I get in trouble?"

"How do I prevent the coffee cup holder (CD-ROM drive) from going back into the computer?"

"Please warn me next time my computer is going to crash."

"Is there a way to cheat at solitaire?"

"Why doesn’t my mouse work?" (user was waving mouse in the air rather than using it on her desktop)

"How do I push those buttons on the screen?" (user was unaware that the mouse was necessary for navigation)

"Can you please help me open the shrink-wrap on my software?"

"Is it necessary for me to plug in my tape drive before I back up data?"

"I write ‘click’ but nothing is happening!" (help desk technician had asked end user to "right click")

"I need help un-sending the e-mail I just sent!"

"Could you please fix my computer at home?"

"How do I plug in my PC?"

Contributed by RHI Consulting (


The Stuff

Getting lots of free stuff comes as a perk when writing freelance for computer trade publications. I receive daily piles of unsolicited packets, overflowing with page after page of propaganda, proclaiming some new product.

A few days later, the barrage of voices will hit my answering machine, and then the free stuff begins to arrive.

Pens, pins, pads... If a company can’t get its message across on paper or on the telephone, then it’s time to cast it on to something concrete. Call it impression marketing. The cheap companies pelt me with plastic pens that don’t write, but the etched company name and URL on the barrel will remain forever. I often prick my fingers on a bevy of buttons with senseless, yet seductive sayings, such as "Don’t Take Off Without Your Briefs."

Serious software companies usually send one thing – a disk or CD of their software. Frugal hardware companies spend lots of money creating die cut miniature replicas of the real thing. IBM went one step further and produced a cardboard replica of a full size ThinkPad laptop. As a joke, I once replaced a colleague’s real ThinkPad with the cardboard version. Some people have no sense of humor.

Some companies try to be original, or at least creative. Emulex Corporation used an airplane barf bag to get this message across: "It just sickens us to think some of you may not be able to reap what we have to offer." The telephone companies always send cards which give off the sound of a real ringing you-know-what. If you’re looking for an excuse to make a quick exit, then walking around with these cards can be better than carrying a cell phone.

I’ve got a collection of mismatched mugs made of everything from Pyrex porcelain to lustrous Lucite. They come in different shapes and sizes – all richly decorated with company propaganda. A big blue beaker from some fibre optic company has a ceramic lightbulb built into a hefty handle. Yes, I see the light, but I don’t get it.

If companies really want to make an impression with me, then the marketing folks should do more homework. Lotus Software sent me one Dr. Scholl’s, size 7 shoe cushion so one of my feet wouldn’t get tired at LotusWorld. Couldn’t someone have called and asked how many feet I have and what shoe size I take?

Of course, some of the stuff has proven to be quite useful. The top-of-line leatherette briefcase from Cisco has accompanied me on several trips. The blue cotton, button-down Lands’ End shirt came with HighGround stitched on the pocket. The pocket is no longer a pocket, but otherwise the shirt works as my van Gogh house painting smock.

While I like to rail about some of the stupid stuff I receive, I’d probably be lost without it. Imagine opening my front door and finding a box of real Wheaties disguised as a relational software promotion. Great! One less item to buy at the store. I’m glad all of these companies spend millions of dollars so they can find ways to remember me. On the other hand, when I want their attention, I often have to wait days for a response, while I fret under a tight deadline. Yes, I want your attention, not your stuff!

Contributed by Elizabeth Ferrarini