Tech Support Tuesday – Who knew smoking was bad for computers?

Welcome to Tech Support Tuesday.  The first Tuesday of each month we’ll be sharing tips on how to keep your system running and “unique” experiences from both sides of the Tech Support spectrum.  If you have a tip or you’ve had a strange (let’s just call them unique) experience with a Tech Support person or someone who’s called you for support; drop me a note and I’ll include it in the next episode.  If you share a unique story please make sure it’s a real story, no third party stories or Urban Legends.  So without further ado, here is the first episode:

Who knew smoking was bad for computers?

I was working for a Software development/consulting firm in the mid/late 90s.  All of our computers were made by Gateway; you remember those?  Gateway’s call center was in, of course, Iowa so there really wasn’t a language barrier; at least you would think so.

Here’s what happened:

While working on a database smoke started coming from my computer…literally.  I shut the computer down and grabbed the phone number for Gateway Technical Support.

The following is a conversation I will never forget:

Gateway Tech Support: Thank you for calling Gateway Technical Support, my name is XYZ.  How can I help you?

Me:  I was working on my computer when it started smoking.

Gateway Tech Support:  Have you defragged you hard drive?

Me:  No.  My computer started smoking.

Gateway Tech Support:  Okay, well let’s defrag your Hard Drive.

Me: Sorry, the computer is shut down because it was SMOKING.

Gateway Tech Support:  Can you turn it back on so we can defrag your hard drive?

Me:  You did hear the part about the computer smoking; right?

We continue to go back and forth until he finally gets (the light bulb must have come on) that I’m not turning the system back on.  We continue:

Gateway Tech Support:  Okay sir, have you degaussed your monitor?

Me:  What in the world would my monitor have to do with the fact that the computer was SMOKING?!

Gateway Tech Support:  I’m sorry sir but we have to follow these steps before I can help you any further.

Me:  Are you kidding me?!  What does either of those have to do with the fact that the COMPUTER SMOKING?!  Can I speak with a Supervisor?

It took me about an hour on the phone with Gateway to get them to even recognize that there was something other than the monitor or hard drive involved with my issue.  After a couple of hours (yes hours) and several disconnects and call backs; it was finally determined that the power supply had shorted out and needed to be replaced.

When I finally hung up with them the only thing that came out of my mouth for the next half hour was: Seriously?!  My co-worker could not stop laughing.