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Grumpy tech guy: Welcome to Transylvanian tech support hell
Tue, 13th Sep 2016
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The other day my smartphone started doing something really weird. A security app I'd installed a few weeks back started to tell me that the “www” I'd typed into my phones browser was malicious, preventing me from typing anything else.

I factory reset the phone, installing the apps I normally use, testing the “www” issue with each app. Everything worked fine until I got to the security app. Then it was back to square one.

With a sinking feeling, it dawned on me that I'd have to make a tech support call.

I tried to convince myself that my fears were unfounded. The security software was from a reputable firm. Surely they'd have great tech support.

I dialled the tech support number. So far, so good. It was a local NZ toll-free number. Perhaps I was going to get through this unscathed.

I had a dial tone, then a ringing tone. This was interrupted by a loud click and a thunk. the phone line now sounded like the bottom of a urinal in a particularly busy pub.

My call was being re-routed to some far flung destination. Where? I could only guess.

After about 15 years my call was finally answered.

“Hey you're speaking to Chuck how may ahh help yew,” said a slow Alabama drawl at the other end of the line.

I was impressed – this person sounded like a Yank! They spoke English! Maybe resolving my tech issues was going to be quick and painless after all!

Sadly, it turned out that Chuck had learnt a few words of English while watching chuck Norris flicks at whatever serves as a cinema in Transylvania.

Between the third world phone line and Chuck's limited command of English, it was next to impossible to communicate my tech issues. This wasn't ideal given the normal help desk phone support routine had yet to happen.

Before long, Chuck had gone through every repetition and variation of how to spell my name, the product model number, its serial number and my email address. I tried phonetic spelling, jungle drums. Hell I even semaphore. Nothing helped.

At one point Chuck exclaimed something that sounded suspiciously like “My hovercraft is full of eels”. Perhaps he was a Monty Python fan! Maybe Monty Python is big in Transylvania?

Perhaps he was doing the naughty Hungarian phrase book sketch to relieve the tedium of being stuck in a call centre on minimum third world wages? I sensibly decided not to reply with “my nipples explode with delight!

By now the sun was sinking below the hills. I'd lost track of how long I'd been engaged in this increasingly bizarre conversation with a help desk person whose real name was probably Vlad the Impaler.

The really annoying thing was that I'd not even got to the stage of actually explaining the technical issue.

Several years later, Chuck/Vlad is still trying to spell my surname with a V and we've got nowhere. By now it is dark.

Suspecting that this could be a ploy to unleash vampire bats on me while I innocently sit on the phone for yet another eternity, and explaining to Vlad/Chuck what product I'm using and how to spell my name, I give up.

The call ends and frustratingly my problem is still unresolved. I'm given a case number that is never used for anything ever again (I think Vlad/Chuck may have a special random number generator creating these).

Is it just me or is it just futile outsourcing tech support to a third world nation? The population is paid so little that they couldn't possibly give a damn, and they speak so little English that they can't understand a thing you're saying.

I know that given the choice I'll never go near that mobile security product again.