Last week my cable box stopped responding to the remote. I went through the obvious checklist of changing batteries, checking the remote's settings, rebooting the cable box, making sure the remote still controlled the TV volume and power functions okay, and making sure the cable box could be controlled manually by the buttons on the front. Then I called Comcast's tech support.

They put me through the same steps I already tried then added reversing the polarity of the batteries in the remote to essentially reboot it. That didn't work. So the tech support person sent me to the nearest Comcast store to get a new remote control. The new one didn't work either. But of course the tech support person on my next call (an American woman in case you wonder) made me repeat all the steps that didn't make a difference last time just to be sure. At the end of the call the tech support person concluded, and I am not making this up, "The remote probably just needs to loosen up."

Pause while you digest that.

I had already requested a repair visit before this latest call to tech support, so I gave up and waited. When the repair guy came I described my problem and informed him in the best straight face I could muster that his company thinks maybe the remote control just needs to "loosen up."

The repair guy asked, "Did they really say that?" I confirmed that they did. I could see the last bit of hope drain out of his eyes as he just looked to the floor, slumped his shoulders, and shook his head in disbelief. He seemed a broken man. But he replaced the cable box and everything was fine. Later that night I doubt he bought anything to stimulate the economy, unless it was beer.

Okay, now changing topics, I got this story by e-mail:

"The door on the mini-refrigerator at work wouldn't close because the freezer compartment was iced over.  Two employees, a man and a woman, decided to thaw it out. They carried it down from the second floor to the warm outside so it could thaw without making a mess in the office.

When their boss heard what they did, he screamed at them for doing it without the assistance of the unionized maintenance group. So even though by now the freezer was completely thawed out, fully cleaned, and sitting outside the building, the boss contacted the maintenance people to schedule a day and time for them to bring it back in.

The day before the maintenance people were scheduled to bring it back inside the office, the boss saw that the refrigerator was missing from outside the building. He stormed up to the female employee's desk and screamed at her, ‘I told you not to ever move that refrigerator again!' She burst into tears and said, ‘I didn't touch it . . . I didn't touch it! I don't know what you're talking about.' Apparently someone thought the refrigerator was being discarded and took it home."

That night the two employees who cleaned the refrigerator did not buy anything to stimulate the economy. They cried themselves to sleep. At least that's my guess.
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Feb 3, 2009
I don't know, the second story sounds like a typical anti-union apocryphal horror story. You have direct personal knowledge that it actually happened?
Feb 3, 2009
I had similarly mind boggling experience with an American computer company. A simple task of sending them my broken video card that was still under warranty and the company mailing me a new one to replace it turned into a 3 month long escapade.

"Mail it to Texas".
"Oh, it doesn't go there".
"Send it to New York".
"Why did you do that? It goes to Texas, but to our new warehouse, not the old one you sent it to the first time".
"NO! You live in Canada??? It needs to go to Ontario".
"No it doesn't. Send it to Texas".
"No, Ontario".
And you have to pay for it to get sent back to you in Canada, and then to Ontario.
I don't care that you already paid to get it sent to Texas.
It is the customer's responsibility to pay for shipping".
"No, I don't have a supervisor you can talk to".

I DID learn that "Level 2" was the magic phrase to say if you wanted help. And I did receive my new video card last week. 3 months after originally sending it off to Texas.
Feb 3, 2009
I've had my share of clueless scumcast tech support people (though that is somewhat redundant) but my favorite was when I was having a cable modem problem. I had already traced/isolated the problem to a 40 % packet loss between my modem and the next hop. I'm a DBA for a website bigger than dilbert.com so not entirely unskilled in the ways of networks. anyway, I told the woman that plus the fact that DNS was failing to resolve 100% of the time upon which she instructed me to "click start, then run and type cmd in the box" (I run linux but played along) then to "type ping www.yahoo.com" - UM, WHAT? what part of "DNS is failing 100% of the time did you not understand?

it's like the screen them for cluelessness & stupidity - SEEKING IT! I can just picture an interview going something like:

scumcast PHB: I'm going to give you a series of acronyms and you tell me what they mean - UPS?
interviewee: um, a package delivery company?
PHB: 1080i?
interviewee: um, the street address of Apple's HQ?
PHB: we don't need to go any further - you're hired!
-1 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 3, 2009
I wish someone would un-ionize me.
Feb 3, 2009
the National health Service in the UK have jsut spent 6 Billion pounds (currently $8.5 Billion) on a computer system that doesn't work properly. It crashes about once a week (used to be once a day) and tech support take you through the same questions every time you call them before admitting that the system is down. No-one has been called to account for this massive waste. The guy in charge oversaw the introduction of social services sytem a few years earlier and that was abandoned after 3 years as unworkable. We seem to say 'find the person with the brains of a squrrel and give them an unlimited budget to waste'.
Feb 3, 2009
If you have some free time I suggest you check out the following website:

The page is filled with similar tales of idiotic tech support calls and the like, in fact one of the links is labeled "Stupid Tech Support". Enjoy.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 3, 2009
Incompetance, beaurocracy are everywhere.
Big corporations and the government have the biggest waste in their system.
There are "cleanup" sometimes (regorg, layoffs) but mostly the innocent workers are gone while the bozos are still around : it's called politics.
BTW, did anyone watch the ad "friends don't let friends use cable"? LOL.
Feb 3, 2009
What you have described is the foundation of our economy: make-work. Make-work is the phenomenon that occurs when several service activities are engaged in rectifiying the poor service performed by the previous service provider. Just imagine how many people would be out of work if the first service provider did it right the first time (i.e., Comcast made a long-lasting box). The CSR phone people... gone. The in-home service tech... gone. If employer provided a good working environment, would we need Dilbert? We should all count our blessings.
Feb 3, 2009
All of us could add our own examples of waste, whether in corporate America or the govamint. After a lifetime of observation, I've come to realize that money is never wasted , unless it's stored under a mattress. Now, goods could be wasted -- maybe the trashman took the refrigerator and put it in a landfill, but money, even money spent on the stupidest possible inefficency, isn't wasted. Someone takes that money and spends it on something else. Money spent on dope is one of the major components of the Mexican GDP. The US government loses out because they don't tax it, like liquor. Money spent on booze supports not just distillers and the government, but farmers -- money doesn't care whether the wheat they grow goes for beer or bread, as long as someone buys it. Of course, these expenditures offend our morals and hurt individuals, but not the economy: money doesn't care about morals. Similarly, a government-funded study of the sexual preferences of jellyfish (I assume that's where you got your information that jellyfish don't care who they mate with, which is a suspiciously anti-Darwinian allegation) stimulates the economy as much as a search for the cure for cancer. Since money is nothing but a paper IOU (and not even on paper, most of the time, but digits in a computer), it can't be wasted unless it isn't used or is thrown away. Efficiency isn't the issue at all. All the money the economy lost in the latest bubble burst was imaginary money -- not one paper dollar bill was lost. But that's the subject of a whole other rant.

Feb 3, 2009
I spent far too long as a manager in a union plant. Please do not ever discuss such things again - the painful memories are almost too much to bear. Looks like my shrink will be getting another call.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 3, 2009
"Then I called Comcast's tech support."

Chalk that comment up there with "and then he voted". Two times in a row, new occupants moved into the apartment. Two times in a row, Comcast disconnected the wrong cable line when they terminated their service. Once, the Comcast guy installed a new line by disconnecting my line.
Feb 3, 2009
I would agree with Ax - seems like the situations deal with two large-ish companies in which there's a bureaucracy and the petty power people or, in the first case, people who have to go by the book and aren't allowed to go outside it, or don't have the power to remedy the situation themselves, or just don't care.

A friend of mine does web development for a major university. In their small office, they do not have wireless. My friend had figured out that for a few hundred bucks, they could get wireless as well as a terabyte in office storage / transfer capacity. He was willing to go out and buy the wireless router that day for $40 and order the other components himself. The manager refused and said he had to file it with IT. IT took nine months and $4000 to install the same system.

I have a feeling, given all the money being discussed now in the wings of powers, that the federal and state governments might do the same. I can't see them tracking every dollar and I can't see them spending each dollar as wisely as possible.
0 Rank Up Rank Down
Feb 3, 2009
If one were to accept your anecdotes as truth in a vacuum, one might conclude what is wrong is bureaucracy.
Feb 3, 2009
It is obvious to me. When the unionized maintenance guys were notified to move the fridge - they did. Right to the back of their pick-up truck. Now sombody has a great beer cooler in their garage!
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