a confession to tech support

Roy wanted nothing more than to go home. He hated the evening-late shift that started at 4pm and hopefully ended at midnight if everything was calm. More likely than not, something would happen at 1145 and he would end up working until 2 or 4 a.m.

Working technical support for an internet service was an OK job but the shift he worked sucked. Of course it was no longer simple, now that they were competing with the off-shore call centres. Their jobs had changed and now they were simultaneously doing online chat support for internet service as well as web site technical support for at least a dozen online shopping web sites.

He was always watching closely to see what his computer told him to say so the customer thought that he was just focused on them. No customer wanted to know that while he was helping them with problems calculating shipping for some new blender on the telephone that he was also chatting with 10 other people. The worst was keeping all the names straight. Roy must have called people the wrong name a thousand times, it was always his biggest issue when performance reviews came up with his boss.

Tonight, however it was 11:55pm and he was slowly packing up his stuff from his cubicle while he provided advice on the telephone to some woman trying to complete the purchase of a dishwasher part whilst helping another person in online chat with an upgrade of their internet service. The incoming queue of phone and internet chat requests was well below the threshold for the overnight crew and Roy was relieved, he would be going home. Roy watched the clock change to 1159 and was saying good night to his online chat customer.

He logged out of the chat system as his customer on the phone thanked him for his help. The transaction was now complete and he asked her that customer friendly phrase, “Is there anything else I can help you with tonight”.

It’s a phrase that normally ends the conversation on a positive note, being willing to further help but with the assumption, of course, that the caller wants to get on with their day too. There is the occasional shut-in that tries to talk you into some random conversation because they are lonely but they all had great training on how to get these people off the phone. They did not, however, get training for what would come next in Roy’s call.

“Yes, actually I could use your help, I think I have made a terrible mistake” Said the caller on the other end. A person who he only knew by her first name and transaction ID, he wasn’t allowed to see her full name or information to ensure privacy. She had been a nice person to talk to and despite her frustration with the poor quality shopping system she had handled it all in stride as she explained the bug that she had found that was preventing her from making her order.

“Oh.” Said Roy “Do you regret the purchase? Because I can cancel the transaction if you like?”

“No, it’s not that” Said the caller, Gloria, she had called herself.

“OK, well if there is something I can do to help just let me know, or you can always call us back if you change your mind before their warehouse preps the item for shipping.” Roy said, trying to sound polite and positive as he noticed the clock was now reading 12:05 AM.

“Roy, you have been very helpful and you have reminded me that there is good in the world. I was having a very hard week and today I decided to do something about it. I did something drastic and then I decided I would buy myself the hat you helped me buy as I haven’t done something like that for myself in a very long time. “

“OK” Roy said. He noticed her tone had changed and this worried him. It worried him like finishing at 4am worried him. It worried him like getting home at 430 in the morning completely exhausted but unable to sleep because another crazy person had troubled him with their problems worried him. He didn’t have the heart to hang-up.

No, he told himself, not tonight. He was going to wrap this call up immediately and then he was going home.

“Roy, I work for an airline. I am a database administrator that works to ensure that the data behind everything is running smoothly from passenger information to maintenance routines and pilot scheduling.

Roy, I am a woman in a man’s world and I am awesome at my job but the men in my work treat me like a second class citizen, because I am a woman. I don’t waste my time and I focus on making myself and my work better, but its never good enough.

I am so tired of how I am treated by men in the workplace and online. Roy, I am smart and I can kick ass in my tech work just as good as any man.

Why am I telling you this Roy? I am telling you because you didn’t treat me like that. You took responsibility for your system and processes being the reason that the online shopping experience was horrible, you didn’t try to make it something that I did because I am a woman and or suggest that maybe I didn’t understand all the complicated buttons.

YES Roy I have had that experience. Even after explaining to the tech support that I knew that their web site had a mistake in the database query that was causing the problem I was asked to please first reboot my computer. I have been so insulted by the way I am spoken down to about technology.

Roy, I am sorry I am venting to you but you treated me with respect and I want you to know that it meant so much to me. “ She sighed as she finished that last sentence, and Roy relaxed too.

“It’s OK” Roy Said “You deserve to be treated better and I am glad I could be a part of something better than what you have experienced. Hopefully things improve.” And he regretted that last sentence the moment it came out of his month, he knew that she would respond to it, and she did.

“Improve, Roy, I really would like things to improve. I really would like the next generation of women in the computers and technology industry not to be treated any differently or to have to fight to have the image of the women improved. Dear God Roy, do you play video games? Women in video games are portrayed as sex objects. Sometimes I think the way women are portrayed in video games is worse than the dark ages. I wish someone would just invent a machine that gave men what they wanted and they would just leave me alone. It’s horrendous what is happening, too often I think women are losing ground.”

“Roy, I am so sorry. ” She once again finished with a sigh that startled Roy, he was listening so intently, he could hear the pain in her words.

“Gloria,” Roy thought hard, he wanted to help her close off her day, and his, “you have a right to be angry and yes I have seen how women are being objectified. Personally I do really need to consider how I treat woman myself.

and…. and…

Gloria, I am sorry that you had such a hard week. It’s Friday now, it’s late, maybe you would benefit from a good night sleep. I think you deserve it and maybe now that you have this off your chest you can rest.”

“Roy, you are an Angel but I have to confess to you. Before I went online to buy that part, I logged into my computer at work. I wrote a script. The script has changed everything. It randomized every passenger seat assignment, flight time, flight number, crew assignment, pilot assignment, airport, gate and meals too. Tomorrow morning, my employer’s airline is going to start the day in complete chaos.

Roy, thanks for listening to me tonight. I feel much better. Good night. “ With that, she hung up.

“Shit” Roy muttered.