Help desk declared code PEBCAK and therefore refused to help!

Problem Existed Between Chair And Keyboard

On-Call Why hello there Friday and hello there, also, this week's instalment of On-Call, The Register's weekly column that recounts readers' tales of tech support terror.

This week, meet “Ben” who told us he once worked for “a large three-letter-acronym IT company, which at the time had their hands in just about everything IT related including their own global network which they outsourced to customers as well as using themselves.”

“The job was answering the phone, getting info from the user, opening a ticket for them and routing it appropriately.” Which sometimes meant routing it away from Ben's network-centric team.

Guessed the company yet? You will now, because one day Ben took a call “from an internal user who was getting OS/2 errors on booting up her system. And not just any errors, but the dreaded SYS 1475 and SYS 2027, aka “Cannot boot to OS/2/OS2BOOT cannot be found/Operating system missing” combo. That pair plagued many-a-user who left a floppy disk in the A drive when booting IBM's finest.

Ben knew errors 1475 and 2027 all too well and also knew that they weren't networking errors. He therefore offered to forward this caller to the appropriate help desk so they could sort things out.

“She refused, insisting I open a ticket for her in my system.”

Ben explained that he did network support and that the error codes showed this was a PC problem best handled by others.

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Which had precisely zero effect: the user still insisted that Ben handle the problem.

Ben tried to be very kind and patient, so explained that if he opened the right ticket, “it would only be seen by the people who could help her”, but if his team had the ticket they'd scratch their heads and be no use at all.

The reaction was swift and shouty.

“Young man,” the user said, “the ONLY thing I do with this machine is connect to the network. So it's a network problem!”

“You can't argue with logic like that,” Ben decided, so he created a ticket, put it in a queue called “Other/Other” and watched as it went unanswered for hours.

A few minutes before quitting time, a senior support engineer called Ben to ask if the ticket was for real.

“I assured him that it was,” Ben said. “ The senior chap offered to help and a few minutes later he and Ben were on the phone to the user, with Ben's phone muted.

Things went predictably badly: the user launched into “a tirade about how long it took to call her back.” Ben's colleague “very calmly told her that if she had followed recommendations she would be online by this point, rather than now having to call the appropriate help desk, open a ticket, and wait until the next day for a desk-side support rep to visit her and resolve her problem.”

The user asked if she could access the appropriate help desk ASAP, but Ben's colleague “simply said 'No' and hung up.”

And that, says Ben, “was the first time I ever saw a ticket closed with the cause code PEBCAK”.

Which for those of you with bad memories for acronyms stands for “Problem Exists Between Chair And Keyboard”.

Ben told us this was “certainly not the last” time his help desk applied code PEBCAK.

If you've used it, or similar codes, click here to share your story with On-Call and it might be your tale of woe on this page next week. ®

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