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Techie called out to customer ASAP, then: Do nothing

Service level agreement should really specify services, not just arrivals

On Call Welcome once again to On Call, The Register's weekly reader-contributed tales of futile and furtive tech support chores.

This week, meet a reader we'll Regomize as "Paul" who shared a story about the time his phone rang and he was asked if he could travel to provide tech support on a customer's site – which was about an hour away by road – within an hour.

Paul said he could. Just. If the deities of driving cleared a path.

He then inquired about the nature of the job, but was told that information would be divulged by a colleague upon his arrival.

Which is unusual because while Paul is almost certainly terribly clever, it's customary to make sure that the person sent to provide support has the skills needed to do the job. Clients, after all, tend to be a bit upset when the wrong person shows up.

Paul nonetheless hit the road and the mystic masters of the motorway worked their magic, meaning he arrived within an hour. He duly signed in and awaited instructions.

"Stand there and touch nothing," was the response from his dispatcher.

Paul did as he was told. Nothing. An hour later, a senior engineer arrived, declared the job finished, explained that Paul's work had been signed off, and told him he was free to go.

Paul had literally done nothing, other than become curious about what had just happened. Naturally, he asked what was going on.

It turned out Paul's employer had a contract with the customer that specified a tech would show up within two hours when support was required. The cost of having Paul travel to the site and do nothing was tiny, when compared to the penalties the customer was owed under the contract if nobody appeared on time.

Paul had therefore been summoned merely to be seen to have verifiably arrived on time – regardless of whether he was the right person to tackle the trouble, or did anything to fix the problem.

The story gets even weirder. Paul told On-Call he "did a lot of this stuff" because he lived closer to clients than colleagues who worked in his employer's larger offices.

Whether the customer ever realized it was being fooled is lost to history.

Has taking no action whatsoever ever been the most sensible course of action in your job? If so, click here to email us your stories of sweet nothings and we'll try to give you a run on a future Friday. ®

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