How To Not Be A Dick Calling Tech Support And Maybe Even DIY Your Own Fix

If you’ve ever been thanked for your feedback, someone has daydreamed about lining your mouth hole with staples.
Publish date:
January 18, 2013

The irony of this is that I’m writing this now to procrastinate calling tech support myself.

I hate it. I hate waiting, the stupid pan flute Carpenters covers in the hold music and I really hate telling a stranger that I need help. So when you call in to the media tech center I work at for my 9-to-five, I’m sympathetic to you, being also a vulnerable and easily annoyed human being.

But here’s the good news: calling tech support is one of those insta-karma situations where not being a dick actually pays off. Since most techs have access to your account finances, we’ll be happy to toss a little money at you, if you can be decent and snarkless for all of five minutes.

There’s an urban legend out there that there’s a universal script of tech support. For whatever reason, this myth-script always starts with being forced (by trained sniper, I assume) to ask you if your electronic device is plugged in.

I love this idea that there’s a bunker of automatons in a warehouse, staring unblinkingly at a monitor, reciting their pre-programmed lines, waiting for you to say the magic word and break the spell like an 80s Mac commercial.

Trust me, there isn’t a script. If there were a script that had to be followed, you’d be hearing it from a robot, not a live person who asks for things like 401K and dental insurance and pee breaks.

When we do talk, please don’t ask to connect you to the “Tech Support Guy.”

Women and men are equally guilty of this. It happens daily and maybe half the offenders get my cue to apologize when I answer, “This is she.” It’s an understandable sexism, I guess, in a field where your issue has an 85% chance of being handled by a dude, but it still bugs me if you think my job should be done by a man, like I might cry or menstruate over your DNS settings.

The same goes for all India/China-themed comments.

Do tech companies outsource? Sure. But telling me that you’re surprised to be talking to someone named Stacey in Los Angeles and not “someone in India” is not a compliment. It’s kinda racist and I’m going to ignore it because I don’t want to join hands with you in your white power dance.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been waiting or how long you “put up” with your tech problem before taking your epic hero’s journey to call me.

Your tech service isn’t aggro-powered. While it’s totally fine to mention to me how long you’ve experienced your issue (because I’ll probably credit you that amount if you’re polite), launching into a monologue about your long-suffering silence in the face of indignation just gives me eye roll headaches.

Also, remember that tech support is always allowed to disconnect a call if it becomes abusive -- this is actually a legal matter since we’re protected by the same occupational laws as someone you’d see face-to-face. Still, I tend not to hang up because I don’t have cable and I miss out on the schadenfreude of witnessing a grown-up having a complete meltdown over minutiae.

Come to terms that with the fact that since you’re calling tech support, we’re probably going to, you know, run tech support on you.

Since I can’t shrink and send myself through the wires to fix it myself, I’m going to tell you what to do over the phone. A weirdly common reaction to this is to insist that, unbeknownst to me, the entire service is just floating belly-up dead in the fishbowl of the Internet.

This usually goes something like, “I KNOW your site is broken because [some inane reason].” Because some other thing on the internet works. Because you’re a Pisces. Because Obama.

Believe me, it’s not broken. Outages happen pretty much never and we all love it when they do because we shut down our lines and have a little party until it starts working again. The more you keep calm and work with me on this, the faster you’ll be off the phone with your stuff working and a few weeks of free service.

Since you’re talking to a real person, listen for the person’s name and use it.

I am an insecure narcissistic flower and when you say my name, it tells me that you, too, have sensed my undeniable specialness. We’re basically friends for life now, so here’s some money to buy yourself something nice. See you at brunch!

Like I said, I don’t blame you if you still don’t want to call tech support, so here are a few catchall troubleshoots:

Have at least two browsers and clear your cache out of both of them regularly.

Your cache saves you time when you visit a site you’ve already been to by memorizing the site’s structure and metadata. It’s a nice function and it does save time, but your cache can sometimes commit something to memory that has already changed or something that you didn’t actually want to do, like entering in a wrong password or drunk Googling yourself.

The browsers are up to you, but they’re all free and don’t take up much space at all. Personally, I love Chrome with its elegant little interface and native Flash player that I never have to fuss with. I share bookmarks among all three browsers and every six months or so, I wipe out a browser and reinstall it. The slash-and-burn approach clears up all plug-in compatibility nastiness and any lingering tantrums a cache clear didn't already detect. And it feels sooooo good to spring clean your electronics.


Unplug your modem/router (these are probably the same thing unless you have some serious grandma-style Internet) and power down whatever computer/electronic device you’re using. Wait for two minutes and then power them back up again, starting with the modem. This reinitializes the device’s configuration and will convince it to stop being a punk.

Know your internet connection.

Like knowing your mileage, this is something you need to keep track of. Most ISP contracts promise “up to” a certain download speed. This lets them off the hook in checking to make sure you’re getting your dollar’s worth and makes it your problem.

There are a couple of free and safe sites to use to do this, but I like Speedtest. From their site, you should see a green button inside a drawing of a laptop. Click that. Let the animation play out and you’ll get three numbers: your ping, your download and your upload.

The upload and download speeds correlate to how fast your connection is sending and receiving data in megabytes per second -- it’s normal for the download number to be higher (faster) than your upload. The easiest way to understand your ping is to think of it like telephone rings: If you call me, you want me to pick up the phone in 10 rings, not 100.

So, high download/upload is good, a high ping rate is bad. If either is the case, you’ll need to contact your ISP and they will either re-route you or they’ll send a replacement router combo.

When you do have a pleasant service from calling tech support, especially if you got hooked up with a courtesy refund or they helped you overhaul your system, leave feedback! If you get a satisfaction survey, which most companies send automatically, fill that sucker out. Techs get all kinds of incentives for those. Think of it as a tip jar, but free! And you get to do it in your underwear.