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Cutting Off an Over-Demanding End-User?

Cliff posted more than 8 years ago | from the gently-saying-"no" dept.


SpaceNeeded asks: "Numbers of you will probably recognize the start of the situation. Because I work with systems, I perform occasional builds. This occasionally crosses over to support (especially where it's my kit I'm asked to support). This isn't a problem, nor is it a problem when I get the occasional support query from someone I haven't supplied a system to, but who needs assistance. This is all well and good, but I've had pretty poor year personally. I've lost two relatives and a third is in a pretty bad way in hospital. An eleven year relationship ended a couple of months back, and I'm now having to perform _all_ the domestic tasks that used to be shared. Between these few things and my regular job I'm finding I have a whole lot less time to allow to support calls. What methods do you know of for gently cutting off someone, support-wise?""I have a regular end-user who is the one that we all dread. They have little interest in PC systems for itself, and regularly call up with problems, usually related to Windows spy-ware/Trojans/Viruses. I haven't supplied the systems, which comprises of two Dells and a Tosh laptop. Although I quite like them personally, I really don't need the hassle of their regular calls at the moment.

Before the regular cries of 'Supply Ubuntu' get too loud - that will _not_ work. They aren't up to Windows after a couple of years, and will expect interoperability with Windows systems (through college/employer) and don't have the technical skills to manage a *nix system."

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charge 'em (4, Insightful)

blackcoot (124938) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289542)

give 'em some reasonable number of requests, and after that charge them $55-65 per incident (which should nicely cover the cost of having cleaners deal with at least some of the domestic stuff for you).

Re:charge 'em (2, Informative)

Skater (41976) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289582)

Yeah. He should just tell them, "Look, I'm no longer going to be able to provide support for your systems for free." Then stick to it. If they demand to know why, it's really his business, not theirs, but since he told all of Slashdot, I'm assuming he won't mind giving the reasons to the "customer". Most reasonable people would understand and would be grateful for the support they've gotten so far.

Re:charge 'em (5, Funny)

Henry V .009 (518000) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289655)

Didn't you read the original question? He just ended a long-term relationship. What this man needs isn't money, it's sex. He should demand a night with a nubile female relative in exchange for continued support. And he should do it as brazenly and obnoxiously as possible. Either he gets the sex or he offends the other partly so badly that he never hears from him again. Whichever way it goes, the submitter's real problem is solved: he's learned not to be such a doormat for once.

Re:charge 'em (0, Offtopic)

__michikal (959040) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290020)

. . . Insightful? WTF.

Re:charge 'em (5, Insightful)

eonlabs (921625) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290167)

"Although I quite like them personally, I really don't need the hassle of their regular calls at the moment."

I have a feeling that brazenly offending them isn't the solution either.
Depending on how close you are to the person, you might directly ask for help
with your stuff in exchange for the tech support. Cleaning someone's computer
or teaching them how to use it is as time consuming and personal as a lot of
domestic tasks, so I don't see this as being unreasonable.

If they just happen to be a nice customer that you're on good terms with, you
might try pointing them 'gently' toward other resources. That seems to have
worked well with me when I needed some time away from the constant prodding for
tech support.

Re:charge 'em (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290202)

"What this man needs isn't money, it's sex. He should demand a night with a nubile female relative in exchange for continued support."

You're from Kentucky, right?

Re:charge 'em (5, Funny)

nacturation (646836) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290228)

Either he gets the sex or he offends the other partly so badly that he never hears from him again.

Or his offer is accepted, and this prompts a somewhat different Ask Slashdot.

Re:charge 'em (5, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289699)

Back when I used to do contract programming I'd charge something like $80 an hour to do change requests. No half hours, minimum three hours. With rates like that you'd expect my clients to wait until they had a bunch of change requests that needed to be done and give me a list right? No. I'd go out to the site, listen to them explain what they wanted, implement it in 5 minutes and say "anything else?" They'd shrug and say no. I'd offer to hang around for the remaining 2 hours and 50 minutes that I'm going to charge them and after 30 minutes they'd say "ok, that looks like it's working, we'll call you if we need anything else". At first I figured it was just that one client. Then I got another one that was just as bad. So I upped my rates and it just kept on happening. This was in my younger years and I felt that I could be better spending my time. I felt that I had something to contribute and life wasn't all about making money. So I eventually started demanding that they save up their change requests and only contact me when they had at least a days work to do. Something strange happened. They stopped calling. It seems that if you make people put up with software not being exactly the way they want it to be, even if it's just for a week, they will put up with it forever. But if you're there for them as soon as they call and sit down with them and try to make the software exactly the way they want it, they'll pay just about any price for that service.

Re:charge 'em (3, Interesting)

TheCarp (96830) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289817)

So very true.

Its funny seeing how different groups act. I rememer being on an admin team doing real production support for critical applications, if something broke, your first priority was to make sure service stayed up, and your second was making sure that it didn't happen again.

If that meant sending a core file or even a crash dump to the vendor and making them tell you why it broke and when the patch was comming out, then thats what you did.

Generally, it got things fixed, eventually. Now I have more exposure to other systems and I notice, thats not the attitude. People work with broken stuff all the time, just keep on chugging.

Fact is, you can get used to antything. Getting used to things is kind of what our brains are meant to do. Honestly, I would imagine that most honest to god bugs in end user software are easier to just get used to than say... swithcing from vi to notepad or vice versa.


Re:charge 'em (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289927)

I'll buy your idle customer list for $80.

I'm confused... (2, Insightful)

Dimensio (311070) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290069)

You had a situation where you could do five minutes of work and be paid $240 for it, but you cut people off because they did not space their support calls in such a way so that you would do more work for the same money?

Re:I'm confused... (3, Funny)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290254)

Yeah, I was young and money wasn't all that important to me. Now I'm old, and I like the comfort of job security, but if I was still contracting I'd love to find suckers, err, I mean, devoted clients, like that again.

Re:charge 'em (5, Informative)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290106)

Yep. I call it the "security blanket syndrome" - because it makes people very comfortable and gives them a strong feeling of safety to know that if they have a problem, no matter how rare such problems are, that the guy to fix it for them is right there. And let me tell you -- it is VERY profitable.

I myself discovered it by accident. I was getting burnt out with a particular client, but I didn't want to just shut down the connection. So, I decided to raise my rates until they 'fired' me for being a geedy bastard. I tripled my rate, well into the triple digits, and they did not bat an eye.

In fact, as my client as gone through a fair amount of managerial turn-over, hardly anyone left knows what my original billing rate was and I am now perceived as more important and more valuable than I was when I walked in the door in large part due to how much more expensive I am than any of their other contractors and all I really do is give advice to people and put out the occasional fire. Lots of time for slashdot during the day.

So, now I am totally burnt out on this boring, tedious gig - the rest of my life is a total mess, but if I can suffer through another year of this, I will be able to retire well before 40.

This phenomenon is also one reason I am a strong believer in the service business-model for Free software. Selling high-quality, highly personalized service to be big corps with deep pockets can be very profitable.

Re:charge 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289850)

Bah, just killfile them. You'll never have to hear from them again.

Re:charge 'em (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290161)

I have a "Dilbert" stuck up at my desk that is a particular favourite. A "Ted" comes to Dilbert and says "Hey, Dilbert, Would you mind stopping by my house after work and seeing if you can fix my computer?" to which Dilbert replies "Sure, and while I do that you can be at my house cleaning the grout in my shower."

Two words: (0, Troll)

Musteval (817324) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289551)

Xacto. Knife.

Wait... what? (1, Interesting)

hahafaha (844574) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289552)

I'm sorry -- I think I probably misunderstood something. Are you saying that you are providing support to someone even though the product in question was not sold by the company? Are you doing this during company time?

If this is the case, this is unacceptable. It just makes no sense.

Re:Wait... what? (2, Interesting)

WhyCause (179039) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289686)

I think (I'm not the OP, so I can't say for certain) that this 'customer' is an aquaintance/friend who calls up every now and then to ask for help. We've all been there, heck, sometimes we even offer to help the first few times. The goods ones offer you a beer or two and snacks. The bad ones don't even try to make small-talk when they call you up ("Jim? It's Bob. I need you to come over and...").

To get back to the original question, however, here's how I've done it in the past. First, I defer once or twice (i.e., "I can't come over tonight. Maybe next week?"). Next, I give them a list of sites/programs that might help, if they take the initiative, this list generally helps them. Thirdly, I tell them that I'm just not going to be able to do it anymore, and try to suggest some one who can (generally for money).

I can appreciate how you may not want to hurt the customer's feelings (especially if you want to remain on good terms), so the trick is in how gently you let them down. I've had some people figure it out on their own after defering, for others, I'm perennially in the "try this, this, this, and this, and call back if it doesn't work" phase. I've only had to tell one person that I couldn't do it anymore (computers aren't my primary business, and they weren't paying me anywhere near enough for my time and travel).

If you look at how I've described it, it's almost like breaking-up. The real trick is giving them good reasons as to why you're dumping them in a non-judgemental way. Myriad family problems seem a good enough reason to me, but if they overreact, well, do you really want to hang around them anymore?

Avoid the problem altogether (5, Insightful)

fotbr (855184) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289556)

I know its too late, but the simple solution to the problem is to not provide support in the first place, unless you're being paid specifically for that support. Either way, refer them to someone who is willing to make a job out of support.

Re:Avoid the problem altogether (5, Interesting)

fumblebruschi (831320) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290023)

I had to slide out of providing support for my mom, which took up a lot of (exasperating) time.

My mom is in her seventies, and wanted a computer, because she wanted to use email because she doesn't like feeling left out. Fair enough. So I set up an idiot-simple Linux laptop for her, hiding all icons except Firefox and Thunderbird. "This one is the Internet; This one is email."
The problem is, that wasn't simple enough. My mom kept calling me with imaginary problems. She thought the laptop had crashed, because the screen saver came on. She accidentally minimized the Firefox window and thought she'd deleted it. No amount of explanation could make it clear to her what the scroll bar was for; whenever anything was off the screen she thought it was gone. Honestly, it was driving me insane. Restraining myself from saying something like "RETARDED MONKEYS can do this! You have two masters' degrees! What the hell is your problem!" was practically giving me an ulcer.
However, she provided the solution herself. Somehow or other she realized that the system I'd set up wasn't "what everybody else has" (probably one of her friends saw it and told her) so she became convinced that the whole problem was that I had set her computer up wrong, and if she had Windows and Outlook like everybody else, she wouldn't have any problems.
Off she goes and gets whatever the clerk at Best Buy told her was good. Of course, she can't use that either, but MY problem is solved, because when she calls for help I just say "Sorry, Ma, I don't know anything about Windows. Call Best Buy." End of high blood pressure.

So hey, it turns out Microsoft is good for something after all.

Re:Avoid the problem altogether (0)

WiseWeasel (92224) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290229)

Should have encouraged her to get a Mac. At least she'd have an easy-to-use system and good support options. Linux has no support, and Windows is crap... it's not your money, so that's not really your concern. If you can use Linux, surely you can set up OS X for her (email and ISP settings and such).

Re:Avoid the problem altogether (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290127)

Yup, I've had people refer pests to me. For a hundred an hour,(use whatever rates would make you happy) show right up, answer their questions, fix stuff, stop off at the bank on the way home, and go back smiling next time.

We all have our likes and dislikes...I also had a great paying client, but got tired of fixing the same things all the time, so referred her on to someone who was happy to get the cash.

No reason to do stuff and then resent it, when you can make everybody happy.

Business is business (5, Insightful)

trewornan (608722) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289560)

This is a really simple business decision - these are the customers you don't want, you need to get rid of them to have a healthy business. Dump this guy, politely, but firmly. "I'm sorry but I'm not going to be able to provide support any more because priorities have had to change and I won't have the time, it's nothing personal it's just business".

If the guy takes it badly, that's his problem.

Re:Business is business (2, Insightful)

Loconut1389 (455297) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289704)

I'm not sure I'd directly say that customers aren't a priority (because he'll certainly take it that way) and that could get around. Negative PR spreads faster than positive. Don't breed enemies. This is not to say you shouldn't dump the guy, but different phrasing might be worthwhile.

You: Good afternoon _______, what can I help you with today?
Customer: ............. blah blah ..........
You: I understand what you're telling me, but I have to tell you that this is outside of what the management has authorized me to offer support for. I know that I've helped you with these types of issues in the past, but I really have to stick to the guidelines from now on. Is there anything directly related to one of our products I can help you with today?

now that's just an idea, but I think it takes the pressure off of you as a support rep and puts it on the customer and the management in a nice way.

Re:Business is business (3, Insightful)

GoofyBoy (44399) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289728)

>I'm not sure I'd directly say that customers aren't a priority (because he'll certainly take it that way) and that could get around.

Between my family and personal relationship life and business life/customers, the later doesn't even rank close.

I wouldn't care if it get around. "I failed to perform to what a customer expected because I had to handle my personal life." is something I can easily live with.

You can ALWAYS get other customers/bosses/co-workers but you can't get another family.

Well you could... (0)

0racle (667029) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289562)

Tell them to go to hell.

A man can dream can't he?

Re:Well you could... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289876)

I do the same thing - you are not a doormat. Just tell yourself that. Then tell them to go "FUCK THEMSELVES" - then leave it up to them to respond....


Try telling them the truth? (5, Insightful)

nxtw (866177) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289567)

Why not tell them the truth, and if you need to, give them the name and number of someone that would gladly help them. Perhaps you can find someone that could use the money, such as a student...

I find that increasing rates also helps, as previously mentioned.

Re:Try telling them the truth? (3, Insightful)

mboverload (657893) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289606)

Honesty is the best policy...most of the time.

Lucky for you, this is one of those times. Just explain the situation and if they are an understanding friend (like you appear to make them out to be) they will thank you for all the help so far and go find someone else.

Re:Try telling them the truth? (1)

Oztun (111934) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290021)

I agree 100% and am sure they will understand. If they don't then they weren't worth helping in the first place. I have been a tech since 94 and have had to cut off lots of friends and family from support. Now days I charge everybody something (at least 35$/hour). I'd love to help everyone but I have a life to live. In return I always make sure people who help me get something out of it.

Re:Try telling them the truth? (2, Insightful)

PepeGSay (847429) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289735)

Honesty in this situation is the best policy. Help them by transitioning them to someone who can provide the service they need, and temper your brush off with an honest statement of your situation. Honesty isn't telling them every boring detail of your life, but you *can* tell them "I am not able to provide the support that you have been receiving as a part of my other services any more. I can either charge you X or you can use Y service/person/some other tech guy I recommend."

You should be charging a fair market rate for your service. A person who calls you with every minor question is a dead give away that you are charging too little. However, if you can't provide good service due to life constraints at any price then you need to transition them to someone else.

Grow a backbone (4, Informative)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289569)

You don't say whether this is a personal relationship or not, but either way, just explain your situation and point them to Geek Squad at Best Buy. If it's personal, they'll understand that it's been a rough year. If it's a business relationship, then screw 'em. They're going to keep asking as long as they get free customer support. Again, tell them your time situation is such that you can't do it anymore, and that's it. That's a lot easier than a personal relationship.

The bottom line, however, is that you need to learn to say "no". It really is OK to not give out free customer support to people, even if they're friends or family. If friends/family don't understand that you're not up to it after the year you've had, they're not much in the way of friends anyway.

Just be sure to give them an alternative, then it'll at least seem like you care about them getting a solution.

Re:Grow a backbone (4, Insightful)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289707)

It really is OK to not give out free customer support to people, even if they're friends or family.

True enough, although I would never say no to my parents. Cleaning out their spyware is a very small return on their investment. You'll feel better for it too, unless you are a totally hopeless person.

Re:Grow a backbone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290048)

I gave up on cleaning out my parents spyware.

They are now running Linux and don't know who this "root" person is.

Re:Grow a backbone (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290207)

True enough, although I would never say no to my parents.

Yeah, I should've made an exception for one's parents. The in-laws are pretty hard to say no to, too. :)

Re:Grow a backbone (1)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290030)

Ew. No. Best buy = BAD. Geek Squad = BAD. Have you heard the horror stories?

Re:Grow a backbone (1)

Todd Knarr (15451) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290211)

I for one have. Which is exactly why I'd point someone like this case at them. The two deserve each other. :)

Re:Grow a backbone (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290215)

No kidding. I've fixed my sister's laptop twice after the Geek Squad got their grubby little hands on it. One of the times, the RAM wasn't firmly in the slot, and the "work" they were doing shouldn't have required them to touch the RAM. I think they just let monkeys throw hardware around the room, and sometimes they get lucky and actually fix the thing.

Re:Grow a backbone (1)

iMaple (769378) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290031)

[i]just explain your situation and point them to Geek Squad at Best Buy. [/i] Please dont do that unless you really hate them... or maybe the 'geek squad' at your BB is better than what we supposedly have here. A friend of mine once paid a ridiculously large amount (around 50$ ) to get copy of an antiviurs that she bought (notincluded in the $50) installed. The best option is to find some college student to do it for you and pay him well.

Re:Grow a backbone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290078)

It really is OK to not give out free customer support to people, even if they're friends or family

Ditto that. Terrible time of year to say this, with Mother's day right around the corner and all, but I actually shut off my Mom. It had gotten to the point where every phone call I received from her included a laundry list of computer woes. To make matters worse, half the time she wouldn't even take my advice; which quite frankly never really bothers me _unless_ it comes around and bites me in the ass, which it would. A week later, another phone call, same or similar problem which could have been averted.

Point is, family can be the _worst_ people to support, because, well, families can be just whack to begin with. So I told her enough is enough. If you have a relative who's a car mechanic, do you expect them to fix your car for free? If you have a relative who is an airline pilot, do you expect them to give you free rides? If you have a relative who is a prostitute, do you expect, umm, well anyway...

You know what I finally told her? I said "If you don't dump your Windows PC off the roof and buy a Mac, I will not ever help you with your computer ever again." Seriously. She didn't like it. She did it anyway. I had to answer a couple of questions when she first got it, and I haven't heard about her computer since.

Everyone who is in a position to do the same thing should. Really. Stop the insanity.

Send them to Geek Squad (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289571)

That will get them off your back.

Re:Send them to Geek Squad (1)

Knight Thrasher (766792) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289667)

Yeah, doesn't matter if they're personal friends, business customers or relatives - they'll never WANT to speak to you again!

Re:Send them to Geek Squad (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290175)

OMG! send them to the gutter trash of the IT world?

you get a job at "geek squad" if you cant get a job doing IT anywhere else.

Those people are the most INCOMPETENT on the planet. Dell tech support is better.

never EVER send someone to geek squad. Unless you hate them.

You say to them, quite bluntly... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289573)

..exactly what you said above.

If they're any kind of decent, understanding human being, they'll figure out pretty quickly that they should give you some space.

I wouldn't feel bad about cutting off an end-user - I mean it's not like your being selfish with your own time, there are plenty of other people out there that could support them while you need a breather, they need to understand that. Period.

An idea (5, Funny)

Mr_Tulip (639140) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289575)

Just tell him/her you are unable to do it during work hours, as it is too busy / against company policy / whatever. Offer to help him out if he brings his PC to your house after hours.

Then move far away.

This worked for me

Re:An idea (5, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289675)

Offer to help him out if he brings his PC to your house

Definitely works.

They figure its easier for YOU to come over to their place than it is for them to:

  1. unplug everything
  2. bring it to your place
  3. set it up
  4. wait while you fix it
  5. unplug everything
  6. bring it back home
  7. set it up
... because they don't value YOUR time as highly as they value THEIR time.

I've seen systems sit on the floor for half a year in other people's homes, inoperable, because people are too lazy to bring them over, so they use this as an excuse to buy a new one ...

Wait long enough, and those systems become yours for free. Great for spare parts.

Re:An idea (1)

m_hemaly (886170) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289689)

Ha. I one-upped you and moved to a different continent.

Re:An idea (2, Funny)

Odocoileus (802272) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289742)

You don't have to move far away. Just have their phone number(s) blocked by your phone company. Label their email address as spam. Keep the house dimly lit at night (also good for the light bill) and mount a webcam near the door so you can identify people before you let on that you are home. Throw in some extra special touches like always leaving a few days worth of newspapers outside your house.
An alternate move might be to fake a stroke or something and play dumb. This is probably the easiest solution because it requires no extra setup outside of when the people are actually near.

Use the Earl method (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289576)

Have a friend give them a wet ACDC shirt and tell them you drowned. Works every time.

Why not the truth? (2, Informative)

Rick Zeman (15628) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289579)

"Sorry, but due to other commitments I don't have the time or the inclination to deal with your issues now."

"/." service. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289581)

"Cutting Off an Over-Demanding End-User?"

Damn. Taco's going to put the smack-down on someone.

If you are on a mobile (1)

Duc de Montebello (751651) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289586)

I am about to go into a tunnel... then hang up.

Gotta SELL the tunnel (2, Funny)

Maximilio (969075) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290065)

"I'm about to go into a pplhplhphlph tunn zxhdksh phplh losing coh . . tah . . plhlplhplh . . "

THEN hang up. Gotta put some effort into your act!!

Good idea (5, Funny)

Schraegstrichpunkt (931443) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289607)

It's great that you've asked Slashdot users -- a community that is known throughout the world for its tact and ability to handle delicate matters -- to help solve your dilemma.

Re:Good idea (1)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290100)

Seriously! And the responses!!

Let me summarize:
treat it like you're breaking up a relationship
charge them/raise the price
tell them to ask/suggest someone else for help
variations on the above

When did Slashdot grow a pair of balls?
What ever happened to the passive approach?

Stop answering the goddamn phone. Hide. If you see them in public, duck and cover. Pretend you have amnesia. Do anything to avoid a confrontation.

Some problems you can ignore and they will solve themselves.

Re:Good idea (1)

Cylix (55374) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290251)


We are going to setup a paypal fund for a Colt .45 and send if off with the message, "You know what needs to be done."

All in all, I think the simplest solution is often the best.

of course (4, Insightful)

spir0 (319821) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289612)

well, of course they'll keep coming to you, because you're free, and you never say no. One or both of these has to change.

Mo' money (4, Insightful)

loftwyr (36717) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289618)

I wound down the suport aspect of my business a while back but the only way to get rid of the support people was to start raising the rates so they would find someone else.

I don't know what you charge now, but start upping it fast. Increments of 25% is a good way to wean people off stupid calls. You can always charge less, later. Demanding a 3 hour minimum is a good way to go as well (even 4 hour minimums).

introduce a new EULA (1)

scum-e-bag (211846) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289619)

Give away a new exciting and free upgrade with a compulsory EULA attached. In the EULA state that tech support is now limited to 1 call a month/year/never.

Automate the response... (2, Informative)

euxneks (516538) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289626)

Automate the response -- it may sound like a bit more work, but I've tried it myself and in the long run it seems to work out well...
For instance, for a while I had to look up certain results in a DB for a user and it was happening so often I just created a web interface for them to look it up themselves -- granted, that's an easy fix and I probably should have had that in place in the beginning, but it cut down the amount of time spent trying to figure out why certain things were hooped by about 95%. Now, whenever my coworker contacts me, it's for issues that are most likely bugs and not for DB row queries.
  I understand that your situation is not exactly the same as mine, and my condolences for any hardships you are enduring - But perhaps there might be a way to automate this tech support for this user?
Another thing would be to talk to your superviser above you and if he or she is a good supervisor, they'll recognize the issues and try to find a solution that works for you.
Finally, if all else fails, just feign ignorance and the user will probably find another poor sys admin to hassle... =P

Simple (4, Insightful)

Maqueo (766442) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289630)

How about just telling them what you told us?

"I have too much shit on my plate right now to take care of your technical problems."

You don't even owe them an explanation, it's perfectly ok to set your boundaries as you wish them to be. If after that they still bug you they're not your friends, they're just parasites.

Good luck with everything man, hang in there.

Re:Simple (1)

sfled (231432) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289902)

Damn dude, I wish I could mod you up 'Insightful'...

"Good luck with everything man, hang in there."
...and 'Caring_Human_Being', too.

Do what I did... (5, Funny)

blanktek (177640) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289631)

Get a mac and then "forget" about how to use windows.

Word of the Day: Switcher (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289757)

switcher \'swi`ch &r\, n.
A person who thinks that they are a Mac user but are really just trying to be. The mistake they make is to try to become a Mac user, when real Mac users are all about not trying to be anything and following your own rules. There is no fashion code to being a Mac user. There are no rules as to what applications you have to run.

Recent converts like you are ruining the old school Mac community because you are posers. Apple releases one OS that popularizes Fitts' law and the Genie effect, and suddenly people assume being a Mac user is all about owning a Mac. But a real Mac user is born, not made. You "switchers" are misrepresenting yourselves and the Mac platform. You're giving people the wrong idea of what Macintosh is.

switcher: shops at hot topic, thinks Firefox is a good Mac app, waiting for OS X port of PayrollPro 2000, follows any hint of a fashion trend (instead of setting them!), wouldn't know Clarus from Carl Sagan.

real Mac user: someone true to who they are, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo. The ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world.

I did nearly the same thing.. (1)

scenestar (828656) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289836)

When I switched to linux.

Now whenever someone needs help with something I tell them that i refuse to work on windows systems because I'm "only familiar to debian".

Re:Do what I did... (1)

ahodgson (74077) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290098)

All my friends and family get from me is "I don't do Windows". Works like a charm, and it's true.

I don't understand... (2, Informative)

jlarocco (851450) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289642)

I don't understand why you're oligated to fix this person's computer.

Are they paying you? Raise the price. If that doesn't work, raise it again. Problem solved.

If they're not paying you, tell them to fuck off. It's not your problem that they're too lazy to figure it out themselves or too cheap to pay someone else to do it.

I don't know, but I know someone who does... (3, Funny)

DeathToBill (601486) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289648)

The Mighty [] BOFH [] ! All the advice you need (and plenty you don't) is contained therein.

Easy as ABC (2, Insightful)

hobbit (5915) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289672)

a) If they're paying you for support: Bump up the price.
b) If they're not paying you for support: See (a)
c) If they keep asking for support at the new price: Hire someone decent and take a cut!

Go to Staples (2, Funny)

Pete LaGrange (696064) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289683)

and get a ridiculously expensive price list printed up. After the next free service call, hand them the price list and tell them you're starting your own small service business. Make sure to emphasize your desire that they remain a loyal customer.

Dunno about you, SpaceNeeded (0, Troll)

hobbit (5915) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289694)

Dunno about you, SpaceNeeded, but for anyone else who wants to cut their support calls, just give them SpaceNeeded's email address, 'cause he seems to take on support even for systems he didn't supply.

Easy! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289695)

Just do [] like the BOFH [] , and all will be well.

Protecting people from themselves = bad (1)

Stormwatch (703920) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289700)

You are protecting that person from his/er own actions. What is his/er incentive to be careful and not click whatever "free emoticons / screensaver / pr0n" button that may appear in front of him/er, if s/he has some sucker to keep fixing it for free all the time? Make that person learn that actions have consequences.

Don't want a spyware-clogged machine, you annoying induhvidual? Choose:

1 - pay someone to clean up their shit
2 - avoid usual threats (MSIE, scuzzy emails, "free" junk, etc)
3 - learn to use a more secure operating system!

(of course, this is the principle, but try to sound nice, and sugarcoat the pill a bit...)

Honesty (1)

slasher999 (513533) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289732)

Be honest. Most people will understand that you have other responsibilities and cannot continue to provide support for their systems, especially ones they bought someplace else. For people who refuse to accept this and continue to bother you, are those really the people you want around anyhow?

Re:Honesty (1)

sfjoe (470510) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289969)

Most people will understand that you have other responsibilities and cannot continue to provide support for their systems, especially ones they bought someplace else.

You've never actually worked with the public, have you? The type of person who is abusing his willingness to help is the type of person who will NOT be understanding.

If it works for Dell... (1)

CanSpice (300894) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289739) can work for you. Forward your phone to a call centre in India.

"I don't do windows" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289744)

I get out of supporting friends' and family's computers by pointing out that I don't use windows and direct them to my dad. It's a bit of a white lie since although I do run linux at work and home almost always, I dual boot at home to play the occasional game and have admin'd windows boxen in the past. So even if I put together a box for them, I don't get calls about viruses and various other time-consuming silliness unless it is something complicated my dad can't figure out. :)

heh, I just realized it's actually a lot like my real job; where I am isolated from end users and only get called in to look at something complicated the support department or other devs can't figure out. ;)

The traditional method (-1, Flamebait)

dtfinch (661405) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289749)


Make a sale and focus on your core business. (1)

twitter (104583) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289774)

A customer who has "little interest in PC systems", multiple PCs and spyware problems is eating your time.

Before the regular cries of 'Supply Ubuntu' get too loud - that will _not_ work. They aren't up to Windows after a couple of years, and will expect interoperability with Windows systems (through college/employer) and don't have the technical skills to manage a *nix system.

There's so much screwed up here and your personal losses should emphasize that. Sell them a new computer to get the work done that you support. Put on an OS you know well and can administer remotely via OpenSSH and make the whole deal worth your while. You are not responsible for the rest and should quit wasting your time on it.

The ease of use of free software will surprise you. My wife and four year old girl work KDE's desktop with ease. I manage to get along very well without Windoze with less effort than my Windoze using peers, despite continued compatibility breaking changes M$ throws out constantly. I know several people like that who have all sorts of jobs in primarily Windoze environments.

Your customer's institutions and software vendors have failed them. The customer does not have the skills to manage a Windoze system but that's not their job, is it? The end result is less than interoperable with any network other than the botnet. These are not your systems or your problems. Make the University/Company IT support your customer outside of your system's unique product, regardless of what OS it runs on. It's not your job to set up email and you can't do it because you don't run the mail server for example. If the company won't make life easy for it's own, you can't either. Don't pretend that you can solve all of their problems. If all you do is sell hardware, you don't have any more obligations than Dell does for software.

Your losses should give you some resolve. Your time and your life are limited. Spend your work time with customers and more of your time with your friends and relatives.

I'm sooooo glad I don't do Windows and don't have to.

Ah, the classic problem (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289838)

They don't value you, so they aren't thinking of the costs to you, or the worth that your actions might have for them. Instead, they feel entitled.

It is very scary.

First, you have to charge... (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289875)

...if you aren't charging for support to a computer you didn't supply, or supplied while giving no illusions of personal support, then you are getting screwed. Expertise and personal attention together is worth something. I even charge my grandparents, though at a heavily discounted rate. I can't afford to divert much time and gas to help them, so them paying me makes it a little easier.

This is what I do... (2, Interesting)

coolgeek (140561) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289949)

"I don't support home users, because it would cost you less money to simply purchase a new Dell box than it would to hire me to fix your spyware infestation"

Your reasons to charge aren't good (1)

pcguru19 (33878) | more than 8 years ago | (#15289971)

Look, you can't change the way you work because of what happens to you away from work. Having personal problems is no excuse to change the way you do your job. The company that pays you and the customers that pay them deserve the same effort while you're at the office regardless of what's going on in your life.

Re:Your reasons to charge aren't good (1)

Courageous (228506) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290061)

I'm not sure, but I believe that it's his company your referring to.


The truth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15289990)

Tell them that you've lost two relatives and a third is in a pretty bad way in hospital. An eleven year relationship ended a couple of months back, and you're now having to perform _all_ the domestic tasks that used to be shared. Between these few things and your regular job you're finding that you have a whole lot less time to allow to support calls.

Considering your post clearly indicates that you did not supply the systems to him, and seems like you've been doing this as a favor since the beginning, there's no reaosn you can't tell him the exact same thing that you've just told thousands of Slashdot readers.

My favorite... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#15290049)

Caller ID supplimented with a malfunctioning answering machine ..

Always Charge - even family and friends. (5, Interesting)

spacecowboy420 (450426) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290062)

I always charge everyone. Now maybe I only charge a 12 pack or dinner or some trivial token, but they always know that my services are not free. I charge my mother, sister - everyone. If it's a quick question, I'll give them the answer, but I am quick to point them to a website or the help. Even when they do pay me, everyone is quick to thank me and I reassure them - "No problem, I do this for a living". One thing this has taught me is to use my friends talents. My realtor found me a house in exchange for a website waiving the realtor fee, my sister grooms my cat - for free. My friends that use me as a resource always know that there will come a day when I will ask for their help. I had a friend send a crew over to redo my lawn - for free.

Use the barter system. If your friend likes PC support, ask him for some help with _all_ of the domestic chores you have. Oh, and hire a cleaning lady, you can generally get one to come in twice a month for around $1-200 - then fix her computer for free cleanings :D


Spaceman40 (565797) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290108)

This isn't mean - it's fair. Everyone has something to trade with, even if it's just an IOU.

Alternatives (1)

Chris Snook (872473) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290072)

If you aren't resourced to help them, point them to someone who is. Even if it's a consultant who will charge them money, at least you're giving them an option, instead of just hanging up.

Take a passive agressive approach.... (1)

CFD339 (795926) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290081)

Just get slower, and slower to respond to people you think are abusing the privilege. By responding so quickly, you're training them to come to you. Take more time. Rarely will they complain, as they're well aware they're getting something for nothing and are abusing that favor.

Managing Expectations 101 (1)

catdevnull (531283) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290107)

You have to be honest about what you're in it for:

-First thing you tell people when you build them a system is that you don't do tech support unless there's a problem with the hardware itself.

-Second, if they need system level support, recommend a friend who does it.

-Third, if that doesn't work, declare that the going rate for computer tech support is $75/hour. For a min. of 2 hours.

-Fourth, if they're still insistent, get new friends and don't answer the phone :)

A friend of mine who is a doctor gave me some great advice about all the "free professional advice moochers:"

  Intrusive Acquaintance: Say, I have this pain in my leg and some blood in my stool...
  Target of Instrusion: That sounds should see your doctor about that...

There's also great Dilbert cartoon:

Office mate: Dilbert, how 'bout you come over to my place tonight and fix my computer?
Dilbert: OK, while I do that, you can go to my place and clean the grout in my shower!
Office mate: That's crazy talk.
Dilbert: Well, I'm not the one who majored in "Comparative Literature."

Maybe you can trade tech support for some help with those domestic duties you mentioned? :-D

Simple, but painful... (1)

SmurfButcher Bob (313810) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290162)

First, avoid suggestions about ignoring these people. This will simply get you labeled as unreliable.

Instead, simply state - "I have no free time for free work anymore... so my free time now costs $x00 per hour in one hour increments. What time would you like me to show up?"

You can sugar coat it all you like, but this MUST be the bottom line, and you must be verbose about it. You simply do NOT have any free time anymore. Literally.

Unless they are willing to trade some of THEIR time for these domestic chores, etc... stranger things have happened, after all... and once you've placed your cards on the table, your friend might quite like the idea of reciprocation. I once got paid in lawn mowings, for example. :)

Hope things work out for ya -
- sbb

Do what I did (4, Funny) (213219) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290178)

Run over their dog on the way out of the driveway.

What I do... (1)

TavisJohn (961472) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290179)

If I did not supply the system, I give them 5 - 15 minutes. After that I tell them that this task is to large to handle like this. I offer to fix the problem for them for a fee. Too many people think that Tech Support is FREE no matter WHO supplied the system and what support # you call. My time is valuable, and if I did not supply the system, then they should call who did, or compensate me for the time I spend helping them with their system.

Make them do things for you (1)

krumphau (965629) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290186)

Tell them you'll do support for them if they do your household chores for you. Might sound a tad mercenery, but from the sounds of it your effectively cleaning up their computer for free so why shouldn't they clean your house. Alternatively they might have skills you can make use of for example doing things such as proof reading in exchange for your services. This would free your time up to do the easy task of fixing their poorly secured systems.

Sounds like a common problem. (1)

emjoi_gently (812227) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290193)

You have friends, relatives, workmates... they say "Somethings wrong with my PC". And because you are a leet computer dude, you fix it for them happily, with a bit of pride in your own abilities. Doing a something nice for a friend.

But they keep on coming back. You find that your kindness means you have a small collection of PCs in the spare room to be debugged from various people.

It's then that you start to get peed off. You realise it's gotten beyond a bit of friendly help and it's eating into your life too much. It's even damaging your relationship with those people. You resent them laying the burden on you, they get upset that you've taken a month to give back their PCs.

So you try and say "No".... but, it means that out there is some PC that can't connect to it's ADSL or something. The PC nerd in you can't handle that sort of bug in a computer that is in your "network". It hurts.

why don't you stop being such a dick (1)

robix_mevdev (220397) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290194)

Hey man,

separate work from life.

You shouldn't take out your inner problems on your work people.

Don't take it personally. It is just software. Deal with it.

Speak up but avoid TMI (1)

CharlesEGrant (465919) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290214)

I'm not clear whether this is a matter of helping out an aquaintance or of going the extra mile for a loyal customer. Either way, I think the answer is simply to tell them that prior commitments and obligations prevent you from helping them out. If it is a close friend, you can give them as much detail as they'll stand to listen to. If it is a business relationship, I'd avoid giving them Too Much Information, all they really want to know is whether you can help or not.

A pain in the posterior... (1)

farrellj (563) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290219)

The company I used to work (let's call them ACROSS) for in North Carolina asked the developer of a popular open source program to modify their program, and offered to pay them a sum of money to do so. Fair enough.

But after we got the modifications working, my boss kept on insisting that since they had paid this developer money, the developer must continue to supply tech support...

The problem was, the contact was just to make the modifications to the application, and it ended when the program functional in the way it was specified in the contract. But my boss at ACROSS kept on insisting that they continue to provide technical support for this open source project. As is usual with ACROSS, they threatened to sue the they threaten to sue anyone who doesn't knuckle under to what they want.

The moral of the story is to make sure you put everything in the contract that you want, and everything that you are willing to provide...and do nothing more or less. And until we get rid of all the Lawyers, that is the only way to work in this sue-happy world we live in. :-(


Techno Babble (1)

yobjob (942868) | more than 8 years ago | (#15290240)

Throw it at them, thick and fast. Make sure you include every acronym known to the tech world. They'll look for someone else in no time!
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