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The 5 Users You'd Meet in Hell

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the what-no-robot-devil dept.

IT 649

cweditor writes "The Know-It-All. The Finger-Pointer. The Whiz Kid. "Just as a zookeeper cares for his monkeys one way and his rhinos another (we kid — sort of), so too should IT tailor its responses to fit the individual styles of its end users," according to this Computerworld "rogue's gallery of users (and one angel)". Includes advice on how to best deal with the most common types of users, without having to run screaming into the night. Expect sometime soon to also see reader feedback offering other ideas (and, oh, perhaps some disagreement with the article's)."

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The know-nothing. (5, Funny)

RandoX (828285) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671515)

I once had to help a user because she had accidentally rearranged the icons on her desktop and didn't know how to do her job. She had meticulously documented her job as follows:

Step 1: Click the third icon from the top in the second column [...]


Re:The know-nothing. (5, Funny)

dintech (998802) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671653)

I've seen someone very confused when the mouse reached the right edge of the desk but not the right edge of the screen...

Re:The know-nothing. (5, Funny)

Tackhead (54550) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671697)

> I once had to help a user because she had accidentally rearranged the icons on her desktop and didn't know how to do her job. She had meticulously documented her job as follows:
> Step 1: Click the third icon from the top in the second column [...]

That wasn't just any know-nothing. That was the team lead for your company's ISO 9000 programme!

Re:The know-nothing. (1)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671847)

Yesterday I told somebody how to type a ':'

- you have to use the shift key to get the symbols at the top of the keys!

Surprisingly common (5, Funny)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671977)

It's surprising how many people are like this. I encounter people this clueless on a weekly basis.

Me: "Right-click on your program shortcut and go to Properties..."

User: "What?"

Me: "The shortcut to the program."

User: "What?"

Me: "However you normally open the program."

User: "Ok, the program's open."

Me: "No, just right-click on that icon."

User: "So close the program?"

Me: "Yes"

User: "It says, 'are you sure you want to exit.' Click ok?"

Me: "Yes."

User: "It says, 'An error was encountered.' Click Send?"

Me: "No, click Do Not Send."

User: "OK, so go into the program?"

Me: "No, right-click on the shortcut."

User: "What?"

Re:Surprisingly common (5, Funny)

Sczi (1030288) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672265)

My favorite (aka, most hated) is along those lines, but not quite:

Me: click the thing
User: Ok
Me: click the next thing
User: Ok
Me: click the next thing
User: Ok
Me: right-click the next thing
User: what?
Me: click the right button on it
User: Ok
Me: click the next thing
User: Is that left click or right click?
Me: left click
User: Ok
Me: click the next thing
User: Is that left click or right click?

And my favorite question:
User: Is the Internet down?
Me: Is there panic in the streets today?

Re:Surprisingly common (5, Funny)

phantomflanflinger (832614) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672293)

You're lucky. This is what I get:

Me: Right-click on your mouse

Client: Hang on, I'm getting a pen. (PAUSE) OK.

Me: Can you see the context menu? Click Properties on it.

Client: Menu? What menu?

Me: Did you right-click on your mouse?

Client: Yes.

Me: OK do it again then.


Me: Can you see the context menu?

Client: No - nothing happens. I've written click on my mouse twice, nothing's happened and now I've got ink on fingers!

Re:The know-nothing. (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672235)

It's not funny! I'm a Mac user and the first time I encountered a multi-button mouse, I couldn't figure out how to click.

I wonder what category I belong to... (1)

Vicarius (1093097) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671539)

when I refuse to restart my computer as a "solution" to unrelated problem

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (5, Insightful)

Odin_Tiger (585113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671743)

"The Know-It-All" It is simply mind-boggling how often a simple reboot fix seemingly unrelated problems. Besides, if you're issue is really so important that I need to come down there personally and look into it, you're probably not getting much work done anyways, so what's the harm in starting a reboot while I start walking to your desk? Worst case scenario, it doesn't help, but you haven't missed out on any productivity.

If I ask a user to reboot their computer (which, by the way, means I think it might help) and they say it's unrelated, their just prolonging the time it takes to get the problem solved, because I'm just gonna reboot it myself when I get to their desk. Why not save us both a little time and just do it now? Who knows, it might even work, and that'll save us both a lot of time.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (5, Insightful)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671829)

In the rare instance when I actually need to call support, I'll perform the steps they ask even if I've already tried them and know that they don't fix the problem. After all, they're patiently trying to help you, so the least you can do is try not to stress them out by being a pain in the ass.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (2, Informative)

orclevegam (940336) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672337)

Reboots I don't mind. Power cycling I don't mind. Unplugging it all and plugging it back in I don't mind. I draw the line at using those damn wipe and restore disks. There are a couple OEMs I no longer use because when I called for tech support and the reboot and connection check failed to find the problem they told me to restore to the base image from the computers installation cd. That's not a solution, and the problem will most likely return, but only after it's taken me a few days to re-install whatever piece of software caused the problem in the first place.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21671987)

"The Know-It-All" It is simply mind-boggling how often a simple reboot fix seemingly unrelated problems. Besides, if you're issue is really so important that I need to come down there personally and look into it, you're probably not getting much work done anyways, so what's the harm in starting a reboot while I start walking to your desk? Worst case scenario, it doesn't help, but you haven't missed out on any productivity.

If I ask a user to reboot their computer (which, by the way, means I think it might help) and they say it's unrelated, their just prolonging the time it takes to get the problem solved, because I'm just gonna reboot it myself when I get to their desk. Why not save us both a little time and just do it now? Who knows, it might even work, and that'll save us both a lot of time.
Rebooting just hides the symptoms and the problem might occur at a much worse time. Reboot rarely solves any problems.
If you rely on rebooting to solve problems you will eventually spend all your time rebooting your computer because of multiple fixable problems.
If you really must restart something, please restart different services one at a time and keep your eye on the logs.
Find the cause and submit bug reports.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (2, Insightful)

CFTM (513264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672099)

Not sure if you're IT; but having done IT for a mere 3.5 years I have never once had what you described happen. Either the reboot instantly fixes the problem (because Windows probably did something stupid managing memory) or the problem persists in which case there is a bigger issue to be addressed. Three and a half years isn't a lot of time but my experience does not coincide with your perspective.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21672273)

Not sure if you're IT; but having done IT for a mere 3.5 years I have never once had what you described happen. Either the reboot instantly fixes the problem (because Windows probably did something stupid managing memory) or the problem persists in which case there is a bigger issue to be addressed. Three and a half years isn't a lot of time but my experience does not coincide with your perspective.
Oh sorry, you were talking about windows ;) Haven't used that in a while.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (1)

_xeno_ (155264) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672223)

I also detest rebooting, and will attempt to avoid it if I know that it's not a real solution and only solves the symptoms.

Of course, this aversion to rebooting might have something to do with IT installing so much crap onto the machine that it literally takes five minutes to boot. (It's actually kind of funny, I've compared my main Windows XP laptop's boot time to Ubuntu's - but it no longer matters, because Ubuntu starts faster than the IT-required encryption software. And I'm talking about loading the login screen, not doing any decryption. It takes it a good 20 seconds to get to the point it accepts input. And to add insult to injury, it refuses to accept input faster than about a character a second. Well, sort of. It really only breaks on mixed-case input, such as, say, a mixed-case password. Which, since it's not echoed, you can't actually tell is coming in incorrectly until you attempt to actually log in. Mind you, this stuff runs before Windows boots. It inserts itself before NTLDR.)

But then once Windows actually boots, I have to wait a half-age for the IT installed update software and the anti-virus software and the firewall software and the IT policy checker to finish loading before I can actually use the machine. And once that's done, it's time for even more loading to start up the email client and IDE so I can actually, you know, work.

So being asked to reboot the machine is the same as being asked to waste literally several minutes of time. I'd much rather solve the problem forcing the reboot than just reboot.

Of course, in the case of this machine, whoever wrote the wireless drivers were apparently retarded, because the wireless driver will occasionally fail to start. And when it fails to start, there's only one solution: reboot. (It also always fails to restart when resuming from suspend or hibernation, meaning I never suspend or hibernate, since I'd have to reboot anyway.)

So if the problem can be solved without rebooting, I'd much rather solve it that way. Even if it takes a half hour, it only has to prevent six reboots to be worthwhile.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (4, Insightful)

avronius (689343) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672285)

With the growing complexity of computer systems and the growing number of issues inherent in the system (regardless of the Operating System in question), I've found that most "system administrators" just don't care to research problems thoroughly any longer. The oft stated "reboot" only serves to postpone the inevitable visit to resolve the problem in the future.

Back when I was a "Windows Guy(tm)", I visited the desk for almost every system crash that was encountered by the user community. I admit that I, too, chose the occasional reboot rebuff when I was swamped with server issues. But I made a concerted effort to visit the user, and I was usually able to isolate the problems - generally related to faulty hardware or driver configuration.

Rebooting the computer will, in fact, resolve many things. For a while. Ultimately, most problems will recur. If it is software related, it will continue until the software problem is addressed. This could be the OS, and application, a utility, a driver, etc. If the problem is hardware related, it will also continue until the problem is addressed. And, it may end up costing you more money to replace any components that the faulty unit may be attached to.

Re:I wonder what category I belong to... (3, Funny)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671797)

That would be "the know it all". Those of you who think they know everything annoy the hell out of those us who do ;)


(going for "funny" so I'm sure they'll mod "insightful". [slashdot.org]

-mcgrew [slashdot.org]

Irony (5, Funny)

haystor (102186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671543)

There is strong irony in the IT worker complaining about the know-it-all.

Re:Irony (1)

notaspunkymonkey (984275) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671703)

no there isn't I know loads of IT workers and they do know it all :) I wonder if users have compiled a list of IT worker traits which they dislike. I used to work with a bloke who had mastered the ability to make the users think he was doing them a favor - instead of just the job he was paid for! - they would be overly grateful to him for having the time to help them.. I have no idea how he acomplished this, but he did. And would then return to the comfort of the tech room and play another level of his favorite FPS

Re:Irony (5, Interesting)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671845)

Agreed, I've seen help desk personelle fall into those categories listed in that document.

I'll admit, I fall into the wiz kid category, with a few smatterings of know-it-all (except I'm willing to admit I'm wrong if I screw up, and even temporarily take the blame while we wait to figure out what is really wrong, and I don't install things against company policy). A while ago I had an odd problem on my computer when dealing with a server (the IT area changed settings on the server a while ago related to the server-client connection, and something was cached on the clients computers and not updated). Anyway, the IT guy was the finger pointer. He kept trying to blame me for the problem - jumping from one thing to another, and I just stood there thinking "I don't care if I caused it or not, I want to know what was wrong, and how to fix it. If it was me, I'm more than willing to accept the blame, but without knowing what's wrong, we can't assign blame."

Turns out it wasn't me and everything he tried to blame me for wasn't the problem. Especially since several users have since had the same problem (The client caching things it shouldn't).

*sigh* I've been an IT help desk (like the person assiting me was), and I've been on the client end. As much annoyed as I got with some clients, I don't think the worst clients I've delt with are nearly as bad as the worst help desk individuals. Maybe it's just that I have a better personality for helping than being helped (a lot of clients asked for me by name), but I think part of the problem is that some IT desk people can get quite arrogant and put their users into two categories: Those that don't know nearly as much as they should know (the know nothings), and the people who know what they should while still knowing nothing and not having the possibility of knowing more than 'me' (everyone else).

Sorry about the rant, there are issues with both sides, client and help desk. Many seem to think their own side is perfect, but really neither is.

Re:Irony (5, Insightful)

haystor (102186) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672029)

I just don't like being treated as the enemy...and a dumb enemy at that. I fully realize I don't know everything about the desktop or why windows networking can take 30+ seconds to log on (what is it doing?!). But when I drag one of them over to show them how my build which is creating 5000 files takes 100x longer when the virus scanner is operating "on access" I expect an answer better than "corporate policy".

The unix administrators I've run across certainly have their tyrants but they eventually relent in order to let me get some work done. The windows side of IT seems perfectly willing to let work stop in order to conform to policy.

Re:Irony (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672117)

Corporate policy is there for a reason. I may not like it or agree with it (I recently ran into a corporate policy issue that broke some stuff majorly and I was scrambling to fix it), but in the end. As much as I disliked it, and didn't agree with the rational for it (like the virus scanner, it has obvious rational), I accepted it, because while I weighed the rasons not to as higher than the reasons to, those in charge didn't. They are paying me anyway. If they don't like the resulting delays, I'll tell them what happened and why, after they can either change their policy or accept delays - I've seen both results.

Re:Irony (1)

ZeroFactorial (1025676) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672105)

Indeed, while there are many categories, the "help" on the other end of the line
can be categorized into one single group.

This is because when you call tech support, they don't know who they'll get, but you can already
be assured that they're a know-it-all with a preconceived hatred/contempt/indifference for you.

And rightly so.

Re:Irony (5, Insightful)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672165)

The olde saying goes: People who think they know everything are particularly annoying to those of us who do.

There are more.... (3, Insightful)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671545)

1) the mad bcc cya artists, who propagate more messages than the worst spammers on earth

2) all of the millions of people that don't RTFM or help screens before lifting the phone and calling tech support; yes, the manuals and help screens suck, so did your chemistry book.

3) people that experiment with key configuration settings. Go ahead, click that DHCP button.

4) the well-intentioned, yet clueless. The road to hell is paved with good intentions.

5) fanboi bigots; these weak ego'd miscreants are so insecure that the mere mention of a competing technology will drive them into brutal defensive postures. Their reactions remind me of our current political upheaval

Re:There are more.... (1)

PinkyDead (862370) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671721)

One more...

The IT Manager. Because of a skills shortage most of them are Know-It-Alls who are desperate to hold on to their phony-balony job. They are trying to learn the job faster than those around them so no one finds out the truth (they probably have a book called 'Computers' on their desk) and they manage to create a process mess by ignoring good practice and established procedures so that they can be the one the invented the 'new' system.

They are naturally terrified of the 'Twentysomething Whizzkid', who has forgotten more than they will every know, but they speak the same language as the 'Entitled' CEO, so because he understands them, he assumes they know what they're talking about - but it's definitely a case of ass-u-me.

They are also extremely patronizing to the 'Know Nothings' and the 'Dream Users'.

Re:There are more.... (5, Insightful)

s20451 (410424) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671755)

all of the millions of people that don't RTFM or help screens before lifting the phone and calling tech support; yes, the manuals and help screens suck, so did your chemistry book.

But isn't it your job to be on the other end of the phone to answer a question in ten minutes that would take me an hour to figure out by reading the poorly-written book? If not then why am I paying for support?

Re:There are more.... (1)

postbigbang (761081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672343)

You have an obligation not to shoot off as in shoot-ready-aim just because you didn't want to do something that was unobvious to you. Yes, error messages suck. Yes, the manual and help screens were written in techicaljargonesegeekspeak. Deal with personal responsibility. Otherwise, we're sending you to India for tech support (with apologies to my Indian friends).

Re:There are more.... (1)

ch-chuck (9622) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671925)

3) people that experiment with key configuration settings. Go ahead, click that DHCP button.

The trick is to create some group policies so the user does not have ability to play with those key setting. Don't even let them have the change to muck it up. Good security is not granting access to things they don't need to perform their work.

Re:There are more.... (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671957)

yes, the manuals and help screens suck, so did your chemistry book.

But in different ways. Manuals and help screens didn't use to suck at all. The chemistry book sucks because it has too much information, while the manuals and help screens suck because they contain little to none.

The manual for DOS 3.1, an OS that fit on a 360k floppy was about an inch and a half think. The manual for XP, an OS that needs a 650 MB CD to hold, is about fifty pages. Thatt SUCKS. I feel like #2 in "the prisoner" and the software vendor is #6.

-mcgrew [slashdot.org]

Re:There are more.... (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672211)

The manual for DOS 3.1, an OS that fit on a 360k floppy was about an inch and a half think. The manual for XP, an OS that needs a 650 MB CD to hold, is about fifty pages.

To be fair, the manual for XP needs to be exactly as long as it takes to teach you how to boot, open the start menu, select 'help and support', and type in what you're looking for, at which time it will take you to wonderful help entries, complete with, as appropriate, step-by-step walkthroughs and troubleshooting wizards.

listen to the whiz kids (3, Insightful)

DriveDog (822962) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671593)

No, not just enlist their help with other users and throttle their access, actually listen to what they have to say and ask why they do things that don't align with policy.

Re:listen to the whiz kids (4, Insightful)

qortra (591818) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672113)

Yes, I must agree. IT guys are not at the top of the tech food chain; there are plenty of people in other fields who are just as capable if not more at that kind of work. In situations where you're the IT guy butting heads with the whiz kid, one of two things is happening:

1) The whiz kid is advocating a violation of protocol. Often, this is the whiz kid not understanding how things work for the average technology user. In this case, you probably should consider but ultimately reject the opinion of the whiz. In other cases, the opinion should be weighed carefully, keeping in mind that protocol should be adapted once in a while.

2) The whiz kid is telling you how the technology actually works (not how it looks from the perspective of the Windows Management Console). In this case, if you disagree (and/or accuse them of going to hell, as in this article), you have now become the know-it-all, and he is the expert. Show some humility, and try to learn. If he is eventually found to be wrong, your humility will only act as a slap in his face. If he is right, you have potentially avoided losing face.

Re:listen to the whiz kids (3, Interesting)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672367)

1) The whiz kid is advocating a violation of protocol. Often, this is the whiz kid not understanding how things work for the average technology user. In this case, you probably should consider but ultimately reject the opinion of the whiz. In other cases, the opinion should be weighed carefully, keeping in mind that protocol should be adapted once in a while.

Best way to handle that can be to tell whiz kid that yes, he's technically right, his solution is better in an ideal world. Unfortunately, you're left supporting 1 genius (him) and 499 mouth-breathing retards, so he can thank the retards for forcing you to do things even you'd rather not do. That way you can win his respect and, possibly, some sympathy.

Personally, I'm probably a somewhat older/more mature version of the 'whiz kid.' I see our poor IT guy swamped by users who fit very well into the other 'demon' user categories. Seeing what the guy goes through, I try to help him out as much as possible and give him long lead times on things I need. As a result, when unforseen things happen that very rarely require me to play the 'I need this NOW' card, he trusts that I'm not being a jackass and I really do need it (most likely, somebody else did the same thing to me and we're in the same boat).

I pay him back by helping out with our Linux systems since our Windows users usually keep him swamped.

whiz kid-esque (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21671595)

What if you fit the general category of "whiz kid," but you know your limits? I understand that I'm capable of learning things with a decent amount of exposure, and I'm more than willing to learn on my own time. But when asked (or told) to perform at the edge of my limits, I make everyone involved well aware that they're pushing the limits of what I know. So where does that leave me?

Re:whiz kid-esque (2, Informative)

eviloverlordx (99809) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671641)

That puts you in the rarefied air of the 'Dream User' category.

Re:whiz kid-esque (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21672183)

Or would, had he RT-whole-FA...

Re:whiz kid-esque (1)

zoward (188110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672195)

Dream user. One extra attribute of the dream user I didn't see mentioned in the article: "knowledgeably helps out his co-workers on occasion, deflecting simple issues that never even have to reach the IT help desk." It seems like many small groups within large companies have their own "computer guy/girl" who serves this function. This benefits IT, who don't have to handle a (minor) call, and the end users, who generally find it easier to ask the person in the next cubicle a question than to log to the helpdesk.

vi (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21671637)

The other day I was in a colleague's office. She's relatively new here. The network was awfully slow, and she wanted to edit a file. Emacs was taking a long time to come up, so we told her to just use vi. The file turned out not to need editing, so we told her it should work and left the room. I faintly heard her say "Wait, how do I get out of here" as I walked away. I almost went back, but didn't...

Or nano? (1)

tepples (727027) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672049)

we told her to just use vi. The file turned out not to need editing, so we told her it should work and left the room. I faintly heard her say "Wait, how do I get out of here" as I walked away. I almost went back, but didn't...
Moral: If you want a text editor with a text user interface but without its own desktop environment, and you can't be sure that your user is familiar with vi, use nano [wikipedia.org] , the one with the command list at the bottom.

Re:vi (1)

ktappe (747125) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672413)

Making fun of someone for not knowing how to exit vi is pretty extreme. It's quite possible for an emacs user to not know the obscure vi commands. I'd be the opposite--I use vi exclusively and would be hard pressed to use emacs. The standard control-C doesn't work to get out of vi, so maybe you need to get off your high horse and get some perspective on what a truly clueless user is.

Sysadmins in heaven??? (1)

damn_registrars (1103043) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671675)

I'm not sure that many sysadmins could ever qualify to make it to heaven. Don't we all end up at some point disqualifying ourselves by turning into BOFH?

Re:Sysadmins in heaven??? - BOFH and PFY's (1)

Mr Pippin (659094) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671863)

Hmmm, that kind of assumes God is not a BOFH.

If he is, the current BOFH's (or at least the ones effective at it) would revert back to PFY's in Heaven.

Or any combination (5, Interesting)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671701)

I nearly got fired by a Ms. Entitlement Finger-Pointer. Personal secretary for the president of an unnamed fortune 500 company has the president's Active Directory password, and ended up locking the account. This is where I got the "do you know who I am, I am the SECRETARY of mr. So and So. I was just a phone support operator. After a little bit of screaming and accusation, I figure out what the problem is and unlock the account. A week later, she locks the account again, conveniently right before the weekend. Next, I get an angry phone call from the president himself, demanding to know why his account is locked, because HE IS THE PRESIDENT, and is trying to get ready for an important meeting. I end up in a conference call with the secretary, who proceeds to tell the president that I've "done this to her before." Now we've established the finger-pointing. She'd successfully established my guilt as the baseline of the "discussion", and it was downhill after that. After that point, the writing was on the wall, and I got out of there after a few months. Basically, I ended up on the "list" and was not going to get off.

These people can ruin your job. I'm just glad that I was a lowly operator, it would really suck if I'd have had a good job there and this happened.

Re:Or any combination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21672221)

It is people like these that made me know I was never doing IT for a living. Underpaid, under-appreciated, and over-blamed. Yeah, this is not how I wanted to spend my years.

IT problem (4, Informative)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672283)

That's an IT problem, not a user problem. It should NOT give passwords to active directory, even to the company president. In a fortune 500, that's for the head of IT's off-site safe. No, not the safe with the mission-critical backups; the SMALL, discrete, more secure safe. The head of IT should also have been shielding you from that kind of BS, via laying down his own law at board level.

Re:Or any combination (1)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672405)

I used to get calls like this all the time, luckily I was in the happy situation of being completely justified and totally supported when I simply refused their demands. It was an out of hours helpdesk for companies who had outsourced their IT to us to run. Very few of them bought support contracts which allowed us to do all the things we could do in core hours out of hours so contractually we had no responsibility at all to fix peoples e-mail at 4AM on a Sunday morning.

Consequently we had numerous lengthy arguments where the "most important user in the world" would resort to all sorts of swearing and threats, and in one case crying but since there really was nothing we could do it was great fun.

those users are easy (1)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671709)

Just treat them with a little respect but make sure they know that there are rules. It's hard to have people listen to what you say if they think "well we're friends, he'll let it slide" but they'll become defiant if you're the complete prick IT guy.

I've found that being respectful but firm with all users they understand what they can and cannot do. If I treat management different than the cube grunts the management become the Mr. Elitist.

Typical Asshat IT POV (5, Insightful)

coinreturn (617535) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671715)

The article is, unsurprisingly, written from the typical asshat IT support person point of view. The article doesn't list the user who actually does know a lot more than the clueless freshly-minted IT support guy. As opposed to the "Mr. Know-It-All" who thinks he's an engineer, there are those of us who actually are engineers who are hobbled by Mr. Know-Nothing IT guys who operate blindly. I always laugh at the IT guy who does superstitious things like closing the Explorer window and re-opening a new one so he can navigate somewhere! Or tries the exact same operation four times, thinking it will work the fourth time! Every time some idiotic security application is "pushed" onto all desktops and fucks up my ability to update development software, some IT moron asks "well what did you change?" I remember a dimwit who claimed I needed a new computer because he couldn't figure out how get an encryption certificate working in Outlook. I kid you not, I got a new computer out of it.

Re:Typical Asshat IT POV (2, Interesting)

wile_e_wonka (934864) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672077)

I agree. There are lots of IT people out there who are actually skilled, but there are tons who think the IT title imputes knowledge on them somehow.

I went to my school's IT department because I messed up my MBR installing Ubuntu and needed to borrow the Windows install CD so I could run fixmbr in the recovery console. He had no idea what this so-called "recovery console" on the install CD was and had never heard of this "fixmbr" program. So I sat in his office and fixed my computer, but I couldn't help wondering how he rose to IT support. That's when I realized why so many students were complaining about losing all their data after taking their computer to tech support--their solution to every problem is "reinstall Windows" because they don't know how to actually fix the problem!

I resemble that remark! (3, Insightful)

greenguy (162630) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671719)

I was the Twentysomething Whiz Kid when I was, er, in my twenties. Then I went to grad school, and got a grasp on just how much there was left to learn. I've learned some humility, but even so, the computers at one of my jobs are so-so, and an absolute catastrophe at the other. The difference is that now I have an MSI, so I can articulate why they're a catastrophe.

The Techno-phobe (1)

Billosaur (927319) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671725)

There always seems to be one user in the office who looks at technology as if it were spawned by demons. They use it, because it is required of their job, but they distrust it, and if something they click on takes 5 ms longer than normal, there must be something wrong. They pine for the day of the typewriter and carbon paper, and hate it when anything is updated/upgraded/replaced, because they don't want to have to learn anything new.

I'd also add... (1)

syntaxeater (1070272) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671735)

The Rogue Complainer:

That's the one who is willing to "live with their problem" and use it as a "get out of jail free" card when the opportunity arises. Typically, they seek out the know-it-all or whizkid to help them get by, but the first time they miss a deadline; it's in your lap and it's a red flag issue.

Did anyone else look at this and go 'duh'? (1)

BobMcD (601576) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671747)

I mean, this sort of stuff is HelpDesk 101 around here. Are we ahead of the curve, or is the author just searching for something to write about?

The worst kind of user (1, Funny)

blhack (921171) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671791)

The worst user is a combination of the know-it-all, the know-nothing, and the entitled all rolled into one ungodly package. Yesterday morning i'm driving into work, and my blackberry gives the annoying *BLEEDEEP* of direct connect.

A little background: we have a DVR on our network that is accessible with a web-browser via *BARF* this nasty ActiveX control. It only works on IE, and only works if you're running as an admin (or with local admin privs)...wtf is wrong with developers?! WRITE FILES TO ~! THATS WHAT IT IS FOR! DO NOT CACHE THINGS IN C:\WIndows\System32\!
anyway, this guy NEEDS to be able to watch the DVR...(he is a senior manager). Now, we are also running a proxy server for all outbound HTTP connections. NOtice I said *OUTBOUND*. The firewall blocks all other outbound port 80 connections...meaning you HAVE to use the proxy.


him: "Hey you, its $firstname $lastname hows your morning!?" (let me interject here that after i tell him to go each menu and wait for an OKAY from him....he responds not by saying "okay", but by reading me the menu....the ENTIRE menu")internet options->connections->lan_settings. Is the box for proxy checked?"
him: "No"
me: "check it"
him: "Okay...theres MSN, now let me try the VIDEO...yeah, there it is....see yeah i needed the internet"...


this same guy will come into my office and demand that i come over and help him import cds into itunes, or install an updated version of flash so that he can watch videos on elfme.com....when i tell him that i'm busy with something, or that I haven't had time to do it today but its "on the list"...he laughs and sarcastically says "wow, you are just so buys all the time? work sure is stackin' up huh!?"

Guys like that are the reason most admins are alcoholics.

how do i deal with a user like THAT?

Mr. Panic (1)

rumblin'rabbit (711865) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671803)

A subspecies of the finger pointer is the flustered user. As soon as a problem comes up, his blood pressure soars, his heartbeat accelerates, he sweats glands go into overdrive, and his brain shuts down. Generally the cause of his problems are pretty obvious - all it takes is a little clear thinking.

I find dealing with them pretty easy. First you must treat the user. Get him to relax, have a cup of coffee, and explain the problem. He'll usually figure out the solution on his own as he does this. Otherwise get him out of your office so you can spend 5 minutes in peace solving the problem.

Long term, encourage him to have a work associate look at his problems before calling support. He probably won't do it, but it's worth a shot.

They need now the Tech-Support people... (1)

webmaster404 (1148909) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671805)

They now need to list the three Tech-Support people you would find there. For example there is the guy who doesn't know much English and doesn't have a clue what your problem is (as you hear the page flipping in the background). Then you get the tech-support person that even though you know the problem, they won't give you the solution you need. (I was on the phone for about 3 hours telling this guy that I needed a new motherboard for my laptop that a new power cord wasn't going to work.) and then the person who only knows Windows/Mac/Linux and refuses to even give hardware support if you are running something other then the almighty Windows/Mac/Linux even though the problem has everything to do with the hardware and if you were even running some OS written in assembly it still would have the problem.

The user that gives me more trouble than any other (4, Funny)

drb_chimaera (879110) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671809)

...the dreaded 'family member'

In some cases, like my dad, it's not so bad, he pays attention to the explanation of whats wrong and is usually pretty good about dealing with problems he's seen before so I rarely have to fix the same problem twice, plus he's as good at fixing cars as I am with computers and I'm *rubbish* with cars so that results in a pretty fair exchange of skills.

Other members of my family are *much* more irritating and would think nothing of calling me up at 3am because they have a paper due in at 9am that they left to the last minute and couldn't figure out why their printer wouldn't work (for reference: because the dizzy bint had unplugged it to charge up her MP3 player).

The really shocking thing is that several of my techie friends seem to have it even worse than me with their family!

In a corporate environment the worst I face on a day to day basis are those I classify as 'know just enough to be dangerous' - its a combination of a modicum of ability with computers combined with just the right level of arrogance that they know more than I do that leads to all sorts of problems.

Day to day though it's pretty easy - the place I work is only 300 or so people, which is small enough to build reasonably personal relationships with the various staff, so I generally know the best approach to deal with whomever is having a problem - up to and including who can I get away with calling a dumbfuck to their face, and which ones I should save to have a laugh about back at the pen ;)

Re:The user that gives me more trouble than any ot (3, Interesting)

Hatta (162192) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672131)

You can tell them no. Explain to them that you do that sort of thing for a living and it's not something you care to do without compensation. The only reason your family treats you like a doormat is because you seem to let them walk all over you.

Re:The user that gives me more trouble than any ot (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672255)

Absolutely. My wife is terrible when things go wrong.

Her computer is running slow.. it's *my* problems and don't *dare* go to work without fixing it, even if I'm late. She's forgotten her mysql password (again, FFS) and it's *my* problem to fix *immediately* even if it's 2am and I'm already in bed.

God help me if she ever deletes anything.. not only is that my problem I get hell for it for days because I didn't have the ability to wave a magic wand and recover it.

Easy tools for dealing with users. (1)

UncHellMatt (790153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671895)

Bless their black little hearts, and Microsoft for keeping me on the gravy train... But a very simple solution to all.

- One large 2x4, say about 5' long.

- Five or six nails, roughly 4"

- One large hammer


1) Choose which end of the 2x4 will be your "top" and "bottom" (no, not THAT type of "top" and "Bottom" you filthy minded little buggers!).

2) Toward the top end of 2x4, drive the nails completely through, so that one and has a lovely little array of nail points sticking out.

3) Hold the hammer in your right hand, toss the 2x4 out the window, find offending user, and smack them about the head with the hammer.

Problem solved, and quite a bit of fun and simple yet effective stress reduction.

How about the sys admin categories? (2, Funny)

shaka999 (335100) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671907)

Guess I'd fall close the the know-it-all category. Personally I'd like to see a list of the IT classes. Towards the top of the list would be the

Cookie Cutter

All users everywhere should have the same setup and run the same programs. The engineer working on software/hardware design has no need to use anything more/less that the receptionist at the front desk. Any "rogue" programs will quickly be blamed on why the computer is crashing. Even if they haven't been run in months.

The Tester

Any problem must be fully tested and proven before any action is taken. Of course its the users responsibility to do the testing. Having a crash/blue screen. Run tests for 5 days and take detailed notes on when it happens. The users project/schedules don't matter. If tests aren't sufficient or notes don't detail every last action help is denied.

The Swiper

Have a problem? The swiper is more very willing to help. They will take your laptop promising to return it within hours. Days later you still haven't gotten it back and you can't find the swiper anywhere. (note, yelling swiper no swiping doesn't seem to help).

When to stop (1)

wagr (1070120) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671909)

The article seems to me to read like a fairly tale: always be passive and engage your users is a gentle manner.

How about some advice on handling the difficult situations. Such as:

Sorry, I can't spend any more time explaining what those configuration options on the Advanced screen mean -- frankly, you aren't prepared to handle them. I have other folks needing support (sometimes paying more than you are). When you find a task that you are unable to perform, contact me again.

You know, you're being abusive. You're allowed to curse at the computer all you want, but I have to cut you off until you learn to communicate with a human being.

I'm sorry, customer, your problems with the system are significant enough that we're going to return your money and ask that you not contact us again.

Not just the users (4, Interesting)

Just Some Guy (3352) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671933)

Know-It-Alls often insist on doing things their own way. They change options and settings on their computers just because they can, and they have a tendency to connect devices and download software to their computers that IT does not support.

Even worse are sysadmins who think that every other tech in the company are Know-It-Alls that must be contained at all costs. At a previous job, I was tasked with installing a rather expensive server application. It was one of those nightmare jobs with a huge spaghetti-coded shell script installer. You know the kind: works great once it's running, but you better have things exactly right before running ./install.sh.

Anyway, one of its requirements was an empty Oracle database and an account with permissions to create the tables it would be using. Now, I'm sure our DBA was a pretty clever guy, and I understand that he had an important job, but he was a complete ass about giving me that empty database. After all, only a Trained DBA is qualified to know how your schema should be designed; never mind that we were buying the app and didn't have a lot of say over how it was set up. Since he and I reported to different bosses, it finally took a request travelling up to the VP level and back down (plus some not so veiled threats of a beating) to finally get the ability to install the application we'd paid about $50K for. Oh, and the installer ran perfectly the first time. You could actually hear his teeth grind as it completed without so much as a warning.

I'm sure in his mind I was a pesky Know-It-All who wanted nothing more than to make his life difficult. He probably complained to his friends about the thorn in his side at the office who wanted - can you believe it! - free reign over a corner of his beloved Oracle.

The moral is that sometimes the people "beneath" you really do know what they're doing if you can bring yourself to give them a chance.

From a top-down consultant's point of view (5, Interesting)

dada21 (163177) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671975)

Our company would be viewed as evil by some in the IT or the consulting industry. We sell ourselves as "the CEO's consultant." We openly admit that we're working to better the interests of the person in charge of the company, or the ownership, and not necessarily end users. We believe that by making a company more efficient, the employees will profit as the company does. Our 10 year anniversary is this week, and our world has changed greatly in terms of how we're viewed by the "common" employee.

First of all, if we have bad users, we're the first to highlight them in our quarterly and yearly billing breakdowns. The users who are surly, obnoxious, and complain the most are usually the ones who get the biggest chunk of the maintenance budget. Their name is usually at the top, and each user is also compared to the company average. Many CEOs and owners love our breakdowns, and look forward to them each quarter.

Secondly, the hard workers in an organization also appreciate our reports, which we request to be open if the company's policy allows it (about half do). They know who the jerks and deadbeats (Finger-pointer and Mr. Entitlement) are, and they're happy to be "below average" in terms of company burden. It is also those users/employees who like us the most because we give them extra-special attention when they really do have emergencies. The guy who cries wolf all the time is still served well, but most quickly learn that they'll be singled out at their next review -- "Why do you need so much support?"

The finger-pointer loses power under this system. When it is obvious that the finger should point to them (and that's what the report clearly shows) they have little in the way of demanding a change in consultant or operations. Most finger-pointers we've dealt with have been the first to leave or be fired, based on the clarity that we show to the owners to see who is bringing down efficiency. Since we've taken over some telephone system operations, we also generate a report that shows the delay in responding to voice mails (a skewed report in some ways, because we don't use a weight-system for people who get way more voice mails than average), and it's usually the finger pointer and Mr. Entitlement who ignore the voice mails significantly more than average.

The Whiz-Kid is usually a good person to have for us, as we are open to changes in our system. If the Whiz-Kid gives us a recommendation, we'll include it in our summary of recommendations, and give them the credit. If that recommendation is accepted, and it works, more power to the Whiz-Kid, maybe he should go off on his own and consult. If the recommendation fails, it's also his responsibility. But here's the good part: the Whiz-Kid doesn't have the time to take over our work, so it's not competition for us. Owners should know if they have a talented worker, but they should also be aware that the talented worker should do what his job description says he should do, or he should be moved to a different department. About 20% of our customers have attempted to hire in-house staff, but their costs go up, not down, and the service seems to get worse. Currently, we work with no business with an in-house IT guy (even one customer who generates over $100m a year in income).

The Know-It-All is not a problem for us, because every invoice we produce references industry recommendations or knowledge base articles as to why we do it. If the Know-It-All calls us out in a meeting (or otherwise), all we have to do is say "Maybe we missed something, can you point us to two industry experts who recommend that action?" So far, maybe 5% of Know-It-All complaints have led us to making changes, but 95% of them fail miserably. And no, slashdot is not a great place to grab links to recommendations, because it also usually has replies from other "experts" who recommend against the same idea.

The Know-Nothing is our worst user, and maybe the only bad one. Because some WANT to know more, but don't have the aptitude, it seems partially immoral to me to castigate them for wanting to do their job better, but not having the time, intellect, or drive to get there. I believe that an efficient user is someone who maximizes their work time properly, but that means that management has to see if they're overworked or underused. I see Know-Nothings who are so burdened with work that answering the phone is never done (management's fault). I see Know-Nothings who are very talented in other areas, but are stuck in their department because the HR team can't take the time to see where they'd be better. I've helped quite a few Know-Nothings become dream users by spending more personal time (or the time of my employee) to give them little nudges or clues in how to work better, but it can be and usually is a long term process, during which time they may quit or be fired because they weren't given the chance to become more efficient.

I do know that I prefer my system of working for the boss rather than working for the employee, because in the 10 years we've been incorporated, I've see many of the original complainers become managers or better, and now they can completely understand WHY we work that way. Even better, the newer employees who dream of climbing the corporate ladder also understand our philosophy of serving the top dog, since the top dogs we work with are very fair with bonuses, commendations, and raises when the company is profitable. I won't work for a company that doesn't pass the savings, and profits, on to the employees who got them there.

And then there are the real know it alls (2, Interesting)

joshv (13017) | more than 6 years ago | (#21671979)

And then there are the people who actually do know more than the support person tending their needs - and I am surprised the article doesn't address these folks. There is the tacit assumption here that the support guy is always more knowledgeable than the user. This is frequently not the case. I would really appreciate it if support staff could recognize that I actually do know what I am talking about and cut through all the crap.

No useful info (2, Insightful)

Lars Clausen (1208) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672003)

This article is fairly content-free. For all the categories, the answer seems to be "let the users bend you over backwards". Nothing useful.

Another one - the "It's got a virus!" user (3, Insightful)

Joce640k (829181) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672013)

The users who think their cluelessness is the fault of a "virus" in the machine.

The worst thing about these people is they all have a know-it-all friend/relation who'll came over at the weekend and install his pirate copy of Windows/Norton on the machine to "fix" it.

Now Windows won't validate and Norton, well, it's Norton...

Now the only way out is to reformat.

The Worst is Management (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672051)

I've done helpdesk and desktop support for several years mostly in academia, and dealt with all 5 archtypes, but all are managable if you have buy-in from management.

With the novice, you've got management hiring people in clerical positions that should have never gotten past the civil service exam. If you can't use Microsoft Word (or whatever productivity applications the institution uses), you shouldn't be hired if that is a significant job responsibility. Period.

With the "entitlement" king, you've got to have management that can say "Look, $EMPLOYEEE, your work is important but we've got 1 geek for every 200 employees, and there is a a 2-day SLA on this kind of work that IT has negotiated with upper management. You've known this for years, so if you're calling to get Excel installed the day the budget proposal is due, not only are you not doing your job proactively, you're completely out of line by asking IT to violate practices designed to keep the entire company running smoothly." Not only that, you have to have managers that understand that yes, even though you are a VP, your blackberry not working shouldn't be tasked higher than multiple users down due to a failed server.

With the thinks-they-know everything, you need a manager that trusts that IT truly knows best, so when he goes to his boss and says I need $SOFTWARE, (goes for the Whiz Kid too), and IT has already said "NO, $REASON", there needs to be an implicit level of trust that IT has a good reason. I've seen departments go out and buy Norton AV because their "ad hoc computer guy" said they should, even though McAfee was site licensed. In another case $PROFESSOR buys an unsupported scanner with grant money, and now IT is implicitly expected to support it because it is to be used in "university-blessed research." Not that IT is always in line, but management has to know that IT is stretched really thin and even if the rank-and-file geek installing $SOFTWARE says no, if there is a bona-fide business necessity for a software product, IT management should be on board.

This is especially true in academia where almost any IT best-practice can be thrawted by "academic freedom" (even though I love the doctrine, it is abused ad infinitum). MySpace.com choking down 95% of the campus bandwidth "Can't block it or QoS it, because academic freedom."

If I may, let me add one, the "I keep 20GB of baby pictures on the network because I can't go 30 seconds without looking at my kids and even though IT has told me to knock it off." -- I know they won't do anything because .JPG is to generic of a filter since there are legit .JPG files on the server and they can't just wax them all. Also, I know management is just going to say "just increase the quota and we'll ask her to 'stop' (even though they never will because they've got every screensaver, desktop toy, 50GB of ripped CDs, their iPod and a personally owned off-brand PDA/Smartphone you're expected to just "configure out of the box" while they drop it on the desk and disappear for 30 minutes leaving you no account information and just don't get it.)

Don't even get me started on "musical offices", the "I need my whole office packed up because I'm moving into the branch office today" with no previous warning, only to move back 2 weeks later because "Oh, I'm just filling in for someone and I know where everything is at on this computer." Its almost enough to make a poor geek weep.

to meet in hell, you have to be there too (1)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672109)

OK, there are some tech support people who don't belong there, but for most of the "reboot and call me back if it happens again" types, hell's too good for them.

Maybe we should talk about which ring of hell (either Dante's version of Inferno or if you prefer, Niven & Pournelle's updated version) they all belong in.

BOFH (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21672115)

Sounds like this person hasn't read anything on BOFH. Your not supposed top call the helpdesk.

Forget the help desk... (1)

IGnatius T Foobar (4328) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672163)

Forget the help desk ... I oversee network operations for a mid sized hosting center, and I get direct phone calls from people who think that they're too important for the help desk. They have no business making direct calls to anyone other than the help desk, but they do anyway. It's very difficult for me not to tell them to die in a car fire.

but what about... (2, Funny)

Sfing_ter (99478) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672225)

What about the user, that requires you stand their after you have fixed their machine, while they open all their programs and files to MAKE SURE that EVERYTHING works... sigh...

What about useless-waste-of-space sysadmin types? (3, Interesting)

skintigh2 (456496) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672261)

"I is an engineer!" admins
Sysadmins and wire runners who think one becomes an engineer simply by changing his title to "engineer." This makes for great fun when Systems Engineers (systems integration, production, platform, environmental testing, component, etc. engineers, usually mechanical but also electrical) look for Sys Eng jobs and the search engine keeps returning Sysadmin jobs that were mislabeled by morons who wanted a better title without the schooling. And no, getting an MSCE does not make you an engineer.

I-never-heard-of-that-problem-so-it's-impossible admins
We had network tools and browsers that would lock up for minutes at a time, all the time. I reported it again and again and was told it was impossible. I guess I was hallucinating for 300 seconds at a time repeatedly throughout a the day. Months later I mentioned it to an underling and within 2 minutes he changed DNS settings and everything worked perfectly. To the same admin, I asked him to either stop forcing my desktop to sync with their server's clock, or to set their clock to be at least 15 minutes withing the actual time, preferably withing one or two minutes. I was told that it was impossible to sync desktop clocks to remote computers and I was confused. I volunteered to demonstrate it by changing my clock and then waiting a few minutes for it to be changed back to the wrong time, but he was not interested, because it was impossible. That was 5 years ago and the clocks are still off, but only by 4 or so minutes now, not the 17 or 23 or whatever annoying number it was. I also asked why 50% of my hard drive was "reserved" and was told it was impossible, or I didn't know what virtual memory was (40GB of swap?). I caught him once and showed him, and he shrugged and wandered off.

Slaves-to-super-secret-policy admins
Briefly I moved in to (and later back out of) another building in the same company with different admins who had to follow corporate policy. That policy forced us, a computer security company, to use IE. An obsolete version of IE. And we were not allowed to install or change anything, no matter how minor. Our homepage was locked to a link that had been broken for over a year and we couldn't even hit "stop" - we had to let it time out before we could use the browser. I once requested a laptop for a 2 week business trip. I told them I needed admin privs so I could install a compiler. They said ok, gave me the laptop, and I was on my way. Once I landed on the other side of the country I tried to install the compiler and found I had no privileges. I called and asked wtf, and they told me they don't give admin privs. They had no explanation as to why they waited until I carried that boat anchor cross country before telling me.

Only 5? (1)

terrible76 (855014) | more than 6 years ago | (#21672341)

After being in IT for over a decade the stories pile up. The University Grad student who tried to plug the Mouse into the electrical socket behind her. The corporate Executive who started a fire in her office becuase she piled up papers and shoe boxes around the CRT monitor. The Librarian who threatened to sue the company because of spyware porn popping up on her computer since she missed typed ebayyyy. But in all if I had to think about all the support jobs I've ever done and the one person I'd never want to support again it would have been a good friend of mine who went through computers like ham sandwiches. One laptop was chewed by her laptops and she had a two hour agreement on if I was a computer expert how come I couldn't fix it! But when it comes down to it computers are like clothing for most people, you put it on, wear it out, through it in the laundry, and it comes back to you almost new. But US IT guys are the Laundry. Just wish we'd find some loose change once in a while.
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