I was supporting a product I had written and got a call from a frantic user. She said that the screen was going crazy and asked me to rush over to her office to see what was going on. I double stepped up two floors and hurried into her office. As soon as I got in I saw the problem and moved the notebook off her keyboard :)

What are some of your stories?


I will never forget this call from a user: "Hey!! After maximizing the window, the escalator disappeared."

The escalator turned out to be good old scrollbar.


A fellow co-worker had an AS400 that started going down between 1am and 2am every night. After all sorts of research and troubleshooting had been done on the server it was determined that someone needed to spend the night with the server. Well promptly at 1am the janitor walked in, unplugged the AS400, plugged in the vacuum and cleaned the room. My co-worker just stood there with is jaw open, when he asked the janitor if he did this every night, the janitor proudly replied, "Every night between 1am and 2am on the money."


In my previous job, I was part of a team that wrote custom software. One of our clients called us in a panic and told us about a new feature they absolutely had to have right away. We agreed and a couple of us worked insane hours for the next week to get it done. Every day we got several phone calls from the client asking when it would be done. Finally we sent it to them. Silence. Not even a "thank you".

Three months later they called us telling us that there was a problem with this feature. We looked into it and found that sure enough, there was a software bug. However, the nature of the bug meant that since the day we shipped it to them, nobody had ever tried to use this feature.

10 accepted

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In a summer job once I was working as a system administrator. Mid way through a day we lost a switch and didn't have a spare. After fielding calls about networks being down all morning I had a user unplug his computer and shake the network cable which had a kink in it. I told him sometimes the 1s get stuck in it because they are pointy.


This was a fellow programmer working remotely. She was trying to pull the latest development tree from CVS, and I was talking her through the TortoiseCVS setup. After unsuccessfully trying to describe each of the configuration items one by one, I decided to just send her my full connect string, and let her substitute her own userid. So I paste her this via AIM: :pserver:myuserid@host.domain:/usr/src/cvsroot. She copy/pastes this into her UI, and we spend the next hour puzzled why nothing is working.

It turns out that her AIM client replaced :p with a rude smiley graphic, but she blithely copy/pasted it anyway, resulting in a promising looking server:myuserid@host.domain:/usr/src/cvsroot. And they ask me what happened to my hair!!


I was doing cable modem customer service back in '99 and had a guy call in about a problem accessing the internet. I went through some basic steps and eventually wanted to check device manager so I asked him:

"Sir, please right click on my computer"

"Okay, I wrote click on it, now what?"

he replied. I had to mute my phone so he didn't hear the laughter. Eventually my supervisor had to take over the call, I just couldn't handle it anymore...


Long Ago, a colleague and I were walking through the office and we stumbled upon one of our users. She had one of our reports (on good 'ol green bar printer paper, the way reports were meant to be) on her desk.

We saw her taking the pages of the report, CUTTING THE LINES OUT, so she could paste them back on a new page in the order that she needed them in. She would then photocopy the report before sending it upstream.

We stepped up and mentioned "You know, we can do that for you." "Really??"

Mind this was an age when the computers and computer processing was expensive, so it's not a completely absurd user behavior -- they make do with what they have.

But our group was an upstart with one of them new fangle mini computers, and we were much more nimble and able to be a lot more responsive to our users.

In isolation, though, it's pretty funny in a /facepalm kind of way.


This is a programmer-as-end-user story with self-defecation.

A while back, I was telecommuting for a couple of months while visiting family out of state, so I was getting my paychecks by mail. One day at the bank I was filling out a deposit slip when I noticed that the company accountant had written a little note on the check stub that said "Hey dude, hope you're doing well." or something like that.

I pulled out my pen and had actually written "Hey, man. I'm doing great here in" before I realized what I was doing.

I write software for PDAs, so I spend a lot of time poking my laptop screen, too.


We were having production problems with a new embedded systems product. Every few weeks, seemingly at random, units would begin failing the elevated temperature test. Failure analysis showed shorts between one or more leads of the chips, some black carbonized material was bridging between the leads.

The problem seemed to obviously be in the cleaning process. The contract manufacturer had recently taken steps to reduce their water consumption in the manufacturing process. We demanded they do their own investigation and detail the corrective action they planned to take.

Eventually, quite by accident, we learned that every few weeks the cleaning guys used the oven to bake a pizza. Board yields always dropped dramatically the next day.


I always enjoyed being one of the kids in High School who had to help other teachers out. We would always get complaints about keyboards and other peripherals not working. So we'd walk half way across campus to plug them in and reboot the computer. We had a list of the teachers who were the worst offenders and we enjoyed the laughs.


Back in the olden days of 386's while I was working at a University that shall remain nameless, a clueless prof bought a desktop PC and somehow managed to get an obscene (for that time) amount of RAM for it. It was a true blue IBM, and had something like 32 Megs of RAM in the days of 4 Megs of RAM was a huge amount.

He complained all the computer would do is beep, beep, beep. It never started up.

Turns out the IBM BIOS in those days ticked off each 16K of RAM, with a beep. He just never had the patience to sit through 1000 beeps to let it finally finish the memory check!


I once got a call from a C-level secretary....errr...assisstant. It seems her computer was broken. No matter what she tried to do she could not get it to turn on. I walked in, pluged it in and it worked. Apparently some janitorial types had needed the outlet and unpluged the computer. She blushed appropriately.


I had a user complain that their RF device went crazy mid way through a process they were performing. When I asked for the series of events that occured prior to screen going crazy the user informed me that he had started the process and then decided that he needed to clean the device's TOUCH screen. So when we was done wiping it off with the inside of his shirt he didn't have any idea where he was in the program anymore.


A guy I knew asked if I knew how to "fix" the strange gray lines that appeared on his laptop monitor. He had been told, by another friend of his, that he would likely have to send the computer back to Dell and have them fix the screen.

Turns out the "gray lines" were a part of the background image he had selected. A much cheaper change than sending it back to Dell.


There was one accounting system I developed for some non-English-speaking client that run on Unix terminals which requires very simple English command to start the application, which is $acc. Second day of the system training, I received a furious call from the financial manager complaining that the system is not working. I asked him to describe in detail what happened. He said his staff enter the command: a-c-c, then Enter, but they do not get to the screens. I found myself enforced to drive two hours to this client to find that all of his staff, including him were giving the command: a-s-s (ASS!), then Enter!


Much like the story in the original post, I was once called down to the HR department by a user who couldn't get her NT machine to do anything. I poked at it a little and was also unable to get any applications to start up, so I started trying to figure out how to get at the control panel when nothing would open... Then I noticed that the Escape key was wedged under the front of her monitor, where it was apparently cancelling the app opens. Pulled the keyboard out from under the monitor and everything was just fine again.


This happened to me 1998, the client was using a Delphi application and errors were shown in small windows like the Javascript alert():

"Georgi, your program just threw an error and showed it in a little window!" "Okay, keep calm. What is it saying?" "I don't know, I just klicked it away."


More of these on http://www.rinkworks.com/stupid/.

We had a client who rang up furious that a load of his data had disappeared from our system. After investigating we couldn't see any reason for the data loss, and so questioned him further. Turns out he'd clicked a button labelled 'Delete' and then wondered why everything had disappeared!


frantic call from a client "The new reports are not working! None of them!"

we had just delivered a bunch of new reports the day before and tested them during installation, so this was a serious crisis for our Best Customer. So I hopped in the car and rushed to the site - to find that they had gotten a new printer, which of course, was not plugged in.


We had a customer calling our modem support hotline, complaining that the computer beeped ever since she installed our modem. Quite some time into the phone call it became evident that a book was placed on the keyboard, thus overflowing the keyboard buffer.