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My Opinion of the Moment

Modems and Technical Support, Plug and Play and Worthless Manuals

The primary object of this rant is US Robotics, whose highly rated modem was purchased by me in hopes of speeding-up my on-line activities. Being the self-taught apprentice level technogeek that I am, I read the manual before doing anything else. Plug and Play installation----a piece of cake, right? But wait, I couldn't get the microphone to work---or the speakers---and I couldn't connect to my ISP! That's all right, I figured, I'll just re-read the manual. And the help files. And the cyber version of the manual, which turns out to be the same as the paper one. I delete the modem and have Windows find it again, and again, and again, wondering what I'm doing wrong.

Once I finally gave up on the instructions being useful, I decided to try the long line at tech support, except guess what-----the hours are 8-6, Monday-Friday: in other words, when someone working the typical work week is at work, including me. This wasn't terribly useful. Not panicking, I attempted to use the fax back system. After learning that fax back systems don't take faxes (they didn't want my fax any more than my phone call), I ordered what seemed to be the appropriate fax for my problem, there being nothing that explicitly covered it. I received all sorts of information I already had, none applicable to the problem at hand.

They also have their BBS and web site, where I could have received exactly the same repeated and useless information. Of course, if I could have reached them, I presumably WOULDN'T HAVE NEEDED TO!

The result of all this was that, after wasting much of my time, the modem went back to the store. US Robotics was spared the need to talk to me, as they will be spared the need to ever sell me anything else in the future. They have also gotten this free web page of publicity.

Lesson Number 1: Don't whine about customers not reading the manual when the manual leaves out potential problems.

Lesson Number 2: Offering the stuck customer the same information that doesn't help makes you like the inarticulate dope who thinks he enlightens the listener by repeating the unclear concept verbatim.

Lesson Number 3: Making yourself available when the customers aren't is the same as being unavailable, which certainly does relieve you of those pesky customers.


Not that the adventures with modems ended with the exchange for another brand. This time the problem is a Zoom modem, which wouldn't even let the computer boot up until I removed it. I got an error message that meant nothing in English. The manual covers all sorts of problems. Unfortunately, the assumption behind them all is that the computer booted up. Zoom, to give them credit, does have tech support hours that work for the consumer at home. To take credit away, the line was busy every time I called. I suppose that has its advantages over indefinite stays on hold. They were reachable by fax, but they sent back a form letter having no relation to my problem. What, do they look for one key word in the letter? Or maybe just guess? They have e-mail, which may have worked except the response, albeit an individual response, was still tech speak at a higher level than me. Utimately, thrown back on my own resources, one last effort solved the problem, and the only inexplicaple thing is why Zoom didn't explain the solution in plain English as easily as I now can.

Lesson number 4: There are greater evils than employees sitting at phones with no calls coming in. How about busy signals and long waits? Businesses want to hold down the number of tech support or customer support people for the sake of efficiency. Their customers want to get through for the same reason. They want to avoid a long wait, and they don't want to be rushed through. Why not have just one person to answer the phones? They'll be harried continually, surely the maximum in efficiency over service. If you miss the sarcasm, get your M.B.A. out of your A.S.S.

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