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Help-desk requests: Weirder than you thought.

There seems to be no shortage of weird requests IT workers get, judging from readers who commented on the April 11 Management Watch entry, "Have a sense of humor? Become an IT worker."

A survey from Robert Half Technology showed that CIOs had been asked all kinds of oddball questions. "How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?" and "How do I pirate software?" Help-desk professionals had encountered requests such as “Can you help me repair a washing machine?" and "Will you show me how to use the mouse?"

We asked you to share your own experiences, and just when you thought it couldn't get stranger, it did.

Reader DC submitted this anecdote:

I once had a customer call in to report that her coffee cup holder was broken. When I went to her office to find out what she was talking about, I discovered that she was using her CD tray to hold her coffee cup. The weight of the cup and coffee made the tray come off the track so when she tried to close the tray it wouldn't move; thus the call to IT...

Another reader sent this gem:

How about this one: A lady says, ‘My computer won't turn on.’ Short moment of silence. Then she says, ‘does it matter that the power strip it is plugged into is under water?’

And reader Utah told this story:

I once had a customer call for help because the communications equipment in her facility was failing (this was back in the late 1980s). When pressed, she revealed that she'd been preparing for an inspection of the computer room by ‘soaping it down’ and shortly thereafter it had just ‘started a-smokin’. *sigh*

Have any other weird requests? Keep ‘em coming.

Posted by Camille Tuutti on Apr 13, 2012 at 12:19 PM

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


  • Shutterstock image: looking for code.

    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

Reader comments

Tue, Apr 17, 2012 Dave

I had a lady ask me why the printer wasn't printing in color, even though she had selected color printing. I saw what she had was a standard government form from a PDF. I told her that there was no color on the form, so even if you print in color it will only print black. She said no, the form on the screen had color. I asked her to pull it up on-line and she did. Turns out it was a fillable PDF and the fields where you were supposed to enter data were in fact tinted blue (until you actually entered data but she printed off a blank form).

Mon, Apr 16, 2012

These might have been a bit more funny if I hadn't heard every one of them multiple times. This is seriously what you publish?

Fri, Apr 13, 2012

Back in 1994, I had a guy call in who had just installed Excel and wanted to know if there was a way to change the name he installed it under. It turns out he typed his name AND title (Quality Assurance Manager), but that was too long for the screen. So every time he would start Excel it said "This product licensed to John Doe, Quality Ass".

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