If help is just a tantrum away

SUPPORT: Press one if you’re rational.

SUCH a nice man phoned from ‘Windows’ in India the other day, offering to fix a problem my computer didn’t have.

Like growing numbers of scam-resisters with a nasty streak, I strung him along happily for nearly half an hour before he finally slammed down the receiver with, I presume, a cheery wave of the fist.

There are of course real support people out there doing sterling work for those who need help when tech goes wrong or ain’t quite right.

Not that the firms that have taken our money for a product with the offer of support always make it easy to get it. An hour on hold while being Vivaldi’d into a coma by customer service is enough to unhinge the sanest of us.

So what to do when your shiny new toy refuses to cooperate, your software turns hard or the gadget supposed to change your life won’t even let you change its batteries? 

Yes you could phone a friend, as the quiz show has it, or even an (expensive) independent technician. Or indeed customer support.

But there’s another way. These days there’s pretty much an online forum for everything, peopled by kindred souls ready to give their time and expertise freely to those using your very same products or services. 

Buy technology and if it goes wrong (or even if it doesn’t), why not sign up for the user forum that’s sure to exist for it? Simply Google the name of your product and add the word ‘forum’ after it, and you’ll be gob-stoppered at what pops up. 

The other day I struggled to mount a memory chip in my computer. Within minutes YouTube had served me up a dozen useful videos, job done. 

Trust me, whatever has happened to you with your product has happened to dozens, even hundreds of others, so why would you tear your hair out trying to reinvent that wheel?

And at least you will never suffer the indignity inflicted so famously on one hapless customer, unable to get her new computer up and running despite nearly an hour online with the call centre assistant. Finally he asked her if she still had the box the computer came in. She did.

“Here’s what you do,” he instructed. “You pack it all back in the box, take it back to the store and tell them they should refund your money, because you are simply too stupid to own a computer.”

He was of course fired. 

Forum fitting

TYPE ‘Windows 10 forum’ into a search box and good luck with the 22 million results.

Forums linked to product manufacturers are often a safe start. IBM, Dell, Firefox, Adobe and thousands of others all endorse forums linked to their products. Their own support staff may even visit these sites and sometimes help out.

Their help is always free. As with my friend from ‘Windows India’, if money is mentioned a rodent should be smelled.

Once you get a taste for being part of a dedicated online community, who knows what other heights you may reach? 

There are forums for geeks, forums for fans, forums for feminists, even forums for those who like joining forums.

I did however draw the line at signing up for one I stumbled across last week: www.icechewing.com.