Today's xkcd on unhelpful tech support reminded me of a dilemma I had recently determining the proper response to tech support agent at Time Warner who clearly didn't seem to have much experience. Our cable modem died, and it was clear I needed them to come replace it. I understand that they might need to do some verification of my assessment first, as it does make sense that you don't send a truck out or send new hardware out just because a customer thinks his cable box is bad. I have no issue with walking through standard troubleshooting steps just to be sure.
What go me going was, after going through a number of "this might possibly be interesting troubleshooting steps if the lights on the cable modem were on" checks on my computer, the tech support person asked:
Have you optimized your web browser?
Huh? I paused for a while lost in thought, trying to figure out what that means. Optimized my web browser? Is he asking if I've installed some Time Warner browser plugin to serve ads to me? Have I updated the latest version of my browser? What in the world could that mean? (feel free to pause for a second and take a guess)
It turns out the Time Warner agent was asking trying to ask if I had cleared my browser cache and cookies. Silly me - I thought a cache was supposed to be a performance optimization by reducing the need for reloading pages over the network. Of course, in some cases that could be a useful troubleshooting step, but would it be possible to actually say that rather than make up nonsense term?
It's funny, but my real dilemma was trying to figure out how to respond. Should I just hold back and politely say yes? Should I come up with a snarky response like "No, do I need to charge my flux capacitor first?" I ended up going halfway with the simple "I'm not sure that means anything", but I can't help but feel I missed the chance to give a truly quality response.