7 Excuses To Avoid Family Tech Support - InformationWeek

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7 Excuses To Avoid Family Tech Support

Are you the family's unofficial IT person? The holidays are a dangerous time: Here's what to say when you're asked to fix messes.

8 Tech Turkeys To Avoid As Gifts
8 Tech Turkeys To Avoid As Gifts
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Minutes after the last present on Christmas Day is opened, the phone calls start. They won't stop until late that night or possibly the middle of the next week, depending on the size of your family and circle of friends.

"Hi. Yes, happy holidays to you, too. Listen, Granddad picked up his new laptop by the screen, and now it's black. No, no, the laptop is white... more of a beige, actually. The screen is black. How do we fix it?"

"Hi, it's me, Allen. Your cousin. Remember, we met last year at Uncle Paul's funeral? You still work in technology? That's great. So my kids sent me a Roku. Funny name, right? Looks like the thing shipped without a keyboard. Can I plug a WiFi keyboard into it?"

"Hi. What's my Apple ID? What? Well, that's just ridiculous. Just help me guess it!"

If you know a scooch more about computers, DVRs, smartphones, printers, or routers than the general public, you will eventually be dragooned into troubleshooting for friends and family.

[Tell your gadget-loving friends: 3D Printers: Why Nobody Needs One For Christmas.]

Sometimes your obligation is clear. Say your mom's Window's PC is infected with a ransomware virus. You should -- and, ultimately, will -- spend several days unsuccessfully trying to decrypt her files, only to learn what security experts now advise ransomware victims: "Pay them the damn money."

And only a monster would refuse to help an eight-year-old nephew restart his Internet service on Christmas morning or disregard your significant other's anxious Facebook message asking how long to leave an iPhone in a bowl of dry rice following an incident in the bathroom.

(Image: Gus Bus)
(Image: Gus Bus)

But for those times when you'd rather have that third glass of wine than look at the error message on your host's spare PC in the basement office/bunny habitat, we offer the following excuses:

"The first half hour is free. After that, it's $125/hour for me, or $30/hour for [insert name of middle school-aged child]."

"Hummm, that sounds bad. Time for a clean install of the operating system. You have a complete backup of all your data, right?"

"I'm happy to take a look, but the last time I fixed a [insert computer brand], it caught fire later that night."

"That bottle of Ketel One in your freezer isn't going to walk over here by itself. Go get it while I get started."

"As Bill Gates told me once, [insert endless, meandering, made-up story; don't forget to keep drinking their vodka]."

"You've always told me Macs don't break. So you are mistaken. You're welcome."

"If I find porn, and we both know I will, I am going to tell [insert name of significant other]."

But here's a bonus answer -- the best we've seen. Dan Moulding posted the following on Programmers Stack Exchange in 2010:

  • If it's a Windows box say, "I only know how to fix Macs."
  • If it's a Mac say, "I only know how to fix PCs."
  • If it's a Linux box say, "You're a Linux user... fix it yourself!"

Have your own canned responses? Post them in the comments below.

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Ellis Booker has held senior editorial posts at a number of A-list IT publications, including UBM's InternetWeek, Mecklermedia's Web Week, and IDG's Computerworld. At Computerworld, he led Internet and electronic commerce coverage in the early days of the web and was ... View Full Bio

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User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2014 | 10:35:30 PM
I know someone ..
My usually-practiced one is:

I am a software guy. I know how to write algorithms and programs. I can help you if you need one of those , but I cant fix your laptop. But wait, I know someone who can do that for very cheap ..
User Rank: Ninja
12/28/2014 | 10:30:14 PM
what if ..
@ Booker:

> the best we've seen. Dan Moulding posted the
> following on Programmers Stack Exchange in 2010:

>    If it's a Windows box say, "I only know how to fix Macs."
>    If it's a Mac say, "I only know how to fix PCs."
>    If it's a Linux box say, "You're a Linux user... fix it yourself!"

but what if two old relatives approach you. One for PC and another for Mac. What do you then?
User Rank: Author
12/23/2014 | 4:48:54 PM
Tech vs. people

Depending on the family and the dynamics spending time with technology may be a welcome respite from the family squabbles! I do like the statement about the laptop catching on fire --I may use that one!!!

User Rank: Author
12/23/2014 | 2:36:06 PM
Got drafted early
My parents launched a sneak attack request for help over the weekend. Luckily they were easy problems. Good luck this week on the tech support front, everyone.
User Rank: Ninja
12/23/2014 | 2:04:50 PM
Re: 7 Excuses to Avoid Family Tech Support
I tell them to call the manufacturers tech support, they know their particular operating system better than I ever could. They are the "experts". 
User Rank: Strategist
12/22/2014 | 12:25:32 PM
Don't avoid it, embrace it...
This is a self-generated problem. If you work or even enjoy tech that's what you're going to talk about with family members, hence becoming the self-proclaimed "expert." But the solution is to embrace it, not avoid it. Because if you avoid it, the problem is going to get worse. One day you'll show up at Thanksgiving dinner and hear something like "well I just gave my bank account pin number to this nice Nigerian prince..." Even if you can't avoid family tech support, you can redirect snippy remarks to the Dell corporation, thus satisifying your need for venting while keeping those important relationships intact... Within the past two weeks, I've received two broken Dells from family members, almost as if their obsolescense was planned for the holiday shopping season. On a 2010 laptop, I was able to rescue the data and the recovery image from the drive, then restore it. It cost nothing but a little time... On the 2012 desktop, the hard drive is completely dead, so at some point after the holidays I'll need to have a discussion about buying a drive and a Windows license...

David F. Carr
David F. Carr,
User Rank: Author
12/22/2014 | 8:50:49 AM
I'd have to resort to the truth
The truth is any tech that's not a WordPress plugin is pretty much a mystery to me. Like trying to understand why my Android phone kept running slower and losing battery faster until one day it spontaneously healed itself, after resetting to factory defaults (no user intervention required). Hardware works in mysterious ways.
User Rank: Apprentice
12/21/2014 | 1:14:38 AM
Lets trade
I say: "I'll tell ya what you start raking that 1/2 acre of leaves and I'll run some of my super secret malware tools on your Dell door stop" Actually makes fixing computers enjoyable. 

User Rank: Ninja
12/20/2014 | 3:19:17 AM
On the Phone
Ask the individual to explain the problem in complete detail.

Wait for the explanation to be completed. Next, tell the individual to reinstall windows.
User Rank: Ninja
12/19/2014 | 5:09:55 PM
Re: Excuse
I just tell them I will look at it next time I'm home. That buys me time until the next holiday.
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