Last week we finished up with my tech problem partially solved, but in a very sub-optimal way. The toll free number of the overseas company left me with a bad taste in my mouth (curry?) so I tried Microsoft’s support website again, because at least it was free.

There was a place to click for a “live chat”, and I wondered if it would actually work. I had used this type of feature a few times in the past, usually on websites that are trying to sell you something, as it is a good way for the company to answer questions.

What the heck, so I click on OK, and start typing my problem. It took a minute or two to get a reply from “Melinfor” (which I concluded was probably his real name, as the headshot of him did look like someone named Mel).

Live chats are much cheaper for the company than phone calls because the agents can work on a number of different customers’ issues at the same time, since there is usually plenty of downtime resolving these things.

I didn’t mind waiting for Mel to get back to me for a minute or so, because he quickly understood my problem, proposed the solution, and wrapped it all up in under 15 minutes.

He could not revive my old hotmail address, because it is technically impossible to do so. But he got me the next best solution. And I learned a lot of lessons through this ordeal, which I will gladly share.
1. You don’t need to speak to someone to get something accomplished. Technology today allows so many options that do not involve talking on the phone.

When I look back on my insistence on “calling someone”, I am reminded of my father, whose preferred method was to speak to someone, but those were the days when you could easily call and speak to a live person, and the alternatives were going to the store or writing a letter.

2. I don’t miss the spam. When you have the same email address for 15 years, you get a lot of spam. Most of it is easily filtered, but the best side effect of this incident is a lot less crap in my inbox.

3. When you die, you are dead. When I clicked on “remove” for my old address, after already having made the other address my primary one, it was overkill for what I wanted to do. I had not realized the implications of that one click, and after doing it, I was “dead”.

There are some actions that you cannot come back from. For every time I have seen those messages “Are you sure?” when I was deleting something, I would have appreciated at least one heads-up on this one. Moral: You don’t always get a heads-up or a warning. Be careful!

4. What you think you see is not always what it appears to be.

I called a toll-free number for support, which I had wrongly assumed was a Microsoft number. I was stressed by my situation, and fell for a trick, but I have to say that the trick is pretty clever.

If your company has people who can “help” computer users solve their problems, what better way to get them to call you could you come up with?

There are lots of forums online where people ask for tech help, and sometimes those people are looking for a phone number to speak to someone. So you go on these forums pretending that you are just a regular contributor answering a question, and post your number, and people call you.

I just wonder, though, if they put their company name there, along with their number, and told people it was support that they had to pay for, how many calls would they get? Answer: Fewer.

I won’t get fooled again.