I work in a network operations center for a small ISP that offers VoIP. Since the place is kind of small, our department also handles a bit of general tech support for internet and phone issues. Most of it is really simple problems and/or really dense people. Today I had a good one:
Me: NOC, this is Kendall.
Customer Service Rep: Hey, I’ve got <account number> and they don’t have a dial tone. I reset the modem (Arris units with built in ATAs) and the provisioning looks good. Can I transfer?
Me: Go ahead…..<click>…..Network Operations, this is Kendall. How can I help you?
Customer: We don’t have phone service.
At this point I’ve verified that the provisioning is correct and have noted a Ringer Equivalency failure, usually caused by nothing being plugged into the ATA.
Me: Yes ma’am, I do see an issue. It doesn’t look like the modem is seeing anything plugged into the correct telephone port. Could you please tell me how many cords are connected to the back of it?
Customer: What’s a modem?
Me: It’s a small, black, rectangular box with some green lights on it. It’ll probably be close to a computer and will say “Arris” on it.
Customer: Let me go see.
A few minutes pass…
Customer: There are three cords connected to the back.
Me: Are you able to get on the internet?
Customer: Let me see……….Yes.
This means that only the power, coaxial, and Ethernet were connected and that the phone cord is probably laying on the floor behind whatever piece of furniture the modem is sitting on.
Me: There needs to be four cords connected. Would you mind checking to see if there’s a stray phone cord on the floor close to the modem?
Customer: I don’t understand. There’s only ever been three cords plugged in and it was working fine this morning. Nobody’s been back there to mess with it.
Me: Ma’am, the phone service can’t work without a phone cord connected to the modem. Would you please check?
Insert quite a bit of back and forth about this and she eventually gets frustrated and hangs up. About an hour later her husband calls in and I get the transfer.
Me: Network Operations, this is Kendall. How can I help you?
Husband: We ain’t gotta dial tone. Can you guys zap it or whatever you do to fix it?
Me: From the notes it appears that the issue is with a disconnected phone cord. Would you mind telling me how many cords are connected to the back of the modem.
Husband: Three. Why?
Me: There needs to be a total of four cords. One for the power, one for the cable, one for the internet, and one for the phone.
Husband (in a more aggressive tone): My wife went through this earlier! There’s only ever been three on the back!
Me: Sir, I believe you may be mistaken. Without that fourth cord the phone service will not be functional.
Husband (now mad): I TOLD YOU IT ONLY NEEDS THREE CORDS! NOW ZAP IT AND MAKE IT WORK!
Me: Sir, it is quite literally impossible for this to work without that cord also connected to the modem. Please, for the sake of being thorough, check to see if there’s a stray phone cord on the floor behind the modem.
Husband: AIN’T NOBODY MESSED WITH IT! CORDS DON’T UNPLUG THEMSELVES!
Me: I agree with you on that point, however we still need to check for that phone cord.
I hear him set the phone down and then utter some curses about the quality of our service and that this is a bunch of crap, but I can hear movement so it’s obvious he’s doing something.
Husband: Alright, I got a dial tone. <click>
Picture Source: [Philippe Put (CC)]