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I remember a user flat out lying about what an error box said over the phone. I asked her to read it out, she gave be what was in her head, not on the screen. I asked her to read it word-by-word, she did the same. I asked her to read it out letter-by-letter ("I've never seen that error there before, I want to get it exactly right so I can ask the programmers...") and then she actually looked at what it said.

Oh the dread that phone support brings back to me... The number of "tricks" we had to use to get users to tell us what they actually saw, and do what we actually told them, rather then what they thought they were looking at or thought they should do...

Anyone interested in psychology should do phone support for a few weeks...

Can you share any specific incidents? This seems like it would make a very popular HN story.

I still don't understand why people do this. They get so frustrated (or defensive or something else) that they refuse to tell you what is on the screen and/or make something up.

My guess is that they dismiss error boxes too quickly, or work ahead of you and are afraid that you'll figure it out if they tell you what their error box actually says, and they'll get an F on the test and will have to go to summer school.

That's a defence mechanism against support people that aren't there to help, but just to make them give up before they are allowed to talk with someone that can actualy help.

The problem is that once trained, people start doing it instinctively, even with the people that can actualy help.

On the flip side, I remember playing "Windows XP: The Roleplaying Game" with AT&T support, when they wouldn't give some very simple network config information without me checking a bunch of things on Windows with IE first.

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