This morning, I got a call from a customer who was attempting to use the Tennessee Purchasing Division’s Notice of Award and Bid Opportunities system. It’s a pretty common situation: the State has some software that was written many, many years ago, and haven’t bothered to update it. They ask users to download a plugin which doesn’t work on Windows XP, and is unsupported by IBM.
First call, I ask to speak with anyone who can handle some website issues. The phone rings and rings, and eventually someone picks it up, and hangs up on me.
The second call, I get an operator who insists on connecting me with the bids department. When I get there, I’m told, “I don’t handle that!” and promptly get hung up on.
On the third call, the first operator answers again and tells me that I should talk to “Random Government Employee” (RGE).
“Hi, RGE, I’m calling for a vendor. We’re having some issues using the website,” I explain.
“What seems to be the problem?” he monotones.
“Well, the viewer software that you guys direct people to download isn’t compatible with XP. It hasn’t been updated since 2004.”
“Yes it does work with XP!” he responds angrily.
“Well, my customer has tried it, I’ve tried it, and it doesn’t work.”
“We use it here!” he interjects.
“Well, that would probably be a different one, made to work with your printing system. There’s another…”
“No, there’s only one!” he interrupts.
“Okay, anyway, it doesn’t work.”
“Yes it does!” he yells.
He promptly hangs up on me.
Now, three calls, three hangups, I’m getting a little annoyed.
Fourth call, I speak with Operator #2 again, and she directs me to someone, but refuses to tell me the person’s name. Ok.
“This is RGE. Can I help you?”
“Yes, I was calling about the website. Do you handle technical issues?” I ask.
“I can handle some,” she responds. “It depends on what it is.”
“Well, the APF viewer software that’s linked from the website doesn’t work with XP…”
“Yes it does,” she states bluntly.
“No, ma’am, it doesn’t. It comes up with an installer error. The IBM website has no XP compatibility listed. The file is marked ‘old and unsupported’ and the ‘new’ file to replace that, which is supposedly compatible with XP doesn’t have a print button.”
“Yes it does,” she states bluntly, again.
“Ma’am, I’ve attempted this on two machines. The customer has tried it on theirs. Setup will not run.”
“It works fine. We run XP, and it works fine.”
She hangs up.
Apparently, ‘some’ technical support meant, “If I feel like you’re worth talking to.”
I told my customer what was going on.
In the meantime, they’d called and spoken with a different RGE.
“Your firewall is blocking it.”
How this has anything to do with a program that won’t install is beyond me.
Playing, “yes it does / no it doesn’t,” with adults is bothersome enough. There are no questions: “You are wrong!” is the resounding argument. They won’t listen to the issue, just want to argue, and have no intention of helping anyone.
And the hanging up thing? That’s just asinine. I could see the point if I was calling screaming at them, cursing or just generally being a jerk, but I’m not. I don’t do that. I have to keep some semblance of civility. I mean, after all, I am calling them for assistance…
No assistance. No civility. Nothing but a dialtone.
It wouldn’t be the first time something like that has happened, either. Dealing with the State Department of Education was just as difficult given a situation that didn’t exactly fit any specific criteria. Dealing with a Sales and Use Tax office that can’t process anything in a timely fashion unless you physically wave it under their noses isn’t very helpful either. Neither can the Department of Vital Records get their heads out to do what they say they’re gonna do…
Certainly, the culture in Tennessee Government is pretty far removed from the way it used to be. And these days, there’s no one to even complain to when there’s a problem.
So do we do the typical thing and blame the influx of rude immigrants, or should this growing problem be placed squarely at the feet of Governor Phil Bredesen? The way it is now, I’d rather be talking to Indians. At least then I can eventually get transferred to a manager…