When asked 'What's a .CNT file?' there's a polite way to answer

And then there's the Reg reader way, as used on a chap who 'lost my blue E'

On-Call Welcome again to On-Call, the weekly feature in which we share readers' experiences on help desks or out in the field fixing things.

This week, meet “PC”, a reader who once wasn't.

In the magical days of dialup internet, PC worked in tech support for an internet service provider.

And one Saturday morning a subscriber called up to say “I've lost my blue E.”

No, that's not a reference to either bedroom-or-nightclub-friendly pharmaceuticals. The caller had managed to lose the desktop shortcut for Microsoft's magnificent Internet Explorer.

“I'm afraid I can't do much about that,” PC said, privately hypothesising that the shortcut may have been deleted.

The caller wasn't happy and embarked on an “I pay for this service, you should be helping me” rant. PC was left with the impression that the caller was not a pleasant chap and would have no truck with the notion that Microsoft might be better-placed to support Windows.

After putting the call on hold for a bit, PC decided to help and suggested to the caller that they might like to see if Internet Explorer was listed under the Start button. But it wasn't there either, so PC explained how to search for programs, with a view to helping the caller restore the shortcut.

The caller did as PC suggested, but soon told him that “I can't see an iexplore.exe. But I can see iexplore.cnt. What is CNT?”

At this point, PC had a choice. Should he tell the user that a .CNT file was the table of contents for a .HLP file, the format Microsoft once used for Help files? Or should he subtly let the caller know what he thought of him?

PC opted for the following response.

“A CNT? I can only think of one thing, Sir.”

The caller wasn't happy and PC got a stern warning from his boss, but survived to take calls another day.

What have you done in response to nasty users? Write to me and you could end up in a future edition of On-Call! ®

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