Tag Archives: work

Scam alert: Compliance Services

This afternoon, we received a very official looking form (and instructions for said form) from an outfit calling themselves Compliance Services. The form and instructions are an attempt to scam $125 from unsuspecting business owners who do not a) know the law or b) do not read closely enough, since these scammers do their best to hide the fact that this is not official paperwork. Although the envelope itself says “THIS IS NOT A GOVERNMENT DOCUMENT”, the form has the look and feel of the typical government type documents that all of us who run businesses are overly familiar with, having to wade through them all the time.

These people have been at this a long time, based on a search. Some states have already been hit by these assholes. Other states have large warnings about them, and include restraining orders against them for their mailings. There are lots and lots and lots and lots of complaints/warnings about this scam. In fact, National Research Corp has a handy (and long) list about this annual minutes scam. Don’t fall for it. Definitely do not send them any money.

The things we see

We see a lot of things around here, dealing with people and what they do to their sites. One of the things we see a lot of are people calling themselves “web designers” who can’t even properly code an a href link to another page on their own site. It’s an added bonus if they’re using a very expensive application to create and update the site. Eve more bonus points if they shove every flashing, blinky thing they can on the site to make it look like they got caught in a whirlpool back in the early 90s and never managed to escape.

Catching up

So I let the daily blogging thing go by the wayside. Winters – or, more accurately, waiting for spring to really get rolling – are a bit boring on the ranch. I probably should have been painting more, or working more on the neverending to-do list, but the fatigue factor really got to me. Now that I’m on some supplements to get my B levels back up, I feel a whole lot better, and more like my old self. Still not taking iron supps, though, and I’m definitely not eating any liver, so that’s still a work in progress.

But progress there is: all of the first round of flats, except two, have been transplanted: tomatoes and peppers, mostly. The other two flats have onions (plus one  lonely little datil pepper that isn’t going to make it, like the other dozen that never bothered to germinate) and herbs (plus artichokes to replace the ones zapped by the severe freeze we had). I’ve also sown shelling peas, snap (green) beans, peanuts, three kinds of cucumbers, okra, carrots, spinach, and sweet potatoes, along with various herbs and flowers for the bees. Out back in the chicken yard, where we had composted some things over the past year and where the chickens had scratched around, I put in lima beans (ugh), sunflowers, and corn. Yes, corn. It is my personal windmill here on the ranch, and I have another variety I’d like to put in somewhere, too.

Yesterday we got over an inch and a half of rain, as measured by our very own weather station. Before the rains started, I had transplanted out a flat, and gave it up when the big thunder started rolling across the sky. It was only around 10 AM that it started storming, but it lasted almost all day. Much needed rain, although we’re still very short of normal.

Today, more sweet potatoes put in, the other flats put out, as much newspaper and hay put down as my back could stand, and two more flats started and put under the lights in the barn: paisano tomatoes for sauce, sweet basil, purple basil, and two types of tobacco for mom. Got another canvas started, added to one of the earlier ones that is now dry, dealt with an asshole who thinks we should have known to remove his account when he never bothered to let us know, bitching about the invoice the system generated – hey, my superpower of ESP still has not kicked in from the radiation, and no others have appeared either. That’s a bummer.

Several trees my mom swore were dead were just a little dead, and are now upgraded to alive, leafing and budding out. The peas, cukes, and okra have all started to poke their heads up. The snap beans are probably a week or so away from beginning to flower. We’ve had asparagus spears popping up for the past couple of weeks. It’s time to start prepping the spots the beehives will be in: two in the rear, one up front.

Tonight: seafood feast by request, as my sister is visiting from Illinois. Another attempt to view Jupiter and its moons before it slips away beyond our viewing period as the days get longer. Starting another canvas while the others dry a bit. Starting the reworking of our tutorials for our users, since our control panel has changed since the first round. Doing end of quarter stuff for the business. Relaxing. Maybe.

You don’t need it

Another tip from your neighborhood tech: you do not need to have all your high scoring spam delivered to a special mailbox under your account. Especially if you never clear said mailbox and jam up tens of thousands of messages in the system spooler. All you’ll be doing is pissing off every other person on the server because their mail is being delayed due to you. Then we will will have to go in and reset your settings to delete the junk you’re never going to look at in the first place.

You’re welcome.

Yet more ways to irritate tech support

So, you write in, telling us that you’re getting all sorts of trojans in your email. Mind you, you don’t bother to provide any evidence of anything of the sort, but someone on the staff tells you (quite correctly) that the virus definitions are always being updated, and if for some reason the server where you’re located needs an updated signature set, we’ll take care of it. You go away. We check, everything is up to date. Three days later, you’re back, telling us that you’re still getting these mysterious trojans, you’re not satisfied with the service, and you want to cancel. After five years of us hosing the account – during which you’ve opened very few tickets indeed, and which gives you plenty of time to know how we work, knowing that we do the things we say we will – instead of just saying “Hey, I’m still having this problem, what can we do”, you just want to cancel the account entirely. Then, when you’re asked, multiple times, for the headers of the mail you’re claiming is trojan-laden, so we can look at the logs, claim you have no idea what we’re asking for – this is even more ironic if your site indicates you’re claiming to be some kind of software developer. Then tell us we are “unconcerned”, “harsh”,  and have “email security issues”, and continue to ignore the requests we’ve made of you to provide any sort of information whatsoever that we can use. In the meantime, we’ve been going line by line in the mail logs finding every instance of your domain, including the system rejecting all kinds of crap from known spammers/spam locations, and, as it happens, deleting outright things found to have trojan-laden packages attached. That just makes us feel all sorts of warm and fuzzy around here, to be insulted while we’re trying to figure out, sans any useful information from you, what exactly you’re talking about, wasting our time because clearly you have zero interest in actually addressing the issue. And then to top it all off, claim that two of your systems were “damaged” by these so-called trojans, after telling us in response to our query about what it is that you’re seeing as trojans is whatever your antivirus says they are. That, of course, will make us wonder which of these situations apply: you foolishly didn’t actually have any antivirus  applications installed previously, and someone stupidly opened some random attachment. You didn’t keep your antivirus application up to date, so it didn’t trigger by whatever you claim was damaged when someone stupidly opened some random attachment. Or, the antivirus signatures were not updated in response to whatever the latest crap is being sent out – which, ironically enough, is exactly what we ourselves told you was a possibility and which we were checking on. Somehow, though, I figure in the latter case, you probably didn’t bother to write to the developer of whatever antivirus app you’re using to insult them in the same manner you insulted us. However, it’s a very interesting, although quite idiotic, way of dealing with a vendor with whom you’ve had a relationship for years. I’d say we’d keep that in mind, but pointing to an issue for which you won’t provide any investigative material, and which, remarkably enough, no one else has reported, is probably not a good framework on which to base just dumping a vendor without even bothering to make a good faith attempt to determine what is going on. But hey, best of luck with the next host, who perhaps will be able to read you mind.

I know people like to claim or think that tech support folks don’t like people. But that just isn’t true. They just  don’t like you.

How to piss off tech support, part infinity

When you are contacting us for support, because you’re working on a site for one of our clients, here are some tips on how to piss off the very people you’re asking for help.

Open a ticket saying you can’t upload to an application you’ve installed. Don’t include any other information. We love trying to figure out what the hell you’ve done to break something that’s been working just fine, and love even more rechecking ownership of and permissions on files, and tracking back through the logs.

While we’re working on that, open yet another ticket saying the site is entirely down. When we look at it, the site is in fact down, because it can’t establish a database connection. That seems odd, since the site has been working just fine. Until…

After we tell you the problem is the configuration file and the credentials the file is trying to use to connect are incorrect, tell us you haven’t changed anything. Except, oh, you changed the password for the main account user.

When we repair the configuration file to use valid and proper credentials, and then tell you that if you change little, minor things like, oh, PASSWORDS, you need to update configuration files that use those passwords, ask us how you’re supposed to change the file without FTP or control panel access. This will surely make us ask you what the hell you’re talking about because you just told us you were in the control panel and changed the password, and this has nothing to do with us correcting a database configuration file. Ergo, you should be able to do whatever it is you need to do, since presumably you were just in the control panel doing whatever it is you were doing.

An HOUR later, complain that you still can’t access FTP or the control panel. Since both are working fine, and the site is working just fine because we repaired things, this will make us even happier as we go hunting through the logs only to find you locked yourself out – and locked out the actual client as well, since you’re at their location – by continually attempting to log in with an incorrect password. A password that you changed from the control panel. A password that you should know. You kept trying to log in with an obviously incorrect password instead of stopping and just contacting us, which triggered the firewall.

When we tell you what you’ve done – without pointing out the definition of futility, I might add – and then tell you we unblocked your IP and reset the password, respond with a request to rest the password to “changeme”. Nothing delights us like easily guessed, massively insecure passwords.

And finally, when we tell you that we’re not resetting the password to that, give us a snotty “Fine.” followed by a haughty “I want it on the record” that you find our response insufficient and too slow. This despite the fact that the entirety of the issue, start to finish, was created by you, and it took you an HOUR to respond to something we managed to reply to in exactly seven minutes.

All of this will certainly ensure that we put you at the top of the douchebag list, and further will ensure that we let the client know – because they also contacted us about the site being down – exactly why everything was a mess. There was insufficiency going on here, that is certain. It is equally certain that it had nothing whatsoever to do with us.

What word didn’t you understand?

“No action is required on your part.”

This is plain English, I think. Only two words with more than one syllable. Seven words total. This is why it astonishes me that we receive a ticket from someone telling us they don’t understand and asking what they need to do. Is it that they are surprised they have to do nothing, that they don’t believe us, or that they truly don’t understand a simple sentence? I hesitate to claim the latter as the explanation but in reality, it does seem to be that way. How do these people manage to get through a day without killing themselves in some tragically humorous way?

Tales from the trenches

I told myself when I started the previous incarnation of this blog that I’d try to avoid talking about work at all. But quite frankly, sometimes the only way to vent about something or share a funny story with other people is to put it here, so there we go.

Let me tell you about yesterday’s experience.

Our service is just that: a service. Like any utility or subscription – electric, cable, what have you. If you pay your bills, your service stays on. If you don’t, it doesn’t. It’s very simple. For some reason, though, various people seem to think this is different. I haven’t quite figured out why that is, exactly. Is it because it’s all Internet-based, and thus doesn’t seem quite real, or that they have a strange notion that it costs us nothing to actually run it? No matter; this is half about people who can’t grasp the concept that this is a business and half about people being deadbeats.

We’ve always been fairly lax about suspension policies, which isn’t exactly what we’d like to do, but there always seems to be something other than searching through billing for nonpayers to be done. Toss in the last few years with everything that’s been going on, and it makes the situation worse. We’ve been addressing that, and being more aggressive about either getting people to pay their bills or getting them gone. Cost efficient, the beancounters like it, and it cleans up the billing system. Works. We understand that sometimes circumstances result in an invoice here or there being declined. Credit cards are stolen. People get sick. They have an issue. Believe me, we understand, and really, our clients know that if they have some temporary problem and let us know, we’re fine with it. However…

Periodically, we rerun failed invoices, as people will update their billing information so the processing can be completed. Yesterday, we did just that. We then received an email from someone telling us that only one of her accounts was set to payment by credit card, so why were there two invoices processed? Well, that would be because you had the current invoice as well as the previous invoice outstanding. This is a paraphrase of her response.

“I didn’t know there was another invoice too, and now this is going to cost me another $35 because there is no money in that account. Take it off the card and put it on Paypal with (other account).”

Let’s examine this, shall we? At the bottom of every invoice is a notation of any other open invoices that might exist, and the total due of those other invoices, so if you’re actually looking at anything that’s being sent to you – and since you’re asking about two processing notices, you appear to be – or if you simply log in to the billing system to look at your account, there is no reason for you not to know about this. The total charge here, for these two invoices, was a grand total of $12. If you don’t have $12 to pay for your service, and you’re habitually behind on invoices, perhaps you should rethink having that service. Beyond that, you’ve just told us to take it off the card and change it to payment by Paypal. That’s what the above means to us, and being the nice people we are, and even though we will incur an additional transaction fee, we void those two invoices. In the meantime, we’ve looked at the billing for the other two accounts you have, and lo and behold, you have half a dozen invoices open for one, and two on the other, which doesn’t make us inclined to do what we’ve just done for you so you can avoid whatever overdraft fees you have. So we ask you, nicely: when can we expect payment for these other accounts? This is the response we received, verbatim:

“Please stop with the tone – I’m doing what I can – go ahead and just park the (name) site and that won’t be an issue right?
(Other site) may get caught up on the 5th, the other one on the 20th.”

Let’s examine this, shall we? First of all, you’re lucky that the one account still exists at all, given that it’s so far behind, and that any of them are still up, period. Second, whatever “tone” you think there is in a simple question is a mystery, but guess what? This isn’t a charity, and being a bitch to us isn’t helping your case. Third (and this is rich), “doing what you can” and telling us on the 29th of a month that one account “may” get caught up in a week, and the other in three weeks is entirely insufficient. You know what all that gets you? Suspended.

And that’s what we did. Which, in turn, led to this same person telling us we were “petty and vindictive”, that she just made payment in December, and that she wanted the sites back on because having them down was “impacting a lot of people”. Wrong: this business is not a not-for-profit enterprise, and no matter how much of a unique snowflake you believe yourself to be, you are not above our policies. And yes, you made a payment in December. To pay not one, but six open invoices on one of the accounts, for June through November, which still leaves you with December and January invoices open and past due. As to the third: well, quite frankly, the impact to others is being caused by your failure to address your obligations. Perhaps they should have chosen someone more capable of dealing with keeping the account current to handle this.

She further went on to claim that she had been asking for the three different billing system profiles to be put into one, and since it hadn’t been done, that was the reason she hadn’t paid. Au contraire: no such request had ever been made, but even if it had been and wasn’t done, leaping from there to the conclusion that it absolves someone of having to pay open invoices is absurd to say the least. It certainly has no basis in reality.

It also led to another rather amusing little game on her part. As we moved through helpdesk tickets, I came across one from someone asking how long an account upgrade would take. Not long, I replied. Just long enough for whoever caught the ticket to do it. The response to that was “Good. There is currently a problem with my account (name) and two others, because they were suspended and I think that’s unethical.”

I see. Apparently it’s unethical for us to expect to be paid, but opening a support ticket under a dummy name, using a freebie email account, and asking a bogus question in order to waste our time is entirely ethical.

In the end, because she continued to insist that we were wrong to suspend the sites, wrong that she had told us to take any charges off and recreate them, wrong to claim she was behind by two months (rather than one) on one account, and just plain wrong about anything else, we told her to move along. Others may live in bizarro world, but that doesn’t mean we’ll be dragged down into it as well.

All of this took away from the time I was spending tracing power cables in order to put together a plan for replacing certain power distribution units and moving some equipment off one buss to even the loads. I completed a bit of that work, but there is more yet to be done. Now that the current nasty, seemingly crazy person has been dealt with, though, maybe we’ll catch a break until the next one comes along and we can get some real work done for our real (paying) clients. I am not sure, though, that there will ever be enough time in the world to understand why peopl behave in the manner this person did. It strikes me as a rather odd way to move through life.