This week I want to talk about something that’s near and dear to the heart of every geek, something we’ve all been involved with on one or both sides. It’s also something that’s suffering from the mentality of profit-at-the-expense-of-everything that’s plaguing our late-capitalism economy. I want to talk about tech support. It’s easy comedy to complain about tech support, and I’m not going to tell those jokes. They’re old and I know too well where they come from. I worked for six years at the IT desk of one of Columbus’s many massive companies, and I know that when a tech support person asks you if your monitor is on it’s because the last couple people she talked to with a similar problem had actually forgotten that step. I also know that when I started at the company the IT service desk was valued, a place that management acknowledged was “where the rubber meets the road.” By the time I left that had been changed to assurances that our jobs would not be outsourced “so long as we remain competitive.” “Competitive” doesn’t exist in a vacuum, folks. “Competitive” means “we have been actively researching ways to lay you all off.” I, along with three other senior support people, was nearly laid off for the crime of being one of the highest-paid people in the department. Years of knowledge of the company’s internally developed software, knowledge that we needed to actually help people, would have gone with us. When I left on my own everyone but the management was sad to see me go . One of the most cancerous symptoms of Late Stage Capitalism is this obsession with turning everything except the top executive positions into minimum wage jobs. When companies don’t want to pay their tech support enough to be able to hire trustworthy people, you end up with tech support people who can’t be trusted with the tools to make account changes for you. You end up with tech support people without the power to do anything but walk you through the self-help steps you already tried because you are a geek and you know how to do these things. You end up with tech support people who can’t actually fix things that are genuinely broken because the people you can trust to use the tools to fix things want to make a living wage. This is catastrophic for the geek community, because like I once was, a lot of us are employed in IT. When our jobs are devalued by short-sighted executives it directly impacts us. And even those of us who don’t work in IT need help sometimes when one of our dozen gadgets gets a glitch and needs to be fixed. My own most recent adventure was trying to get an Xbox gamertag removed from my Microsoft account after someone had signed up with my email address by accident. But no, it’s still there because it can only be removed by logging into Xbox – and I’m a PS3 household these days. If they were willing to pay their support people enough to trust them with account tools (as I used to be) it could have been taken care of over the phone. So next time you have a bad experience with tech support, don’t blame the person on the other end. Blame the system that puts profit above giving those people the tools and training they need to actually help you. Blame the system that wants to make tech support yet another minimum wage job.

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