Microsoft Tech Support Linguistics

The copy of Windows Vista Business running on my laptop decided tonight that it was no longer activated and I had to re-activate it. I don’t think I need to go into how frustrating that a copy of software that you legally own decides that you no longer own it. I bet the cracked copies on the internet never have this problem.

Internet activation failed, automated phone activation failed, so I finally had to do the dreaded in-person phone tech support call.

Apparently the only difference between the in person call and the automated call is that the person asks you “How many computers is this software installed on?”. I guess it is easy to lie to a computer, but in person you are supposed to say “2?”, “3?” — and then they got-cha you filthy pirate. anyway.

So I’m all pissed off at this whole process that has now taken 30+ minutes, but I find myself thinking less about the pain in the ass and more about the voice of this woman on the other end of the phone line.

The woman, who knows where she is (it is 2am EST here), speaks near-perfect British English. I would think that I was speaking to someone in the UK, but she seemed to only have the exact vocabulary required to read off scripted answers. She couldn’t comprehend or reply to even the most basic question; like: “why do I have to even be talking to you when I own this software?”. It was almost like talking to a computer voice recognizing phone system, it was really bizzare. I had exchanges like this:

Q: Who can I write to complain about this:
A: I don’t understand

Q: I would like to complain about this process:
A: I have noted your complaint.

Q: Where can I send a complaint letter to
A: Yes

Q: I would like to mail a complaint, what is the address:
A: I will submit your complaint

Q: No, I would like to Mail a formal complaint to your company:
A: I don’t understand
Q: I would like an address to send a letter to
A: 1-800
Q: No An Address
A: ?
Q: Postal, Mailing, Physical Address
A: please hold
— 10 minute wait

Q: No, not email, I Need an address
(I googled the address a long time ago at this point, but I might as well see through)
A: please hold
— 5 minute wait
Microsoft Corporation
1 Microsoft Way
Redmond WA 98052-6399

Q: wow thanks
A: have a nice day

But here’s the best part: she didn’t know how to pronounce Redmond, so she just spelled it out for me:

Roman echo delta monkey oscar nile delta

She said these words faster and more perfect than I could reading them right now. She had obviously been trained to speak these specific words to spell things out.

I googled all over the place, figuring I could learn where this woman learned english based on the phonetic words she used.

This is a pretty good listing of different Phonetic alphabets used around the world. Each word in her list appears in one of the alphabets, but none contain all of the words. I guess it will forever be a mystery.

fyi. I put on my chandler task list to actually write a letter to Microsoft. But in reality, if vista decides it isn’t activated anymore again, I am probably just going to search for a crack to fix the problem. I am sure there is one out there. Maybe sp1 will save us all.