Getting tech support by phone for software and hardware problems has never been easy. It’s getting worse than you realized.

Here’s an article by a smart guy, Charles Cooper, who’s been writing about the computer industry for years. He was unable to install Norton Antivirus 2005 on his wife’s computer and got far enough with the online support materials that he identified the cause – a virus that had infected the drive. He called Symantec for help to figure out how to remove the virus and install Norton Antivirus.

He was on hold for just over two hours.

When a support person in India finally answered, the columnist was told that he could either receive support by e-mail for $39.95 or support by phone for $69.95. No answers would be given without payment. Yes, that’s more than the program costs.

That isn’t reasonable, but it is a fair reflection of how frustrating it is to try to get customer support these days. To be honest, I have some sympathies for the companies trying to deal with all the various things that might cause computers to get flaky, everything from uninformed users to side effects of adware/spyware to odd hardware problems, plus the bugs and quirks of the vendor’s own product. It’s darned hard to provide support by phone and I can imagine that it’s fiercely expensive.

But all too often the motive seems to be greed, the chance to make extra money from users in a helpless position who deserve better treatment.

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