Friday, April 16, 2010

How to print yourself out of a job

When a techie gets a call for a print job that won't print, he finds a basic error made worse by the user's unprofessional behavior

I was working in the tech department at an upscale law firm, and as sometimes happens with support issues, I had gotten quite a few calls for one area. This time the calls concerned printers and printing.

One incident stood out: A legal secretary called and said several jobs that she had sent to her printer had not printed.

I asked her some questions over the phone and decided I needed to view her settings in person to see how she was choosing to print her documents.

I got to the user's desk and asked her to send a document to the printer so that I could see if the user was doing something different or changing the default printer. I noticed she had her resume up on the screen, a nice cover letter, and five different store Websites on her PC that all displayed coupons.

I don't normally say anything about what people are printing, because when they aren't printing the personal stuff, they are printing legitimate work. I just needed to resolve the issue.

The user began minimizing all of these windows, then chose an email with what appeared to be funny pictures from a very rowdy and scantily clad pool party to test print.

The user asked me to "not look at the pictures, just find out why the printer isn't printing them."

She sent the job to the printer using the print button. The job spooled, and the printer confirmation window quickly popped up and closed. I just barely saw the name of the printer, and it was not the same name as the printer she was printing to.

I asked her to open her printers and fax folder, and sure enough, she had changed her default printer to a different printer.

I told the user, "Oh no biggie. The problem is that it's printing to a different printer. Do you know where this HP LaserJet with the name ‘AttorneyYouWorkFor' is?"

The user went completely pale and said, "Oh no! That's the printer in my attorney's office! He asked me to print documents to his printer last night."

She looked at me frantically and said, "Pull them back, pull them back!" All I could say was that the printer had already spooled them and they were printing.

The user jumped up and disappeared around the corner, and I went back to the help desk and closed the ticket.

Later that day a memo was released to the firm from the human resources department, restating office policy regarding personal use of office equipment:

Computers and Printers that are in use at the firm are for work product and that which generates income for the firm. Please use printers and computers for work-related materials only. Please also confirm you know what printer you are sending print jobs to and what you are sending to avoid embarrassing yourself and others.

About a week later I was setting up a new legal secretary at this same user's desk. I wonder what happened.

This story, "How to print yourself out of a job," was originally published at Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at

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