How not to treat a customer

First, my complaint to Simply NUC about the recent comedy of errors around my attempt to order a replacement fan for Cathy’s NUC. Sorry, I was not able to beat WordPress’s new editor into displaying URLs literally, and I have no idea why the last one turns into a Kindle link.

——————————————————-

Subject: An unfortunate series of events

Simply NUC claims to be a one-stop shop for NUC needs and a customer-centric company. I would very much like to do business with an outfit that lives up to Simply NUC’s claims for itself. This email is how about I observed it to fail on both levels.

A little over a week ago my wife’s NUC – which is her desktop machine, having replaced a conventional tower system in 2018 – developed a serious case of bearing whine. Since 1981 I have built, tinkered with, and deployed more PCs than I can remember, so I knew this probably meant the NUC’s fan bearings were becoming worn and could pack up at any moment.

Shipping the machine out for service was unappealing, partly for cost reasons but mostly because my wife does paying work on it and can’t afford to have it out of service for an unpredictable amount of time. So I went shopping for a replacement fan.

The search “NUC fan replacement” took me here:

NUC Replacement Fans

There was a sentence that said “As of right now SimplyNUC offers
replacement fans for all NUC models.” Chasing the embedded link
landed me on the Simply NUC site here:

Nuc Accessories

Now bear in mind that I had not disassembled my wife’s NUC yet, that I had landed from a link that said “replacement fans for all NUC models”, and that I didn’t know different NUCs used different fan sizes.

The first problem I had was that this page did nothing to even hint that the one fan pictured might not be a universal fit. Dominic has told me over the phone that “Dawson” is a NUC type, and if I had known that I might have interpreted the caption as “fit only for Dawsons”. But I didn’t, and the caption “Dawson BAPA0508R5U fan” looks exactly as though “Dawson” is the *fan vendor*.

So I placed the order, muttering to myself because there aren’t any shipping options less expensive than FedEx.

A properly informative page would have labeled the fan with its product code and had text below that said “Compatible with Dawson Canyon NUCs.” That way, customers landing there could get a clue that the BAPA0508R5U is not a universal replacement for all NUC fans.

A page in conformance with Simply NUC’s stated mission to be a one-stop NUC shop would also carry purchase links to other fans fitted for different model ranges, like the Delta BSC0805HA I found out later is required for my wife’s NUC8i3BEH1.

The uninformative website page was strike one.

In the event, when the fan arrived, I disassembled my wife’s NUC and instantly discovered that (a) it wasn’t even remotely the right size, and (b) it didn’t even match the fan in the website picture! What I was shipped was not a BAPA0508R5U, it’s a BAAA0508RSH.

Not getting the product I ordered was strike two.

I got on the Simply NUC website’s Zendesk chat and talked with a person named Bobbie who seemed to want to be helpful (I point this out because, until I spoke with Dominic, this was the one single occasion on which Simply NUC behaved like it might be run by competent people). I ended up emailing her a side-by-side photo of the two fans. It’s attached.

Bobbie handed me off to one Sean McClure, and that is when my experience turned from bad to terrible. If I were a small-minded person I would be suggesting that you fire Mr. McClure. But I’m not; I think the actual fault here is that nobody has ever explained to this man what his actual job is, nor trained him properly in how to do it.

And that is his *management’s* fault. Somebody – possibly one of the addressees of this note – failed him.

Back during the dot-com boom I was on the board of directors of a Silly Valley startup that sold PCs to run Linux, competing directly with Sun Microsystems. So I *do* in fact know what Sean McClure’s job is. It’s to *retain customers*. It’s to not alienate possible future revenue streams.

When a properly trained support representative reads a story like mine, the first words he types ought to be something equivalent to “I’m terribly sorry, we clearly screwed up, let me set up an RMA for that.” Then we could discuss how Simply NUC can serve my actual requirements.

That is how you recruit a loyal customer who will do repeat business and recommend you to his peers. That is how you live up to the language on the “About” page of your website.

Here’s what happened instead:

Unfortunately we don’t keep those fans in stock. You can try reaching out to Intel directly to see if they have a replacement or if they will need to RMA your device. You can submit warranty requests to: supporttickets.intel.com, a login will need to be created in order to submit the warranty request. Fans can also be sourced online but will require personal research.

This is not an answer, it’s a defensive crouch that says “We don’t care, and we don’t want your future business”. Let me enumerate the ways it is wrong, in case you two are so close to the problem that you don’t see it.

1. 99% odds that a customer with a specific requirement for a replacement part is calling you because he does *not* want to RMA the entire device and have it out of service for an unpredictable amount of time. A support tech that doesn’t understand this has not been taught to identify with a customer in distress.

2. A support tech that understands his real job – customer retention – will move heaven and earth rather than refer the customer to a competing vendor. Even if the order was only for a $15 fan, because the customer might be experimenting to see if the company is a competent outfit to handle bigger orders. As I was; you were never going to get 1,000 orders for whole NUCs from me but more than one was certainly possible. And I have a lot of friends.

3. “Personal research”? That’s the phrase that really made me angry. If it’s not Simply NUC’s job to know how to source parts for NUCs, so that I the customer don’t have to know that, what *is* the company’s value proposition?

Matters were not improved when I discovered that typing BAPA0508R5U into a search engine instanntly turned up several sources for the fan I need, including this Amazon page:

A support tech who understood his actual job would have done that search the instant he had IDed the fan from the image I sent him, and replied approximately like this: “We don’t currently stock that fan; I’ll ask our product guys to fix this and it should show on our Fans page in <a reasonable period>. In the meantime, I found it on Amazon; here’s the link.” >

As it is, “personal research” was strike three.

Oh, and my return query about whether I could get a refund wasn’t even refused. It wasn’t even answered.

My first reaction to this sequence of blunders was to leave a scathingly bad review of Simply NUC on TrustPilot. My second reaction was to think that, in fairness, the company deserves a full account of the blunders directed at somebody with the authority to fix what is broken.

Your move.

——————————————————-

Here’s the reply I got:

——————————————————-

Mr. Raymond, while I always welcome customer feedback and analyze it for
opportunities to improve our operations, I will not entertain customers who
verbally berate, belittle, or otherwise use profanity directed at my
employees or our company. That is a more important core value of our
company than the pursuit of revenue of any size.

I’ve instructed Sean to cancel the return shipping label as we’ve used enough of each other’s time in this transaction. You may retain the blower if it can be of any use to you or one of your friends in the future, or dispose of it in an environmentally friendly manner.

I will request a refund to your credit card for the $15 price of the product ASAP.


I don’t think any of this needs further elaboration on my part, but I note that Simply NUC has since modified its fans page to be a bit more informative.

62 thoughts on “How not to treat a customer

  1. That reply! Holy cow. I want to use the word “entitled” but I don’t think that has nearly the punch needed.

    Point taken. Simply NUC: a company that apparently has a business model of “we want to fail.” I see no reason to interfere with this goal by ever giving them business.

  2. I’ll just say that the name “Simply NUC” tickles my “shit company” sensors enough to skip over them from the get go.

    • They are a grifter company whose business model is incompatible with the kind of high-quality customer ESR represents.

      Unfortunately such bottom feeding grifter companies are perfectly stable and profitable in America today. And yes if you know what you’re doing you can spot them from their nomenclature alone.

      The fun part of running one of these companies is the fact you can’t come out and say you plan to scam low information buyers, but you still have to communicate this plan to VCs somehow. Lot of wink-wink nudge-nudge going on. Very exciting if you’re into that sort of thing.

  3. Err…I’ll take the contrary position..why not.

    1. The page where is says “As of right now SimplyNUC offers
    replacement fans for all NUC models.” is a blog post from May 1, 2019…the date is in the URL, even.

    2. Looking at the page, as it was when you saw it
    https://web.archive.org/web/20191223205247/https://simplynuc.com/product/dawson-bapa0508r5u-fan/
    It says
    “Dawson Canyons use the BAPA0508R5U 5 V, .5 A, 4 wire fan.”
    It also has a “Compatible models” tab. Apparently you overlooked it.

    3. I don’t think Amazon would have told you another vendor to go to if it didn’t have something in stock. “Fans can also be sourced online but will require personal research.” is a “hint, hint–google the model number” answer, which apparently you didn’t appreciate.

    4. Your letter was completely disproportionate, logorrheic, and rather impolite. It is overweeningly entitled to feel that because you ordered the wrong part, support from that company is now your personal troubleshooter. If you had ordered the original NUC from them, I would be sympathetic…but you didn’t. You ordered the wrong fan. It happens. Move on.

    • >Apparently you overlooked it.

      No, I didn’t. It wasn’t there.

      The reason I’m sure of this is that during my phone conversation with Dominic (never got a last name) we both looked at the page and he was audibly embarrassed about it rather than telling me politely (or not so politely) that I had simply missed the information I was looking for.

        • >Errr…did you notice I linked to the archive.org page from 12/23/2019?

          Then this was actually a worse screwup than I knew. They must have had disambiguating information on the page and actually deleted it sometime between then and when I and Dominic looked at it.

          • I’m sure that’s the only possibility. Similar to how you overlooked me writing “as it was when you saw it” and an archive.org link.

            • >’m sure that’s the only possibility. Similar to how you overlooked me writing “as it was when you saw it” and an archive.org link.

              Oh, get stuffed. Dominic clearly saw the same absence of information that I did.

    • > 3. I don’t think Amazon would have told you another vendor to go to if it didn’t have something in stock. “Fans can also be sourced online but will require personal research.” is a “hint, hint–google the model number” answer, which apparently you didn’t appreciate.

      More plainly, it’s “legal told my boss’s boss that we might get sued if we recommend one vendor over another, so my butt’s on the line if I’m more specific”.

      • Intel might have strict reseller agreements that prevent them from recommending another vendor for the part, and/or instruct them to recommend customers go to Intel directly for certain parts…or perhaps the available fans have counterfeiting issues, so it would be inappropriate to make any recommendations…or just general store policy to not refer customers to anyone else. I don’t think I’ve ever had an interaction with support where I expected them to research where I should get a part they didn’t have in stock…much less blame them for not doing so preemptively, when they notify me they don’t have it.

        ESR could have easily responded…”Thanks! I’ll go google the part now, since RMA’ing our NUC would be very inconvenient. Would you happen to know a trustworthy source/[link] this is what I found–does that look correct”?

        Nope. Apparently it’s easier to write up a long screed calling the support person incompetent and mailing his boss.

        I also love how ESR gives business recommendation on how the owner should run his business, despite not having any particularly stellar first-hand experience in that area. Real business people know that customers that write multi-page epistles over their great dissatisfaction over not getting perfect support for a part with a maybe $5 profit margin are *danger* *danger* entitled time sinks, and you should politely ask them to shop elsewhere.

        • >Nope. Apparently it’s easier to write up a long screed calling the support person incompetent and mailing his boss.

          This is far from the worst customer behavior I’ve seen, even if we narrow that down to behavior that has been directed personally at me . The company *definitely* could have handled it better. So could ESR.

          >I also love how ESR gives business recommendation on how the owner should run his business, despite not having any particularly stellar first-hand experience in that area. Real business people know that customers that write multi-page epistles over their great dissatisfaction over not getting perfect support for a part with a maybe $5 profit margin are *danger* *danger* entitled time sinks, and you should politely ask them to shop elsewhere.

          The most entitled customers are corporate IT guys RMAing a C-Suite executive’s laptop. Because they know that if they don’t channel every bit of the exec’s entitlement, their job is on the line.

          The second most entitled customers are small business owners and the self-employed.

          Next come the regular consumers, and ESR probably falls somewhere in here.

          At the very bottom are the corporate IT guys who *don’t* have an executive breathing down their necks, and anyone who’s previously worked in a call center, and knows how the sausage gets made.

        • As someone who does both back end development and customer facing work, I think that an email like ESR’s, regardless of the slightly snarky tone, is like gold. It points out specific points of failure and points out what might address them. Its *very difficult* to get good, actionable bug (or process failure) reports. Most people will not bother, they simply will vanish along with any business they might have had with you in the future.

          This is different from giving a bad review, where you’re punished even if you try to make things right. This is actually a *considerate* thing that ESR has done.

          • As far as providing actionable failure information, it’s good. But as far as motivating the business to actually make things right, it leaves something to be desired. (Of course, a good business will have a lower threshold that needs to be crossed to motivate them, which Eric’s letter, despite its faults, should have crossed).

            • Its true, I am assuming a certain level of maturity on the part of the business owner. But if that business wants to be successful, they should quickly dispose of the notion that it is the customer’s job to be nice to me when I mess up. The customer was nice enough by not leaving a bad review on Google Business. I’d have written something along the lines of:

              “Dear Eric,

              We clearly messed up badly in your case! First of all, we will naturally immediately being the process of refunding your money for the fan. In addition, we hope you will accept a $20 credit for future business with our site as a token of our appreciation for your patience with us.

              Please be assured that we are taking steps to learn from the experience so that others will be spared the problems you pointed out to us. Specifically we are making sure to update our website to make it much more clear what models our fans work with, and to provide some links to where you can find other fans that we do not carry. We are also examining our processes to make sure that people receive the parts they actually ordered.

              Again, we appreciate your patience, and hope we can serve you better in the future.

              Best,

                • Wow! Will Rogers once wrote” It is not what we know, but what we know that is not so, that is the problem.” The levels of assumption and presumption upon actual facts are scary! ANYONE who has ever successfully worked retail( or, for that matter, ANY) Customer Service position knows “The Customer Is Always Right.”

              • Indeed. The true measure of customer service is not that you get it right the first time. Yes, that’s important, but when you really have to measure up is what happens when you don’t get it right the first time. How you go about making it right is what really counts.

            • But as far as motivating the business to actually make things right, it leaves something to be desired.

              Agree. If you want to cause change, have to be more politic. In other words, manipulative. The above is too direct.

  4. Wow. My lack of desire to do business with SimplyNUCs is definitely coming to a middle now I’ve read their reply

    I kind of hope
    “I will not entertain customers who verbally berate, belittle, or otherwise use profanity directed at my employees or our company”
    is copypasta boilerplate because if it isn’t it suggests that the respondent has reading comprehension issues

    • And in fact, unlike ESR, I might have been able to at least recommend the purchase of a significant number of NUCs in the relatively near future.

      My desire is to find a cheap PC that can run Vyos (or the right ubuntu appliance image or similar) and act as a router/firewall/dns server/vpn client for SMB networks as a potential alternative to Ubiquiti devices. I don’t know that a NUC is the right answer, but the industrial PCs I was looking at were all priced higher than I wanted and pi4s don’t have the horsepower (I tested that).

        • Roughly $300 or so. A Ubiquiti USG is about $200 and Edgerouter is $100-150. These are good devices but a little limited in that Ubiquiti is sort of semi closed despite the open source Vyatta codebase they use and, in particular, are bad at VPN stuff. Also the CPU really doesn’t have the chops to run the DNS server things I want it to do.

          I want to get something that is a tad more powerful and flexible.

      • >I don’t know that a NUC is the right answer, but the industrial PCs I was looking at were all priced higher than I wanted and pi4s don’t have the horsepower

        If I were in your shoes I’d be looking at mini-ITX systems like these. I landed on that vendor at random and don’t know anything about them, but the offerings are representative.

        Yeah, you don’t want anything labelled “industrial”; the outfits selling those make ’em pricy because they are at least putatively designed and ruggedized for factory-floor environments.

        NUCs might not be right for your deployment either. They are smaller, lighter, and prettier than mini-ITX boxes and you pay a premium for that. Might be worth it if you’re dealing with very cramped physical premises.

        If you do go with a NUC don’t buy a current one. Get one of the semi-obsolescent i3 or Celeron 4x4s as I did for Cathy. It’s all the power you need, less noise, less heat, and a lot less expensive than the flagship models.

        • I’ve looked at a variety of these.

          Interestingly one thing I’ve found recently is that there’s a significant supply issue thanks to the Wuflu so you have to really dig into the actual availability

      • The market for inexpensive single board computers is far wider than it used to be, largely due to the Raspberry Pi and its resulting competitors. While many are ARM-based, there are x86 options available, some with dual ethernet, you might want to check out Seeed Studio Odyssey X86J4105; Hard Kernel ODROID-H2+; UDOO BOLT & X86 II; and LattePanda (bunch of models)

        Also, a lot of mini PCs and very small form factor PCs are available beside NUCs. If you want something standardized, Mini-ITX motherboard-based systems can be pretty small, though not as small as mini PCs.

    • >I kind of hope
      “I will not entertain customers who verbally berate, belittle, or otherwise use profanity directed at my employees or our company”
      is copypasta boilerplate because if it isn’t it suggests that the respondent has reading comprehension issues

      It basically is. At the same time, Eric’s email could be taken as berating or belittling to Sean, though I’m sure Eric did not intend it that way. But the whole “…or our company” bit is just… bad.

  5. “I will not entertain customers who verbally berate, belittle”

    Mr. Pea-brain: your company and your employee(s) deserved to be berated and belittled.

  6. As practical business advice to the owners I’m sure this post is spot on, but it amuses me how strike 3 reminds me of how some older, debt-free small business owners I know act. People who can afford to shut their entire operation down and retire whenever they feel like it, and just keep working because they enjoy the work. If they feel they provided what you paid for, they’re not going to tickle your balls for the rest of the product’s life-cycle just because you gave them some money earlier, or might give them more money later. For people accustomed to only being addressed by their suppliers in Customer Service Voice, this can be jarring.

    That’s the dream: to be able to perform gainful work, yet still tell customers “go Google it” if they’re bothering you with something you think should be easy for them to handle on their own.

    • People who can afford to shut their entire operation down and retire whenever they feel like it, and just keep working because they enjoy the work.

      And yet… and yet…

      Put yourself into that business owner’s shoes. You have spent a while (maybe your entire life) and personal sweat equity and whatever else it took to build something of value. Why would you want to just piss it away? Even if you don’t have family to inherit it, you could sell it off* and then do something interesting or fun or useful with the proceeds.

      * – and part (sometimes a substantial part) of the value of a company, beyond the market value of the inventory and physical plant, is the “business good will” – that intangible that makes customers want to deal with you rather than your competitors. That’s what you piss away when you behave like ‘Simply NUC’ did.

  7. I can sympathise with managers who do not want their frontline staff to receive aggression: its not “the customer is always right” ethos, but it could support employee loyalty. But while your email was harsh, it was directed at management not the employees. I note the wording “directed at my employees or our company”: put aside the lack of profanity, is harsh criticism about the company supposed to weaken it in the context of an email to management? The company is a sort of incorporated snowflake?

    Well, at least they amended their webpage…

    • >Well, at least they amended their webpage…

      Yeah. You know what makes this especially sad? I wanted to like this vendor and do repeat business with them.

      Whoever founded the outfit had a smart idea. They noticed that Intel’s OEM agreements created an unexploited market niche because Intel is barred from selling whole systems to consumers. Before Simply NUC this meant you had to buy a barebones NUC and integrate memory and disk yourself. This created room for a smallish specialty integrator, not a high-growth business but a nice one to be in.

      It’s a damn shame their execution is so terrible

    • >I can sympathise with managers who do not want their frontline staff to receive aggression: its not “the customer is always right” ethos, but it could support employee loyalty.

      1) This is a big part of it: call center work is very stressful, and average employee retention times are low.

      Other reasons:

      2) The customers that react the most severely to a given level of screwup tend to use up a fraction of employee time and stress capacity that is far out of proportion to their fraction of complaints made, both at the tier 1 and the management level. This increases other customers’ wait times and puts employees on a shorter fuse with subsequent customers, so sometimes management just has to say “we don’t want your business” and cut their losses.

      3) Giving employees a red line at which they can terminate a call (verbal abuse directed at the employee), and at which management will cut off a customer if the employee doesn’t, makes it less likely that an employee will hang up on a customer, or worse, blow up, at a random and possibly lesser level of provocation, which both escalates the issue with the customer and is likely to lead to the termination of the employee (see point 1). Even if the employee’s blowup threshold is so high as to make a blowup unlikely, some employees will take so much crap from a customer that it both increases handle time for a customer that is unlikely to come back anyways (see point 2), and, inevitably increases the employee’s stress level, making them more likely to leave (point 1 again). In a previous call center job, I was unaware that I could disconnect an abusive customer and ended up spending a significant time getting berated by a caller that didn’t even have a technical issue to address: he wanted company information that we were explicitly disauthorized to provide. I was more amused than stressed by the language he used and the suggestions he made (though I kept both the amusement and the stress to myself), but management pulled the call at random and was *horrified*, and clued me in that I would have been within my rights to end the call.

      • >3) Giving employees a red line at which they can terminate a call (verbal abuse directed at the employee)

        This is reasonable. However, all my communication with Sean was by email, and I was at no point aggressive towards him.

        • I have no reason to doubt you on that point, but, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere in the thread, the email you sent up the chain could be construed as belittling, and in my experience, even if the customer was polite to the employee himself, management will generally do just as this particular person did if a customer disparages an employee (as opposed to listing specific grievances, which you did, in addition to the language that is arguably belittling), especially if they do not judge the employee to have done wrong.

          Usually abuse of the *company*, including profanity, is tolerated as a means of letting the customer let off steam, though, and because the customer may well have a legitimate grievance against the company as a whole, even if every individual directly involved has done their best. The “…or our company” part, in my opinion, was beyond rude.

          The big thing to remember is that all the agents and lower management in a call center are tightly pressed for time and under a lot of stress. Even if you come to the conclusion that you will never buy the company’s product again, they will generally, as a group, be friendly and polite if you don’t waste their time and don’t stress them out by making it personal (though any particular agent may be having a bad day or be the one they’re building a case to fire).

          You’d probably be rejected as overqualified, and your commitments to Open Source projects probably don’t leave you with the time, but if you ever find yourself lightly loaded and strapped for cash, and if you’ve never done such work before, I’d *highly* recommend a stint working in a call center. It will be *stressful*, but also quite eye-opening.

  8. ” I will not entertain customers who verbally berate, belittle, or otherwise use profanity directed at my employees or our company.”

    Maybe he talked to one of the employees and got a different version of how your conversation went?

    • >It might even be worth questioning whether these people have any business dealing in NUC hardware at all, if they don’t know who ESR is ;)

      I don’t see it that way. There are places I expect my name to be known, but a random small hardware company with no particular open-source ties isn’t one of them. OK, there might be one guy in their IT department who’d recognize “ESR” (and in a company the size I suspect they are he might be the entire department) but he’s not going to be customer-facing.

      Anyway I have a fairly strong allergy to throwing my name around. Not that I’ll never do it at all, but it takes more extreme provocation than this.

  9. Wow, that’s quite the customer service horror story. It was my blog you found that linked to SimplyNUC’s replacement fan site. As someone else mentioned, that post is relatively old. I’ve watched SimplyNUC’s list of available fans shrink since then. If you have the specific model number off the fan, you can usually find them on Amazon, Ebay, or any number of other online shops. I have a couple of fans sitting around. If you can send me the exact model number of the fan you need I’ll see if one of mine will work for you. If it does, I’m happy to send it to you.

    Sorry you had such a crappy experience.

    • >I have a couple of fans sitting around. If you can send me the exact model number of the fan you need I’ll see if one of mine will work for you. If it does, I’m happy to send it to you.

      Thanks for your very generous offer, but I’ve already ordered one from Amazon.

  10. Well…..I don’t think the word “serendipity” has ever been more applicable in my life.

    2 days ago I made the decision that I was going to replace an old system with a linux NUC, and began sniffing around to gather information (I’m coming at this cold).

    Saw Simply NUC and thought “well that would certainly make my life a bit easier”.

    Today, I read your latest posts and feel like I’ve just pulled a Neo bullet dodge.

    Thank you…..I guess the hunt continues….

    • Same here. I’m idly pondering what it would take to replace my current Linux desktop with something that’s less of a power hog; unfortunately, for what I need, that comes to almost two kilobucks. (Yes, you can spend $2K on a NUC if you get one o the gaming versions and max it out.)

      A place like SimplyNUC would be the ideal one-stop shop, but…

      • >A place like SimplyNUC would be the ideal one-stop shop, but…

        On the other hand, kitting out a NUC is pretty simple – I built Cathy’s from a barebones NUC I bought off Newegg, and SDRAM, and a SATA drive. Today I’d probably go with an M.2 instead as those have dropped quite drastically in price since. Based on my experience I’d say it’s a good idea to spend the few bucks for a spare fan…

        I’m guessing one of the newer i7 NUCs would give you as much processor as you need, but you might need to be a little careful about graphics support due to your Second Life work. One of the purposes of the NUC line for Intel is as a test bed for their latest integrated graphics chips, which are thus not always Linux-supported fresh out of the gate.

        Thus: pick an i7 variant, but do the web searches required to verify that Linux will drive the on-board graphics at above VGA resolution.

        • Or simply get a NUC with a PCIe slot that I can stuff a graphics card into. Yes, they do exist. So far, it does not appear that any of the Intel graphics devices will give me the performance I need.

          • >Or simply get a NUC with a PCIe slot that I can stuff a graphics card into.

            That’s not going to be any of the little 4×4 NUCs. The NUC9i7qnx “Extreme” might do it, though frankly I have trouble seeing how you’d stuff a full-sized PCIe graphics card even in that case.

            • “I have trouble seeing how you’d stuff a full-sized PCIe graphics card even in that case.”

              Without looking at the particular model, my guess is “you don’t; you use an eGPU plugged into a Thunderbolt port.” That was what people would do with the Skull Canyon model I had.

              There’s a small performance hit by being limited to only 4PCIe lanes.

              • I don’t need a super monster graphics card, just one that’s a couple notches better than Intel. I use a GTX 960 currently on my SL Linux desktop.

                What I don’t know is whether eGPUs are supported on Linux. …though a quick Google indicates it Just Works on recent stuff, including Pop!_OS. Bears investigating.

                • You don’t *have* to use a monster GPU as an eGPU, although gamers would probably look at you askance.

                  I just brought it up because there are probably more NUCs with TB than there are with an actual PCIE x16 slot. (And if you don’t mind more something Frankensteiny, there are external PCIe slots with cables that plug into mSata or PCMCIA slots (IIRC, been several years since I looked)). There are apparently enough people who want to stuff a discrete GPU into a machine without the proper slot….

  11. From the founders of a small home audio company that I like (Schiit):

    “Aside: if they’re asking about something that’s unclear, make sure you fix it right away. If they’re confused, lots of other people are confused, too. Remember Amazon’s rule of customer service: If you have to contact us, we’ve failed.”

  12. > I got on the Simply NUC website’s Zendesk chat and talked with a person named Bobbie who seemed to want to be helpful (I point this out because, until I spoke with Dominic, this was the one single occasion on which Simply NUC behaved like it might be run by competent people).

    The sad thing is that the odds are high, from previous times I’ve gotten chat support, that Bobby wasn’t even human. They tend to have a bot handling triage, then distributing the chat to a human agent. Such bots have gotten pretty good, but still tend to fail the Turing test in subtle ways.

    >Bobbie handed me off to one Sean [redacted], and that is when my experience turned from bad to terrible.

    How did you get his last name? In the call center work I’ve done, agents were specifically forbidden to provide more than a first name, a last initial, and a badge number, due to liability concerns over employees getting stalked, doxxed, or otherwise personally subjected to harassment or physical harm. Really, in publishing your email here you probably should have redacted the last name, especially if you don’t hold him responsible. Of course, you weren’t on the phone with him to judge by accent whether he was stateside, so if he’s located overseas the name may well be a pseudonym.

    >But I’m not; I think the actual fault here is that nobody has ever explained to this man what his actual job is, nor trained him properly in how to do it.

    This remark could be construed as belittling. I will present a likely scenario, from my experience in call center work, and talking to others that have been in that industry:

    Sean is a shadow autist, and quite technically adept, but has all the tact of Linus Torvalds (I don’t think Torvalds ever did call center work, but a significant fraction of people like him end up doing call center work). He may even contribute to an open source project. He likely knows his job better than anyone in management (how to retain *techies* as customers), but is hobbled by policy, and/or, due to being a shadow autist, interprets policy overly narrowly, and may well find that different policies conflict (either actually or in his perception). There’s a good chance that he works for an outsourced call center, either stateside or overseas, not directly for Simply NUC, and that adds a whole additional layer of policies subject to real or perceived conflict with other policies. If he works for an outsourcer, the first class of agents hired after the call center landed the contract likely received direct training from the client, but everything since has been at second and third hand. If Sean is fairly new to the job, he likely just thinks that things will be less stressful once he learns the ropes, but as time wears on he will see more and more customers screwed over in ways that he doesn’t have the authority to stop, and their wrath will largely be taken out on him. He’ll take many calls in a week, and a few percent will involve snippy customers that have him on edge that things are about to go badly for the whole call. Depending on his exact level of social impairment, maybe one percent of his total calls actually will go badly, and the more badly they go . He’ll get more and more demoralized, and stop caring about the success of the company, but won’t quit readily because job applications and interviews are hell for shadow autists, and he doesn’t want to go back into that. So customers that treat him well, he’ll bend over backwards to help and advocate for, and customers that don’t: well, he doesn’t care about the company anymore, so why should he care about retaining the customer? Depending on his exact underlying moral sense, the latter sentiment might be displayed with more or less hostility to the angry customer, but, if less, not because he wants to retain the customer.

    There may be significant failures in training, but the failures in policy are often larger, and the agents hobbled to the point where a well trained and competent agent stops caring in short order, which is why your statement comes across as belittling: it’s not the employee’s ability, trained or innate, that’s the real issue here, and calling him poorly trained questions his ability.

    Operations are generally tuned more to general-case throughput (because customers care about time spent on the phone) than corner-case failure recovery, unless the customer has made many large orders (because the customer is likely to end up not coming back, and to end up badmouthing the company to all their friends anyways, let’s not waste paid employee hours in retaining them).

    • >The sad thing is that the odds are high, from previous times I’ve gotten chat support, that Bobby wasn’t even human.

      Alternatively, a human with poor English skills, maybe not even located anywhere near the West. Language skills can both work as an IQ filter, making smart people seem dumb if they cannot express themselves well in that language, and can also make someone seem rude. There was this case of someone apparently asking a favor from me and I was wondering, kind of angry, why does he think he gets to give orders to me and command me around, and then he switched to a language he spoke better and then it came out as he intended it to, as a polite request.

      There are people who seem to be capable of picking up a language (one related to theirs, at least) in weeks, but I have no idea how they are not shooting themselves in the foot in such ways (appearing dumb or rude).

      • >I have no idea how they are not shooting themselves in the foot in such ways (appearing dumb or rude).

        It’s not obvious?

        Natural polyglots like that (I speak with some confidence here because I’m a low-grade natural polyglot myself) don’t just build internal Markov chains modeling the speech utterences they observe, they do it in a way fine-grained enough to distinguish speech registers – such as polite request vs. demand.

    • Eric uses the last name McClure ironically. It’s the last name of Troy McClure, Simpson’s stand in for clueless Hollywood actors who think their name is bigger than they think it is.

  13. > I don’t any of this needs further elaboration on my part,
    You mean you don’t *think* any of this needs further elaboration on your part?

  14. I have to say you don’t just get crap service from small grifter companies.

    When C and I were getting ready to move from California to Kansas, I got in touch with AT&T to cancel my service. They told me they have a program where I could suspend my service and reactivate it, with the same e-mail addresses, after the move. That sounded a lot less inconvenient than changing addresses, so I signed up.

    As soon as we were in our Kansas apartment, I called AT&T to schedule the reactivation. They told me to connect our modem and router and they would turn things on at a specified time. I did, and nothing happened. So I called them back to schedule a visit from a technician. No technician arrived on the appointed day. After half a dozen phone calls, and six days after the original call, and reassurances from everyone I spoke with that the problem had been fixed, I finally got a phone call from a technician who was on the way—to an apartment in Lawrence, California, not Lawrence, Kansas!

    I had specified our complete address on every phone call.

    Apparently AT&T’s software was not actually set up to maintain the original contract if I moved to a different state; and whatever program they were putting the new address into when I spoke with them didn’t connect with the program that scheduled service visits. But the people I spoke with, in the intervening week, didn’t actually tell me that; they made great efforts to reassure me, but did nothing that solved the problem.

    So I signed up for service with the local cable company (and was online less than four days later, after they shipped their modem to me); and then I called AT&T to cancel my service. That led to a call from a very friendly sales representative who was very apologetic—but didn’t persuade me to go back to AT&T, not after stressing out for most of a week over why nothing I did was working. The problem was so pervasive that I can’t attribute it to single representatives being incompetent; it has to be a failure of management at some level.

  15. Rather than comment on the post you’ve written, I’m going to step into my time machine and change history….(pause)… There. Done. Now, here is the post you should have written instead:


    My wife’s NUC was making a loud noise that sounded like a fan bearing. I disassembled it, found the label on the fan with the part number, and googled it. Then I went to amazon and bought one of those. It arrived 2 days later (free Prime shipping!) and I installed it. All is well now.

  16. Some workers, by their nature, take the mission of an institution or project to heart and make its agenda their own. Those are the ones who view your complaints as an opportunity to turn grumpiness around and put a smile on your face, then improve the experience for other customers using what they learned from your bad one. You don’t have to be that beautiful or brilliant to go far in life by persisting with that approach. I know a guy exactly like that. One of his hobbies now is collecting gold bars.

  17. Kathy could use the following maxim: Anything that is crucial, hold at least one spare copy of it for backup.
    A cellphone, an internet connection, a work station, a hard-drive whatever. In this case – an NUC.
    Anything that is used for subsistence, one is dependent upon and is not leisure surplus that can be done without for a short or long while – one should hold a solid reserve in-place for it.

    And not just that, we just can’t be at the mercy of modern markets chaos anymore so perhaps stocking of quality, robust items should be considered as well.

Leave a Reply to Jason Hoffman Cancel reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *