Oh Brother: A Plea for Senior Friendly Tech Support


erica-manfred-headshotLast week, Erica on a hunt for cheap and free ebooks   – read about it!  This week, she’s on a rant about tech support…


A few weeks ago, I wrote about how thrilled I was that I’d installed my new Brother wireless laser printer myself. What a heady experience that was after spending countless hours on the phone with customer support from Outer Mongolia to fix my former Brother printer.  

Every time there was a thunderstorm and the electricity went out, my computer would lose its connection with my printer and I’d have to spend at least 45 minutes to an hour on the phone with Brother tech support. Not on hold, mind you. Actually on the phone following the instructions of a robotic sounding tech person, usually a girl from the Philippines with a thick accent that was hard to understand even with OK hearing. I’d have to print out pages and pages of printer settings in single-spaced tiny type and find the right line and tell her the IP Address or Authentication Mode or whatever. Just finding the line she asked for involved a magnifying glass.


Tech support hell


Here’s an example. (I asked for the instructions to be emailed so I could share them with you).  There were 15 pages of the following. Here is a very small excerpt:

  • Print the Network Configuration report by pressing the GO key 3 times.
  • Look at the last page of the Printer Settings. Locate the Node Type near the top of the page.
  • If the Node Type is Brother NC-7800w, IEEE 802.11b/g (Active), go to STEP 4.
  • If the Node Type is Brother NC-7800w, IEEE 802.11b/g (Inactive) or Brother NC-8200h, Ethernet 10/100BASE-TX (Active), enable the wireless network card by following the steps below:
  • Hold down the blue GO key for 20 seconds.  Release the GO key when a page starts to print from the printer.
  • Wait 1 minute. It is very important to wait 1 minute before continuing. If you do not wait at least 1 minute, the Brother machine may not have enough time to join the network and receive an IP address.
  • Print the Printer Settings by pressing the GO key 3 times. Look at the last page and verify the Node Type is Brother NC-7800w, IEEE 802.11b/g (Active).
  • Locate the Name (SSID) near the bottom and confirm it matches your router or access point. On your computer, you may have a wireless symbol in the task tray in the bottom right of your screen near the time. Click on the wireless symbol to view the network you are connected to…

Do you have a headache yet?   The first time I did this, I was still a full-fledged technophobe, and after an hour of following instructions I thought I would have a nervous breakdown. I  had to go to bed with a few Tylenols and a glass of wine. By the tenth time I was so used to the process that I just had the wine. 


Why did I buy yet another Brother printer?


You may be wondering why I bought another Brother wireless laser printer when the first one finally broke after six years of heavy use. Well, Brother makes a great little laser printer, a real workhorse at a very low price. I’d read that they finally had solved the setup problem and their new wireless printers were much easier to install. It was true. When I finally got the new printer, the most thrilling aspect was the enclosed CD that walked me through an easy set up.

Then disaster struck.  Time Warner changed my modem and with it, my network and password. I had to input the new info into all my devices – and that’s a lot of devices:  Three computers, one phone, two tablets, one Roku and, disastrously, one wireless printer.

Making the change was simple on the computers, phone and tablets. On the Brother printer, not so. I tried to put the printer installation CD back in the computer but got stuck on a screen that said “disable firewall.” I called  customer service. When I heard the robotic voice start to give me those unmistakable instructions, my heart sank. Oh no, I thought I’d never have to do this again. Please Lord spare me. No such luck. I got my reading glasses and obediently followed the relentless voice for the next 45 minutes. I’d gotten better at it, so it didn’t take an hour.


Senior-friendly tech support – too much to ask for?


The problem with the robot from the Philippines is, you cannot ask any questions; she will ignore you and just keep giving you instructions.After she finally finished and my printer was back online she allowed me to ask a question.

“Why didn’t it work when I put the installation CD back in?”

“You’d have to uninstall the printer driver,” she said.

“Why didn’t you tell me to uninstall the printer driver?”

“That’s not our procedure.”

I knew enough not to argue. I hung up and had two glasses of wine and watched “Orange is the New Black”.  I needed a good laugh.

But I started wondering how seniors who are still more technophobic than I’ve become could survive one of these calls. The next day I tried to contact Brother to find out why they put their customers through such pain and suffering. After digging for a number and leaving a few messages I did get a call back from a nice guy from Brother, the head of tech support, who, after many probing questions, admitted that maybe their procedures aren’t all that user friendly. He acknowledged that I’d been put through the ringer by their rep and that  hopefully Brother would make some changes in the future, including providing American tech support to American customers. What a concept!


Are printers obsolete?  


Someone I know actually asked me why I needed a printer. She doesn’t have one. The only good reason I could come up with was to print Amazon return labels. You can scan and email just about everything else if you need to, using a scanner or even a smartphone app. But I would feel technologically naked without my printer, so I will hang onto it until I have to go through this again. Then I may just toss the sucker.

Do you have tech support tales from hell? Share them with me!

Erica Manfred is a journalist, essayist and humorist who writes about everything from dentistry to divorce to fantasy fiction. Friend her on Facebook.


10 responses to “Oh Brother: A Plea for Senior Friendly Tech Support

  1. When I ordered my digital cable box a few weeks ago, an in-home nurse in her 50’s, asked dubiously, “Will you be able to hook it up?” I thought that was strange since she knew my understanding of electronics, although limited, had fixed my CPAP machine a few weeks ago. All seniors, especially senior women, aren’t technologically stupid. All TV’s are now broadcasting programs, not static–Ta da!

  2. How about having names and places and phone numbers and emails for repairmen, painters, stores, drs. who accept medicare and medicare in the Chelsea neighborhood. NYC area along with painters, carpenters, so we dont have to look it up in a book its rigt there. There is this 99 cents store on W 24st north side that is between 6th and 7th aves nyc who is struggling to keep open. Helen from Chelsea NYC from 1987 yo now.

  3. Well there is a WAVE of “tech”criminals .. that call you supposedly that they are from microsoft but they are some guys from third world countries and have nothing to do with microsoft in reality, and they log into your pc and show you the event viewer from windows that even on the most perfect computer has errors. Then they continue explaining that you have viruses and problems, and try to take your money .. usually around $300 bucks for a few years of support. Of course they just do some fake scans to show the person that they are doing something, but in reality there is nothing wrong with the computer … then of course they vanish and your money is gone. ALSO, you might be searching for tech support for a product you own, say an HP printer so you do a search but you stumble upon a fake site again guys from third world countries that have nothing to do with the real product. again the same thing happens. They dont help you and they steal your money by telling you a bunch of lies. I have heard TOO many stories and I will be releasing a MASSIVE email about this to my 6000 people in my mailing list!

  4. The worst was when I got a Dell desktop that failed within a month, and the tech person in India told me to turn it on it’s side while it was running. I was on the phone for 2 hrs and it never was fixed. It had to be picked up and sent in for repair. When I got upset, the person, who was new, pleaded with me not tell anyone how the call went. Really?

  5. It’s not only seniors who trouble with tech support. Unless the tech support is US based, or outsourced to Canada or Ireland, EVERYBODY has trouble with them. Best to have as little to do with them as possible.

    As far as I’m concerned HP is the only reliable printer.

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