Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer? Study reveals bizarre helpdesk requests


We live in a golden age of technology. Flying cars, smartphones that talk, augmented reality eyeglasses — technology so advanced that it would have seemed ridiculous 20 years ago, the stuff of Gene Roddenberry’s dreams. Well the future may not be soon enough for some clueless computer users. A recent study by IT staffing firm Robert Half Technology has put together a compendium of the funniest, laziest, and most downright unusual IT helpdesk requests, surveying over 1,400 CIO’s across the country, and posing the simple question: “What is the strangest or most unusual request you or a member of your help desk or technical support team has ever received?”

Take for example:

“How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?” An innocent enough question, to be sure — but almost poetic in its earnestness. And it raises so many more questions: Was the sesame seed from a morning bagel? A hoagie perhaps (or submarine sandwich if you prefer)? Had the person even tried to remove the seed themselves? Was it blocking a critical keyboard key, resulting in hilarious misspellings? We may never know. Of course, there are always the mundane and lazy questions, such as:

“How do I clean cat hair out of my computer fan?” Obvious, with this.


“Can you come over and plug in this cord for me?” No.

Anyone who’s done IT support can attest that questions like these basically come with the territory. But then there are the visionaries, the futurists, the Steve Jobs of the cubicle.

Like the person asking this:

“Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer?” This is one of those questions that really makes you think. Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer? What would it take? An internet of things is already on the roadmap for many electronics makers, and wireless broadband deals and inexpensive wireless chips may soon make it a reality. So maybe this person was on to something. Or maybe they just didn’t want to get up and go make a cup of coffee.

The idea of the Internet itself has long been a mystery for many less-experienced users (and parents). What is it, and how does it work? Like magnets, the Internet amazes and confounds — resulting in this:

“How do I start the Internet?”


“I’d like to download the entire Internet so I can take it with me.”

And then there are the people just looking for advice, or help — or the lonely ones looking for a good chat. “Where can I find a video of Elvis Presley online,” “Can you help us get money out of the vending machine,” and “My car’s cup holder is broken. Can you fix it?” all fall into this catagory.

“Beyond their entertainment value, these unusual requests demonstrate the strong customer service skills necessary to work in the help desk and technical support fields,” says John Reed, the executive director of Robert Half Technology. “The best IT professionals are composed and empathetic — and, of course, have a good sense of humor.” Check out the full list below, and let us know the strangest thing you’ve ever asked your IT guru.

“How do I clean cat hair out of my computer fan?”

“How do I remove a sesame seed from the keyboard?”

“I need help drilling holes in the wall.”

“Can you come over and plug in this cord for me?”

“I need you to install a video monitoring system.”

“Can I turn on the coffee pot with my computer?”

“I dropped my phone in the toilet. What should I do?”

“I want to download software to change an audio file to video.”

“How do I pirate software?”

“We need you to fix the microwave in the lunchroom.”

“Can you recommend a good dry cleaner?”

“Can you help me fix my chair?”

“Can you help us get money out of the vending machine?”

“I can’t find my packages online! Can you help me?”

“Can you help me fix my toilet?”

“My car’s cup holder is broken. Can you fix it?” 

“Can you help me repair a washing machine?”

“Where can I find a video of Elvis Presley online?”

“I’d like to download the entire Internet so I can take it with me.”

“How do I start the Internet?”

“Will you show me how to use the mouse?”

“My computer won’t turn on or off.” (The computer was unplugged.)

“How do I send an email?”

“How do I click on different files?”

[Image courtesy of wavebreakmedia ltd/Shutterstock]

Health & Fitness

JLABS injects some tech into the medical industry

Innovating health care is expensive, risky, and complicated legally. One company is trying to remove these barriers with clever and altruistic approach.
Smart Home

Brew it fast, hot, and flavorful with our favorite coffee makers

Whether you're looking for a simple coffee maker to get you through the morning or a high-end brewer that will impress your taste buds and your friends, you'll find some of the best coffee makers around on this list.
Product Review

You don't need Alexa in your microwave, but you'd be surprised what she can do

Amazon has added to its long portfolio of products with the AmazonBasics Microwave, a small appliance that works with Alexa. We took the microwave for a test drive to find out more.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Shop early Black Friday deals on Philips Hue products from Amazon, today only

Avoid the Black Friday hassle and shop great online deals. Amazon is offering huge discounts on refurbished Philips Hue smart lighting products to help light your home. For today only, you can grab a range of smart home tech from Amazon.

All the Best Target Black Friday deals for 2018

The mega-retailer opens its doors to the most competitive shoppers at 6 p.m. on Thursday, November 22, and signs indicate that the retailer means business this year. We've sifted through all of the deals, from consumer electronics to small…
Smart Home

New wireless power kit puts a charge into your smart speakers via infrared light

Wireless power technology is coming fast, and Wi-Charge is leading the innovative trend with a new wireless power kit that can transform Amazon and Google smart speakers into fully functional, wire-free devices.

The Best Black Friday Deals from Best Buy in 2018

We've been hard at work assembling all the best Black Friday deals Best Buy offers in 2018 and putting them in one place to save you time and money this holiday season. From laptops to TVs, game consoles to smart speakers and much more…
Smart Home

Save Smart: The Best Black Friday Smart Home Deals

The number of Black Friday sales can be overwhelming. Here are some of the best bang-for-your-buck deals you'll find this year on the most popular smart home products on the market.

Amazon’s new trade-in and recycling programs gives your gizmos a ‘second chance’

Amazon is generating a new level of sustainability into its platform with Amazon Second Chance, a new portal that encourages consumers to trade in and recycle their old electronic devices.
Smart Home

Amazon rejoins the fight against HIV/AIDS with a (Red) second-gen Echo

Now you can rock out to U2 and give to a good cause by buying Amazon's red Echo, a limited edition of the smart speaker that also donates money to the humanitarian organization Project (Red), founded by Bono.
Smart Home

Huawei could soon take on Google and Amazon with a new digital assistant

According to a report from CNBC, Huawei is working on a new digital assistant that could try to take on the likes of Google and Amazon's Alexa. Huawei already has a digital assistant in China, but the new one will be aimed at markets…
Smart Home

How to stream music from Google Home to Bluetooth speakers or headphones

Want to stream music on Google Home, but listen to it through a different speaker or a pair of headphones? Here's how to play streaming music on Google Home through Bluetooth headphones or a Bluetooth speaker.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…