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]


It took Dell years to fix 1 problem on its best laptop. Here’s how they did it

The new Dell XPS 13 moves the webcam from the below the screen to the top, finally vanquishing the one obstacle facing thin, sleek laptop displays. We have the exclusive story on how it was done.
Smart Home

The Instant Pot Lux is a gateway drug into the pleasures of pressure cooking

The 3-quart Instant Pot Lux is one of the most affordable Instant Pots you can buy. Is it still a solid pressure cooker? Here are our thoughts on the Instant Pot Lux, a great IP baseline model.
Home Theater

Here are some common AirPods problems, and how to fix them

Apple’s AirPods are among the best fully wireless earbuds we’ve seen, but they’re not perfect. If you’re having trouble, take a look at our guide to the most common problems and what you can do to fix them.
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.
Smart Home

The best air fryers deliver fried food with a fraction of the calories

What is this magical mechanism? It's an air fryer, and when used correctly, it can mimic the effects of frying while using just a little bit of oil. You still get that crispy, golden exterior and the fluffy center.
Emerging Tech

‘Tech vest’ prevents Amazon workers from colliding with robot co-workers

Amazon workers at its fulfillment centers are using "tech vests" to help protect them from collisions with their robot co-workers. The robots already have obstacle avoidance sensors, but the belt offers another layer of safety.
Smart Home

Legrand’s Smart Lighting touts security, interoperability, and simple setup

Near universal connectivity including Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, Samsung SmartThings, Nest, Ring, and the Internet of Things is the theme of Legrand's Smart Lighting Radiant collection of switches, dimmers, outlets, and plugs.
Smart Home

Abode Systems upgrades its smart home gateway with new chip and Z-Wave Plus

Palo Alto-based Abode Systems is adding an upgrade to its popular smart home starter kit by replacing its central gateway with a second-generation version that supports cellular backup and enhanced Z-Wave support.
Smart Home

Put away that sponge and let us help you pick the best dishwasher for your buck

Tired of doing dishes by hand? Take a look at our picks of the four best dishwashers currently available and let a machine do the dirty work for you. They’ll do a much better job, anyway.
Smart Home

You can play NPR’s ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me’ on your smart speaker

You can play "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me" on Amazon Echo speakers or Google Home devices with the new Wait Wait Quiz. It's hosted by Peter Sagal and Bill Kurtis and will be updated every week with new questions.
Smart Home

Walabot Home, a device aimed at keeping seniors safe, expands its capabilities

When you have to be away from your elderly family members, Walabot Home can serve as your surrogate. This device can detect when your loved one falls and will call for help — no wearables or user input required.
Smart Home

Allergies acting up? Thes best air purifiers on the market can offer relief

Indoor air is often more contaminated than the air outside, which can cause an array of health issues over time. Luckily, these air purifiers can easily rid your home or office of unwanted allergens and contaminants.
Smart Home

Hackers hijack Nest camera, issue fake warning of North Korea missile attack

A Nest security camera hijacked by hackers who used the device to issue a fake warning about an incoming North Korean nuclear missile attack heading toward Los Angeles, Chicago, and Ohio.
Smart Home

Starbucks coffee delivery lands in 6 more cities via Uber Eats

Starbucks is in the process of expanding its coffee delivery service far beyond Miami. Available via the Uber Eats app, the service has just launched in San Francisco, with five additional cities joining in the coming weeks.