Throwback Thursday: Lost in translation

Lucky; Mandarin probably would have been even harder to deal with.

Computerworld  |  Shark Tank
Computerworld / IDG

Multi-store retailer is having a big sale, the kind of big event that can make or break the chain’s profitability — and a store manager’s career. So one of those store managers is pretty upset when his store’s phone system goes down. He uses his cellphone to call the help desk, then hands it off to an employee with more technical ability than most. That employee is told by the help desk tech, “Restart the IP phone system.”

But what he thinks he hears is “reset,” so he finds the recessed reset button on the rack-mounted IP phone system and pushes it with a ballpoint pen tip.

The phone system dutifully performs the reset — which scrubs all the phone system’s configuration data and sets everything back to factory defaults. As in the defaults set in the factory. The factory that’s in Germany. Where they speak German.

Which no one on the store’s staff knows how to speak. It’s the same story with the IT help desk.

What happened next, says fish, is that the store employee read the LCD display of the IP phone system, letter for letter, while the help desk tech used online translation to figure out what they needed to do.

“Eventually the language setting was changed back to English and remote control was re-established with the rogue Germanic device,” says fish.

Sprechen Sie Shark? No matter; Shark has Google Translate. Send me your true tale of IT life at You can also subscribe to the Daily Shark Newsletter and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

Shop Tech Products at Amazon