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A Funny Thing Happened at the Shop!

If you have an amusing tale from the electronics industry that you wish to share, please send to us at anatek@alltronics.com and we will gladly post here and on our Facebook page for everyone to enjoy!

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In the late 50's there was a Philips TV set that had the speaker mounted to the top of the case. When I fixed such a TV for an exhibition an older tv technician (who started repairing radios in the 50-ties) told me that somebody with bad injuries in the face brought such a TV into the shop. The cat of the customer had slept on the TV. Suddenly there was a big bang and the cat jumped about 5 meters (about 15 feet) from the TV directly into the face of the customer. The technician opened the set and found out that the speaker was drained with cat urine. While pissing the cat must have hit the anode-connector and got an electrical shock.

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I was repairing a TV for some rather old folks and I also changed a tube in the video amplifier because it was worn out and produced very blurred images. After changing the tube the TV gave sharp and perfect images. I went to our shop happy with my job. The next day these people called us back at the shop complaining about the TV. They said that the TV was hard on their eyes, the picture was too sharp. I put that worn out tube back in their TV again and the customers were then very pleased with my excellent job. I guess the couple had many happy years with their blurred and foggy TV. 

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In the late sixties I was doing Zenith service work. All Zenith TV's had a little trap door in the bottom with the usual controls bright, contrast, vertical etc. As I was finishing the set and checking all of the controls the woman of the house noticed the picture flipping as I set the vertical control. She said "Wait!" She asked if I could "back the picture up because one of the pictures looked better than another". As I did, I asked her to pick one out that she liked but I was just joking thinking no one is that stupid and thought it would get a laugh out of her. She wasn't kidding ( I couldn't bring myself to correct her) and I did make her happy!

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Many years ago, when tube TV's were king, a middle aged woman called me with a problem involving her new color TV. This was the first color set that she had owned. She told me please come to her house immediately because the color was running out of her set and onto the floor. When I got there I found that her child had discovered that crayons could be shoved into the back of the set through the vent holes. When she turned on the set the tubes heated up thereby melting the crayons. It was so funny that I did not even charge her for the service call.

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I was working in the Power industry in the early 1970's servicing monitors in control rooms. Protocol in those days dictated that ties were part of standard dress requirements. It was late in September just after my birthday and I proudly wore my new tie to work. The latest fashion at that time was Lurex strips running the length of the tie from top to bottom (lurex is conductive). As I opened a monitor and bent over the top to inspect for damage I suddenly felt like I had been hit in the back of the neck. The tie had dropped onto the EHT connection, the volts had run up the tie and zapped my neck. Needless to say that tie stayed in the wardrobe whenever I went to work.

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An "older" customer of mine called and said his console TV had an intermittent "hum". I had been to his house many times for other problems which were false alarms. Tried to find solve problem over the phone, including unplugging the TV. TV still has hum and insists I come over. I got there and waited and sure enough the TV hummed. He had his pager on "vibrate" and it was on the TV, behind some tapes. He was wondering where he had put his pager, so I killed TWO birds w/one stone...

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A nice older lady that I did some computer and VCR work for called me one day and said she had bought a new "cell" phone. I congratulated her on her new purchase and we continued with small talk about how everything was going. She said she was running to the store, so as we talked I noticed some weird pops on the line. She says it does that every now and then, and continued talking. After about a minute the call dropped and I didn't hear from her again for about 20 minutes. She called me back and said "...that is what I hate about this new phone... it only works near the house!!!" (Cordless phone).

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Customer buys a 65" MGA HDRPTV. Complains that the picture is not very good, service arrives to find unit connected to analog catv source which already has moderately nasty picture quality. Suggestion is to get a HDTV BOX and outdoor antenna for the available HDTV signals or Satellite for available HDTV programming.

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Customer buys MGA HDTV Satellite system and then calls again complaining about picture quality. Service tech arrives to find service for satellite has not been turned on and that customer has persuaded installer to connect already marginal catv source to the HDTV receiver.

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Customer becomes very argumentative that he has already spent over $6000 US and still has a very poor quality picture. The tech agrees and states that there is nothing more he can do and finally convinces customer to turn on the satellite service to at least view the promotional HDTV signals. Customer finally calls and has service initialized. Selecting one of the available HDTV signals the customer proclaims, "WOW, now that is what I really want on all the stations", at which time the tech packs up the tools and states "that is what I was telling you, without a good quality signal the TV will not produce a good picture" then leaves.

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Several years ago I worked as a tech in a small town in Kentucky. A customer had called complaining of a snowy picture. When I got to the house, there was no one there. I went on in and turned the set on, a Magnavox T989 chassis and had a dirty tuner as most of them did back then. I took the back off and took the tuning cluster out of the cabinet. As most of the older tech's know, this left a hole in the cabinet about 6"x9". About the time I had all the channel bars out so I could get to the contacts the kids came in from school. They set down and watched as I worked. I heard something scratching the front of the cabinet and didn't pay too much attention, just figuring one of them was playing in front of the set. I looked up and there was a raccoon sitting in the hole where the tuning cluster went! Just as I looked he jumped out through the back of the set, landing right in the middle of the neatly laid out channel bars, grabbed one and took off!! The kids finally got him from under the couch and handed it back to me. I finished the cleaning and reinstalled the tuner and set the gray scale up and left. I found out later that the kids had had him since he was a baby and was their pet. Needless to say the next time I called on this customer I called ahead and made sure the raccoon was caged before I got there.

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I had a service call on a console TV one day at a subdivision. After repairing the set I noticed the picture was snowy, and asked the customer (who looked like Jerry Lewis) where the antenna was. Although I don't do antenna work, I agreed to look at it since it was in the attic. I went upstairs, found the door, and walked across the rafters to the antenna. As I was tightening the connections I heard "Gee...I've never been up here before!" When I looked around I saw the customer step out between the rafters! I watched in disbelief as he quickly fell through, eyes bulging, he straddled a rafter with his crotch, flipped upside down, and fell head-first into the living room, with ceiling tiles and pink insulation raining down on top of him.

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Had a customer call and tell us that their new projection TV would occasionally make a strange thrumming noise. Realizing the fact they lived in a home located on the shore of the St. Lawrence Shipping Area, I purposely timed my arrival so I'd be in the residence when the freighter passed up the channel. The lady said that I must be psychic since the TV just started making the strange sound. I un-plugged the TV and moved it away from the wall that faced the river's shore. The lady said, " it's still thrumming". I convinced her to walk out to her dock and listen to what was going on at which point she noticed the freighter churning it's way upstream against the 7 mph average current.

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I had a gentleman drop off a microwave oven for repairs. I put it on my repair table, sat down in my chair to start to take the cover off, and smelled a bad odor of roaches. I carried the microwave outside and took the cover off. You would not believe how may roaches were inside, they were packed in like sardines. When the owner returned, I told him he had a problem and showed him the bugs. He said he had an air compressor at home and will take the microwave back and blow out the bugs. Later on that day he came back with the microwave, and told me that the air compressor was not working to good, so used a water hose and cleaned them out! What a mess, water soaked PC Board, Transformer, etc. Took two days to dry everything out.

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Years ago I repaired an RCA console TV in a customers home and was in a hurry to get to the next call. I had the yoke leads and the green and blue CRT leads reversed. When I got back to the shop, the customer called and said the picture was fine until they decided to watch a baseball game. The grass was blue, the sky was green, and when the guy hit the ball he ran to third base!

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Went out on a 32" set to determine that the bonded yoke was making a rather nasty buzz that the customer wanted fixed. Order the crt and set up the call with another technician to change the crt. Crt arrived at service centre and I asked the parts manager to make absolutely sure the other tech A knew how to get to the customer's house, apx 45 min travel time one way, and that he B physically had the crt on the vehicle. I had to take previous day's route and did not want the tube bounding around in my vehicle for 2 days before installing it. I make my way through the first 2 calls of the day and contact the other tech who was hopelessly lost, not knowing the area or routing to the customer's home. #1 Parts Manager did not give him a map!! I suggested meeting at a local K-Mart that would be easy to find. 10 miles later and 45 min wait at K-mart the other tech shows up. We then travel another 10 miles to the customer's home at which time I pull my vehicle out of the way to allow him to back up and unload the 32" crt. He said" I thought you had the tube" at which time we called the office. They needed to send another person on a 1.5 hour round trip to deliver the crt to us to satisfy the customer on that specific day. All because the parts manager forgot to assure compliance. And my lack of confidence with others at this shop is well enforced. BTW we did get the crt installed and my route took another 2 hours to fulfill. Overtime Charged!!

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A customer brings in a camcorder for repair explaining how he hopes to have it repaired quickly due to the fact that he wants to use it for his vacation in two weeks. After replacing the video head, the camera was tested and checked o.k. A few weeks later, this same man came back complaining that the camera failed to operate and he wasn't able to use it on his vacation. He also stated that the unit would not power up and he could not get the tape out. Upon inspection of the camera, I noticed a granular type substance that resembled salt to be present inside the camera. After removing the tape, I placed it in another camera to view it. The video was of the customer trying to reel in a fish while on a boat. As the operator of the camera tried to assist with the fish while videotaping, the camera was dropped into the water. He got caught (just like the fish) trying to get out of a second repair charge not knowing I would be able to view his tape.

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I had someone bring in a late model Toshiba vcr to be serviced. I immediately noticed the shiny silver wood screws holding the top on, as well as a "screw mix-`em-up" inside, so I knew they`d been in it. The unit played for a couple seconds and shut down. I checked the underside of the takeup reel hub, very nice and clean. So I cleaned, then afterward replaced the reel sensor. Didn`t fix. Spent quite a while on the unit, checking for reel sensor pulse (none), and solder connections. Then it hit me. I rechecked the bottom of the reel hub, and there was no black partitions in the mirror ring. The customer had "cleaned" it for me.

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Had a service call on a six-month-old 46-inch Magnavox. The customer said it had a yellow spot in the picture,almost like a rectangle shape. I, for some reason, had the presence of mind to ask her if she had a Nintendo hooked to it, to which she said, "Not on that TV". So I went to the house,and saw the Nintendo "stored" beside the big-screen. Brought the set to the shop,replaced two picture tubes,and brought it back to her. Before I left, I showed her the old blue tube with easily readable Nintendo graphics burnt onto the tube face. She was utterly surprised, of course.

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Went to a customer's home on a complaint that lines were running down the inside front screen of their 2-year tele. Arrived and connected signal generator to evaluate the problem, thinking maybe there was some type of weird interference pattern being generated near the tele or via the source. Customer says that the lines are only visible when the screen was black. The she proceeds to wipe the screen down with a glass cleaner showing me the fact the lines absolutely must be behind the glass. I thoroughly inspect the screen and find that using my fingernail I can remove the lines. Asked the customer for a bottle of Denatured Alcohol and clean cloth. She says, "Well, I just cleaned the screen but if you think it will work then I will get the alcohol". I moistened the cloth liberally with the alcohol and wiped the same areas of the crt face that she had so delicately cleaned then showed her the cleaning cloth with a brown-yellow residue on it from the face of the crt not realizing that she was sitting about 6 metres behind me doing the cancer stick thing. "Oh, where did that filth come from?" she said. I just continued cleaning the crt face and described the facts of nicotine buildup within cabinets, on mirrors, and, of course on crt screens. I think she got the message when the cloth continued to pick up more and more of the brown yellow stuff from the clean crt. Finally got rid of those nasty lines!!!

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I went on-site to a customer's location to replace a bad floppy drive. Upon arriving onsite and questioning the user, I was told the floppy disks were " vanishing". The pc happened to be an older Epson Equity, where there was a small space between the case and the lower part of the floppy drive. I proposed the idea that maybe the user had missed the drive slot and dropped the floppies into this slot and was immediately chastised for making such a suggestion, as "I have been using this computer for a couple of years and I should know where to put the diskettes". I then said I'll open the case and if there are no diskettes inside the case, the call is free. I opened the case and there were 4 floppies inside, all labeled as her data disks. She had no other words for me other than "oops".

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One day a huge man in a cowboy hat loudly announced himself as he came into my shop and asked if I wanted a late model tv for parts for free. I asked why he wouldn't want to have it fixed,and he said "don't ask". After he left, I noticed the problem, a small bullet hole through the front glass! I found the slug inside the CRT!

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I went out to service call for a 27" Sony with bad sound. When I got there I listened to it then took it apart to look at the AFC and sound IC but could not find anything wrong . I turned it on again to hear the noise and it was gone. I put it back together and into the entertainment center and turned it on. The noise was back. I looked at the tv for a second then looked right below it and found an alarm clock that was on with a static noise coming from it. I turned off the alarm clock and the noise went away. The people were amazed and ask how I made the noise go away. All I could say was it was FM.

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I worked for a Murphy radio in the UK. One day I went to customer who had a 25 inch Murphy CTV. He kept finding fault in the picture not wanting to recognize transmission faults. So I set the frame rolling slowly and asked him to tell me to stop it at one he liked which he did. Quite happy, he gave me a tip and said the last engineer did not give him that choice.

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Working as a student tutor in the computer lab at our local community college I had a student hold up his hand. I walked up behind him and he looked up at me with this bewildered look on his face. Asking if I could be of assistance he replied, "I can't find the any key." The message on the screen was "Press any key to continue." Being a tutor you have to handle this question without laughing and making the student feel foolish. This seemed to be a regular question at the beginning of each semester.
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Brand new RCA 27" tv having the CTC203 series chassis. Customer complaining about a poor, intermittent pix. Tech goes out to low-rate apartment to check tv and finds ground floor with rabbit ear antenna, also going thru a vcr, to the tv. The tech inspects the tv to find the RF connector already has been ripped out of the back of the set and super glued back in; Oops, blamed the kitty!!!!! Set transferred to shop for further investigation and attempted repairs of the obt and inputs. Customer assured tech that the kitty was the thing that ripped the connector out. Must be a lion or tiger!

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I worked for RCA Factory Service for many years. When I first started in the shop, I was assigned to the "Portable Room", and determined to make a good impression I cleaned & polished every set I worked on, including a 19" black & white (common in those days of yore). What I thought was a Tan colored cabinet came out Ivory white after cleaning. It seems it belonged to a cigarette smoker & I had removed the results of 10 years of chain smoking....You guessed it, when the owner comes he says it's not his set - his was brown. Good thing RCA kept good records & we had his warranty registration, serial #, etc. The boss even had me open the cabinet & show him the "hidden" serial # to prove it was his....i don't think he ever believed us, but he took it.

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I worked in the TV repair shop for a large manufacturer in the 70's. There was a technician named Steve who had been there since 1947, just prior to the first station beginning transmission in Dallas, TX. From time to time, the company would hire young guys just out of tech school to run TV service calls...their first couple of days were always spent in the shop 'learning the ropes.' One day a 'new-hire' was standing there holding an SCR and an ohmmeter in his hand, exclaiming, 'Look! This SCR is ON all the time, even out of the circuit!' Steve, master of understatement, glanced over and dryly said, 'Yeah, we call that SHORTED.'

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My friend was on duty in the main lab on a quiet afternoon. He noticed a young woman sitting in front of one of the workstations with her arms crossed across her chest, staring at the screen. After about 15 minutes he noticed that she was still in the same position, only now she was impatiently tapping her foot. He asked if she needed help and she replied, "It's about time! I pressed the F1 button over twenty minutes ago!"
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Email from a friend "CanYouFixTheSpaceBarOnMyKeyboard?"

For a computer programming class, I sat directly across from someone, and our computers were facing away from each other. A few minutes into the class, she got up to leave the room. I reached between our computers and switched the inputs for the keyboards. She came back and started typing and immediately got a distressed look on her face. She called the tutor over and explained that no matter what she typed, nothing would happen. The tutor tried everything. By this time I was hiding behind my monitor and quaking red-faced. I typed, "Leave me alone!" They both jumped back as this appeared on their screen. "What the..." the tutor said. I typed, "I said leave me alone!" The kid got real upset. "I didn't do anything to it, I swear!" It was all I could do to keep from laughing out loud. The conversation between them and HAL 2000 went on for an amazing five minutes. Me "Don't touch me!" Her "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hit your keys that hard." Me "Who do you think you are anyway?!" Etc. Finally, I couldn't contain myself any longer, and fell out of my chair laughing. After they had realized what I had done, they both turned beet red. Funny, I never got more than a C- in that class.

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Got a call from a woman said that her laser printer was having problems the bottom half of her printed sheets were coming out blurry. It seemed strange that the printer was smearing only the bottom half. I walked her through the basics, then went over and printed out a test sheet. It printed fine. I asked her to print a sheet, so she sent a job to the printer. As the paper started coming out, she yanked it out and showed it to me. I told her to wait until the paper came out on its own. Problem solved.

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A woman called the with a problem with her printer. The tech asked her if she was "running it under Windows." The woman responded, "No, my desk is next to the door. But that's a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his is working fine."

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Years ago, and with some of the current GE/RCA crts, we would reverse the yoke leads at the plugs so the tech could read the print on the face of the screen in a setup mirror. We were always careful about returning the plugs to the proper configuration before returning the set to the customer. In one case we forgot to do so. About three weeks later the customer called and said the repairs were great and the picture was fine but his wife kept complaining that she could not read the advertisements when printed on the screen. We explained to the wife that some sets are designed for viewing via a mirror and some are designed for direct viewing and asked which she preferred. Of course she said direct viewing, at which point we made the proper configuration.

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I worked in a metro area of a larger central city. There was a problem on occasion, that some of the customer's sets were infested with nasty insect type vermin. Upon opening such set we would place it into a garbage bag, call the customer, and request them to retrieve the item from our shop. When the customer would return to pick up the item, we would discuss the problem and return the diagnosis fee to them. One kindly gentleman said to dispose of the set since it was a second set anyhow. We placed it out back with the rest of the garbage. To our surprise someone stole it from the garbage storage area, bag and all. I can only imagine the reaction when they got it home and opened it up and had the nasties go everywhere, as they tend to do. Poetic justice?

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We had a TV working on its side in our shop when a customer came in and asked what kind of TV that was with the picture on its side. We told him that was a TV made for people that watched television in bed. He wanted to know where to buy one!

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Some RCA models used a 27 kohm resistor in the plate circuit of the 6gh8 color amp. I went into an older ladies home one morning and after turning her set on it's side and replacing this component finished up and presented my bill. This sweet lady ask me what I had found wrong at which time not wanting to burden her with an explaination she would not understand I simply told her that I had turned the set on it's side and poured in about a pint of color since the set had been running low. About 3 years later my boss got the strangest call , it was the same little lady asking for me by name and she stated that I needed to bring my bottle of color it had ran out again.

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While working for RCA Service Company in 1964, I was called to a "mansion" in the better part of the city. I repaired the set, and adjusted the grey scale as usual, buttoned the set up and rendered my bill. The lady complained about the picture, and complained that she didn't have a "green" screen anymore. How would her afternoon "tea ladies" know she had a color set?...(limited color programming in those days)...I readjusted grey scale to "green" before I left a satisfied customer.

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I was doing some additional TV outlets for a friend and fellow business owner at his personal residence. The work order was to add a few outlets in the kids bedrooms and after looking the locations over, I measured for the first outlet by locating it a certain number of inches over and down from a window corner. Having the numbers in my mind I went outside and hammerdrilled thru the brick wall and came inside to see how it came out in the bedroom. It wasn't there at all so I rechecked the measurements and went outside again thinking I had a thicker wall than I thought. This time I gave it the full length of drill bit and went inside-still no hole in wall. I thought...hmmm maybe uhhh...no couldn't be-went in bedroom down hall and sure enough the hole right where I drilled but at the wrong window - right through the wall, through the back of the dresser, through the drawer into the lady of the house's underwear drawer!! I carefully cleaned the wood shavings out and never said a thing about it. Maybe some day over a beer I will tell him.

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One day, we had a customer tell us we charged more then her doctor. We politely said to her, "maybe you should get your doctor to fix your TV next time it fails".

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I had a shop in another city and would occasionally bring things home to work on them at night. Well, I got to this new-looking VCR, put a tape in it, no play! I took the top off the unit and was horrified to see it was filled with Cockroaches. I then proceeded to get a can of Raid quickly, this was a big mistake. When I sprayed into the VCR, the insects started jumping out into the shop in my basement. I panicked, grabbed the VCR by the cord and threw it outside. I got so mad, I called the customer and told her about the incident and that it would cost $100 to fix telling her these critters were in all the switches. I didn't care if she said it was too much money or not. She said go ahead! I then filled the VCR with Raid, I must have used the whole can and stuck it in a green garbage bag. The next day, I opened it up and a half-dead Cockroach staggered out. Believe it or not, I then flushed the unit with degreasing cleaner and the unit worked. This is a true story but this happened in my younger days when I had more patience. Hopefully we don't have to resort to these type of repairs in the future.

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A guy came in and dropped off his VCR for repair and left. Thirty minutes later, I hear the door open and in walks that same guy. He says, "I just had a sandwich at the sub shop next door and I thought I'd check and see how you were coming with my VCR"!!!

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True story - Shortly after we had started in the repair business, a lady who had just picked up her repaired VCR called us from her home insisting we had given her the wrong VCR. She said it did not look at all like her old one. We had been careful to tag all units with a repair number corresponding to a number in our computer database, but thought in our inexperience, we must have made a mistake, and given her the incorrect VCR. We said we were extremely embarrased, apologized, and then frantically looked all over the shop for her VCR, but could not find it. She kept telling me how it did not look like her old VCR, there were no buttons on the front panel of the one we had given her. "In fact", she said, "there's not even a place to put the tape in." At that point, I stopped and asked her to repeat that. "You know, the little door where you put in your tape? This one doesn't have that." I realized what had happened. "Ma'am," I said as calmly as I could, "you put your VCR back into your entertainment center backwards."

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I worked on a 12" b/w TV for an old couple. The elderly gentleman pick up his TV and, in about 15 minutes, his wife called me up saying that this was not her TV. She claimed that her TV had a picture tube in it and this one did not. My first thought was the set was dropped and the tube had gotten broken and her husband had failed to tell her of the accident. I told her to bring it back and I would see what could be done. When her husband brought the set in, I noticed that he was holding it face down. When I turned the set in the upright position, he said "Why didn't I think of that?".

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I went to a customer's house to repair a dead set. I re-soldered some bad joints, replaced the blown fuse and away it went working perfectly except the picture came up a bright shade of yellow. I adjusted the CRT bias and drive pots for a decent picture and finished up. As I came back from my van, the owner, an older gentlemen, remarked, "It's working, but now the picture looks like hell!" I turned the pots back, recreating the bright yellow picture again. The owner then said, "That's much better", and paid me. Who can account for some people's taste in colors?