The failings of a clever new purchasing system brings out the Bastard's hitherto repressed vindictive side...

Year 1997 - Episode 39


The systems guys are really getting on my tits. Not satisfied with having the run of the machine room in almost the same manner as the PFY and I reign the comms room, the pricks have now stuffed up our purchasing system as well.

Now, instead of identifying a piece of equipment that's smoked its last and shoving a well-stacked replacement purchase order under the boss's nose for his 'X' of approval, we have to e-mail all purchase requests for any computing products to the systems purchases software for the systems geeks to peruse, approve and source a competitively priced alternative to...

I'm fit to be tied. The PFY is chainable. Perhaps it's because we received a 'Crisco' brand switch instead of the 'Crisco' one we ordered - straight from Silicon Back-Alley in Venezuela. Judging by its face value the country should have stopped exports at the Miss World Competitor mark. I blame myself for the personal note to our product-of-choice sales rep of "plus all the fruit for 100base-T x20" which appears to have been interpreted literally. At least the cafeteria won't be short of bananas for a year or two.

I confront the boss as soon as possible.

"We can't accept delivery of that," I cry. "The voltage supply settings only have two options: 12 and 24."

"It's obviously a switch printing error," he says. "They left the zero off the end."

As I confront one of the purchasing system's operators with the smoking remains of the aforementioned piece of crap, the boss says defensively: "Well, we can't send it back now! After all, the switch did say 12v and 24v... We'll have to get it fixed! And anyway, you didn't specify that you wanted a 240 volt AC device when you sent your order through to the purchasing system.

"They're not mind-readers you know."

"No, but then I didn't say 'avoid buying thinwire cabling with it' either, did I?"

"Oh, the thinwire cabling's still in the basement," the purchasing geek interrupts, "Actually, we made a killing on Crisco's winter special - 'thickwire-for-thin'."

"See?" the boss says "We're saving money already."

"You bought 4,000 metres of thickwire cabling for office wiring?"

"Yep, and it was dirt cheap," he beams.

In an extraordinary change of character, I take a sick day because I really am feeling ill. The next day, when I tell the PFY, he does too. The following day, we're back at work and determined to make a go of it. I show the boss some thickwire, cabling duct and a large diameter masonry drill.

"Where do we start?" I ask.

"Umm," the boss mumbles, knowing his popularity will be inversely proportional to the noise of the drill slowly whining from one side of the building to the other. "Perhaps we should send the cable back then."

"Perhaps we should," I reply.

"Can't do it," the purchasing geek says. "We have to pay a restocking fee and the system's not set up for that."

Right. It's war.

I write a script to order 20 floppy disks, one at a time. I also set my e-mail return address to the in-mail address of the Purchasing System.

Five minutes later, when the system runs out of memory, the PFY and I have an impromptu meeting with the boss and systems geeks.

"He ran our server out of memory and crashed it!" the combined geeks whine.

"Ran it out of memory?" Clickety-click. "There, I've ordered you some more... uh-oh, looks like it's crashed again. You must be really low. Tell you what, as soon as it comes up I'll re-order some more, just to be safe..."

"Don't!" the boss snaps.

"But we have to put it through the purchasing system," I say.

"OK," the boss sighs. "Put it through in writing to the systems people and they'll enter it into the system themselves."

The PFY chirps up: "But they'll just miss out or abbreviate bits they think are irrelevant and we'll end up with another non-brand piece of crap!"

"No. They will enter it word for word as you request," the boss decrees. "Is that understood?"

The systems geeks nod, and the PFY and I grudgingly concur.

As soon as they're gone I get the PFY to write out a new switch order.

"What should I put, 240 Volt AC 20 port UTP Switch...?"

"Put whatever you like, just make sure it goes past 256 characters because that's the limit of their description field."

"That's a little childish."

"Not as childish as writing, 'A dickhead is typing this in', in the description field of an order."

"You wouldn't!"

"Did. Will do again, and planning on documenting it for the rest of the department. Any questions?"

"None whatsoever."

"Right, then get scribbling. And make it as illegible as possible."