Vendor rep 'Stinky Sam' told to wash and brush teeth or lose job

Chap reeked of 'rotting onions', crashed a train simulator but came up smelling of roses

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On-Call (Tales of Sales) Welcome again to On-Call, our foetid Friday feature in which readers share their stinkiest memories of being asked to fix stuff at unpleasant times of day and night.

This week, reader “Curt” tells us that until recently he worked for “a large subway system” in North America.

Curt knew the subway network's SCADA-based route-setting and scheduling system inside out. So he was just the chap to come in on a Saturday to test the an extension of the system to parts of the network it didn't already cover.

“In the railway industry we do a lot of testing, which is good,” he explains. Not so good was the vendor's representative at the test. Curt says the chap in question “was often rude and he smelled bad.”

How bad?

“Not just body odour or the kind that comes from a missed shower or a bad day,” Curt explains. “More like rotting onions thrown into a diaper hamper. Plus he never brushed his teeth and his hair was unwashed. When he did wash his hair it created so much dandruff that he looked like he was inside of a snowglobe.”

“His body odor was so bad we would sometimes move chairs to make one another sit in them as a horrible prank to play on co-workers.”

“I was not happy about having to spend six hours sitting next to this person.”

Cometh the day and Sam … didn't show up! A chap called Ed did. Ed was pleasant, clean, odour-neutral and said Sam had decided Saturday work was beneath him.

Curt and Ed started the tests with a live train of two cars. Success with that test would mean “we would declare the system stable and bring in the rest of this subway line into our automation system.”

The test was, well, a train wreck.

The train "bounced back and forth like a ping-pong ball” on the control board, despite proceeding in a straight line in the real world. Red and green lights meant little during the test and Ed eventually disconnected all automation so the driver could be instructed over radio as this was the only way to get the train back to the yard.

As a representative of the vendor, this failure was bad news for Ed, who tried to figure out who had designed the test.

Guess what? It was Stinky Sam!

Curt explains that this kind of test is usually designed by one worker, signed off by a supervisor, then tested by a third party before again being signed off by someone rather important.

But on this occasion the design, test and extra verification had all been done by Stinky Sam.

“Ed was livid,” Curt reports. “He called Sam's supervisor and told him about the failure in the procedure. Then he called Sam and told him that he had to:

  1. Follow testing procedure and steps
  2. Bathe once a day
  3. Brush his teeth at least once a day"

Ed made those requests because he'd had a whiff of customer sentiment towards Sam. Once the test failed, he figured he could deliver the stinker all his bad news at once.

But a week later, Curt says, “Ed was fired. The reason given was that he forgot to do a wheel mileage test. But we all suspected that Sam had more influence than he suspected and he was let go for that.”

Curt's since hopped off the subway for good, but hears that Stinky Sam remains fragrant and Ed remains on the outer. “But at least the testing is done properly and the lines have been extended.”

Curt's takeaway? “Sometimes no credit is given for solving a technical problem and sometimes people are punished for trying to solve a hygiene problem.”

The astute among you may have noticed a slightly new title to this week's column: "On-Call (Tales of Sales)". The new bit in parentheses is an attempt to fork On-Call by securing your stories about encounters with vendors as they try to win your business.

So if you've had an odd out-of-hours experience, been offered creative sales arguments or just had weird things happen at work, write to me and your story could well end up on El Reg. ®


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