On-call Welcome again to On-Call, our weekly column in which we recount readers' tales of jobs gone wrong, often at times or for reasons that are just plain wrong.
This week, meet “Aaron”, who once worked for a construction company he says “didn't need in-house IT but had delusions of grandeur and so employed me.”
The company had just one server and about 30 users. Aaron says “most were former builders and mostly clueless when it came to technology.”
“One such user had climbed the ranks from bricklayer to contract manager and was constantly finding fault with IT where there was none. Then one day he came in to the office declaring that he could solve all of his problems. He had seen something on TV that he claimed would make him much more efficient.”“
Said item was the IBM Transnote, which our very own Lucy Sherriff covered at the time of its launch in the year 2001.
Here's how Lucy explained the Transnote:
It has a digital notepad attached, for making handwritten notes. IBM says that the digital pad can be used to fill in customised forms so will be marketed at industries where there is a lot of form filing - for example, insurance firms. "Anywhere where there is a lot of duplication," an IBM spokeswoman said.
Lucy quoted the price of the machine at £2,059. Aaron remembers that price tag as rather excessive at the time, so when the chap asked for one “I laughed and said that there was no chance of us purchasing this for him.”
But this user had leverage and “the call came from above that he absolutely needed this and we were to order it in immediately.” So Aaron swapped it for his perfectly functional laptop and got on with other things.
Until a couple of months later when “the magical machine was placed before me with the claim that it was faulty and its fan must be broken as it was so noisy.” Aaron was pretty sure the user just couldn't figure out how to work IBM's magic digital notepad, but assured the user he would take a look at it immediately.
Which he did not: instead Aaron left it on a shelf.
Two weeks later Aaron told the user he'd sent the machine to IBM for repairs. But it was really still on the shelf.
At this point Aaron decided it was time to check out the machine, found nothing wrong, other than “a serious case of user incompetence.” So Aaron put it back on the shelf until a few weeks later he handed it back and told the grateful user "IBM had fixed it.”
The user never complained about the machine again.
Aaron was moved on from the firm not long afterwards, and soon learned it had gone bust.
“It was not a shock,” he told us.
Do you have a similar story about exercising minimal effort to satisfy a user? If so … hang on, before we get to that bit, a brief seasonal announcement.
More than 250 readers have submitted to On-Call in the two or so years we've been doing this. It's humbling that readers care enough to send their stories to The Reg. Thank you all for doing so.
Next, to the 160-odd people who wrote to On-Call, but are yet to see yourself in print, hang in there. Your submission has been read, if not yet responded to. And over the next week I'll try to give a good many a run. Yes, some of those will be it's-late-December-and-there's-less-news-to-write-so-let's-pad-things-out-with-On-call efforts. But plenty more will be submissions that didn't quite support a full story by themselves, but deserve a run in an omnibus entry.
On-Call will therefore run each weekday next week before the column goes to the cricket, the beach, the bottom of a beer glass and to bed until mid-January.
When we'll need more submissions. So if you've a tale to match Aaron's, feel free to write and your story might just appear when On-Call returns in 2017. ®