How do you save an ailing sales pitch? Just burn down the client's office with their own whiteboard

At least it could be wiped clean of evidence


Who, Me? The Register readership knows no bounds when it comes to electrical snafus, as demonstrated by a Who, Me? entry featuring motorised mayhem and a certain South Korean semiconductor manufacturer.

Our reader, Regomised as "Dave", was working for a semiconductor supplier as a Software Product Manager. "This involved," he said, "a lot of international travel making sales presentations with my hardware colleagues to buyers and engineering teams all over the world."

On this occasion he was visiting the offices of a well-known manufacturer in South Korea, located in a facility that required a lengthy train trip from Seoul.

It was a gruelling session. No PowerPoint slides here. Instead, transparencies and an overhead projector were used to present Dave's wares until the questions became too complex and the answers so detailed that a whiteboard was needed.

The team moved to a new meeting room, which featured the very latest in technical wizardry: an active whiteboard. "The type," explained Dave, "where the flexible white surface rotated around the back, was scanned and printed the image on an integrated thermal printer."

At this point we were slightly concerned that Dave's story might mirror one of this hack's distant past, where a salesperson decided it would be amusing to draw a naughty picture on a US customer's whiteboard a few minutes before a critical meeting, only to find he'd used indelible ink.

Dave's faux pas was even more destructive.

The whiteboard proved a boon, saving the customer taking notes and helping to clarify matters. However, when the time came to print out the scribblings it transpired the board was dead. No amount of jabbing Print would bring the device to life.

"The customer team leader tried the power switch," said Dave, "before astutely (he was an engineer after all) noticing that the power cord was missing."

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No problem! An opportunity to save the pitch and impress the customer!

"I checked and saw that it was the same type as that for my laptop, hooked it out of my briefcase and plugged one end into the wall socket while he plugged the other end into the whiteboard and operated the power switch. Hurrah, we thought, as the expected rotation of the whiteboard started...

"Progressed about 10cm...

"And was interrupted by a loud bang, sparks and a lot of smoke."

It transpired that the whiteboard itself was designed for 110V and had reacted poorly to the 220V on which South Korea operates.

"Being an air-conditioned building there were no opening windows, and the fire alarm registered the smoke and started wailing a few seconds later."

As the hundreds of staff began to evacuate, Dave and his team made a swift pact with the customer's representatives along the lines of "we were never here, nobody saw anything, nothing happened..."

He swiftly wiped the board clean to remove any evidence and retrieved his cable before joining the evacuation. Ten floors later he was outside, just as the fire engines turned up.

"We quietly took leave of our hosts and left the site, never to return again."

"Since then," he told us, "I am anal about checking input voltages on devices..."

Ever had a mishap with the marker pens? Or dodged a difficult meeting with the assistance of the fire alarm? Share your confession with an email to Who, Me? ®

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