BOFH: The Geek's Countergambit – outwitted at an electronics store

So top secret even the manufacturer doesn't know about it


BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 3

So I'm in line at an electronics shop, waiting to speak to their returns people because I foolishly assumed that when I said that I wanted a VERY SPECIFIC RAM module, the salesperson would supply the module I asked for and not some generic substitute that would save me about 50p but not match my existing module and would, were I to install it, cause an irritating and recurring system issue at some point in the future.

The line for the returns and service counter is predictably long – (a) because it's a weekend, and (b) because they're using the time-honoured algorithm that dictates the longer the queue is the fewer people they have working behind the counter.

There are currently only two staffers at the counter.

One of them, a young man with creative sideburns, is dealing with an elderly gentleman who's having issues with his new mobile phone – the main one being that he's brought in his TV remote. The other, an amazingly patient woman wielding a barcode scanner, has been caught in the crossfire between two young geeks determined to prove their technical acumen in a battle of egos the complexities of which only they and Richard Attenborough could work out.

Right in the very centre of my vision I'm starting to see those little blurry spots that occasionally occur when you stare into the darkness of a lift shaft for a while …

"Yes but an i9 is typically overkill for standard users," Geek1 says, looking to the service person for her affirmation. 

"But why WOULDN'T you go i9 – if cost weren't the deciding factor?" Geek2 says, also looking to the service person's arbitration skills for a bit of personal validation. "More cores, more threads, better clock?"

"But cost IS a factor," Geek1 counters, directing his next words to the salesperson, "isn't it?"

"Obviously cost will always be a factor," she responds, somewhat reluctant to be dragged into the glue trap of this particular conversation.

"But WORK will be paying for the upgrade!" Geek2 shoots back. "So wouldn't you say that answers the whole cost-is-an-issue question?"

The service tech takes a barely perceptible step back from the counter, as if remembering an important appointment that she has to get to – then has a last-minute reprieve.

"I don't know the answer to that – but Colin probably would," she says, as a pre-sales person lumbers into the service area on one of those random missions they go on to avoid customers.

"Colin would what?" Colin asks.

"They were comparing the merits of i7 and i9 processors," she says drily.

"Colin wouldn't give a shit," he says, heading for the peace and quiet of the stockroom.

I realise that to stand a chance of getting out of here before my brand new RAM is discontinued, I'm going to need to act.

"What about the i11?" I ask.

"There's no i11!" Geek1 sneers, whilst rolling his eyes at both Geek2 and the service person, whose name tag reads Catherine.

"Oh … so … you've not been …" I say, raising my eyebrows at the service person knowingly.

"Not been what?!" Geek2 asks.

"Uh. Nothing …" I say. "Right?" I ask the service geek.

"That's right. There's definitely no i11," Catherine says, catching my drift immediately. "I don't know why everyone keeps talking about it."

"Wait a minute. Who's been talking about the i11?"

"No one," I say. "I … don't know what I was talking about. I'm old. I get confused."

"But you seemed to be fairly sure of it," Geek1 says.

"It was a mistake," she says. "There's no i11. Look, here comes Colin, ask him."

"Ask Colin what?" Colin asks.

"About the i11," I say. "There isn't one – IS THERE?"

It's a punt, but Colin catches the pass adroitly, both of them clearly having the same view of this pair as I do – apart from the bit where I make a few adjustments to the elevator down to the lower level of the department store. Then again …

"Who told you about the i11?" Colin asks. "We don't have five of them out back and I don't know why people keep saying that. They're not even a thing."

"Are they a thing?" Geek1 asks.

"I … no, no. There's no such product. And even if we had any you wouldn't be able to take a look at them by getting Geoff to let you out back with the Intel Code Phrase," says Catherine.

They're good. They're very good.

"What Intel Code Phrase?" Geek2 asks.

"There's no Intel Code Phrase," Colin chips in.

"No, you just said there was one."

"No 'There's no Intel Code Phrase' is the Intel Code Phrase. You can ring Intel and check," says Catherine.

Torn between pestering service desk some more or seeing the new i11, the geeks choose the i11.

"Works every time," Catherine says, as the next person in line takes the geeks' place. "Geoff will let them into the 'secret room' which happens to be the alleyway beside the building. Now, what can I help you with?"

I tell them about the specific RAM request and how their sales droid slipped a substitute in when I wasn't looking. Colin shakes his head and returns with some more RAM and waves away my card when I reach to pay the difference.

No doubt he knows I'm keen to get to the carpark to look for a poorly secured van …

As I walk to my car, I take one final check of my RAM and notice the seal is broken. Inside I find the same RAM as I've just returned.

They're very, VERY good.

I head back to the service elevator, screwdriver in hand …

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