September 16, 1992, was not a good day to be overly enthusiastic about your job
If I get in early and work hard, everyone will notice, right?
Who, Me? "The early bird trashes the business" is a saying that we've just made up, but could easily apply to the Register reader behind a currency calamity in today's episode of Who, Me?
Our hero, Regomized as "Mike", was working as a "data entry operative" for a tourism company in 1992. The company ran bus tours to the then brand-new EuroDisney, parent company of Disneyland Paris (now the most visited theme park in Europe), which had opened earlier that year.
Mike was an eager beaver, his youthful naivete having convinced him that if he worked extra hard, came in extra early, and kept the in-tray clear, then his efforts would be both noticed and rewarded with promotion and a bump in pay.
But back to 1992. It was a significant year for other reasons not theme-park-related.
Mike got in early on September 16, 1992, as he did any other day, and got busy processing the tours, which required entry into the system. And goodness, there were a lot of orders. They were then printed out onto contracts (legally binding, we imagine) and were then faxed off to the tour companies who would deal with getting the over-excited customers their slice of mouse-based magic.
- An international incident or just some finger trouble at the console?
- A discounting disaster averted at the expense of one's own employment
- In IT, no good deed ever goes unpunished
- An early crack at network management with an unfortunate logfile
"On the contracts was the rate of exchange for the ticket and ferry price," Mike recalled.
This is an important detail. Remember that date? September 16?
In his enthusiasm, Mike had processed 16 tours before the manager burst into the office and began frantically ripping contracts out of the fax machine.
"The exchange rate had collapsed," he told us, "and my early bird antics cost them over 40k."
"*Poof* went the business."
For those too young to remember, September 16, 1992, became known as "Black Wednesday" and marks the day the British government was forced to pull the country's currency from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism. While the aftershocks of this event have continued to reverberate, one immediate effect was a dramatic and sudden change in currency exchange rates.
"Everyone had to leave," he recalled. Although he was offered an extra £1,500 ($1,800) a year to return ("which wasn't much of a quality of life increase at all – but 1,500 to my young mind seemed awesome"), Matt ended up being picked up by the IT company that had created the systems for the travel agency.
"But they eventually accused me of stealing the bike they loaned me to get the seven miles to work every day," he added.
That, however, is another story.
Ever brought down a business by sheer enthusiasm? Or found your best efforts undone by forces far beyond your control? Tell us, with an email to Who, Me? ®