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BOFH: It's 4ft tall, heavyset, has optional fax. No they didn't take the toner!

PFY and Simon do some of their best work: outsmarting thieves, drinking beer and reading the fine print

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 1 "SOMEONE'S STOLEN OUR PHOTOCOPIER OVER THE BREAK!" the Boss says, calmly, bursting into Mission Control.

The PFY and I take a moment.

"You mean the multifunction printer?" I query.

"Yes, yes, but it's gone. Someone's taken it!"

"No they haven't," I reply.

"They have. It was in the office on the last day and it's gone now."

"Yeah, but everyone hates that printer. No one's going to take it."

"Besides, you'd need a truck to move it," the PFY chips in.

"Maybe one of the other offices took it!" the Boss suggests.

"One of the other offices who already have that same printer – and hate it?" I ask: "Or one of the other offices who have heard about how much the other offices hate it?"

"Well, someone's taken it!"

We go out to the main office and sure enough the photocopier bay is empty and clear of its usual piles of unclaimed printouts.

"They left all the spare toner cartridges," the PFY observes, pointing at a tower of new cartridges on the shelves. "You'd take those if you planned to use it."

"Maybe they took it … to destroy it!" the Boss gasps.

"No, if they were going to do that they'd just wheel it out of the office and lever it over the balcony so it'd fall into the atrium."

"And they'd make sure the person who signed the printer contract was in the atrium at the time …" the PFY adds.

"Well it's gone," the Boss states defensively, stalking back to his office

"So what did you do with it?" the PFY and I say to each other the moment the Boss is gone and we're back in Mission Control.

Ah. Interesting.

"Who the hell would take one of those printers?" the PFY says. "They're a bloody nightmare."

And he's right. Everyone HATES those printers – and the Boss for signing us up for them. Under a bit of time pressure, he made a couple of administrative blunders, the chief one being not passing the contract by the company lawyers because "he'd signed dozens of these contracts over the years."

So now we have six behemoth printers, each on a five-year contract, ALL with the same excruciatingly high guaranteed minimum monthly page count – and you can bet that there'll be a clause in the contract to …

"There's a penalty for loss or intentional damage to the printer!" the Boss gasps, bursting back into Mission Control. "We have to pay the market value of the printer."

"And as it's a lease-only printer, they can pretty much pick the market value?" I ask.

The Boss is silent.

"If it's really high we just need to make an insurance claim," the PFY chips in.

"We'd need to involve the company lawyer," the Boss says, ruefully.

And I can see why he doesn't want to do that. On the one hand the Boss didn't involve the company legal team (of one person) in reviewing the contract before he signed it. On the other the company legal team (again, just one person) ended up with a gargantuan multifunction printer in their (his) tiny office. And on the third hand the costs of running that printer – with its guaranteed minimum monthly page count – come out of the legal department's coffers. The old stink-eye trifecta.

"And you'd like us to fix this?" I ask.

"Can you?"

"It'll cost you. We'll be needing a couple of cases of premium imported lager …"

"Anyway, no one can print anymore," I say to the printer engineer later that afternoon.

"Yes," he says. "The printer is back to factory defaults."

"ALL of them have gone back to factory defaults?!" I gasp.

"It looks like it," he says. "I can re-enter the print accounting information and settings."

"Okay, well when you've done this one, can you do Legal, the Beancounters, the Coloured Pencil Office, HR, Stores, then us – in that order. Some people are more important."

"I'm not sure I'll get through them all this afternoon, but I'll see what I can do."

… the next day …

"Same again," I say to the engineer. "No one can print."

"Yes, the machine is back to its defaults again. No one's been tampering with them, have they?"

"I don't see how – as far as I can see these printers have tamper evident seals and only you have the master code."

"True," he says.

… the next day …

"Maybe the battery on the motherboards is faulty?" I suggest.

"It's possible," he says. "But it should retain the accounting information if that happens – and that's gone too."

… the next day …

"It happens at random times of the day or night," the Head Beancounter explains to the engineer, smelling an opportunity. "They're totally unreliable …"

… the next day …

"I had a number of urgent contractual documents to print yesterday and had to go offsite to print them!" our Lawyer lies. "I think I need to direct you to the guaranteed performance clause of our contract …"

… the next day …

"We're just here to pick up six printers," a burly bloke says, ushered into Mission Control by the Boss.

"Right, follow me!" I say.

… later that afternoon …

"So they came for six printers, and they took … six printers," the Boss asks, confused.

"Well, they took six printers from the building, but they drove away with five. While they were disconnecting the fourth printer we snuck one back in off the truck and shuffled the others around to hide the gap."

 "So we're in the clear – and they cancelled the contract!" the Boss gasps. "I can get us a better contract with a different printer company! I … oh, I'll just get you those lagers."

The Boss departs for the liquor store and I'm about to head back to Mission Control when the PFY signals me over to the stationery cupboard.

And the multifunction printer therein.

"Remember last year, when there was a toner spill, and the Boss said he'd organise to get the carpet cleaned …"

"Oh, yeah."

"And remember how he said he'd move the printer for the cleaners?"

"Oooh yes," I say. "And he forgot that he'd moved it …"

"So we're planning to let a person with a terrible memory sign a contract with a new printer company?"

"And your alternative is?"

"How about we discuss that while we wheel this out of the office over to the balcony. But we'd better hurry, the Boss'll be down there soon …"

I sense a terrible workplace accident in the near future.

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