BOFH: Ah. Company-branded merch. So much better than a bonus

Is your hair on fire or is it just that lovely Spring sunshine?

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 9 "I want a technical opinion: what do you think of these?" the Director asks, indicating an item in a glossy brochure.

"It's a four-gig USB key. A cheap four-gig USB key."

"How do you know it's cheap?"

"A, because it's a four-gig USB key, and B, your brochure says they'll give a discount for cash."

"Mmm. Well, I've already got the money from petty cash to purchase them. But what do you think of them?"

"Maybe OK for a diagnostic boot disk?"

"No, I mean, would you be pleased if you got one?"

"Why are you … asking?" My eyes narrow.

"I … ah … The company's planning a mid-year Christmas hamper for all staff with each division head responsible for sorting something from their area. The Design people have created tee-shirts with all the company logos from the past ten years, the PR people have sourced a picnic blanket with the current company logo, Finance have organized an elephant money box with the company logo on it, and I'm just trying to think of something that would really complement it."

"Hmmm … a box of matches and a tin of petrol?" I suggest.

"… with the company logo on it," the PFY adds.

"What do you mean?"

"That hamper stuff," I say, suppressing a shudder, "is rubbish. No-one wants crap like that."

"They'd rather have the cash," the PFY concurs.

"Yes, but we're looking for something to improve company morale," the Director says.

"That would be cash," the PFY nods.

"We're trying to put together something unique."

"Unique would be the company reinstating a Christmas bonus – or implementing a mid-year Christmas bonus – and not trying to palm everyone off with a 20 quid present they've probably inflated the book value on anyway," the PFY offers.

"Well, what would you suggest?" our director snaps.

"At the risk of repeating myself: cash!" the PFY repeats himself.

"APART from cash."

"What's wrong with cash?" I ask.

"It's impersonal," the Director says, obviously repeating a well-rehearsed party line. "It lacks connection with the staff member, and everyone's treated like a generic employee whose worth is summed up by a number."

"So, what, you're looking for something tailored to their individuality?"


"What about banknotes?" I ask. "Each one with its own serial number. What's more personalised than unique cash money that you can spend on anything you like?"

"Instead of something that'll be in the Oxfam pile in a heartbeat!" the PFY adds. 

"Though I wouldn't give mine to Oxfam," I say. "Not with that tin of petrol."

"With the company logo on it," the PFY adds once more.

"I can't see us supplying people with a tin of petrol," our Director says drily.

"You mean like this?" the PFY asks pulling a tin of petrol (with the company logo on it) from under his desk and gazing off into the unfocussed middle distance. "Fire – there's nothing like it. And, when you get something really burning well, heave it over the fence of some law enforcement or military facility. And guess whose business card would be found on it – strangely preserved from the heat?"

"I … well … probably whoever put the parcel together," the Director burbles, envisioning the waterboarding of some poor pleb from the mailroom.

"Possibly," I respond thoughtfully. "But isn't this your cigarette lighter?"


"It's got your name engraved on it."

"What?" he snaps, snatching it off me and turning it over. "It does not."

"My mistake. Just pop it back on the desk will you?"

Now our Director may be slow, but he's not stationary. Even he realizes that the shiny metal surface of a knock-off Zippo will preserve his fingerprints until long after his electric chair has been scrubbed down. He pops it in his pocket.

"Suit yourself. There's bound to be stacks of stuff around here you've touched."

The Director instinctively grabs the USB brochure, his coffee mug, the stapler he moved off the table when he put the brochure down earlier, and the tin of petrol (WTCLOI - With The Company Logo On It) and slowly backs out of the room. To be on the safe side, he even pauses to wipe the doorhandle on the way out.

"And you just HAPPENED to have a tin of petrol (WTCLOI) under your desk?" I ask the PFY once the Director's out of earshot.

"Well, isopropyl alcohol, but potayto potahto," he replies.

"My mistake – you just happened to have a tin of isopropyl under your desk?"

"With the company logo on it," the PFY says. "Yes. For work use."

"And I take it you've already messaged security?"

"About the dangerously unstable middle manager with a fascination for fire, looking for a way to protest the lack of good mid-year Christmas bonuses? I did that during the banknote phase of the conversation."

From the office we hear the sounds of a hearty struggle as a couple of security guards wrestle the Boss to the ground.

"Did he mention the petty cash he'd been issued for the staff lunch?" I ask, when he's suitably restrained …

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