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This is a question Expensive Mistakes

coopsweb asks "What's the most expensive mistake you've ever made? Should I mention a certain employee who caused 4 hours worth of delays in Central London and got his company fined £500k?"

No points for stories about the time you had a few and thought it'd be a good idea to wrap your car around a bollard. Or replies consisting of "my wife".

(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 11:26)
Pages: Latest, 13, 12, 11, 10, 9, ... 1

This question is now closed.

I.T. is a minefield for expensive mistakes
There's so many different ways to screw up. The best you can hope for in a support role is to be invisible. If anyone notices your support team at all, you can rest assured it's because someone has made a mistake. I've worked for three major investment banks, but at the first place I witnessed one of the most impressive mistakes I'm ever likely to see in my career. I was part of the sales and trading production support team, but thankfully it wasn't me who made this grave error of judgement...

(I'll delve into obnoxious levels of detail here to add colour and context if you're interested. If not, just skip to the next chunk, you impatient git)

This bank had pioneered a process called straight-through processing (STP) which removes the normal manual processes of placement, checking, settling and clearing of trades. Trades done in the global marketplace typically have a 5-day clearing period to allow for all the paperwork and book-keeping to be done. This elaborate system allowed same-day settlement, something never previously possible. The bank had achieved this over a period of six years by developing a computer system with a degree of complexity that rivalled SkyNet. By 2006 it also probably had enough processing power to become self-aware, and the storage requirements were absolutely colossal. It consisted of hundreds of bleeding edge compute-farm blade servers, several £multi-million top-end database servers and the project had over 300 staff just to keep it running. To put that into perspective, the storage for this one system (one of about 500 major trading systems at the bank) represented over 80% of the total storage used within the company. The equivalent of 100 DVD's worth of raw data entered the databases each day as it handled over a million inter-bank trades, each ranging in value from a few hundred thousand dollars to multi-billion dollar equity deals. This thing was BIG.

You'd think such a critically important and expensive system would run on the finest, fault-tolerant hardware and software. Unfortunately, it had grown somewhat organically over the years, with bits being added here, there and everywhere. There were parts of this system that no-one understood any more, as the original, lazy developers had moved company, emigrated or *died* without documenting their work. I doubt they ever predicted the monster it would eventually become.

A colleague of mine one day decided to perform a change during the day without authorisation, which was foolish, but not uncommon. It was a trivial change to add yet more storage and he'd done it many times before so he was confident about it. The guy was only trying to be helpful to the besieged developers, who were constantly under pressure to keep the wretched thing moving as it got more bloated each day, like an electronic ‘Mr Creosote’.

As my friend applied his change that morning, he triggered a bug in a notoriously crap script responsible for bringing new data disks online. The script had been coded in-house as this saved the bank about £300 per year on licensing fees for the official ‘storage agents’ provided by the vendor. Money that, in hindsight, would perhaps have been better spent instead of pocketed. The homebrew code took one look at the new configuration and immediately spazzed out. This monged scrap of pisspoor geek-scribble had decided the best course of action was to bring down the production end of the system and bring online the disaster recovery (DR) end, which is normal behaviour when it detects a catastrophic 'failure'. It’s designed to bring up the working side of the setup as quickly as possible. Sadly, what with this system being fully-replicated at both sites (to [cough] ensure seamless recovery), the exact same bug was almost instantly triggered on the DR end, so in under a minute, the hateful script had taken offline the entire system in much the same manner as chucking a spanner into a running engine might stop a car. The databases, as always, were flushing their precious data onto many different disks as this happened, so massive, irreversible data corruption occurred. That was it, the biggest computer system in the bank, maybe even the world, was down.

And it wasn't coming back up again quickly.

(OK, detail over. Calm down)

At the time this failure occurred there was more than $12 TRILLION of trades at various stages of the settlement process in the system. This represented around 20% of ALL trades on the global stock market, as other banks had started to plug into this behemoth and use its capabilities themselves. If those trades were not settled within the agreed timeframe, the bank would be liable for penalties on each and every one, the resulting fines would eclipse the market capital of the company, and so it would go out of business. Just like that.

My team dropped everything it was doing and spent 4 solid, brutal hours recovering each component of the system in a desperate effort to coax the stubborn silicon back online. After a short time, the head of the European Central Bank (ECB) was on a crisis call with our company CEO, demanding status updates as to why so many trades were failing that day. Allegedly (as we were later told), the volume of financial goodies contained within this beast was so great that failure to clear the trades would have had a significant negative effect on the value of the Euro currency. This one fuckup almost started a global economic crisis on a scale similar to the recent (and ongoing) sub-prime credit crash. With two hours to spare before the ECB would be forced to go public by adjusting the Euro exchange rate to compensate, the system was up and running, but barely. We each manned a critical sub-component and diverted all resources into the clearing engines. The developers set the system to prioritise trades on value. Everything else on those servers was switched off to ensure every available CPU cycle and disk operation could be utilised. It saturated those machines with processing while we watched in silence, unable to influence the outcome at all.

Incredibly, the largest proportion of the high-value transactions had cleared by the close of business deadline, and disaster was averted by the most "wafer-thin" margin. Despite this, the outstanding lower-value trades still cost the bank more than $100m in fines. Amazingly, to this day only a handful of people actually understand the true source of those penalties on the end-of-year shareholder report. Reputation is king in the world of banking (see Northern Rock for details!) and all concerned --including me-- were instructed quite explicitly to keep schtum. Naturally, I *can’t* identify the bank in question, but if you’re still curious, gaz me and I’ll point you in the right direction…

Epilogue… The bank stumped up for proper scripts pretty quickly but the poor sap who started this ball of shit rolling was fired in a pompous ceremony of blame the next day, which was rather unfair as it was dodgy coding which had really caused the problem. The company rationale was that every blaze needs a spark to start it, and he was going to be the one they would scapegoat. That was one of the major reasons I chose to leave the company (but not before giving the global head of technology a dressing down at our Christmas party… that’s another QOTW altogether). Even today my errant mate is one of the only people who properly understands most of that preposterous computer system, so he had his job back within six months -- but at a higher rate than before :-)

Conclusion: most banks are insane and they never do anything to fix problems until *after* it costs them uber-money. Did I hear you mention length? 100 million dollar bills in fines laid end-to-end is about 9,500 miles long according to Google calculator.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 21:02, 8 replies)
When I was about 4 years old... (damn my work comp's inability to edit posts!!!!)
...me favourite toy was this walking robot. It stood a tall 10 inches (lol, I typed inches) and had a light display in it's chest. When it was powered up by some batteries, it would march forward, stop, then do this light display and repeat the process. Twas not gifted with great variety, but it made alot of noise and looked cool.

One day, the batteries run out. Robot noise becomes quiet plastic statue to the 4 year old. Obviously the 4 year old wants this resolved, so I bring this to the attention of my father. This was my expensive mistake.

He has a look around the house for some batteries but can't find any. So instead, he decided to test out something else. He opened up the battery compartment and connected a spare CAR BATTERY to the +/- points in the battery bay with some jumpleads and some wire. All is ready, then dad flicks the "on" switch....

Robot noise went beserk. STAMP STAMP STAMP LIGHTS STAMP SMOKE STAMP STAMP LIGHTS STAMP FLAMES STAMP LIGHTS LIGHTS FLAMES FLAMES FLAMES....
Dad disconnected the car battery but it was too late. The robot had run straight into a wall and was currently burning itself to the skirting. He runs out to the bathroom, grabs a cup of water and soaks the melting circuit person drying it to the wall, a lump of disfigured toy with the smell of plastic death emanating from it.

"Oops....errr...sorry son." says dad, who promptly legs it. I loved that toy.

Apols for length? It's 10 inches of fecking fire!
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 8:37, 7 replies)
Bloke I Used To Work With
.
I worked for Transco, part of British Gas, and I met the unluckiest guy in the world. Lovely bloke, but unlucky.

He managed to write off 2 brand-new Land Rovers in a week.

First one had just been delivered and he took it home overnight. Next morning, got up, fired up Land Rover and drove out of his drive onto the hill leading from his house. Well there's been a wicked frost that night and the hill was just a sheet of black ice. Land Rover just started skidding downhill and then turned sideways just as it reached the main road at the junction at the bottom of the hill.

Bloke bailed out as the Land Rover slid gently into the traffic. One massively wrecked Land Rover.

So Transco gave bloke another brand new Land Rover. First one been smashed to bits was an accident that could have happened to anyone.

So a few days later, bloke drives shiny new Land Rover onto Morecombe Sands to take some readings from some instruments that were out on the flats. Parks up Land Rover, hops out and connects his gear to the instruments on the sands. Downloads data, farts and turns around to get back in the Land Rover - and freezes. It's gone. Not there. Pissed off. Missing. WTF?

Nobody could possibly have sneaked up and pinched it without him hearing or seeing something. He was miles in the middle of Morecombe fucking Bay for fucks sake! He could see in every direction for miles!

And then he noticed the car ariel. Sticking out of the sand. Bloody thing had sunk.

So off he trudged across the sand wondering how the fuck he was going to explain this one.

Cheers


And doubters and members of the "I Hate Legless Club"? Do us all a favour and just click ignore. That way, you'll never have to read my stuff again and the rest of us will, hopefully, be spared your childish tantrums and tedious whining. Or, if you *really* feel the need to let the rest of us know how you feel about me, at least have the courtesy to construct a decent flame. If you're going to hate me put some *effort* into it you drooling fuckwits.

Honestly, me being flamed on B3ta is like being savaged by a dead sheep.

(, Sat 27 Oct 2007, 8:51, 24 replies)
Not me but a mate who worked for a Junk mail company
Once accidentally cocked up a mailing list and sent 30,000 letters to the same man at the same address. But apparently it was OK because the bloke was German.

Possibly the only time I have ever felt sorry for a posty
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 11:48, 3 replies)
Software house breaches Council Race policies...
I used to work for a software house which made bespoke systems for councils - these were nice little earners - 25-75k/year, so we would work hard at getting everything *just so* for that all important first sales pitch in front of the great and the good of the council.

So we are all set up and ready to demo to a large council. The system is hooked up to a Barco so is in glorious Gianto-Vision on a screen, very important so that everyone can read all the words. The first of the dummy records is called up, and an audible gasp comes from the audience.

It would appear that our rather unreconstituted Directory of Marketing has decided to key some test data into the system, so the first person in the database would appear to be:-

"Mr Zippah De Doo Dah"
10, Am Dat Wate'melon Street"
Blacksville
Darkie Town"

...he'd been busy because the next few were, shall we say, similar. Oddly, we didn't get the contract.
(, Sat 27 Oct 2007, 12:52, 2 replies)
Crazy Horse Too, Vegas
A couple of years ago I went to Vegas with some mates. Lapdancing isn't really my thing - their eyes are weird and I don't like it when they flick you with their hair, it hurts a bit.

Anyway the others were insistent. While we were watching the main stage, girls were appearing one by one and leading my friends off to the "VIP room". They seemed kind of hypnotised. Finally a couple of girls appeared and invited me to go. I said thanks, but I'd wait for my friends to come back first. I figured I could get the lowdown on what actually happened out there, and then make my own decision.

The girls came back half an hour later and said "your friends are expecting you, please go to the VIP room".
"No you're alright!" I said. "They know I'm here!".

After an hour and a half I decided they were either dead, or were having too much fun without me, so i decided to go back to the hotel.

Suddenly they appeared, ashen faced and close to tears.
"Come on Browser, we're going. We've been raped".
"What!?"
"I said we've been RAPED".

Turns out they were getting personal lapdances and hadn't asked the price. Eventually when they called it a night the girls settled the bill - $2000 each. One of them didn't have a credit card so his mate had to put $4k on his own card.

I make sympathetic noises but was silently punching the air at the total $12 I had spent on three beers.

As we stumbled into the broad daylight, a ferrari screamed up to a halt, one of the lapdancers jumped in, flicked my mates the finger, and the car roared off into the distance. Poor exploited little mite.

The best bit was hours later when my mate looked thoughtful, and said "you know, I don't get to see a lot of tits. I think it was worth it".
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 11:34, Reply)
This one time
in deep space, this Mimbari ship approached with her gun ports open. It only bloody turns out that's like their way of shaking hands.

Damn, was my face red.

Click I like this if you understand.
(, Sun 28 Oct 2007, 4:43, 5 replies)
Not me
But I went to New York about ten years ago with a few friends. It happened to be the first time any of us had been to America and we were enjoying ourselves in the various restaurants and clubs of an evening, and one such night we caught a taxi back to our hotel afterwards.

As the guy took us up to the aforementioned hotel, it also came to paying up time. Charlie offered to foot the bill, and promptly did so. 10 dollars for the ride wasn't much after all.

It was about three seconds after the taxi drove off that Charlie realised he had paid with a hundred dollar bill, not a ten. Those damn American notes all looked so similar. The worst thing is he had even tipped the guy as well.

With another hundred.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 17:43, 2 replies)
So long ago it was almost in another life
and strickerly speaking I was only an innocent bystander.. anyway I worked for a while as a paint inspector for an engineering agency. I had no quals or experience, but if you can get a nice uncle to write you a CV and put it in the right hands for you, you just keep your mouth shut, read the spec and get on with it.

I had to inspect the paint on a heater being made in Scunthorpe. "How expensive could that be?" I hear you ask, because I have a vivid imagination. This heater was for crude oil about to be processed by an onshore reception plant on the coast of Scotland, it was three big fuckoff steel boxes on legs, lined with refractory concrete, filled with tailor-made pipes, topped off by a monty great funnel chimney thing, with gas burners between the legs. When built, it was about 140ft high.

The paint job was done by a company famous (in that industry) for big engineering paint jobs, and the boss man wasn't going to take any notice of the fresh-faced young inspector from the client telling him that it had failed each and every step of the whole painting process from the first shotblast to the last coat. "Don't worry sonny, it'll pass on site!" he smirked.

When they finally got this monster ($$$$) painted ($$$$) and onto the huge lowloader ($$$) and inched it slowly ($$$) up to Peterhead, it failed the onsite inspection. I was then flown ($$) along with various representatives of all the companies invlolved ($$$) who all agreed (except for the smirker) that it failed cos it was a crap paint job.

This meant it had to be scaffolded on site ($$$) shotblast with non-renewable grit ($$$) and repainted ($$$$) under weatherproof sheeting ($$$). This meant it was 10 days late for commissioning which set the whole plant back ($$$$$$).

When the dust had settled and all was back to normal, an engineer switched on the burners at the bottom. He did this without opening the butterfly valve in the monty great funnel on top. The entire top third of the heater ( a steel funnel chimney and a 45-ton box lined with concrete and full of pipes) blew off and flew 60 yards away, narrowly missing several other expensive structures, so the whole place came grinding to a halt while another heater was ordered, fabricated, painted, shipped, erected, tested and commissioned ($$$$$$$$$$).

The odd thing is, that I was the only person involved who had no qualifications (I'm really a musician), and the only one who didn't actually fuck up at some stage.

So I shouldn't have posted this at all. Sorry :@ )
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 12:23, 3 replies)
Aw bless 'em
My job used to often involve finding code and user errors in financial systems. Millions could easily disappear just because of a simple account code mistake.

But best was looking through a file of reconciliation errors at on of the charities I've worked for, which used a lot of often elderly volunteers in their shops. Each error had to have an explanation put in by the manager of the shop. Some of the entries were terse and clearly the result of someone reaching the end of a tether:

"till short because geriatric volunteer can't tell difference between a £5 note and a £20 note."

"volunteer thinks she forgot how much she was given, so to play safe gave change of £20."

"elderly volunteer can't count."

"alzheimers, I'm sure of it."
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 14:24, Reply)
T'other week
I work at the local college, where in these days of paperless offices everything is done on the puter: the databases, exam entry, pretty much all communication, taking the class registers is done online, and even the door locks are done on the same system (ID cards and electric locks).

So imagine my horror as, when I reach over to the door release button to buzz a teacher in (they never remember their cards) I accidentally knock over my tea, and watch as it pours down a crack in the desk directly into a mains socket. Fucksocks!

Panicking, I whip the plug out with my foot. Phew! Problem solved, right? It can just dry out.

Except looking up, my computer (plugged into another socket) is off. In fact, as I test them, all the computers in the office are off. And it's somewhat darker... the lights are off. In fact, absolutely everything had shorted out - the radiators, phones, printers, faxes... even the door locks. Ah.

It could be OK though, my other co-workers were on holiday for half term or currently at lunch. But oh no. I could hear cries of confusion. Looking into the next offices, I'd shorted out them too. And the reception desk, with students waiting impatiently. In fact, I'd shorted out every single office and department on my side of the building. I panicked: my boss, who we shall call Angela (for that isn't her name), would be coming back from lunch soon!

Now, here's the thing about the door locks: they're very sensetive and efficient, so people are used to waving their cards in the general direction of the scanner and walking straight through.

So my pièce de résistance was timidly asking the recepionist "Do you think we can sort it out before the boss notices?" just as Angela herself whacks head-first into the door with an audible *THUD*, her hand still waving her ID card futily at the scanner.

Apparently she noticed.


Length? Fixed after about an hour, but I was still laughed at for days.
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 10:35, 5 replies)
This has to be the winner...surely
I used to live in Plymouth, and a friend worked at Devonport dockyard, refitting nuclear submarines. Basically, a sub would come in, they'd strip it, inventory everything and replace any parts or kit that were missing or broken.

Anyway, one sub had a problem with a big circuit board, something to do with the missile firing system. So the boss ordered a new board. Except he didn't...somehow he managed to order two by mistake. These things are custom-built using special components (EMP-proof or something), take months to arrive and cost an absolute metric shedload of cash. We're talking a career-threatening waste of money here, and the boss is fearful for the consequences.

So the unwanted board is surreptitiously buried in a skip, and no-one ever notices.

The cost? Approximately one million quid.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 19:46, Reply)
My uncle had a fairly easy job...
...in charge of the gunners on an Imperial Star Destroyer.

One day, he was asked to shoot down a "seemingly-empty" escape pod, but decided not to as there were no life-signs onboard.

It turned out that the pod, in fact, contained two droids, one of which had the plans for a new space station The Empire were building and managed to eventually pass them onto The Rebel Alliance. Ooops!

To cut a long story short: cue one exploded "Death Star", the destruction of both The Emperor and his assistant and the eventual dismantling of the whole of The Empire!!!

"My uncle's face" and "egg" were definitely in contact after that! He's been dining out on that story for YEARS, bless 'im!!!
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 18:52, 1 reply)
I forgot my wallet, which ended up costing Avis thousands.
About, ooh, 10 years ago now, I went to Finland to visit a chum.

I missed my first flight after I turned up at the airport sans wallet. "No problem, Sir. We don't need your credit card to issue your ticket; your passport is sufficient."
"Yes, but I'll be in Helsinki with no money and no means of getting any, and I'm expecting to hire a car. They'll want to see my credit card, even if you don't. I'm going home to get my plastic and Finnish cash. I'll get the next flight."

Cue getting to Helsinki many, many hours later than planned (around midnight, as I recall), to find the Avis desk (and the other rental desks) closed for the night, with only a single chap on duty for all of them, handling paperwork and keys for late arrivals such as me.

At the time I wasn't quite 25 years old, which meant I could only hire a limited selection of cars. Apparently Avis' insurance company felt that anyone under 25 couldn't be trusted with anything larger than a Ford Fiesta. How prescient of them...

So I rocked up at the Avis desk expecting to be given the key to a Fiesta or whatever Lilliputian equivalent they had in Finland. After much searching by the attendant, and a couple of phone calls to an apparently higher authority, he eventually handed me the key to something called a Nissan Primera. I'd no idea what it was; I wasn't a car nerd. It was a set of wheels. Off I trotted to the car park to find it.

"Hmm. This is a bit bigger than expected. And it's got an SRi badge on the back? I'm sure this can't be what I paid for. Ah well. Too late now. Vrooooom!"

Finland having a population half that of London, the roads are pretty quiet at any time of day. At night, a traffic jam is seeing another vehicle somewhere off in the distance. And 2 litres of finest Japanese engineering travels rather rapidly when the callow youth behind the wheel decides to pretend that the speed limit signs are in MPH rather than KPH. I arrived in Kuopio roughly two-and-a-half hours later. Good thing the Finnish plod were all tucked up in bed.

The next night, after dropping my chum off at home I headed back to the hotel. I discovered that one is supposed to give way to traffic coming from the right at intersections. Driving on the right, as they do, one might have thought the rule would be to give way to the left, kind of the inverse of what we do here. But no. Fortunately the fellow piloting the other car floored it when he saw me coming, so I only took his rear bumper off instead of putting a Primera-shaped dent in the side of his ride. When I called the next morning to say I'd be late because of sorting out the insurance paperwork my chum said, "Yes, I know. I've already heard." Turns out the passenger in the car was my chum's housemate. Small world.

The damage to the Primera? Minor crack to the front bumper, and one of the headlamp wipers was slightly out of alignment. Avis offered a replacement vehicle, but I turned it down. After all, the damage was only cosmetic, and minor at that. It wasn't as if I'd written it off...

The rest of the weekend passed uneventfully and I set out on the trip back to the airport. While cruising along at a somewhat more sedate speed (obeying the 120KPH limit this time), about an hour away from the airport, I heard an almighty bang, then the car twitched violently and started bouncing along the grass verge at the side of the motorway.

"No problem," thought I, surprisingly rationally, "I'll just brake very gently, 'cause I'm on a low-friction surface, and make sure I keep the car in a straight line. Everything will be fine."

There was another almighty bang, and the windscreen turned opaque and cracked. The steering wheel airbag burst between my bare forearms (I still have a faint scar from it; I tell people I used to be a cutter). "Fucksocks," thought I, "guess I'd better plant the brake and hope."

After finally stopping the car, I got out and found out what had happened. The first almighty bang was the rear-left tyre bursting. The second almighty bang was a concrete lump smashing into the underside of the engine, shoving the battery up into the bonnet, breaking the bonnet away from the catch and sending it hurtling into the windscreen, before momentum carried the car over the lump and further along the verge. The Finns run pipes along the sides of motorways, I later found out, and the concrete lump I'd hit was the cap on an entrance to one of these pipes.

Avis collected the remains of the car and paid for a rather expensive taxi ride for the rest of the way to the airport.

So, however much a new Nissan Primera SRi was (I'm sure the concrete lump must have shifted the engine, which is usually a write-off), plus the taxi & recovery costs, plus the repair bill to the car I hit a couple of days previously, is what it cost Avis for the mistake of lending me something their own policies said they shouldn't, because it was late at night and the attendant wanted to get rid of me and go home.

And all because I left my wallet at home.
(, Sat 27 Oct 2007, 14:20, 1 reply)
This one time I had a few
and I wrapped my wife around a bollard.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 12:28, Reply)
Practical Jokery
Whilst at 6th form college, a few of my colleagues and I decided it would be hilarious to run up behind a hapless colleague pull down his shell suit trousers, and attract the attentions of person or persons unknown ahead of him before diving off into cover to watch the situation unfold.

We crept up behind him in the street outside the college, pulled his trousers down and shouted "Oi, look at this" before diving headlong into the neighbouring bushes.

Only there were a couple of complications.

1. He wasnt wearing any underpants (well how were we to know?)
2. He was sporting a raging boner which,
3. The ladies standing at the bus stop all now had pointing at them, gently bouncing up and down in time with his pulse.

They mistook him for a flasher (I suppose in part he was, albeit an unwitting or unwilling one), and the police were summoned.

That put an end to his chosen career as an infant school teacher.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 11:40, 2 replies)
Car Crushed
I saw an expensive forklift mistake. I watched a warehouseman use the wrong forklift for a job and lose his load (so to speak)

Instead of getting the correct attachement he used the 30tonne forklifts squeeze motion (brings the forks together) to grab a coil of wire. Not 100m, but somewhere in the region of about 2 miles of wire. the whole thing weighed about 7 tonnes. Usually a couple of forklifts move it aroung until the big fork can get is cable reel attachment to go through the middle of the reel and grip it, before loading up.

This time, they just grabbed it and lifted and drove off. All was well for about 30m, out of the warehouse and across the car park to the loading bay.

Now this is where it happened. Whilst he stopped to work out how to load up, the forks decided to have a little hiccup and loosened for a second (they aren't designed to work like this). The reel shifted and with this new found momentum started to roll out of the forks and towards the car park.

Things like this happen in slo-motion. 7 tonnes of copper on a massive 12 foot wooden reel rolled towards the car park and we were all powerless to stop it.

Even better, it managed to pick out the depot managers new Vauxhall Cavalier GSI2000 (white with spoilers!).
Basically it was destroyed. It was like a cartoon with a flat front end and the reel kinda wedged somewhere about where the back seat started.

The manager simply didn't believe us - he thought it was a another work floor prank to get him outside and laugh at him. 45 minutes of pleading did get him outside and his face was a picture.
All credit, he laughed. And kept laughing, almost maniacally. He got a new car on company insurance, no-one mentioned to the insurers we weren't using the right bits.

i bet he cried when he got home. i would have.
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 12:00, 1 reply)
Accidental libel of one of the world's largest football clubs (pearoasted)
For legal reasons (and also because I'm still a bit scared of them) I can't actually name any of the parties involved.

I used to work for a company which made one of the most popular cheat code devices for consoles. I worked as a cheat code developer there and one of my duties was to make stand alone cheat/update discs. It was my responsibilty to make the update disc for a new football game which was coming out. This involved correcting all the team names, player names, badges, etc. However, when I was making the badge for one of the teams, instead of their name on the badge (and just as a joke to share with my mate), I put 'Dirty Fucking Scum Cunts'. This imaged was then flattened to a low res bitmap and made unreadable. We had a good laugh about this.

The disc was finished and mastered in very large quantities and shipped across Europe and sold very well. Approximately 2 weeks later the Producer of the product asked me to come and look at something with him. Now apparently an 8 year old boy had got the disc and (being impressed with the job I had done) wanted to see how I had made the badges. So he went into the editor and looked at the badge and zoomed in on it. It soon became apparent that the writing was not quite as illegible as first thought. The boy wasn't sure what it said, but he knew it didn't say his team's name. His Dad had a better idea of what it said.

Angry Dad then took it back to the major High Street retailer where he bought it from. They took all of our products off the shelves (not just the one in question) and soon after, several others did the same. The press were informed and started phoning us asking for questions. The football club in question were informed and started phoning up threatening legal action. The product had to be recalled, re-mastered and re-issued at an initial estimated cost of a quarter of a million pounds. Later, FIFA got onto them and were rather upset, as were a large video games company, who make another popular football game and who happened to pay a lot of money for exclusive rights to team names etc.

They asked me to leave (insisted really). Fascists...
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 9:20, 9 replies)
Forlorn
I took out my wallet; a couple of quid and some shrapnel. That wouldn’t buy me an authentic Yorkshire grousing bonnet. I could withdraw the cash from my local bank, but could I justify doing so? I stared into the shop window longingly. It was a fine bonnet. My hot breath clung to the icy cold window like kittens to the side of a bus on a one way journey to nothingness. The bonnet was hanging in the window display like a beacon; a beacon of hope, of promise, of temptation. The colours in the fabric seemed to swirl and dart and I was reminded of my mother’s eyes. The fabric of my trousergroin touched the glass. I walked on.

“There must be a better way to make money than cod-fettling,” I said to myself.
“There is!” chirruped a reply from beneath a nearby tree.
“How did you hear me? I’m talking to myself!” I said to myself. “I’m a deaf-mute!”
“Then how can you hear me?” said the squeaky voice.
There was only one way to speak to a cocky character like this. “Show thyself, thou shrill treeshelterer of this grim afternoon. Emerge ye from thy shady lair and let mine eyes feast on thy undivulg’d form.”
Silence.
I was enraged. “EMERGE YE!” my mindlungs clattered.
I stood for a moment, staring at the tree trunk. At first there was a small green finger, then a whole hand, and very shortly after there was a stout frog, or maybe a toad, standing only three lemurs and a shark’s length away from me. I crouched and held out my palm. The plump little fellow hopped onto my hand as happy as you like. We were soon engaged in a frenzied amphibio-mammalian union, the likes of which would give David Icke horrific nightmares, or maybe an erection.

We lay on the grass in a post-coital embrace.
“Did you enjoy that, my smooth green lover?” I thought to him.
“Did you?” he replied in a telepathic mindcroak.
“I certainly did!” I telereplied.
It was then that my heart was broken.
He leapt to his devious green feet with gusto. “Haha! You owe me five hundred and thirty-three pounds!”
“Why?” I asked through my mental skullbone.
“It’s the law! If a man penetrates any amphibian of the order Anura and then claims to have enjoyed it, he automatically forfeits a sum of money directly proportionate to the difference in height between the two participating specimens, multiplied by the duration of the aforementioned act of penetration.”
The whorefrog laughed gleefully. How could I have argued?

I walked to the bank forlornly, withdrew the cash and handed it over. The pondstitute promptly disappeared behind a tree trunk. It was only then that I realised the entire existence of the deceitful pleasuretoad had all been in my mind and I had just given my money to a passing she-truant. It truly was an expensive mistake!
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 14:56, 11 replies)
Everyone loves a story about poo.
I was taken by a new girlfriend to meet her parents at a drinks party they were having.

Picture a pristine 3 bed semi in Bishops Stortford. The parents were also pristine, father with immaculately groomed hair and an Aaran sweater, mother with painted nails and orange skin.

My girlfriend left me with a piece of advice, "Do not, under any circumstances, untidy or mess up the house".
I chatted to the parents, then to some other guests who turned out to be family members, before deciding I needed to answer a call of nature.

I was shown to the upstairs bathroom, (I can only assume they didnt pass solids into the downstairs one), and settled down to release a few overdue chocolate hostages.

My first mistake was not checking to see if there was enough toilet paper.

My second mistake was deciding that the handtowel would suffice to remove the detritus from my barking spider instead.

My third mistake was panicking as to what to do with a handtowel liberally smeared in offensively smelling excretia.

I was faced with the choice of flushing it... well that would've blocked the loo and drawn more attention to my plight, or...

I elected to throw it out of the open window.
Peering out I could see some bushes by the garage and I estimated I could propel it with enough force for it to drop in behind there unnoticed.

I recoiled my arm and launched it out of the window.

Picture the scene, dear reader - you are standing in the garden, enjoying a story being regaled to you by the elegantly turned out hostess, when a handtowel covered in what turns out to be, on closer examination, moist shit, hits her in the side of the head, leaving foul smelling skidmarks on her cheek and expensive dress.

I ran from the house fearing the worst; oddly I never heard from that girlfriend again, even though it was her mother - and not the house- that I had inevitably messed up.
(, Wed 31 Oct 2007, 9:03, 13 replies)
Glass and Magnets
During my undergraduate years, there were various practical experiments to be done, but us spotty students weren't let near the good equipment for very obvious reasons. However, in the final year, each of us did a research project, doing proper research for one of the professors in the dept. Which meant that we needed to use all the cool stuff.

A friend of mine had a project, involving the synthesis of a protein from various building blocks. Not a particularly interesting project, just a proof of concept - looky here, we can make this protein from bits of these six other proteins!!! OMG Lego blocks in molecular form. Wow! etc.

Quick bit of background - Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) is a really cool technique for looking at the structures of various chemicals, and if you have one that works at a high enough frequency, you can even deduce the layout, connectivity and mother's maiden name of something as complex as a protein. The NMR machine is basically a supercooled superconducting set of perpendicular uber-electromagnets with some very good sensors that detect changes from within the sample tube as one of the magnets is alternated. As you might imagine, the higher end machines are *very* expensive and analysis time on them is like gold. Using it even briefly depleted your research grant by hundreds.

The setup: Dissolve your unknown stuff in a certain solvent. This goes into a fine glass NMR tube, attach a magnetic ring to the top. This is placed inside the reactor, where it hovers due to the ring.

Four months of painstaking work, and my friend has created his protein. He dissolves a sample, puts it in the tube... and has a problem. He's never used an NMR machine before, but that's OK, he's knowledgeable! He's a final year student now! He books time on the most powerful machine in the dept (the 800Mhz beastie, costing nearly £2 million). And he does what he's watched everyone else do, drops the tube into the machine and sets the program running, and daydreams of sugarplums and carbon atoms dancing in sequence.

...a few minutes later, someone queries why the magnetic ring is still on the preparation table. He'd forgotten to attach it. Rather than hover in the middle, the glass tube fell straight through and broke at the bottom.

When you take one of these machines apart to retrieve the glass shards, you have to totally disassemble it, and you lose a lot of very expensive liquid helium, and about the previous year's worth of tweaking and calibration getting it just right.

It took a week to be taken apart and put back together, and five months for the calibration to get back to the level it was at.

So my friend got crappy results for his project (would you let him use another of the decent NMR machines after that cockup?), earned the hatred of half the department and of course screwed up a multi-million pound machine.

I'm impressed though. Something no bigger than a stack of three £1 coins lead to that.

I'm referring to his brain of course, the magnetic ring is the size of a single pound coin.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 14:39, 7 replies)
My local hospital is state of the art, top 100 in the US, etc etc.
A couple of years ago they obtained an ultra-expensive pharmacy robot named TUG which scoots around the hospital delivering medication to various units. It's pretty much a complicated talking refrigerator on wheels - it knows its way around the hospital, can operate elevators, and dispense the proper prescriptions to the proper units.

This is totally awesome apart from the fact that it can't open doors. Instead it bashes into the door over and over while repeating "PLEASE MOVE ASIDE" until someone comes along and opens it. This can take a seriously long time, especially at night.

Stupid robot.

edit: I forgot the incident where TUG accidentally found its way into a heart patient's room at night. It sat there going "BEEP. PLEASE MOVE ASIDE. BEEP. BEEP. PLEASE MOVE ASIDE," bashing into the bed repeatedly. Needless to say the poor woman was scared shitless.
(, Wed 31 Oct 2007, 21:38, Reply)
I went to cambridge university
and my ex better half went to oxford at the time, I wanted to surprize her for christmas and go see her a week early, so I booked a train ticket (65 pounds) and I bought her flowers (20 pounds) and I got some new clothes(80 pounds).

I arrived in oxford at 5pm feeling very excited, walked to her house it was only a mile and my legs were good enough, knocked on her door and I was greeted by a bloke, I thought nothing of it and he left (i thought it was her flatmates bloke), so I sat in the living room, we made small talk and got on well.

later the night we went out, the same guy came up to me in a club , I said "alright mate , hows it going", and this point he smacked me in the face, and told me not to touch "his girlfriend" , basically he broke my nose and stole my girlfriend. I had no money to get back home and no where to sleep. I ended up stealing her bike and riding to reading (which is quite a distance) to see my sister, and borrow the cash to go home.

So i had ruined clothes a broken heart and nose. down £160 pounds and I had stolen a bike and I had riden it 26 miles in 1 night.

I dd get the last laugh, he got her up the duff a year later and she dropped out of university,
he later then cheated on her and gave her a std.

for me well I found a nice girl and I saw my ex at a school friends wedding and gloated at her fat ugly face. I even parked next to her at the reception , her in a ford orion very beat up, my lovely range rover won me a very harsh look.

length 26 miles bitch
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 18:39, 5 replies)
Ticket To Ride...
.
When I was young sprog I heard about one pisshead in Newcastle who made a pretty expensive mistake.

He got drunk, didn't have enough cash for a taxi home so pinched a double-decker bus. Obviously he got caught and nicked and the sentence he got was a bit savage. 2 years.

"2 years for pinching a bus" I can hear you all think. "That's a bit harsh."

Well it wasn't the fact that he nicked the bus that pissed off the authorities. It was the fact that the cheeky bastard was stopping at bus stops and picking up passengers - and charging them....

Cheers
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 10:19, 2 replies)
I worked for a cable TV provider..
.. back in my days of lacklustre employment.
I was partnered up with an arborial looking chimpanzee of a man called Carl.

Carl used expletives at every other word and had an aversion to deodorant or male grooming.

Our job was to splice into the street cable and run a spur into the subscriber's domicile, presenting it inside in the form of a wallbox into which the site team could cable up the Set Top Box and tune in etc.

Carl had decided that he wanted to spend the afternoon in the pub, so we had rattled through our morning job in 1.5 hours, and had driven like starsky and hutch over to our second job, run the cable and Carl was drilling through the wall of the house to run it inside.

I was walking up the path when Carl came running out of the house shouting "The f-fuckin' fish, man, the f-fish!!" and ran out of the gate, jumped in the van and disappeared at speed over the horizon.

I went into the lounge of the property to find the carpet slightly wet underfoot and some of the owners tropical fish flipping wildly on it.

And then it clicked. In his haste to rush off to his afternoon's libations, Carl hadnt bothered to check where his drill hole would come out and had indescriminately drilled into the outside wall, and pierced the owners tropical fish tank, which had exploded outward onto the carpet draining the tank of it's water and robbing the fish of their home.

The owner was angrily telephoning customer services and threatening all flavours of legal action as I walked quietly out of his house and up the garden path.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 14:16, Reply)
Not me, but my great-grandfather...
... he used to meet up with his friend for breakfast in vienna.

one morning, the oj was off and he said to his mate: 'someone should do something about the juice, adolf!'

we are still paying for that one.

Pa-daaa!
(, Fri 26 Oct 2007, 14:47, 1 reply)
My dad the pilot...
...once retracted the landing gear of an airplane in mid-taxi instead of checking the flaps as intended. **kahhTHUNK** Cost? $20,000 damage to the plane (in the 1960s mind you, not adjusted for inflation), serious mental damage to the passengers, and main airport runway access blocked for several hours.

Length? 50ft, twin engine.

(and first ever post, yay me! :-)
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 12:35, 2 replies)
I'll have a P please, Bob.
I once renamed 20,000 people on our work database "Robert".

If you ever get random mail addressed to Robert *Yourname*, it was me. Sorry.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 11:49, 2 replies)
warhammer

(, Sun 28 Oct 2007, 11:35, 6 replies)
Junior Engineer
My first proper job, junior manufacturing engineer in a local factory making bits and pieces for jet engines.

Now, cos what we made was so specialised, you can't really buy the equipment we need to make our bits. So we had to make our own.

We had a factory within a factory custom making all our machinery and fixtures and stuff with some very skilled old-school manual machinists, some of whom don't have a lot of patience with a young engineer without a lot of experience.

'Look, I've fooking told you I'm not wearing my fooking safety specs, fook off...'

Ahem.

They were very skilled men, and could do incredible work and knew all the old school tricks of the trade to make the job easier.

Which stopped the day some bright spark couldn't fit the small chuck he needed onto his lathe, as the lathe he preferred was a big model and it wouldn't fit. So, old school style, he put a big chuck on, held the small chuck in the big chuck, and then held the work he was machining in the small chuck.

This is insanely dangerous, as he discovered when he spun his machine up to 2000RPM and the small chuck flew out of the big chuck and caught him under the chin, decapitating him.

There was a lot of blood splashed, and a lot of people being sick.

Sometimes you make a mistake you don't get to learn from yourself.
(, Thu 25 Oct 2007, 23:15, 4 replies)

This question is now closed.

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