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This is a question Corporate Idiocy

Comedian Al Murray recounts a run-in with industrial-scale stupidity: "Car insurance company rang, without having sent me a renewal letter, asking for money. Made them answer security questions." In the same vein, tell us your stories about pointless paperwork and corporate quarter-wits

(, Thu 23 Feb 2012, 12:13)
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Truly industrial scale stupidity
I used to work for what was, at one time, the largest manufacturing company in the British Empire. It was a household name which employed over 100,000 people. It invented many products which we take for granted today, and had a huge turnover. Then in the 1990s it decided to transform itself, meaning buy a load of new businesses, in the hope of increasing margins and reducing dependence on the commodity chemical cycle. To do this it sold off its most profitable chemical businesses. However, it failed to integrate the new purchases, and ended up selling most of those as well. Within 10 years of initiating this strategy the company had shrunk to just a couple of divisions, which were purchased by another chemical giant. Today this 'bellweather of the British economy' is just a memory.
(, Tue 28 Feb 2012, 9:46, 7 replies)
Probably not corporate idiocy, rather personal stupidity
on the part of our IT department.

I couldn't send .mdb files over email without them being blocked as potentially malicious files. I had a new laptop and couldn't install anything without an administrator password. I called IT to install something free like 7zip, as Windows Compressed Folders wouldn't work either.

"Don't worry about installing anything like that; just email me the .mdb, I'll zip it and email it back to you" quoth the computer science graduate. The earnest way he said it made me quite sure he wasn't taking the piss.
(, Tue 28 Feb 2012, 9:31, Reply)
They took all our bins away.
I'm pretty sure that this was so they could "downsize" the cleaning staff. One more for the dole queue.
(, Tue 28 Feb 2012, 9:21, 7 replies)
Extra Links
My mate is a carer for people with learning difficulties. On a Wed night he takes a small group out, bowling, cinema...just something fun.

He used to be paid by an agency, about £8 a hour for 4 hours "work". Some changes to the way the money is paid meant that the funding now goes directly to the affected families.

He suddenly gets £15 an hour, to do exactly the same thing. Makes you wonder why the agency took such a huge cut when all they were doing was passing the money on
(, Tue 28 Feb 2012, 9:18, 6 replies)
I just started working at a large global corporation
I have a nifty Cisco IP Phone and I notice a red light, informing me that there was a message waiting. I had only given this number to a few people, so I thought it might be a message I actually wanted to hear.

Looked around and realized I had no login information. So, I called the help desk. They told me that I needed manager approval (!) in order to receive voicemail. I told them I already had voicemail, I just needed to access it.

HelpDeskMan then asked if I needed help setting up a voice mail account. I said, "Please, but don't I need a manager's approval?" "Oh, yeah" he replied. He then offered to contact me as soon as it was set up, and said "Now, I have xxxx as your number. I'll call you and leave a message if you're not there."

(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 22:15, 3 replies)
hurrah for Nortel stupidity!
I used to live in Torbay, where there was a huge factory run by Nortel who had a terrible reputation for hiring people then laying them off. At one point I was kind of desperate so I reluctantly applied for a job there. After a week of 'training' I was put into the testing department. My job consisted of plugging chips into a machine which took anything between 10 seconds and a minute to tell me whether the chip worked or not. All bloody fucking day. In a clean room so you couldn't take anything in there with you. And the radio was permanently on, and tuned into inane local radio. After a few days my brain was seriously considering dribbling out of my ears to escape the boredom.
However, 3 weeks after I'd arrived, almost the entire workforce (somewhere between 3 and 5 thousand if I remember correctly) was laid off. At first I was annoyed but relieved. Then I recieved a letter telling me that, along with everyone else I was being given redundancy pay of 3 months wages. That's right - 1 week of pissing around being 'trained' 2 weeks of utter boredom, then 3 months of redundancy pay - happy days!
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 21:49, 5 replies)
Charity Rip-Off
A Well Known development charity boasts about how much of their income they spend on projects in the field rather than admin. What they don't tell you is that those projects are then backcharged huge amounts for admin. A friend of mine discovered this when he was working for them in Africa. Want to buy a £4 spare part? Sure, that's authorised. Your project has been charged £35 for this authorisation. Have a nice day.

I've avoided that charity and their shops ever since I heard that. If you want to give money for development, folks, give it to Water Aid. They do just what you'd think and they spend bugger all on admin.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 20:44, 31 replies)
Whilst working for an acute trust
(better know as a hospital), I produced some figures to show our performance against the government's target for 4 hour A&E waits. Very well received by the people upstairs (a colourful chart goes a long way).
A couple of months down the line, I had to ask the SHA (Strategic Health Authority, soon to be abolished, if the coalition has their way) for some data relating to 4 hour A&E waits. Lo and behold, I receive a copy of my own report, with my name replaced by someone else's. Oddly enough, it didn't really answer my question.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 20:09, 7 replies)
i work for a large corporate
each country has its own ops dept, handling country-specific IT issues

recently one of our field guys has been seconded to another country, with a similar size userbase and infra to ours. It's to cover for someone who is long term sick. Seems fair?

Well, the country he's been seconded to has 6 people doing my 2nd/3rd role and 10 field guys

we have 2 people doing my role and 6 field guys. My colleague has been sent to the midlands to cover the missing field guy's patch, leaving me, solo.

I went home at lunchtime today due to not being able to move without feeling sick. Did i mention there's a massive rollout going on in the UK atm?

management flat out refuse to answer as to why they think what they have done is a good idea.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 18:28, 8 replies)
Report! Report!
I used to work with a very pretty and curvaceous young woman. I mention her appearance not to bring out the sweaty-palmed amongst you, but because it is relevant to the tale.

Like many companies, it gradually changed from a funky dotcom startup into something more corporate. One day, one of the suits decided that we needed a weekly Management Report, summarising progress in our department of hairy IT geeks and snarling sysadmins. And it fell to the gorgeous hero of our tale to write this report, and submit it each week.

After several weeks, she started to wonder if anybody was actually reading it. So that week's report contained the now-legendary entry, somewhere near the back: "'Naked Wednesday' was a big success. I've been asked to organise another very soon."

Despite being leering, boorish letches to a man, not one of the management team commented on this. After that, she didn't put much effort into the report.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 17:26, 8 replies)
African Aid Projects
During my time in Tanzania I regularily came across the following:

Whatever the sexiest project of the moment, eg women's rights, local government accountability, the various donors be that Danida, DfID etc would all be hatching similiar projects. These programmes would be funded by you the tax payer to the tune of tens of millions of pounds.

How do they get the Tanzanian Government to select their project, they bribe the officials to give them more money. The Dutch and the Scandinavians were the biggest culprits.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 16:09, 5 replies)
I used to work at British Gas
I didnt chose to work there, it was either redundancy or take a call centre job working for Prepay electricity Customer services.

It was horrible, and probably one of the worst jobs ive ever had.

99% of the calls would involve abuse. Either a problem with the 'Leccie' or People wondering why their bill shows a credit, yet once we take a reading, find they are no longer in credit £1000.

The worst part though, was the countless cases where people would turn up at a new property with the meter already running on emergency. Typically families relocating. Who have no electricty. If they rang on a Thursday after say 3pm, the usual next call out to issue a new Key for the meter would be Monday. Imagine moving into a house with newborns. During Winter. Poeple would be on the phone in tears.

Actually - there is a worse part. We had a compulsary upsell motive. If we were found to have not offered Dual fuel (or something similar) 3 times or more, we could face disaplinary action. I saw a few people lose thier jobs over such actions.

Imagine trying to calm a young lady down who is in tears, explaining there would be no gas/Electric for their new home for 6 days (over easter) knowing at the end of the call, asking if they would like their boiler covered? I had to. Dozens of times.

(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 16:05, 3 replies)
Anyone know about unit testing?

Well on a recent project for an insurance company I was pulled into a meeting for another project. Apparently I was stopping the project from progressing because I'd 'broken the build'. Being totally mystified I asked for clarification. Turns out my unit tests were failing in the core project due to changes they'd made to it.

I laughed. I shouldn't have, but I did. I pointed out that, if you change it then the tests have to change. That they are broken is good and indicates a degree of coverage and protection. Fixing them should be trivial and you can carry on. I said this to a room of seasoned contractors, all highly paid and well thought of. Not a single one knew what I was talking about. This is the programming equivalent of 'What you learn first', the abc, the 101. Now I was worried.

In the end we agreed to disagree and they simple stopped using the build system. Deploying straight to the server is much faster apparently...and definitely didn't cause them to fail hard.

Pointing this to senior management didn't endear me to them either.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 16:01, 2 replies)
Government departments
are great advertisements for the private sector. And vice versa.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 15:00, 5 replies)
The story about the NHS paying over the odds for crappy computers reminds me...
My brother's in the RAF, and was - not so long ago - on a base where they saw fit to order a bunch of minibus type things. With one eye on the bottom line, the order was for the most basic model - so basic that they weren't even to have stereos in them.

The order went through, and the buses arrived. Shock horror, they had stereos. You can't get them without.

So what did Her Majesty's finest do? Did they feel smug for having blagged this small luxury for no extra cost?

Nope. They paid someone to remove the stereos.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 14:59, 4 replies)
I once paid cash at a GAP store or similar
And the retail drone held every note under his UV light to check if they were real.

So when he gave me my £15-ish change, I just bent over the counter and checked them as well.

If you don't trust me, I don't trust you. Simple.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 14:57, 17 replies)
Legless' post below reminded me of this one...
We've got a piece of software here which we bought off an Australian company.

The original version didn't contain a facility for changing your password, so if you wanted your own choice of password you had to tell the password team what it was so they could set it for you.

Last year we had an upgrade to their shiny new browser-based version of the system. It's virtually identical in most aspects, but about 500% slower than version 1. It does now contain a facility for someone to change their own password.

However - if someone forgets their password, there's no way to reset it - you have to delete their account and re-create it.

Corporate idiocy on two counts: 1 - the Australians, for building such a crap program, and 2 - us, for signing it off
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 14:36, 4 replies)
We have a trolley at work
with a pressurised oil vessel on it for topping up helicopter engines and transmissions. It has a hose with a ball valve on the end of it with a short length of stainless steel tube. The handle to operate this valve often catches any number of hoses or control rods whilst servicing the transmission and dumps oil everywhere over the top of the helicopter.

Some 12 months ago I approached our general fitter (us helicopter mechanics aren't to be trusted to fix our ground equipment)who says I should order a new valve. So I proceed to our trusty storeman with a part number and a supplier, he tells me it will be ordered and arrive soon. Several months later I enquire as to the whereabouts of the valve. I am told that because the cost was only $3.80 that it wasn't worth raising a purchase order.

I then pick up his catalogue and select a $128.00 valve, which I notice some months later,is sitting on our fitters bench. He says he needs fittings to adapt it to the other hose. It remains there to this day.

Expensive turbine engine oil is still regularly dumped on the floor and on aircraft, for the sake of $3.80.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 14:31, Reply)
Cuttings from my three-page complaints letter to Apple
"I was told by a member of staff, politely enough, that I would have to make an appointment at the Genius Bar. As it was lunchtime, on a day I’d booked off, I asked if he would make me an appointment for later in the day, if one were available. He told me that he could not as it wasn’t a service they offered and, anyway, you cannot book them on the same day even if you do it from home.

I was forced to walk over to a Macbook of some sort and, via your website, book an appointment in front of his very eyes for approximately fifty minutes later."

And my favourite bit:

"explained it. He went away to test it. In the mean time, having to wait another twenty minutes between my appointment and being seen, I was stood near a staff member and customer with a conundrum.

The customer wanted £40 of iTunes vouchers for one gift and £60 for another. The staff member replied that they “only did £15 and £25 vouchers” so they couldn’t really do those amounts.

After three minutes of backing and forthing, I felt that I had to intervene and explain that, in fact, £15 and £25 added up to £40 and four £15 vouchers was, wonderfully, £60. The staff member asked me to explain again, slowly, before going off to process this for the customer.

I realise this isn’t really part of my complaint but doesn’t it make you despair somewhat?"
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 12:21, 9 replies)
Phone Tennis
Our mortgage deal ran out a couple of months ago so we did some research, decided exactly what we wanted to change it to (within the same bank) and try to arrange it. It felt a bit like we were being subjected to a phone tennis tournament.

1) We try and set up the transfer online. As we're changing the duration of the mortgage this needs some additional approval so the instructions tell us to ring the call centre. {FIRST SERVE}

2) We call up the main call centre and they tell us that we'll need to make an appointment with our local branch. They say "I can't make an appointment for you, but I'll ask them to ring you." {15 - LOVE}

3) The branch rings up and says "We can't offer you the full range of products in branch, you'd get a much better deal ringing the call centre" {30 - LOVE}

4) We ring the call centre and they say "As you want to change the duration of your mortgage you'll need to go into branch." {40 - LOVE} Fortunately they then arrange an appointment for us with a real person. (Why they couldn't have done this at step one, I don't know) {40 - 15}

5) Two hours before our appointment the person in branch rings us up and asks if we have a vague idea what we want. As we know EXACTLY which product we want, how long for and what we can pay, {40 - 30} she gets it done there and then. {DEUCE}

6) We receive a copy of the docs to sign and return by post the following week. {GAME: US!)
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 12:16, 8 replies)
Absolutely 100% genuine.
"From: [email protected]
Sent: 07 Mar 11 16:19:52
Subject: "Total network outage in TW1 area for five days - no signal whatsoever!"

Dear Mr , we have tried to call you on your Three Network phone regarding your complaint several times today, but have been unable to reach you."
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 12:13, 2 replies)
Titish Bellicom
A while ago the current Miss Dchurch and myself moved into a property with no house number, and an address that is slightly wrong - the road in the address is not actually the road that the house is in.
This, understanderbly, results in a lot of lost mail - most companies manage to get mail to us, but not so Tittish Bellicom.

The only way I would know that my phone bill would need paying was when the phone was cut off through non-payment - I'd phone them up, explain that I received no letters/bills etc..., pay the money and have a phone again within 24 hours. Not ideal...but it worked.
On one of these occassions I asked if I could simply just keep the ADSL line open and not have a land-line at all, "just as it is now". The phone monkey asks what I mean by "just as it is now", so I explain that whilst I have no means to make a phone call or receive incoming calls, that I am indeed still able to use the Internet over the same line. He argues that this isn't the case and that this isn't possible.
I point out that I'm using a SIP phone to call them at that very moment and this is how we are able to have this conversation, yet he is adament that the Internet can not be working on my phone line.
Turns out that I still have to have the land-line to have the Internet.
I just paid as normal and got the (non-used) land-line reinstated rather than argue any more.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 11:37, 2 replies)
Toaster smashing.
We moved office because the firm was running out of cash and some of us volunteered to do the move (well, it was our jobs, after all).

First off, an idea of the man: Late at night, whilst voluntarily helping out with the move, there were two of us erecting (phnarr!) desks whilst the MD was downstairs doing, well something. He came up and asked me to come and speak to him downstairs and then balled at me for some time for not wearing shoes.

Anyway, once we had finished moving in new rules arrived, one of which was that we could no longer use the kettle in the kitchen, as it was 'untidy' (bear in mind that only the 8 developers used the kitchen - visitors never needed to come in here).

One day, when it was raining hard, I brought the kettle in from the old storage shed and used it to make tea. A little later one of the smokers called us to 'come see this'. The MD was out in the storage shed, with the kettle, jumping up and down on the toaster in a fit of piqued rage.

I left.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 10:57, 2 replies)
During my 2nd post with the NHS,
we had a team of consultant in to, umm, pad about the place and, err, no, that was it. Not medical consultant, management consultants (just the kind that a hospital needs).
Chatting to one of these consultants, over lunch, he came clean and admitted that what he was engaged in was utter bullshit, and that the Trust were basically paying him money for nothing. He seemed rather pleased with himself.

Having stayed within the health service, I've seen any number of consultancy firms come in and do their thing. I've yet to see any evidence of them actually doing anything other than extracting money.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 10:30, 8 replies)
Again the NHS
I pick up a prescription once a month from my doctor. I go to various pharmacists as I move around in my job so I don't have an arrangment with any paticular one. When they recently noticed I am basically 'repeating' my prescription they invited me to join a scheme which would 'save me time'. I asked for details, the crux of which are that I'd have to come to the surgery(actually into it) TWICE, to get my prescription. I go there once at the moment, just to pick it up. When I asked why I'd like to do twice as much for the same thing, they were stumped, then tried to say it was 'easier'.

Easier would be never EVER having to talk to a doctors receptionist. Where do they find them?!?!?

What the Tories are suggesting for the NHS is wrong, plain wrong. But I do understand where that frustration with it has come from. The inability to think things through and change is so so so annoying.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 10:25, 6 replies)
IT Policy
A friend used to work at a company whose main business is over the internet. They were taken over by an American company whose main business is also over the internet.

For months, despite repeated queries about promised revisions, no updates to policy happened, and it was pretty much business as usual. Then, out of the blue, the new IT policy arrived.

It started off with "no personal email", "no porn", the usual. Then it just got weirder and weirder and more and more restrictive until point 12:

"12. The Internet shall not be used for either (a) the receipt or (b) the transmission of data."

Erm, doesn't leave much room for a workaround, that one. Their new 1000 blade server cabinet was now officially there for warming mugs of coffee.

It was at this point that my friend decided that it was time to move on.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 10:16, 4 replies)
The NHS and IT
I work in IT for the NHS. I recently had the misfortune to discover that each Dell desktop purchased costs the NHS around £3000, when they should be about £300 each.

Why the massive increase in cost? There is a service contract bundled with each one, meaning if anything at all goes wrong with them, Dell will hotfoot over in no more than ten working days and fix said problem.

Which would be great, were it not for the fact that every NHS trust will have a good-sized desktop support team who will fix anything that goes wrong with these PCs. In theory, if there is a hardware problem, the Desktop should be returned to Dell and they will replace the faulty bit. In reality, the trust will buy replacement parts and fix them themselves.

What a waste.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 9:34, 15 replies)
Train Companies
Practically all of the longer distance train operators out there offer cheap tickets - £10 from Leeds to London for example, or £3 from Leeds to Manchester - or first class tickets for around 5% more than a standard class ticket on certain services - these are called 'advanced' fares, which basically means they're selling empty seats - or if you're traveling on Cross Country, floor space, on specific services.

If you can purchase said tickets for both your outward and return journey, it makes sense.

But, if you purchase an advance fare one way, and an 'open single' the other, ('Open single' being a normal train ticket, which you can use to travel on any service, with or without a reservation) then you're probably paying £10 more than what it would cost you for an open return, which is usually either the same price or £1 or so more than the 'open single'.

No wonder ticket pricing is harder to understand than the signaling system around London Kings Cross.
(, Mon 27 Feb 2012, 0:29, 13 replies)
Ms. Entity reminded me
of my last job that I held as an engineer.

The company I worked for made equipment for treating drinking water and for dealing with wastewater. The equipment I dealt with mostly was essentially a self-cleaning grate that filtered the big chunks out of the sewage- rocks, tree branches, bodies, that sort of thing. It dragged a rake up and dumped it into a hopper which was then emptied once a day by the plant staff.

So a sales engineer (not me) would go out to the site to visit the client and take measurements and discuss options (stainless steel vs painted steel, explosion-proof motor vs regular). He would enter all of this into an Excel sheet to give a quote to the client, and once it was approved he would turn it over to the drafting department.

The designer (not an engineer, but a CAD person) would bring up a standard drawing, input a bunch of variables, then produce drawings of the machine. In the upper right corner SolidWorks would produce a Bill of Materials which included everything down to the bolts needed.

My job? I was given the drawings and had to copy out the Bill of Materials into an Excel sheet for Purchasing. But not the entire bill, mind you- only parts of it. Then I clicked on a button onscreen that submitted it to Purchasing.

And that was it. For that I got $33/hour.

Never been so bored in my entire life.
(, Sun 26 Feb 2012, 23:55, 4 replies)
Back when I was just 14
I was informed that in the state of New York, I could get a work permit. It had all sorts of restrictions on it about what I could and couldn't do, which meant my employment options were limited. Fortunately, there was a local restaurant that agreed to take me on for general property maintenance. Putting down mulch, weeding the flowerbeds, and shoveling the snow in the winter fell down to me, along with any other odd task the owner came up with. He gave me a notepad, and told me to write down when I started working and when I finished, along with noting any breaks I took. He said whenever I needed to, just find him, show him the notebook, and he'd pay me $10 an hour, cash in hand. On lunch, I also got to have my pick of any item off the menu at either his restaurant or his deli next door. All things considered, it was a pretty great sounding job for a 14 year old.

However, the work situation was irregular at best. I'd walk from my house about 10 minutes up the road, show up, and say, "Sonny, have you got any work for me?" Typically, he'd tell me no, he didn't have anything for about two weeks straight, and then I'd show up one day and he'd yell that he had tons of work, and demand to know why I hadn't already been doing it. Then I'd have work for the next month or so before the cycle repeated. Even if it made me think he was a bit of a twat for doing things this way, this arrangement worked out well for the first year I was there.

The next summer rolled around, and I informed Sonny that as I was moving about 9 miles away from his restaurant, I needed some sort of promise that there would actually be work for me if I showed up. He said to just call the restaurant around 8 in the morning, and he'd let me know whether there was work or not. We both agreed it was a fine plan, and I began ringing every weekday to see if he had any work for me. For two weeks, I got the "No, nothing going on, try again tomorrow." from him.

Then one day I make my usual phone call, and he says,"Oh, I haven't seen you for two weeks, so I got someone else to do your job, you're fired."
(, Sun 26 Feb 2012, 22:15, 1 reply)

This question is now closed.

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