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This is a question Dodgy work ethics

Chthonic asks: What's the naughtiest thing a boss has ever asked you to do? And did you do it? Or perhaps you are the boss and would like to confess.

(, Thu 7 Jul 2011, 13:36)
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Acorn Electron Madness
Back in .. oooh 1983 if I remember, I had a saturday job working in W.H. Smiths in their shiney new computer department. Easy money really, just helping bewildered adults to buy the right thing and to stop the brats from typing 10 print "bums" , 20 goto 10 on all the display machines (a fine selection of 16k spectrums, Dragon32s, Orics, Vic 20s and of course the king of them all, the BBC Micro)

Again if memory serves me correctly, back then a BBC Micro would set you back about £400, which in 1983 was a fair old wodge of cash, and as Schools were now begining to use the BBC Micro as their standard teaching micro computer, they were definately the must have item of the era. However the high cost meant only the poshest of kids ever got to have one at home.

However salvation for the masses was nigh, Acorn decided to release a cut down version of the BBC Micro, The Electron, but retaining almost all of its funtionality, i.e, you could run BBC programs on the new Electron and it cost less than half the price! (about £160 I think)

I remember the build up and the hype for the Electron, it was on every parents christmas wishlist to help little Johnny with his schoolwork, and little Johnnys around the country were looking forward to finally being able to run their dodgy copy of Elite on their own system at home instead of sneaking into the school computer lab at lunchtimes. Due to a number of manfacturing problems however, the release of the Electron was delayed and delayed until its final release a few weeks before the christmas of 1983 ... in very small numbers!

This is where the dodgy practice begins. In the run up to christmas in the holidays I was working full time to cover the rush (and earn extra beer money) and we had a delivery of Electrons every 2-3 days, usually 20 of them per delivery. Whenever there was even a rumour of a delivery, the shop would slowly fill up with queing parents hoping to bag one. Trouble is, once the Store manager and his deputys had skimmed some off to sell to their friends, and the various other managers had had their share, there would be only 4 or 5 left of the delivery making it to the shop floor to be sold, and a couple of those went to friends of the various sales staff in return for backhanders. I definately remember 2 deliverys where no Electrons at all made it to the shop floor for sale to the public.

As christmas got closer and closer, people were getting panicky and all sorts of shenanigans was going on. One despondant bloke after missing out yet again in the queue gave me his phone number and begged me to call him when the next delivery came in as he worked in an office around the corner and could be in the shop within 2 minutes of a call. I felt sorry for him and despite promising myself not to get involved in the hype and bollocks, I told him yes.

2 days later and less than a week until Christmas day, an order arrives. So I immediately excuse myself, nip out onto the high street and into a phone box (no mobiles in the 80's kids!) and phone him up. True to his promise 2 minutes later he is in the shop, at the front of the queue and 10 minutes later he is the proud owner of an Electron. So he comes over all smiling and happy, thanks me profusely and presses a roll of notes discretely into my hand, and walks off.

I'm a bit shocked, I didn't do it for money, I did it so that the little guy could score one against the corrupt system (I had ideals and morals back then!!!) I open my hand and count it up ... £100 in crisp fivers! bloody hell! thats Christmas sorted I thought for a fleeting second. Then I ran after him out of the shop and gave it back. He was equally shocked, but then smiled even more, "Glad to see there are still some good un's left, well done, happy Christmas" he said, and off he went into the distance. I can even still rememeber his name after almost 30 years.

Mind you that was before I got a mortgage and kids. I'd bite his bloody hand off now, and have the shirt off his back! ;)
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 11:19, 5 replies)
I could see the whole story in my minds eye as I was reading.
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 11:45, closed)
I don't normally click the no funny stories...
... but this was well written.

So have a click.
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 12:13, closed)
If he was willing to spend all that money, why didn't he just buy a BBC?
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 16:23, closed)
good point. Another 50 on top would have got him one.
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 17:51, closed)
I never thought of it like that before now
A bit of googling reminds me the Electron was actually released at £199, while the BBC could be had for about £360

No wonder he looked so blooming happy when I gave hime the cash back. He was probably walking away thinking "what the hell did I just do!!".

His nose was a bit red from his office christmas party though, so maybe a spot of dutch generosity came into play.
(, Mon 11 Jul 2011, 19:38, closed)

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