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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, 12, 11, 10, 9, 8, 7, ... 1

This question is now closed.

Car Crash
I remember many moons ago when I first drove a car with power assisted steering….

Prior to that, I'd been driving - and was still the proud owner of - a Vauxhall Cavalier estate. This car was like a tank, you needed all your strength just to get the thing to turn, it was a nightmare.

Anyway, I was, at the time, working for an Insurance company and being a very junior member of staff, I often had to skivvy for senior managers. Now and again, you got to go out of the office and take some files to another building or something. If I did this, I usually ended up driving a small Renault van (I think it was modelled on the Renault 4). However, there was one occasion when the van wasn't available and I was asked to take something (it might have been computer disks) to another office and I was given the chance to drive the senior underwriters car.

This car, which whilst a company car, was clearly his pride and joy. (They all looked after their cars as they got to buy them at a knock-down price after 3 years). It was a 1.6 Ford Orion Ghia.

It was also the first car I'd ever driven with power steering.

Yeap, that'll be me coming out of the car park, being completely surprised by this 'super light weight' steering and taking the corning far too sharply, I managed to destroy pretty much the whole offside of it, along with a brick built wall and a concrete bollard.

I assumed that '3 new panels' and it'll be fixed. I was wrong. Turns out, that this collision, despite the fact I I doing no more than about 15 MPH was sufficient to write off a 2 year old Ford.

Ok, it was fully insured and the company were great about it, not giving me any grief whatsoever (and I appreciated that!) - the only person who was upset was the manager whose car I'd managed to destroy. He was only about 8 months away from being able to buy the car for pennies, despite the fact it had a fair value on it. He was given a new company car but had to keep it for another 3 years.

I dare say that with the discount on the car he would have bought from the company, he's probably out of pocket by about three grand.

This isn't a brilliant story is it? It's quite dull on reflection. Never mind, I've made to effort to type it now.
(, Tue 30 Oct 2007, 11:47, 4 replies)
Washing a Motorbike
You'd think it would be easy would you not? Using the powerhose the muck is coming off well, for the finale I thought I'd just put it up on it's centre stand to get to the hard to reach bits, whilst lifting onto the stand my foot slipped on the soapy floor, the bike fell over away from me destroying all the right side faring, the mirror and bending the brake lever and dragging me down on top of it. To make it worse as it had fallen close to the wall I couldn't get enough leverage to lift it by myself so had to fetch the wife as well who was trying her best not to laugh. the humiliation and cost of putting that right :(

Length about 2 metres and soapy. *cries*
(, Tue 30 Oct 2007, 9:29, 1 reply)
I'm afraid I haven't ever brought the global economy to its knees with a mis-placed line of code, nor have I ever cost my company millions of pounds by being a dick. However, I have two tales - one is from my personal wellspring of bitterness, the other isn't mine.

My personal mistake -- becoming a barrister. I have accumulated massive debt, and my hourly rate for my first month is a massive £8.36 net.

Not my personal mistake -- failing to ask one simple question of the prosecution, a question that should always be asked, outside court on the day of trial, that would have resulted in no evidence being offered, and Mr Defendant walking free.

Length? About 18 months, poor sod. It was definitely justice, but still...

EDIT: actually, on further reflection and reading, I'm just grateful I'm not an engineer -- sky's the limit for you lot and your cock-ups, as this qotw attests.
(, Tue 30 Oct 2007, 7:51, 3 replies)
Not me, but a "friend"
Sorry, 'bout this. I don't remember enough to keep from being vague.

Anyhow, a slide of some one-of-a-kind culture thing was loaned to the lab my friend worked at. The only reason they trusted such callow youths of chemists with such a priceless item was my mate's boss, who accomplished something or other noteworthy in his career as a young man, but now was pushing sixty.
He carefully lifted the slide out of its packaging, put it on the stage, looked in the eyepiece, and adjusted the focus.


He ran the objective right through the slide. One rather expensive microscope objective ruined, one priceless slide ruined.

It cost the poor bastards who loaned him the thing in the first place--not him--but his face was a picture!
(, Tue 30 Oct 2007, 2:46, 1 reply)
FInance and NEVER trust the courier
So going back twelve years and at my second courier company, a well known security type one that worked for all the major UK banks and the amount of fuck ups we did were unreal.

1. Malcolm for that was his name, a transit van driver does a run up to Northampton with a load of bonds and clearing on board, unloads and drives back. Next morning the bank are on the phone asking if he unloaded everything 'of course he says'. Next day the bank phone up again and ask the office to start processing a claim for a lost £21,000,000.00 so Malcolm is pulled into the office to fill in paper work and again asked if he's sure he unloaded everything 'of course' he says again. Next morning he coming into the office with a 2 foot by 2 foot by 4 foot bag filled with £21,000,000.00 in bonds and claims it was behind the wheel well. £2,000,000.00 in fines.

2. Jay went home over the Christmas break with a days work/clearing on board from one bank branch.

3. I went home twice over night with a banks days work/clearing on board.

4. I wrote off £28,000 in new Honda NTV's in my first year at the Company.

These are just the things I can sort of admit to.
(, Tue 30 Oct 2007, 1:24, Reply)
I invented the C5. Put 12 million into the research cos I really thought everyone would want to drive to work in a shoebox powered by a washing machine engine. My company ended up calling in the receivers.
Sir Clive Sinclair
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:58, 3 replies)
Expensive at the time
Back in the late 70's I bought a skateboard deck off "A good mate" because my old one was crap. It cost me £20; I'd saved for a couple of months. I was 15 and over the moon to own a Tony Alva (replica...).The first time I used it in earnest (half pipe) it snapped in half. No physical damage but the mental scars remain. I've never trusted anyone since (well anyone selling replica goods).
Length? 32 inch Alva.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:52, Reply)
Drinking in a dry country
Didn't get my hands lopped off luckily, however, things-not-to-do-again list now includes drinking in the airport bar in Dubai. Way overpriced and I ended up re-airing most of it as watery puke en-route to my destination. Which would have been fine if it was on me or in a bag. Instead I ended up treating the god-botherer sat next to me to a hot meal.

I am a bad person
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:48, 6 replies)
More costly than expensive
Once worked with a guy in a kitchen who was making bread so had a machine kneading dough for him. I've tried Googling to get an image of one but they've all got fancy-schmancy safety devices on 'em now so don't resemble what was effectively a bowl about a yard deep & in diameter with a huge whisk attachment.

So, yeah. Glasses fell in, he instinctively reached to grab 'em, broke his arm in four places.

Boss/owner/head chef, being a really pleasant guy and not at all a violent, paranoid speed-addict, sacks him and tells him to sign on the dole until his arm is healed and then he'll "consider" employing him again.

As far as I know (he left town soon after), he never worked again. Last I heard, he was stacking shelves in Our Price. Shame, as he was a bloody good chef and a top bloke into the bargain.

Come to think of it, I'm off to check Facebook
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:17, Reply)
Was staying at my sister's place in Brighton ...
There are double yellow lines outside her house. "It's okay!" she says. "I just found out that after six p.m. you can park for free!"

My car gets towed. £135 to get it back. My food budget blown for a month. I ended up having to learn to photosynthesise.

What hurts the most is that to this day, she refuses to take the blame for it. I suppose that's why she's now a successful banker in London and I'm a poor scientist.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:15, 4 replies)
Not so much blowing bubbles as pumping
The first week of working for a city wine bar. I don't think I was suited to the job & was a bit too laid-back to handle the pace of it. My manager was always trying to make me work faster, even though I thought I was working at top whack.

End of the first or maybe second week, the industrial dishwasher runs out of salt. I'm sent out to the storeroom with instructions to get a bucket full of salt (to make the water soft, I think) out of the clear plastic bag. This store room is down a long stretch of converted cellars so takes me about 10 mins to get to.

Problem: There are two clear bags, right next to each other, both containing white granules. I knew I wouldn't be popular if I mooched all the way back empty handed so made a snap decision.

Turns out filling the salt dispenser with washing powder isn't the best idea. Cue floods of bubbles pouring out of both ends of the machine as it was a conveyor belt system and all over the floor.

In my defence, putting the dishwasher near to stairs down into the cellar where the beer is kept in wooden casks wasn't the most forward-thinking of ideas either. I believe the cases of vintage port also fared rather badly.

I managed to keep my job but wish I hadn't. By the end of the 3 months before they sacked me, I was spending nearly an hour taking the rubbish out as this was the only job they trusted me with so I threw the rubbish one box at a time into the compactor & watched as each...individual...box...got...crushed.

I should have known it wasn't the right job for me when the job interview concluded with the area manager inviting me to take a drink to sample their fine ales but expected me to pay for it.

Fuck Davy's Wine Bars and fuck city-boy pricks (although at least they could hold their beer - the ladies toilets after a big celebration was positively Biblical)
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 21:00, 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)
I use to be a security manager for a credit card company.
sounds like "mank of merica" We lost $36 million in 1 day because someone in seattle took down a firewall on a unix system , and we had a fair few script kiddies put "cunter" strike servers on it. needless to say we had to shut the whole network down and every transaction that day was cancelled. At this point I had to fly from chester to new york to give our password to them so we could load the backups, we lost a fair bit of money that day.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 18:27, 2 replies)
Computer Home 'Courses'
I love computers. Love 'em. I always wanted to do a computing course in them when I was a bit younger, and a lot less confident.
My lack of confidence and crippling shyness meant that I couldn't really do a college course - I might've steeled myself up enough to sign up for one, but I doubt I would've lasted past the first day.

So then a leaflet drops through the door, about home computing courses. It sounded fantastic, and I booked a home-visit to get some more information.

A nice young lady came to the door. Well, when I say nice, I mean nice in the same way window-salesmen are nice. Nice until you sign the cheque or show them the door.

Anyway, she prattles on about all the fantastic benefits of studying from home, how I would receive a diploma, 24/7 support for the course, fee remissions for the tests etc. All sounded great. Okay, where do I sign? £1000? Okay, if you do indeed give everything you promise, I suppose that's alright. Do I get the parts to build the computer for the course? No? Oh.

Stupid cunt that I am (was?) I still went for it.
I was given a blue satchel with the paperwork and book in it, a computer 'toolkit' (wrist-strap and a couple of screwdrivers), and the phone number for my 'dedicated support advisor'.

So, anyway, I save up yet another £1000 and buy some really good parts - something I can build for the course and then use for 3 or so years.
The main bit I wanted from the course was building and maintaining them. The first book I was given showed how to build them. Which basically was 10 pages of "plug that there, that there and that there". It was horribly out of date and focused on installing Windows 95. Yes, 95. I had bought Windows ME (which shows how much of a novice I was!).

So, I phone up the 'advisor': "The book tells me how to install 95, but I have ME". "What's ME? I only know about 95 and 98".

GREAT! The fucking advisor doesn't know about computers!
After several more probing questions it transpires that she has only got the same books I have, no training, and hasn't actually worked with computers at all! The stupid bitch didn't even know what RAM was!

So I muddle along on my own, inwardly seething at the thought I have splashed out a grand for a course I will have to complete on my own, with no support. I get as far as the first test, and phone up to book.
"Oh, no, you don't do them from home, you have to come to our offices". "Well, I was told you came to me, it was the whole reason I signed up" "Well we have never done home testing"
So, I keep arguing with her, and the subject turns to fee remissions "No, we don't offer any remissions. You have to pay for the tests". "Fuck off do I. How much?" "£75 each test".


End result:

£1000 for some useless, outdated paperwork
£1000 for a computer (Which admittedly I did use a lot, but I wouldn't have gotten it if I hadn't signed up for the course)
£20 for a new phone after slamming it down and breaking the handset.

I have now completed 6 City&Guilds courses, all free, all with proper grades which mean something.

Suffice to say, I would never do another home course. So far I have managed to discourage 3 people who were seriously thinking of doing them with this company.

Sorry for huge post. No, really. No nob-gags. I just had to get it all out. It's been a long time brewing :)
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 17:28, 5 replies)
Pickled PSX
These twins used to buy stuff in a computer games shop I used to work in. An odd pair of blokes, but we always had a laugh with them. This one particular day however, they both come in laughing to themselves carrying something in a tescos carrier bag.

"We'd like to do a part exchange please." they say.
"Certainly, what's in the bag then lads?" asks we. They open the bag and pour 3/4's of a Playstation and half a jar of pickled onions onto the counter. The PSX is smashed to bits and so is the jar.
"Ohhh....dunno if we can take that, I'll check with the manager" says we while laughing like feck.

It turns out that they used to keep the PSX and a telly in the kitchen. One of the twins was peckish and reaches up to the shelf above the PSX to get some pickes to go with a sarnie. He fumbled, dropping this jar straight through the centre of the PSX smashing it to pieces.

"No we can't take it sorry." says we.
"Any chance you can fix it then?" they ask. I get some masking tape and put a strip over the mess. After a few seconds deliberation, "No."

I did give them the Sony number though :)
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 16:15, Reply)
OK _ I'm A Bit Pissed
So this story might not make much sense to you, but it does to me..

I was doing a contract for BSKYB (anyone remember them?) to deliver T'internet via SKY. A "ring-fenced" 'T'internet. Nowt mucky.

After first week ( IT'S *THE* FIRST WEEK you dialect sucking scum...) senior techies went out for a quick drink after work. So I got the first round in.

5 bottles of Bud, a pint of lager (mine) and three waters.

£45 or forty-five pounds. Or about $100 US. Or the GDP of Australia.

This was in 1997 when you could have almost bought a frigging *house* in my village for that.

So, after the first round, I sat expectantly for someone to get the next one in and....

They all fucked off - except for Slimly-Simon who stopped, on his way to the door, and asked me if he could have my reciept so he could claim it back on expenses....

I didn't hit him. But it was close.

(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 15:01, 7 replies)
I once tried to gain sexual gratification..
.. from one of those 'compressed air' guns one finds on garage forecourts, for the inflation of tyres.

The high pressure blast of air, rent my sphincter in twain and sent bits of me into all four corners of the forecourt.

I am writing this from intensive care, through a straw.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 14:37, 14 replies)
Thomas Brolin
Enough said.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 14:33, 4 replies)
And of course..
the time I wrapped a bollard around my wife. Bollards don't come cheap.

(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 14:21, Reply)
Diet coke
Coke were running a promotion a couple of years ago, where if the letters DVD appeared under your ring pull, you won a DVD player.

After about 500 cans I opened one and there were the letters! "Yes!" I thought, that doesn't happen every day.

As I was standing next to a bin at the time I chucked in the empty can, and set off happily down the road.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 14:06, 2 replies)
Missing Cheques
I shudder to think how long ago this was but it has bugged me ever since.

Worked in a suburban bank for a while, one of my jobs was to post the cheques drawn on other banks to the clearing house every day. Trouble was that the big bag full of paper often didn't fit into the mail box slot so I had to cart them to the nearest post office where the slot was bigger. One day the cheques did not reach the clearing house.

They were stamped with our banks big red oily stamp so were valueless to anyone else. Thousands of dollars worth but much more in cost to sort it all out.

Did I leave the damn bag on top of the mail box and walk away forgetting them? Would I remember a few days later if I forgot them? Of course I would. Wouldn't you? Or did they get pinched by some postal worker who soon found they were worthless and chucked them out? I'll never know.

Cost - a few thousand AU dollars at the time which might have bought a nice car. When I see the cost of some of the stuff-ups here I feel a lot better. Thanks you b3tards, specially those in the oil and aviation industries.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 13:56, Reply)
I'm starting to overtake a long flatbed lorry in my VW Golf on my way home from work.

Said flatbed pulls into my lane, THEN indicates, I have to slam on the anchors to avoid a collision.

"You CUNT!" [shakes fist, grabs hold of flash stalk and pulls]


£100 from a VeeDub dealer for a new indicator stalk. Thankfully I fitted it myself without further outrageous expense.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 13:48, 5 replies)
Public Schoolboys
I just went out foraging for a sandwich and on my way back to the office had to endure one of those cringing moments where you and a colleague recognise each other from about 100 yards away only neither of you know quite what to do with yourselves.

(I mean, do you maintain eye contact and grin like a lunatic for the entire time it takes for you to pass each other, or do you pretend you haven't seen them and then hideously overcompensate ("HI! How are you! Sandwiches eh? Super!! Well, lovely to see you! Bye!" which becomes even more embarrassing when you see each other again at the photocopier not 20 minutes later.)

Anyway, not only was it a colleague, it was Posh Tim, the new boy, who it is now clear, has never even been allowed near a woman, let alone inside the blast radius - for when I smiled merrily at him and said a bright, cheery "Hello! Lovely day isn't it!" he could only manage to stammer "Lunch!" at me before skittering away like a nervous baby deer from a cruel and savage hunter with a particularly shiny knife.

All those thousands of pounds spent on learning how to play rugger and wear tweed properly and not even a nice polite "hello" - honestly! I can only imagine he has been indoctrinated with a passion for pudding, buggery and emotional repression like all the rest of them...
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 13:38, 5 replies)
I left my brother alone with my R&D department.

Stupid idiot designed a bubble car with 2 domes and 3 cup holders!

Bastard cost me millions and lost me everything!
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 13:31, 2 replies)
Expensive mistake (Mine)
Once upon a time I had delusions of writing talent. So I signed up for a writing correspondence course. They sent me the first exercise and I get a terminal case of writer's block. A year later I finally get round to contacting the school to see if my tutor could give me some help and they'd gone out of business. (Or taken the money and run away.)
So I effectively paid £250 for a really nice binder and a packet of envelopes.

Expensive mistake (Someone else's)
My employer spent many thousands of £'s on an all-singing, all-dancing flexiclock system, complete with nice, shiny clocking-in stations by every door. Come D-day it's switched on. D-Day plus 1 and it's utterly knacked. When I left four years later they still hadn't managed to get it to work.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 13:04, 1 reply)
Just thought of another one...
Years ago I got done for not having any tax on my car.
Dumb, yes.....annoying...well very.

At the time I had two cars, one was a 200SX turbo thing, and the other was a Ford Orion.
Quite a contrast in cars me thinks now.
Anyway, the battery was dead in the Nissan, and I mean proper dead, so dead that 5 days on charge wouldn't even let the engine turn over.

Ok, so off to Halfords I trundle.....but on the way I realise that my Orion has run out of tax, ok well no bother, i'll stick to the back roads and make it quick.
Made it to Halfords with no problem, £75 later I've got my battery sitting on the seat next to me as I'm winding my way through Watford and what do I spy....those pesky golden arches...ooh lunch!
As i'm finishing up my lunch and throwing my rubbish away I spy the car next to me has no tax either, so i can't work our who's being cheekier, me or him.
As i exit the car park I make a right turn across a part of the road that does not allow that apparently (the roads had been extensively dicked around with by the council not long ago).
Bad timing for me was the cop car that actually let me out, and then pulled me over half a mile down the road.
They'd seen what I'd done, so officer N#1 chastises me for that, while officer N#2 checks my details and finds that I'm not taxed...but i am insured and everything else.
Cue bollocking from both of them....and me trying to explain myself (I honestly had not taken that car out before while it wasn't taxed) that I'd been to Halfords to get a battery for the other car which was my project drift car.
I ended up having to sell both cars to get myself out of the financial trouble too.

The end of the story is that after all the fines and back taxes and charges the Plod did me to the tune of £1500.
I can't look at at cop car now wthout thinking that i've paid for some part of it.

The other side of it is that it happened to me again about two years ago, but the cop was much more lenient as while i was pulled over I showed her my redundancy letter that I'd actually been given that day.

I'd spent all my money on trying to survive the month while being stabbed in the back by my employers that there was no money left over to pay the tax on the car, only enough to buy food and petrol.
She was a nice officer.
I'd have bought her dinner too (not only was she a redhead/ In uniform/ had handcuffs etc) but I was a little on the poor side.

Length.....About half a mile, with flashing lights too.
(, Mon 29 Oct 2007, 12:43, Reply)
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)

This question is now closed.

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