Thursday, 31 January 2013

You do know how a button works don't you? No, not on clothes.

OK, so this one's probably going to be late too, not as late as yesterday's but certainly well into, what I like to call, Lunchtime.

I wanted to use a quote from 'The IT Crowd' as a title, and I just got caught up reading through the quotes from Series One, and then I had to have a bit of a sit down and a rest because I couldn't breath properly because I was crying with laughter - I couldn't even tell my workmates what I was laughing about, I was, quite literally, unable to speak.

Anyway, as you've probably guessed by now, today's post is IT related. In it I will relate a few more of the things that have happened to me over the years. During the time when I had to resist slamming peoples' foreheads onto their desks on a daily basis.

The following few 'incidents' that happened whilst I was working for the popular Midlands Builders' Merchant 'Where the Trade Go'. And are all, as ever, completely hamster-fondlingly true.


The thing you don't want to have happen when you've just got into the office after a two and a half hour drive, is to be told that one of the London stores cannot trade because their server has crashed. Do you know how most Back-Office server crashes are fixed in Midlands based Builders' Merchants? Yes, that's right, you turn it off and then back on again.

So, after someone had made coffee for the team, I called the store, with the intention of talking whomsoever answered the phone through the aforementioned task. The sales desk phone rang out... The office phone rang out... Then I took a deep breath and called the Manager's phone.

Now, before we go any further, let me just say that most of the Store Managers we had at the time were pretty good, they knew exactly as much about computers as we did about selling screwdrivers, and that was fine - We understood each other's limitations, but this particular guy was a bit... special. Imagine Del-Boy's mind in a Bond villain's body, but with the vocabulary of Father Jack Hackett. He was also known for having a lot of temper, but not a lot of patience.

He picked up the phone.


'Oh Hi, it's Dandy from IT...'


'You've got a problem with your system, you can't process any sales?'


'The computer, that runs the tills, has stopped working.'


'Well, we're going to take a look at that in a minute, but we can't log into it, we need you to restart it.'


'The big computer, in the metal box, in the office... We need you to turn it off, is that OK?'

'Yeah,' then he dropped the phone, and it went dead... For about ten minutes, then he picked it up again, 'It's not working.'

'Right, OK, Sorry, what exactly do you mean when you say that it's not working?'

'It won't turn off.'

'So, you're pressing the round button on the front?'


'With the little green light?'


'And it won't turn off?'


'OK, can you hold it in and count to ten for me, see if it turns off then?'

'Yeah,' He dropped the phone again, this time, I had time to go and get a sandwich, when he came back he said, 'No, doesn't work.'

'OK, what I need you to do now is...'

'I'm too busy, send someone to fix it.'

'Well, we just need to...'

'Too busy, Bye,' Then he put the phone down.

So, we were stuffed, 'someone' had to drive to London and get the store working again. OK, it was only about a 200 mile round trip and it was a nice day, but I had been nominated as the 'someone'. (Like you hadn't guessed that already). The trip down the M40 took a couple of hours, but on this occasion no laser printers were harmed
I wandered into the cavernous store and made myself known to the guys there. I went behind the counter and knocked on the door of the manager's office, which was duly opened by the man in question.


'Alright? I've come to see why your computer won't turn off.'


I went into his office, where the little rack was sat in the corner, covered in dust.

'Can you show me what you did?'

'Yeah,' He wandered over to the cabinet and pushed the button, 'Doesn't work, see?'

'Ah, I think I've found your problem, the round thing that you're pressing is actually the Dell badge, the power button is the 'other' round thing on the front, with the green light...' I held in the button, powered off the server, turned it back on and service was restored. I then had a fry-up for my lunch, got back in the car, and drove the 100 odd miles back to Birmingham...


Funnily, the remaining two stories are also about a London store, the same one in fact, well, not the same one as the one above, these two stories are about the same one. (That made a lot more sense in my head) However, this one was managed by a wonderful guy, He was an ex-mountain, I don't mean Mountain Rescue, or Mountaineer, but an actual honest to goodness mountain. He was computer literate, outspoken and he knew how to motivate staff, usually by causing a small avalance to form in their general direction.

Anyway, we'd just installed the new system at his store and we were going through the basic training. The tills that we had installed were touchscreens, but you need to remember that this was in the days where phones didn't have them, but PDAs (remember them?) did.

So our training guy had given the sales assistants their standard half-day's training and was spending the afternoon going from till to till, with the manager, watching them putting sales through and answering questions. I was tagging along, just for the hell of it really, I should have gone back to the office, but I was trying to spin it out a bit and then go straight home.

We came to one young lady, who was fastidiously using the keyboard and mouse rather than the touch screen, we looked at each other, looked at her, looked at each other again, and the manager said to me,

'You did check the touchscreen was working didn't you?'

'Yes, definately.'

'Then, why isn't she using it?'

'You're asking the wrong person Dude, sorry,' I said, and pointed to the assistant.

He sighed, waited until she'd finished serving her customer, walked over and asked,

'Why aren't you using the touchscreen? We pay a lot of money for them you know'

'I'm waiting for the thingy'

'You're doing what to the who-now?'

'The thingy, the pokey thing, you know?' She mimed the stabbing scene from Psycho.

The manager turned to me and shrugged in a very accusatory fashion, which is fairly difficult if you think about it, 'Pokey thing? Do we supply pokey things?'

'I think she means a stylus'

'Yeah! stylus, I'm waiting for the stylus,'

'Oh! the Stylus, why didn't you say,' He beamed, 'They each come with ten, and they're pink, you'll love them!'


'Oh yes!' He excalaimed as he reached down and took hold of her wrist, 'Here they are look, one.. two.. three.. four.. five... and the rest are on your other hand!'

She went that shade of red that's normally reserved for the Royal Mail and worked the rest of her shift in complete silence.


The store had been trading for a while, and everything was both Hunky and Dorey. We were well into the business as usual phase and we'd handed the support of the store over to the Helpdesk. One day I overheard a conversation that one of the girls was having with the store.

'I just need you to press 'Escape'... No, that's 'Return'... Escape is the one in the top, left hand corner... No, not F1, next to F1, it has E.S.C. written on it... It's definately there... You are using a computer aren't you?... Well, what's in the top, left hand corner then?' She pressed the mute button on her phone and asked me,

'Dandy, do we give the stores keyboards without an escape key?'

'Not to my knowledge, no, ask them if their keyboard looks the same as another one there.'

'OK, good idea,' She took the caller off hold and asked, 'Can you see another keyboard? Right, has that got an 'Escape' key? No? Can you check another? What about the one in the office? Yeah, I'll wait... What? That hasn't got one either? I don't really understand...'

'Why don't you just log into her computer remotely, do what you need to do, and we'll look at it later?' I suggested, which is what she did.

We thought it was odd, and had a laugh about how stupid you'd have to be to not be able to find the Escape key on a keyboard, but eventually we forgot about it.

Until, I was visiting the store some weeks later, about something completely unrelated when I suddenly had the need to get my email. I went into their little office, logged on, started my email and chanced to look down at the keyboard. Where the Escape key should be there was a hole, no key, no spring, no button, just a hole. I collared one of the guys behind the counter.

'Are all your keyboards like this?'

'Yeah, the Manager did it.'

'Why did he do that?'

'Well, someone from IT said that if we hit Escape while we were doing a Credit Card transaction, it'd muck it up and the sale would go through but the customer wouldn't be charged.'


'So he decided that the best way to make sure we didn't do that was to take the key away.'

'Did he use a drill?'

'Yeah, I think he did...'

'I'll order you some new ones.'

So, it seems he wasn't quite as IT literate as I'd initially thought, although I guess it was lateral thinking on his part.

1 comment:

  1. halcyon days eh.... i'd like to report that things have changed since then, however as someone particularly well qualified to comment, i can't....