My Day Job

 Let me explain about my day job: I repair electronic stuff; often an individual circuit board removed from a failed lift. The lift engineer visits the site which may be a retail store, theatre, ocean liner.. or virtually anywhere that has a lift. After an hour or two the engineer will work out exactly which part of the lift has gone wrong.. mostly using his experience. If the lift is essential (for example in a care home with only a single lift) the engineer will carry the suspect circuit board to me and I'll check his findings and usually change a few parts. If I'm carrying appropriate spares the board can be carried back to site and refitted, often restoring normal service within the day.

Large companies unfortunately insist on introducing their bureaucracy. Basically this means that getting the broken lift working again is no longer the main exercise. After all... the layers of management above the lift engineer need to be kept in employment. Not only them, but in the case of a large organisation that owns the lift, there are also paper-shuffling managers keen to justify salaries that are a lot more than that of a humble lift engineer.

Often, before I can start work I'm told I need to be provided with a purchase order. In the case of a repair to a circuit board I'll need to advise on the total price before an order for the repair can be raised. Clearly this price will need to be an estimate because it's impossible to just glance at a failed board and arrive at a precise figure but, because it's my day job I can quote a figure based on past experience. Off goes an email and if I'm very lucky I'll be told to proceed and an order will be sent forthwith. Alas "forthwith" or "later today" or similar phrases are usually meaningless as lots of people get involved at this stage. A person will write an order but not before the layers of management have had their say. If a repair contract with a particular customer needs a quotation before work can proceed a few more people get involved and the larger is that customer the longer it can take before its own bureaucracy is satisfied.

A week has now passed since a circuit board arrived from "The Office of National Statistics". A quote was supplied and a week has passed since I was promised a Purchase Order was on its way. The board is here... the new parts were ordered and arrived on the same date the order was promised but work is at a standstill. Maybe an extra layer of paper-shuffling is taking place? I was told that not one, but three lifts are out of action at that site so maybe a special exercise is in progress there? "Horace old chap... yes your excellency... please organise a study into broken lifts... get your minions to look into these dratted lift breakdowns.. I'll hold everything until you provide me with statistical evidence as to why we need lifts and if they go wrong why we should have them fixed... your word is my command your excellency".

In the meantime I'll file away the duff circuit board and its new, yet to be fitted, parts.

Eventually, no doubt a Purchase Order will arrive stating "extreme urgency" and the message will go up the management chain that the dratted repairer has taken an age to fix the broken part.

Why not carry on.. fix the board.. give it to the lift engineer and he can put it back and get the lift working? Because getting paid for the job will be even more difficult than getting a purchase order. Extra managers get involved and, quite literally, many years can go by before I get paid. I have a feeling that productivity here is pretty low. Maybe I should just retire?

Now I hear the manager looking after the job is no longer with the lift company. His replacement has been in touch and I'm likely to get paid for only the parts as the customer would rather see a forest or two demolished and keep workers in the far east employed making a new circuit board. The cost of a new board will be pretty high and the wait certainly more than minus 10 days which is when my repaired board should have been fitted. My productivity = zero. Oh yes.. The Office of National Statistics" is a government organisation so won't have any problem finding cash for the new circuit board, in fact I'll be partly paying the extra from my taxes...


 Computerised Windscreen Wipers


 I've always thought, since they were available of course, that computers are not especially useful in many areas of business.
Take this example… needing a new pair of windscreen wipers, and being in Ringwood, I popped into a motorists shop.
I looked around the shelves and eventually spotted windscreen wipers but these were behind the desk so not really accessible to browsing customers.
Fortunately an unoccupied sales executive was present. I don't wish to denigrate his official position so I'll call him that.
"I'm after some wiper blades for my car", I said.
"What sort of car is it", he responded, to which I replied, "a Lexus IS200".
Instead of consulting a dangling reference book (there wasn't one), he turned to a computer and started typing away at the keyboard, muttering about it being slow today.
Then he said.. "what year is it?"
"It's 2002"…. he peered at the screen again and asked the registration number, which I duly provided.
By now a queue was forming and I was asked to move aside to the second till as one of the card readers wasn't working.
The sales executive finally looked up and rummaged along the row of wiper blades. "Which one do you need", he asked.
"The driver and passenger sides", I replied wondering if he'd forgotten my original enquiry which included the word "some"…
"Not the rear one then ?", he asked.
"It doesn't have a rear wiper", I said and he looked puzzled.
He picked out a 22" wiper blade whose make I didn't recognise… "What about those Bosch ones?", I said pointing to an array to the left of the one he'd picked out.
At this point the sales executive's manager arrived and asked why I didn't want a super new all rubber wiper?
"I tried one and didn't think it was as good because they don't follow the curve of the screen", I said.
Finally, I was presented with a package containing what I wanted.
"How much is it", I asked… already spotting a price on a faded label stating £14.99.
"Hold on", he said, and went back to his keyboard.
"Why haven't you got a printed list of prices?", I enquired…
"We don't any more", he said, eventually rising from behind the computer… saying "£12.99".
As that seemed to be reasonable and £2 less than the marking on the ticket, I checked the package to see if the wipers had the correct fitting for my car…
"Hold on", I said… "There's only one wiper blade in the package and I need two".
The lurking manager popped over and said they couldn't be expected to hold sets of blades as lots of cars had different sized blades.
"So, how much for a pair for my car?", I asked.
"That will be two 22" blades and so twice £12.99" was the reply…
By now the pair of blades was getting mighty expensive, so I said that was too dear.
"Is that the best price you can do then… about £26 for the two", to which was the response from the manager…"That's the price".
"I'll leave it then", I said.. "They're too dear".
What should have been a few minutes looking at a printed card, identifying the correct blades and checking price labels had turned into 15 minutes of wasted time.

Returning home I looked on the Internet.
Indeed, I needed a 22 inch blade for the driver's side, but surprise.. a 19 inch blade for the passengers side… so two 22" blades would have necessitated a return journey to Ringwood to swap one.. that's if they actually had a 19 inch type.…

What about the price?
I found the correct Bosch blade. I then discovered they supplied pairs of blades also. Checking further Bosch make a blade with an attachment to prevent lifting at speed. This is more expensive of course.
After a few minutes I found a supplier with a pair of correct blades, complete with the special attachment, for £11.99 including postage. I placed an order and an hour or two later was advised the blades had been posted to me.

Why had I been in Ringwood? Well, I'd attended my 6 month dental check. All clear and coughed up about £19 to cover 5 minutes of the dentist's time. I thought the National Health Service was free at the point of delivery. Not dentists… and oddly, pensioners in receipt of pensions pay more. In fact, when I last inquired about "going private" I was informed I wouldn't save anything so just stick with the NHS…

Checking out, including paying took ages. In fact a lot longer than the dental check. It seems a new software build (running on Windows 10) was giving them a problem logging on. The young lady apologised and said everyone had the same trouble. "Why don't you just use pencil and paper? I asked… this was a silly question because how would you then keep three receptionists busy not to mention the IT guy and the bespoke system analysts and programmers? Then I wondered about the rest of the NHS…
Low productivity costs loads of money. Since that visit I've been again. This time I didn't have to sign a piece of paper... instead, I was handed a computer tablet and asked to sign my name on this using my finger. Of course the outcome looked like an infant had attempted to sign their name. Maybe I should have scrawled a cross like you find in early marriage registers. I now realise that when you sign a paper form you are asked to read the small print (whether you need to or not) before you sign your name. Now, without any small print to scrutinse, I realise the reason for some large new posters displayed around the dentists waiting room warning of dire consequences if you sign for anything to which you're not entitled. I suppose computers provide an electronic means of storing the information previously held on sheets of paper however, I can think of two problems. One is that the queue of people now has to wait in line until all the computer to-ing and fro-ing for each queue member ahead of you has been completed. You'll need to turn up earlier for an appointment or more computers or admin staff will need to be employed by the dentist. And the second problem.. what happens when the computer goes wrong?


 Having returned from holiday and extracted the postman's red failure to deliver card from the ginormous heap of junk mail I found the email option was absent and I could either scan in a weird "OR" code or ring a number 03456 021 021. I don't know what an OR code is so I rang the number and discovered a new automated feature. "What can go wrong", I thought? A voice told me to press numbers which I did and I was surprised to find everything went smoothly. It took ages because I had to listen as the voice read all the details on the card. I didn't need to hear these because I'd already read them twice before ringing the redelivery number.

Right at the end, having established the new delivery date and the delivery address, all read back to me at a leisurely pace, the voice asked how I was addressed or somesuch similar term, giving Mr or Mrs as an example. I said Mr but the voice didn't recognise this so asked again.... and again and again until it gave up and said I'd have to wait for an advisor. The voice got this back-to-front really because I didn't need an advisor, the voice did.

After waiting for another 5 minutes a nice Scotsman asked how he could help and said their new system was having teething troubles. What was the name on the parcel he asked... I don't know because I haven't seen it yet and that line on the card wasn't filled in.

Anyway, it took only a couple more minutes and my parcel should now be on its way. It's a pity the email system isn't still in use because that would give me one day's wait whereas the computer appears to need a minimum of two days. I suggested that I should have used a Scottish accent and the nice Scotsman said, "there's no way that would have worked".

It turned out, when I read the label the next day, the parcel was addressed to "Low Cost Repairs", not me so I suppose I should have told the voice "Low" not "Mr"?


 Programming Errors

 Our reliance on computers would be fine except that computers need programs in order to work for us. Programs need software writers and alas software writers get into trouble. A few days ago I ordered some parts for a lift repair. I usually order stuff through either Farnell or RS depending on the availability of the particular part or the price. I ordered four line items from RS, first making sure all were in stock so I could make the right noises to my customer. Three line items arrived but the fourth was placed on back order ie. it wasn't in stock. Maybe the last one had been extracted from stores immediately before the chap went for mine?

Yesterday I needed some relays fairly urgently. I noted the code which was RY611024 and I needed eleven. RS and Farnell were offering the same relay for £1.96. A bit pricey I thought so continued to dab at my keyboard. After a few minutes I found RY211024 and noticed that it was 72p from RS if I ordered 20. This would save me about £8 plus I'd end up with 9 relays for stock. I checked the manufacturer's data and found the RY611024 and the RY211024 were virtually identical.. in fact the latter had a slightly better spec. I placed the order after checking over a thousand were in stock.

The next day I checked to see when I'd receive the delivery only to find the message said, in green text "order despatched.. quantity zero" with further information that the relays would be despatched in a fortnight so I rang RS to see what was going on. I didn't really get anywhere.. "we'll call you back"... We'd checked stock and there were 1200 available so what was the problem? I sort of guessed when I looked for RY211024 and found two pages. One had the relay priced at 72p and the second over £4. Were RS trying to renague on the order due to a computer error? I rang again, and again got nowhere except discovering the 1200 relays were still in stock and getting the advice that it would be a fortnight before I received 20. I decided to look elsewhere. Farnell had the RY211024 at £3 and the RY611024 at about £2. Too dear so I looked further and found Top Tools was best at £1.55. I decided to order from them but try as I might I couldn't find any method of placing the order. Presumably a prgrammer has forgotten to place the piece of code that lets you place an order? The was no visible way of adding to basket. I tried a different browser but got no-where so I gave up. After all it's Friday and I can do without the hassle. I've already quoted my customer based on 72p and I don't feel like paying 2 or 3 times the price for the 11 relays.

An hour later the phone rang... it was a bloke in India "UK Benefits" begging me to help him fill out a questionnaire so I gave him an earful and hung up. The phone rang again but this time a nice lady from RS told me my relays were on the way. Good I said.. they'll be here Monday.. but she said maybe Tuesday as they're on standard delivery. I said that as RS had made a blunder and upset my customer who was expecting the lift at the nursing home to be fixed today, surely RS could guarantee delivery by Monday? She said she didn't want to mess up the order by trying to change the method of delivery... so I gave up and maybe the relays will be here on Saturday? Then again.. do they really have the part in stock for 72p or is this a programming error and they're really £4 each. Time will tell.. at least I've already paid the 72p price. Maybe they'll only send me three plus a credit note for £3.54?

listen to more grumbles

Return to Reception