Thursday, August 17, 2006

Colleagues and lunatics

Someone at work who is paid about twice as much as me didn't do something on Monday that she was supposed to do.

This afternoon head office caught up with that oversight and asked me to fix the problem by sending to them the document my colleague had forgotten to send. The document forms part of the set of documents generated once per week detailing and summarising the week's trading and financial figures. So the obvious place to look for the document was the box at my feet with the relevant week number and also the magical words that are the title of the missing document.

Except that the document I wanted wasn't in there.

So I called another colleague (the first being 'out' for the day) who sometimes does the Monday work hoping she'd be able to tell me where I might find the missing document. No answer. I decided to wait a short while and try again.

In the mean time another underling from head office called to let me know that the bank had reported a shortfall in our cheques for one day during the previous week. Normally this involves a rubber cheque, but on this occasion it seemed the problem might be different; an instance of someone making things up. So I hauled the same box out from under the desk and flipped through the same set of papers for last week and confirmed the cheques we'd taken through the tills on the day in question.

They matched the bank's figures but not the figures we were claiming we'd banked. Problem is we bank another set of cheques; a set on behalf of one of the franchises and that doesn't go through our tills. On the day in question we'd banked one cheque for them, and in the amount of the discrepency. So it appears that the bank has lost one of the cheques. The young lady from head office asked me to fax over a copy of my documents. I agreed, photocopied the flimsy and tried twice to get the damned fax machine to send it to her. Loads of buggering around, in other words and all so that I could stick that copy in the post to her.

At this point, just for one brief moment, I allowed myself to believe that I'd weathered the storm but then some total peasant (male) from head office called to ask where the waste report that had been requested earlier had got to. The conversation was long-winded and decidedly one sided and in no way involved an exchange of names from him to me. I did think I recognised the voice but I wouldn't have been prepared to swear to an identification.

I made another call to the colleague who'd been unavailable earlier and who fortunately now was answering her phone. She pointed me to where the document is kept (not with the rest of the week's data but somewhere else completely) and also where I could find an electronic copy which I could send by email. Less than a minute later the document had been sent on its way by me and purely as a matter of courtesy I called the young lady who'd first requested it to let her know I'd sent it.

This led directly to the only thoroughly enjoyable moment of the afternoon. You see I'm a sucker for a good voice and the guy called Guy on the other end definitely had a Good Voice. But he had no aptitude for the switchboard which he'd happened to answer in passing in the absence of anyone else. However he undertook to take a message. I've no idea what he looks like in a twin-set, pearls, simper and sling-backs but he takes a mean message. In little or no time someone, but not the young lady I'd first spoken with was calling from head office in response.

Now this particular Head Office Flunky started by explaining that what-ever-her-name-is finishes at 4:30 (lucky thing). I explained that my call was a courtesy one to inform her that the document she'd been after had been e-mailed by me since our fax machine is a pile of crap - actually I did put this slightly less inelegantly, but only slightly. I went on to point out that I'd had a follow up call but since the person who'd called hadn't had the manners to identify himself (and yes, I did put it like that) I hadn't been able to call him (or even send the damned document directly to him).

The Flunky on the other end of the line suggested an identity for the caller that matched the identity I'd have given the caller. He went on to commiserate with me on the uncouth colleagues we're burdened by (and undertook to 'have a word with Mr X') but continued by pointing out that the whole sorry saga of this afternoon would have been unnecessary had the thing been done right first time.

I agreed with him but pointed out that the person in question wasn't around to get a clip around the ear hole from me. He expressed a certain touching confidence in my ability to deliver said clip around the ear hole which I deftly parried by suggesting that either the person in question is abnormally tall or I'm abnormally short. The call ended with us on surprisingly (at least as far as I'm concerned) good terms.

About, oh, ninety seconds later the phone rang again. By this time I' given up all hope of getting my job done and I knew, deep down, this would be more hassle from head office. In view of what follows I have to suspect that the peasant was in the room with the fool when the most recently recounted conversation took place. It was The Peasant again.

This time, however, his approach was along the lines of "Good afternoon, Raspberry, its Head Office Peasant." Great start, shame about the follow up: "I understand there's some problem with [the document].

I patiently explained to him that there was no problem, that I'd called as a matter of courtesy and blah blah and would he like me to send him a copy? "No don't worry", he replied. Then a couple of minutes of desultory conversation and then a repeat (stupid, stupid me) of my offer to copy him the document in 'the next little while', this time accepted. I honestly thought that would be that.

As it happens all kinds of IT issues* blew up right about then and I was rather distracted. So a little while turned into about half an hour and then the phone rang again. And it was The Flunky once again, calling because The Peasant had expressed concern to him that I hadn't sent the document he'd been so un-anxious to receive. The Flunky and I had another conversation involving much delicate trashing of those around us. The minute the receiver was back in the cradle I was at the PC sending a copy of my earlier email to the pair of them.

Once more I was lured into thinking I was done with the lunatics who run this particular asylum, but they had one more treat in store for me.

The phone rang and it was the Peasant again, reverting to type in failing to identify himself but launching instead straight into some half apologetic half demanding 'request' that I do him 'a little favour'.

Seems we've had a new range of products sent to store and not one of the nitwits at head office involved in that exercise has taken the time or otherwise had the wit to record our own internal codes for these products. So could I please find the time during the evening to go out onto the shop floor with a list he's about to fax to me and hunt down these products and let him know what our codes for them are.

In between the phone line that carries the credit/debit transactions crashing (something that led to pandemonium) and some dodgy engineer tinkering with the cash machine on which we were suddenly so dependent, and dealing with aimless feckless floor staff who can take half an hour to empty a box onto the shelves and the moaning check-out staff who can't last two hours without a break (and then need a loo break half an hour later) ... I did manage to get those codes for the Peasant. But I'm not holding my breath in anticipation of a thank you.

* Franky I'm bored by the past fortnight's succession of IT/hardware/software chaos, summed up neatly by one customer last night: attempting to purchase someting for about three quid, card transactions not going through, tills on 'go-slow', no cash, unprepared to walk out to the foyer and withdraw cash to pay - "I don't shop here very often and everytime I do there's a problem." I thought for one moment I would be wearing his shopping around my head but he dropped it and walked away.


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