People Tell Their Most Bewildering Malicious Compliance Revenge Stories
14. Give You A Perfect Score? I Will, But My Comments Won't Be So Nice
But they still gave you a perfect score, so it’s okay!
“I needed a new car. I had brought my car to the dealership because the brakes were making noise, AGAIN. That car had always been a bit of a lemon.
I had just had the service department work on the brakes a couple of months earlier. When they got back to me this time, I found out that not only did I need $500 for more brake work but they wanted $1,500 to replace both of my front axles (on a 5-year-old car) and another $750 for other general services too.
I had had enough. I had never been fond of this car in the first place. There was no way I was dropping a couple of grand more into it. Oddly enough, this disaster of a vehicle is not the focus of this MC story.
Just the impetus that started it all.
It’s early 2022 and buying a new car is a nightmare. Thanks to supply issues, nobody has cars. The plus side was that used cars were worth far more than ever before, so I could get a great payout for the nightmare vehicle.
I looked around and to my surprise, I found one of the cars I wanted was due to be at a local dealership by early the next week (it was a coin flip between 2 choices).
That made my decision for me. So on the 4th of the month, I sold them the car I detested and bought the new one. I left them the old keys and got a ride home with my wife, gleefully waiting for next week.
Thanks to recent years, I had a home office I could work from, but the hospital where I work really wanted us back on-site as much as we could be. My direct boss is a great guy.
He told me that a few days working from home while I was carless was no problem. It turned into a problem when next week my car was still not there. It had made it off the ship but was stuck in some lot waiting for transport.
Ok. The world’s supply chains are a mess. What can you do? The dealership is great and they give me a loaner.
Now I’m stressing a bit because the hospital parking garage has the tiniest parking spots and the loaner is a big beast.
I’m terrified that this SUV, which is not mine, is going to be dinged or scratched and I’m going to have to pay for it. So for the rest of the week, I drive all the way up to the top floors to find a corner spot that is wide enough for me to park with a reasonable sense of safety.
It’s only for a week or so, not a problem.
Except it wasn’t one more week. At the end of the week, still no car.
At the end of the next week, still no car.
I know this is such a trivial problem, considering what we had all just gone through.
Still, I have to admit, that being told day after day that the car I was so looking forward to was trapped on a lot less than 2 hours away was really starting to take the shine off this transaction.
All through this, I didn’t blame the dealership. The sales managers were awesome. My actual sales guy was kind of that fake too-smiley stereotype, which is why whenever I stopped in or called, I spoke to the managers, if at all possible.
Finally, on the 23rd, my car was delivered to the dealership. (The funny thing is that my other choice arrived a week earlier). I’m ecstatic. My sales guy asked if I can pick it up that day.
I can’t. I had a ton of work during the day and my wife had class that night (I needed her to sign with me). I suggested we do it the next day. Nope, the 24th was his day off.
Now, it had been weeks. Everything that could possibly be done was done and ready. I asked, “Can’t I just sign with someone else.” Nope, HE had to be the one who handed me over to the finance guys personally.
I had no idea why, but the sales guy was insistent that the sale cannot be finalized on the 24th. I point out I have waited all this time and not complained (much) and that the 25th was not really good for my wife.
“Nope. No, can do.” Thankfully, my wife loves me dearly and took pity on me. She scrunched up her day to make time to get my new car on the 25th.
So, we signed the papers the next day in record time and she headed back to work.
While I’m there afterward, the sales guy tells me that the woman who does the car walkthrough was out that day. I asked if she was in the day before and, of course, she had been.
He muddled through explaining features to me, but now I’m annoyed with him and wrapped it up as quickly as I could. (I’m still finding new stuff I didn’t know my car could do.)
As I’m leaving here is where he keyed up the MC.
He said, “You are going to get a survey in your email. I really need you to give me all 10s. Anything less hurts me and the dealership.” I looked at him a bit askance as I was getting into my new car to head home and he repeated.
“Please, remember. All 10s.” So after everything, those were the last words he left me with.
To clarify one more thing in this overly long narrative, I work doing research for my hospital. Data accuracy is a huge deal to me.
I hate it when Administration wastes nurses’ time collecting bad data or when some researcher is hammering us for data extractions, flailing around for some sort of significance with no real hypothesis. So here was this guy telling me to give him perfect scores in a transaction that was far from perfect.
To be fair, 90% of the problems they had no control over, and they really had done just about all they could with getting me a loaner and getting my wife in and out the door as quickly as possible.
I honestly didn’t mind giving 10s. What I absolutely hated was the fact he was coercing customers into perfect scores and thereby skewing the sales data. This was the beginning of a multi-year relationship with this dealership.
After the nightmares of the previous car, I really did not want to start it off on the wrong foot.
So I did the honest thing. I gave 10s and in every one of the comment sections, I explained how the dealership, especially the sales managers, had earned these scores.
I also wrote that I really did not appreciate being pressed by the sales guy into giving 10s. I noted how I almost didn’t give perfect scores, specifically because I loathed being told I had to.
The next day, I received a text from my sales guy that read. “I would have preferred no survey over that survey.”
But he got his 10s. Why was he mad?
I found out he left the dealership a few months later.
I can’t say I’ll miss him.
When I brought my car in for an oil change yesterday, I saw the sales manager again. He said he remembered my response. He had been a salesperson, so he knew about the “must give 10s” pitch.
He also said until he read my comments he hadn’t considered that he might lose those scores because people hate being told what to do. He informed me he had a talk with the sales team about it.
I doubt they will change their methods much but at least they will hopefully be a bit more tactful about it in the future.”
Another User Comments:
“I hate customer surveys. I always want to just write, “Supervise your own freaking employees, and don’t expect me to do homework evaluating them for you.”” shelaconic
13. Quit If I Don't Like How We Do Things? See You Never
“When I was in college, I worked for a mobile carrier in a mall. For a young person, it was great pay. I was the assistant manager, which was a fancy way of saying I was in charge of most of the store paperwork.
A few months before…
One morning, I opened by myself and a guy approached me asking for a specific phone and kept balking at the price, asking if I could “cut him a deal though.” I was confident we were BY FAR the cheapest in the area, so I told him “If you bring me a better deal, I’ll beat it!” The guy does another lap, talks to other stores, and comes back.
“Come on, there is nothing you can do? Can I just get a case?” I smile and say, “Sorry that’s the best I can do today, but can I get your number in case we get a sale that brings the price down?” (This sometimes actually did work).
His entire demeanor changed and he handed me paperwork out of his bag and showed me his Id. He was from corporate LP (loss preventions). Apparently, my store ranked top in the state for “excessive discounts” and “excessive waste”.
He then hands me a document showing all of my “friends and family” discounts. So I flip open my phone (YES IT STILL FLIPPED) and showed him all the names on the list are in my phone, and thus ARE friends and family.
He thanks me and says he’ll stick around to talk to my boss and one other team member.
Since smartphones aren’t really a big thing at the time, the LP guy starts talking to me about my job, and I ask him a little more about what exactly flagged our store.
Turns out the other two people he wanted to talk to had more than 30% of their transactions marked with that discount code and our store seemed to “lose” lots of inventory. Store practice was that if you open an accessory and it was damaged in shipping, you just throw it away and grab another one.
Turns out there is a process you need to follow. He showed me the form and said “you really should be between x and x a month to be considered average.
He then interviews my boss and co-worker who couldn’t prove that their discounts were accurate and they were let off with a stern warning.
From then on, I took on the responsibility of tracking inventory and warning the team when we were getting close to the monthly limit. Like a miracle, cases stopped breaking for the rest of the month with these announcements.
Fast forward a bit, I open by myself again one morning. An older gentleman approaches me and starts screaming at me about being a “heartless jerk” and asking “how the heck can you do this to people?!” I look at him puzzled.
“Sir, I have no idea who you are, so you can’t possibly be mad at me specifically. Let’s go sit over there and have a quick chat”. As soon as we sit down I look at him and he starts crying and shaking.
“I don’t know what to do. I’m gonna lose my house”. He goes on to tell me his son had gotten 10 “free” phones from my store and the monthly bill was roughly $800 plus tax.
“Sir, if your son started an account with us, there is nothing I can do without him coming to the store.” The dad shows me a photo in his wallet and explains that his son lives in a home because he’s too old to take care of him.
He’s visibly disabled. He was already barely getting by paying for his house plus his son to be taken care of. My heart dropped as I figured out what had happened. My co-worker had sold the phones to his son while they were on a “mall outing” with his group home.
Furious, I go back to the store and void the entire order. I instruct the dad to bring me every phone he can find. Anything not in the store that day would be marked as stolen.
I write up the inventory report and mark all of those phones stolen for the time being.
Co-worker comes in and I say, “don’t bother clocking in. I saw your order from last night. Just know that it’s voided.
If you pull ANYTHING like that again I’ll make sure you’re fired. Take the rest of the weekend off”. He argues for a moment, but leaves.
25 minutes later (and early for his shift), my boss shows up saying he heard what happened.
I show him all of the paperwork and explain what I did to solve it. Irritated, he looks at me and says something like “you know you can’t do that right?” He then argues with me that I had no right to void the order and that “the contract was the contract.” Confused and angry, I say “look, I will not sit by and allow people to be taken advantage of like that”.
To which he replies, “If you don’t like the way we do things here, you can leave.” Shocked, I walk back into the store where he tells me HE is taking care of all of the paperwork to “fix” my mess.
Quietly I rip up my inventory report with a smile and tell him I’m leaving for the day.
I call a friend who said, “why don’t you just get an IT job?” (what I was going to school for) He then calls a recruiter and sets up an interview for the next morning.
Boss’s little push gave me the drive to just go for it. I nailed the interview and get the job. My now ex-boss texted me shortly after and said “Hey OP, you’re late,” to which I replied, “no, I don’t like the way you do things there”.
Fast forward a few months. Both the boss and the co-worker were fired for theft. You see, with the unexplained “missing” phones and with no one watching inventory, LP quickly took interest in the store again.
Turns out the “broken” cases were actually team members GIVING AWAY inventory to close sales. So when I was there “balancing” inventory and giving warnings, it was letting them know just how much they could steal and get away with.
Without me there they just did whatever the heck they wanted. From what I hear, they were escorted out by security and all.
So in the end, I was pushed to start the career of my dreams. They have a record.”
12. Want Me To Contact You For Anything Critical? You Got It, Boss
“I work on implementing various kinds of enterprise monitoring software. I’m (or my company is) the guys that arrive, install, and configure the monitoring solution, train people, and then move on to another customer.
This requires a lot of input and back and forth with the customer, as doing/planning everything beforehand is not possible, as customers usually don’t know what they want, what they need, and what the tool can do (which are three very separate things).
Part of the job is implementing what the customer NEEDS, not what he thinks he wants.
This particular customer was getting a full end-to-end solution – from network and server infrastructure to end-user synthetic monitoring (think scripts that simulate a user to ensure the applications are working at all times and measure response times).
Obviously, this kind of full-on implementation comes from high up – usually the very very top of high up. This company is also the kind of company where if anything screws up, it’s on breaking news.
It is also part government-owned, so the higher-ups are not only rich and powerful, but they are also connected and political.
Now on to the story itself. We are in a meeting with the higher-ups in the company (think CIO, CEO, etc).
The CIO in particular is a nasty piece of work. Though he is competent, he has a bad temper, no patience, and is used to people doing whatever he says. He’s the kind of “I demand you call me Engineer X” kinda guy.
The meeting was a technical one, to hammer out some monitoring details. These higher-ups wanted to be in on all meetings to get a feel for how things were going and make quick calls to any issues that might arise.
A bit over the top, but it happens, and is fine if they only intrude when needed. Remember, this was a tech meeting.
The meeting is about a particular component, the network monitoring component. It has just been installed and configured, and we were in the tuning phase, where we select what alerts are relevant, what is critical, which network nodes are critical, and which aren’t (a core switch going down would mean 9’o clock news headlines, some wifi router would mean someone would get less network on his laptop).
At one point we discuss alerts. One colleague of mine asked, “what do you want to be alerted on?”
At this point, all the techs and consultants were a bit tired of the CIO constantly, aggressively, and impolitely telling everyone how things should be done, mostly stuff he had little idea how worked.
True to form, he interrupts immediately, and says “I want to be alerted, by SMS, for every critical event that appears!”
My colleague and I try to explain that is not a good idea AT ALL.
My supervisor also butts in and tells him that is NOT what he wants.
His response was “I am the one who knows what I want. I pay the bills, you do what I want.
If you do not do what I want, you will feel my breath on your back!”
We trade a point among us that read “he asked for it..”
I tell him that will be implemented during the day on Friday, we’d just need the number to send the SMS to.
And so it was done.
This network solution in particular is notable in the industry for being the best, BUT… out of the box it alerts for EVERYTHING. A switch has a fan that is not rotating (because it’s supposed to be there, but it’s not ACTUALLY physically there so the readout says 0)? That’s a critical event.
A network PORT has an administrative status of UP (meaning it’s turned on, and should have a network cable on it) but has a link status of DOWN (meaning there’s no network cable there)? That’s a critical event.
With switches numbering in the hundreds, and ports per switch numbering also in the hundreds if not thousands…
Obviously, network devices going down and things like that are also critical events. The trick is to figure out that for some devices, that network admin status difference to the actual link is a major problem, and that for others is just someone who lazily turned them all on and didn’t actually need to connect them all.
The usual procedure is to sms/email only on nodes going down, throughput going over a certain threshold, etc. He wanted EVERYTHING. We gave him EVERYTHING.
Turned all the events to forward to the sms gateway on Friday at 17:59.
Left at 18:00 exactly.
He received around half a million events during the weekend. He tried to call my supervisor, me and my colleague, my supervisor’s boss, and his boss. Our team had our phones off (on purpose obviously).
His phone received SMSs non-stop every half a second for the whole weekend. Even if we were contacted, we’d need to go physically on-site, but our security passes would not allow for that, and we were also not obliged to work on weekends.
He couldn’t have his phone off due to other duties, so it ranged happily through the night. (I guess at one point he put it on silent).
Come Monday, a very angry (and now quite polite) CIO came around our posts and asked us to turn that off.
We did. And his phone kept receiving the backlog of critical events for quite a few days after, 24/7 until the whole backlog on the sms gateway was cleared.
That story, in particular, is why we have now a strong policy of “Never ask the customer what he wants to be alerted on/monitored – he will say ‘everything!'””
11. Figure It Out On My Own Since You're Too Busy To Help? Fine Then
“About 10 years ago I had this Sales Development internship at a technology company. For those who don’t know, sales development is the worst job in sales because you cold call and cold email people at work who aren’t expecting your call, and you do this all day.
Every day. But, it has its moments and it’s a path to a better job.
It was actually the 2nd summer after I had a good experience the first time. In the time in between, while I was at school, there was a management shakeup with a new CEO.
The CEO definitely preferred hiring friends rather than professionals. She ended up destroying the company but that’s a whole ‘nother story.
So, on to my malicious compliance. This 2nd summer all the familiar salespeople faces were there, but I had a new boss.
I could immediately tell she was a turd. One of those people who interrupts you on any question and just tells you to “figure it out. I’m very busy.” A great choice for a boss of 3 interns who’re here to learn.
Now we’re told on the 2nd day in a meeting with the whole sales team that “this year is going to be a little different for the interns. More structured.” And I learn that we’re not going to be calling or emailing anyone.
No, we’re going to be “whitespacing.” Remember when I said cold calling is the worst job in sales? I lied. Whitespacing is corporate nonsense for data entry. In our case, going into every account and customer in our system of record and updating tiny details like their industry, address, and phone #s for every contact.
The boss planned for us to whitespace every day. 8 hours. For the entire internship. I was crushed, not only would I learn nothing but it would be mind-numbing. The other 2 interns were brand new and didn’t know what was happening.
A few salespeople tried to speak up, “Hey, OP was here last year and he did a great job calling for us, we actually closed a few deals thanks to him. Shouldn’t we have them do that again?” Immediately shut down, she said she didn’t trust interns to do high-risk work like that.
Mind you, sales development is an entry-level job.
So, we start whitespacing. Among many things, there was this field called “Current Solution” where we were supposed to record the incumbent software at the Account. To fill it in, we had 3 options of competitors, “Other,” and leaving it blank.
Now despite my deep dissatisfaction with this job, I wanted to do a good job so I could leave this internship with a recommendation and get a real job a year after I graduated.
However, as you might imagine, it’s pretty impossible to know if an Account is using a competitor if you don’t talk to anyone there. We had one service we paid for that was supposed to have useful info about the accounts, but the current software was usually unknown.
But I did my merry best going through several thousand accounts and ended up finding info to fill it in for every 1 in 10 accounts, and the rest had to be blank. And I fire off an email saying all done, what can I work on next?
Then I get called to the manager’s desk.
“Um, OP. Explain to me what’s going on here.”
I see the report of the accounts and data points I entered. “Well. I completed all the whitespacing you asked me to do.”
Boss: “Except you didn’t.
You did almost nothing. Look at all these BLANKS.”
I try to explain, “So for the fields where data was unknown, I didn’t want to put anything wrong in so I left it blank after reviewing in our info tool, and…”
Boss starts raising her voice “WELL THEN YOU NEED TO DIG HARDER AND FIND THE INFORMATION.”
I realize this is a futile effort, and say “Okay, I will try harder.
To clarify: you want these fields filled in no matter what, even if nothing is in our info tool?”
“YES, AREN’T YOU LISTENING? I WANT TO SEE SOME REAL EFFORT THIS TIME. Now go, I’m very busy.”
Well, I trotted off and I went into those thousands of accounts and did exactly as I was told.
I filled in “Current Solution” and other fields no matter what. And since the info was impossible to find, I just put “Other” for all of them. Worse than blank, it was useless data.
And I wait a few days, taking 2-3x longer than I originally did to show “effort.” Because screw this.
In my head I was actually itching for a 2nd fight, the report obviously said Other for everything, so I figure this will start her off, and I can rub her nose in how pointless this is.
But that doesn’t happen. No, she calls me back and praises me. I kid you not, she goes sing-songy for a moment. “OP this is AMAZING! Exactly what I asked for. Absolutely incredible completeness of information.
Thank you for showing real effort after my coaching.” I’m watching her scroll past all the “Other” fields and in my head I’m just overjoyed at how stupidly good this turned out.
My boss then parades me over to the other interns whose reports are “woefully lacking” and pats me on the shoulder and says “Now I want all of you to follow OP’s example and learn from him how to get your reports up to par.” And she walks off.
I sit down and tell the others, “Okay, here’s the trick I found to make the reports the way Boss likes. You ready? Fill in ‘Other’ for every field, because she doesn’t care about the data, just that it’s filled in.”
1 of the other interns: “But…
But that would be lying.”
Me: “Do you want to get chewed out again?”
Other Intern: “well no.”
Me: “can we find the data anywhere?”
Other intern: “no it’s impossible.”
Me: “cool. That’s exactly my thought process too, so we just fill in crap, and she’ll praise us for making gold.”
And they filled in trash too.
And our boss was glowing over all of our reports.
Now, this was only week 2 of 10 of the internship. I started to get worried that I might have set us up for a bad time because more whitespacing requests started coming.
But on Friday, our boss gathers the whole team and shared that she was leaving the company. And there’s no replacement.
In retrospect, I wonder (and hope) that maybe she got fired. All the salespeople hated her too.
The moment she left, I went to a couple of the salespeople and asked “Hey, since the idiot boss is gone, can you share some accounts for me to call and do some interesting work for once?” And then the 3 of us interns actually had a fun summer and didn’t whitespace a gosh darn thing again.
10. It's Not My Job To Help The Students? Then I Won't
Don’t say it isn’t part of their job and then backtrack…
“1994 was notable for me as it was when I had found a much-needed job and I discovered the Internet. This was not the flashy multimedia juggernaut where everything is accessible through browsers and apps.
This was back when text was king. When the world was opening up to us in twenty-four rows and eighty columns. Only computer geeks had access to instant news from Japan and we did it through protocols like Gopher, Usenet, IRC, FTP, and yes, email.
The much-needed job came before my current employer moved out of town and would lay off anyone who didn’t want to move from New Orleans to Tampa, Florida. A local university hired me as a programmer.
My duties were limited to writing/modifying administrative systems in COBOL using dumb terminals and no campus-wide LAN. There would be no reason for me to work with the students. This would be made very clear to me a few years later.
Access to “The Internet” (or as we called it back then “Internet”; sans definite article) was a major perk to the job. It came as part of working for a university but had nothing to do with our jobs in MIS (what we used to call “IT” before we called it “IT”).
The student computer lab was next to MIS, which meant that I spent time before and after work, and at lunch, learning as much as I could. It was a wild and wonderful time for the Internet.
Expanding your reach meant digging around in FTP folders, and finding the right people in chat rooms. Security was a joke and a joy.
Within months, I knew more than most of my co-workers; many knew nothing.
Their judgment of me was that I was playing around in the labs. This label was earned in spite of the fact that I had used my “play time” to improve the file transfer performance of the only PC connected to a modem by an order of magnitude.
I was also connecting with other users of the same COBOL products we were using and bringing solutions to my department.
Student computer labs were part of the Arts & Science college. MIS was under Finance.
Their proximity to MIS was due to their systems requiring the same climate control as the mainframe. The woman in charge of the student labs, call her Jane, was proficient, but only knew enough to keep the labs operational.
Digging deep into FTP, Gopher, and such was the responsibility of A&S. Less than two years after starting, Jane was coming to me when students would have problems with Internet software and protocols. I really enjoyed helping the students because their problems helped me learn even more about the Internet.
This went on for about a year before the bosses took notice.
The MIS director, whose office looked out into the MIS front lobby, was a stickler for keeping to a rigid schedule of work.
Likewise, our responsibilities were the only things that should occupy our time. Watching me come and go at Jane’s bidding (once or twice a week), had rubbed him the wrong way. He communicated his displeasure with my manager who likewise took offense that I would think to leave my desk to help the students.
My manager’s words were something to the effect of “I don’t want to see you helping Jane or the students during work hours. You can help them on your own time or at lunch.
I don’t want to see you in the student lab when you should be in your office doing your job.” She was very direct and made sure I understood the seriousness of the situation.
I complied and let Jane know what had happened. She no longer came by my office, but would still try to catch me if she saw me in the labs.
Within a few years, the computer labs were moved under the MIS umbrella and we went from being called “Management Information Systems” to “Information Technology”.
Jane came into the fold. She had a backup, call him Jack, who was still teaching at the time.
One day, my manager comes into my office. Cue malicious compliance.
Manager: “There are a couple of students out here having problems in the lab.”
Manager: “Off today. I need you to help the students.”
Me: “Did you try Jack?”
Manager: “He’s teaching.”
Me: “Well, I’m busy working on (project du jour)”.
Manager: “You can do that later. Come help these students.
Stop being difficult.”
Me: (smiling and being difficult) “Are YOU saying YOU need ME to help the students when I’m supposed to be working?”
Manager: (getting icy) “Yes. You coming?”
Me: “So it IS part of my job!”
Manager: “When I say it is, yes.”
Me: “Well, okay then.”
From time to time students were actually shown to my office for assistance.
In business, one of the things that kills a company is “stovepipes”. Departments do not communicate laterally unless it has been approved by the vertical channels. Because I was under MIS which was under Finance, my exposure to the rest of the university was done through the graces of managers above me.
My position was, and still is, that the students are the only reason we exist and it was up to everyone to make sure they got the help they needed. Where did I develop that position? My MBA classes at the very university that employs me.
Always let your managers know what you’re doing, but if someone can get help for a student through a lateral action, DO IT.
After I was freed of my MIS shackles, there came a day when the director of MIS caught me coming in late from lunch.
He asked me why I was late from lunch. I was forgiven when I explained that I found a lost student in the lobby of our building and took them to the correct office in a different building.
He actually was a great boss with a great sense of humor. He just had some rigid quirks about schedules and neckties for men.
Last December marked 28 years of employment. The neckties are gone and I now wear jeans and western boots.”
9. The Customer Is Always Right? Don't Be Mad When Things Don't Go Your Way
This is why the customer really isn’t always right.
“With Christmas rolling around, and various stores offering ‘fresh cut’ trees for sale, this story always pops back up in my memory, and it’s hard not to laugh as I write it.
Hopefully, this case of malicious compliance will have you smiling as much as the memory of it makes me smile.
So, I was working as a head cashier (basically low-level management for those curious) at one of the big box stores.
It was December, some weeks before Christmas, and tree sales were on offer. It was approaching our closing, and as per the policy for that store, once night fell, we’d close out our garden center.
Any purchases (trees included) had to go through the front.
Now, since the garden center area was closed already, this meant there were no cashiers on hand. Cashiers being the people who were in charge of loading up the trees for customers.
About fifteen minutes or so before the store locks the doors, this lady whom I’ll call Clueless, wheels into the store and rushes up to the garden center area, rattling the chain link gates.
This prompts one of the floor guys to direct her upfront.
Clueless needs a tree. Like, RIGHT NOW. The way she was acting, you’d have thought there was a golden ticket or something in that tree, or it was announced that live Christmas trees were a limited source and there was only one or two left in the world.
Johnny, the manager who was handling closing that day dutifully rings Clueless up; and he then turns to me.
“Mind helping me with loading this tree?”
Johnny didn’t need the help, but he was the kind of manager who recognized when someone needed a break from dealing with cashiers (I love you guys, but sometimes you are as bad as the customers) for a few minutes.
I nod and tell the other Head Cashier that I was heading off to help with the tree, and to call me over my company phone if I was needed for… well anything really.
We head out and the lady has already picked a particular tree she wanted. One of the largest we had. Johnny and I do the usual deal of trimming the tree’s base with a chainsaw, wrapping the tree in this funky netting that did nothing to really stop you from losing needles from it, and then instructing the customer to bring her car over and we’d put it on the roof.
The customer does this, and that’s where the fun begins.
Johnny and I could do NOTHING right. It didn’t matter how we suggested tying the tree to the roof rack of this customer’s car, it wasn’t good enough.
Eventually, we get the customer to agree to a compromise. She rolls down the windows on the passenger side of her car, and we loop the nylon tie-down rope around the door and post, cinch it tight, and let her roll the windows back up.
Then we headed to the other side of the car and stood there trying to sort out the best way to finish the tie-down job.
Customer: “Just tie it like you did the other side.”
Johnny: “That’s not a good idea…”
Customer: “I don’t care, you haven’t done anything right, and I need to get home.
Me: “Ah, yeah, he’s…”
Customer: “The customer is always right. Now do what I said!”
Johnny looks at me, I look at him, and we shrug. So, the lady rolls down the driver’s side windows, and we start tying the tree down.
The customer chimes in at this point, saying “And make sure it’s tight! I don’t want this coming off!” Okay then… tight it is. We pull that rope so tight that it was bordering on denting the door of her car, cinch everything down, and put one heck of a knot to keep everything together.
My old boy scout leader would have been proud.
The customer seems satisfied, rolls up her car windows, and drives off. Johnny and I watch as she heads up the lot. I look over at him and ask “How long do you think it’ll take her to realize that, the way we tied that, she can’t get out of her car now?” Johnny just shrugs.
“Customer is always right, remember?” He says with a dopey smile, and we head back inside to do final closing.
So, for those that don’t get it, we didn’t tie it around the door post.
We tied it around the closed doors, through the window. Tight enough that neither the driver’s side nor passenger side doors could be opened.
There is something of an epilogue to the story.
So, the next day, I’m doing my thing when I see Johnny and Clyde (the store manager) talking about something.
Clyde is laughing so hard that he has tears streaming down his face. Johnny sees me and waves me over. That’s where I get the ‘rest’ of the story.
The lady had called our corporate complaints line to complain about how two idiots at our store had ‘trapped her’ in her car when they tied a Christmas tree to the roof of it.
She didn’t get their names but thought it was something like “Trevor” and “Sam” or something. She had to call the fire department to come out and cut the rope to extricate her from the vehicle, and she was MAD.
Royally livid. She wanted those two fired for what they had done. The report came down to Clyde, who had no clue what was going on, much less who the heck these two ’employees’ were, as there wasn’t anyone who worked at his store named anything near that.
Corporate had just chalked it up to an irate customer (think Karen) and told him not to worry about it. He was talking with Johnny about the weird complaint when Johnny relayed the story of what had really happened.
I was called over to act as his witness.
Clyde was beside himself. His laughter at this lady’s stupidity was such, every so often, whenever he heard a call for someone to come help with a Christmas Tree sale, he’d burst into fits of laughter or giggles.
No punishment came from that, as he figured that well, we’d done exactly what the lady wanted, and had tried to warn her that it wasn’t a good idea.
I would see the lady in the store from time to time after that, and she made a point to not look at me, or scuttle off to another aisle. I suspect someone told her just how stupid she’d been… that or she was afraid I’d trap her in her car again.”
8. Leave If I Don't Like It? Hope You Can Survive Without Me
“Two businesses, both alike in trade. In fair UK industrial estates, where we lay our scene. From ancient deals break to new mutiny, where new owners’ blood makes old civil hands unclean.
The story comes from an employee of “Company A” who manufactured “Product A”, and across the industrial estate there was “Company B” who produced “Product B”.
Now both businesses had started up independently about twenty years previously. Both companies could have reverse-engineered each other’s products fairly easily & had most of the major machinery to do begin production. However, both of the owners had met early on and came to a gentleman’s arrangement where they each agreed not to produce each other’s products and would endorse each other’s business if clients needed the other products.
Both had had pretty decent success and there was a very friendly rivalry between the two companies (E.g. They each had amateur football teams, local pub quiz teams, etc), but a lot of co-operation too (e.g.
borrowing staff to fix each other’s machines).
However, all good things must come to an end: the owner of Company A was retiring and selling up. From what I can gather, the owner was a pretty decent bloke and had tried to put an “All staff guaranteed their jobs for 12 months” clause into the sale of the business.
He’d had a few offers, including the owner of Company B, again, another decent bloke. I think he’d offered ~80% of the asking price. However, on the last day for offers, a southern company offers him 125% of the asking price, though with the 12-month clause removed.
Understandably, the owner took this offer because, well, who wouldn’t? He did promise that he would give each employee a glowing reference if they ever needed it.
These new owners came in with a swath of new policies, targets, the whole shebang.
At first, they targeted the Sales Team with impossible-to-reach quotas, excessive management, and over-the-top timekeeping. You get the picture, it was miserable for them. Understandably, most of the team (except 2) had quit & been replaced by the time they re-focused on the Production Team.
First, they came with demands for faster production, then pushed hard against “down-time,” and started buying in shoddier materials which increased wastage as they broke more often at the same time they shouted about wanting lower damage rates.
They also wanted them to reverse-engineer “Product B”, which was done but deliberately at a snail’s pace.
Now onto the action! Let’s introduce Tom. Tom was the manager of the entire Production Team of 14 staff.
He’d been the first employee ever hired by the company and knew everything about everything in the business, and was exceptionally good at his job.
About 9 months after the takeover, the entire Production Team was dragged into a morning meeting with these new owners who proceeded to berate the entire team for being lazy, expensive, and useless blah blah blah.
Eventually, Tom had had enough of it. He told them – in no uncertain terms – that the reasons for damages going up were because of their worse materials, that pushing the staff without the “down-time” breaks was causing more staff fatigue increasing illness and damaged goods, etc.
He calmly rebuffed each and every criticism leveled at his team. This wound up the new owners who got increasingly frustrated with him. Eventually, the “lead” new owner shouted at him “If you don’t like it, you can always leave!”
So Tom left the room without another word.
Everyone from the staff to the owners was completely shocked. Staff couldn’t believe he’d abandon them, owners that anyone would be stupid enough to walk out. The meeting was finished about 10 mins later.
The staff returned to the production unit. Tom isn’t there. His car is gone. He won’t answer his phone. The next day, nothing. Vanished.
Late in the afternoon the day after, the production assistant manager gets a text from Tom.
It’s a brief “All staff, pub 5:30.” Intriguing!
At 5:30, they all duly file into the pub, filled with mystery and excitement. Sitting in one of the large booths is Tom. And a friend; the owner of Company B.
Quickly seated and brought drinks, it turns out that when the owners told Tom to leave, he did. But he wasn’t just prepared to just leave it at that. No siree!
Since the meeting, Tom had explained the entire situation to Owner B, including they were trying to make his product – assumedly to compete and push him out of business.
Owner B was not impressed, he had extended an olive branch of peace to the new owners at the start but they refused to even speak to him. So, both with axes to grind, they’d come to an arrangement.
Owner B would hire all of the production team on terms relatively similar to what they already had if they’d come and make Product A for him. Said to go away and think about it, which they did until the end of the week.
All agreed they’d prefer to work for Owner B, and even convinced him to extend the offer to the two surviving members of the Sales Team since they knew the client base and the sales pattern.
Monday morning. 9 am. 17 letters of resignation (14 staff + Tom + 2 sales) are hand delivered to the new owners in their ivory tower office. Under the terms of the contract, any production staff who resigned were immediately to be removed from the premises (assumedly to stop any sabotage) – though the two sales had to continue with their notice period.
Panicking, the owners plead with the team not to leave, to serve some notice period, and train some new staff. Anything. Tom, in true cinematic style stops. He turns partway round. “I believe your last words to me were ‘If I didn’t like it, I could always leave.'” And he walks out the door.
Company A simply couldn’t find anyone who could produce the products without any training, and since they had no idea about training anyone themselves, production came to a crashing – and permanent – halt.
All of the orders became unfulfillable so they had no choice but to cancel (and where needed refund) any orders placed. Their entire revenue stream just dried up. With no choice left, they had to shutter the business.
They did have to sell off the machinery, a fair portion of which made a short journey across to Company B, at knockdown prices. We did try to do some rough maths, our best estimate is the new owners lost ~60-~70% of the finances they’d invested in the business.
The Sales Survivors managed to secure a vast majority of the previous business from Company A, including several of the canceled orders. With that secured, it meant most of the revenue started to flow into Company B, ensuring that the entire staff could continue to work there.
Whilst the original owner of A was sad to hear his business had to shut down so soon, he was delighted that many of his staff had secured work with his old business rival/friend. He did visit occasionally and always warmly received.”
7. Work Harder? We'll Work Harder Alright
“When I was a student, I earned some extra bucks by working in a stationery shop in a university town. I only worked on weekends, and since there were no deliveries or post-lecture rushes we usually had three of us on duty.
At first, it was me, Electron (a physics student with little time for humans), and Josh, the weekend manager. Josh was a surfer dude, always really relaxed, knew that most of the job was bullcrap and freely told us that the only thing he liked was chatting with us and the customers.
We developed a great group of repeat customers who liked the store being quieter and being able to talk to us about whatever problem they had. On that basis, Josh had agreed on a policy whereby the weekday team did all the scheduled tasks when there was more staff on duty, but on weekends, all we did was fill empty shelves and sales.
Unfortunately, Josh’s main job as a watersports instructor was really taking off, and his days of selling paperclips were over.
Neither I nor Electron had any interest in being responsible for keys, finance balancing, and explaining to sketchy folk why we’d stopped selling those little re-sealable plastic bags, so we didn’t enquire about the weekend manager job and we weren’t asked either.
Apparently, a weekday worker, Susan, wanted the hours. I liked Susan. She often took weekend shifts when one of us was out of town and she blended in well with our team.
But a storm was brewing.
The owner had decided that “weekend manager” was a pointless job title, and that an experienced salesperson could handle the weekend crew. So when Susan was offered the opportunity to run the weekend team, it was not on the management pay scale, it was with a $1/hr supplement.
I genuinely did feel sorry for her. Neither I nor Electron would have taken on the responsibility for $8 more per shift. She negotiated him up to $1.50/hr, but most importantly for her, agreed that though contractually she’d be a salesperson, on weekends she must be referred to as “manager”.
I know, because she spent the first-month drilling this point home and she printed out a special badge that said “Manager,” and then got upset when the store’s assistant manager, Alice, told her she wasn’t allowed to wear it on weekdays.
This created a rift that Alice never forgot.
Alice told us, when covering one weekend, that Susan had also promised everyone that she would “whip the weekend team into shape” and that Josh had allowed us to become lazy.
Alice thought the whole thing was hilarious and said that it was pointless anyway – the owner had far bigger priorities than this store, and as long as we were ticking over a profit he really couldn’t care less about the sales volumes from one week to the next or who worked what shift.
To get Susan out of his hair, he’d agreed that if she boosted sales in her first two months she’d get a reward, and wouldn’t you know, in the first two months, which happened to be a new academic year, sales were indeed boosted.
She got a $25 gift voucher for another store he owned, and she told Electron and me that it was a clear example of how hard work pays off. We simply needed to apply ourselves and follow her instructions.
One Sunday, I was talking to a student who wanted to buy a USB stick for their university work. I was talking about how to back up your data, and that a single USB stick might not be sufficient.
Electron was explaining something that I didn’t understand to someone who I also could not understand. Susan emerged from the small office at the back of the store, where she had started to spend most of her time, working on “the system”.
It was very unclear what “the system” did, or why it had worked so effortlessly during Josh’s tenure and now required constant babysitting, but her time with “the system” was unavoidable and critical to our success.
“This shelf isn’t full,” she said to the open floor. I turned around, and she was pointing at a shelf of notebooks. The owner had struck a killer deal on multiple pallets of garishly colored notebooks, and now we had thousands of them in the stockroom.
The weekday team had put about a hundred of them onto a shelf, but as they were cheap and selling quickly a fairly noticeable gap had developed. Normally I’d grab some when I happened to go into the stockroom for something else, but that hadn’t happened in a while.
I went back to talking to the customer, but then she grabbed my shoulder and jerked it back. “OP!” she said. “When I ask a question I expect a response.” The young guy I was talking to looked horrified and started to back away.
“Are you buying that?” she asked him, pointing at the USB stick in his hands. He shook his head, muttered something apologetically, and put it back on the shelf before rushing out of the shop.
“Another timewaster,” she said to me. “No more wasting time on chat. You’re either at the register selling, or you’re filling shelves. We’ve got plenty of notebooks in the stockroom, and there’s no excuse for empty shelves.
I expect every space filled.”
She turned and marched back to the little office. She looked over at Electron, and pointed at him “That goes for you, too, Electron.” He looked back at her with a look of total confusion, but he usually did so it didn’t stand out.
Then, as she slammed the office door behind her, a lightbulb went off in my head. “Electron,” I said, “did you hear her say ‘every space’?” He nodded and started to smile. He apologized to his customer for no longer being permitted to talk to them, and we started a herculean tag-team effort in the stock room.
I brought out the first batch on the trolley and filled the notebook shelf. It looked pretty good. We were waiting for a shipment of printer paper, so there was a big gap in that section.
Not anymore! I stacked those notebooks a yard high. I thought Susan might hear the noise and come out, but she was far too busy. Electron spent some time manning the register, but mostly we were filling shelves.
Until, eventually, we had filled the shelves. It looked like a kid had eaten a pack of highlighters and spewed them across the entire store. I realized, though, that she’d said every space – not every shelf.
I created a new tower near the office door. It was a majestic sight, almost six feet high in the center. Electron crowned it with a roll of sparkly glitter tape. To me, it was my Washington Monument.
It was at this point that I heard it. “What the heck?”
See, the one thing I knew that no one else did, was that Alice was coming in at the end of the day to collect some paperwork.
“Welcome to the unending notebook emporium,” I said. I then told Alice how we had been berated earlier in the day, and that we were now following Susan’s strict instructions. Thankfully, Alice thought this was hilarious.
She did ask, though, how Susan had failed to notice what we were doing. “She’s been working on ‘the system’ for the last three hours,” I explained. Alice went up to the door, but rather than knocking on it, she just flung it open.
Susan had been sitting on the office chair, with her feet on the desk, reading a novel, but had jolted herself so violently that the chair had shot out from behind her and she was now rolling around on the floor.
Alice closed the shop and told Electron and me that she’d get things straightened out and we should report as usual the following weekend. I wish I could say that Susan was fired and that Alice had taken over weekend management, but for some reason, Alice and the store manager decided to give her a second chance.
Susan did have to stay late to move all of the notebooks spread across random shelves to my Notebook Tower, though I must say with less architectural flair than I had done. It still stood, although slightly diminished, a week later when I came back for my next shift.
I’ve no idea what was said to Susan after the store closed, but she never wore the badge or shouted again. She also spent a lot more time on the floor and started to give us extremely clear instructions with absolutely no ambiguity.
This was a great source of amusement for Electron, who occasionally played up to it – my personal favorite being when he asked if “selling as much printer ink as possible” meant he should lower the price to one cent.
A few months later, both Electron and I finished our degrees and left. Neither of us worked in retail again. Electron went on to gain a Ph.D. in physics and we are still in touch, but I still have no idea what he is talking about or what he does for a living.
Alice later took over as the store manager, and Susan, as far as I can make out, left a couple of years after me and now works as the Assistant Manager of a nearby supermarket.
I like to think that she treats people better now, but who knows? At the very least, I hope that every time she sees a notebook she remembers the day she spawned the unending notebook emporium.”
6. Don't Think Any Of Us Will Put In The Effort To Get Certifications? He'll Make Sure We Get Every Certificate
“When I turned 14 years old, I got my first summer job and had one of the best bosses I’d ever had. I recently found out that unfortunately my mentor and someone I would consider a friend, John, passed away.
Although it’s been well over 20 years I still use the lessons learned and the work ethic he passed on to me, although at times he could be hard he was more than fair and always did the right thing for those that worked for him.
This is the story of John vs. the new president.
Before I get into the story I need to give some background and context on John. John was the textbook ‘all-American boy.’ John had attended a prestigious boarding school somewhere in New England and eventually attended Yale back in the late 50/60s and was not only a scholar but a three-sport athlete.
He played football, boxed, and was a captain of the track and field team. Fast forward to when this story takes place and John was still in phenomenal shape for a late 60s, early 70s man.
John opted to move out to the country and start a family to follow his passion which was teaching at the local high school and coaching high schoolers in various sports. Obviously, he was the high school football coach, taught track and field, he was an outstanding shotput athlete, and could run the mile and many other long distances.
As a teacher, he had the summers off and became a lifeguard at the local town beach, eventually becoming the captain of the lifeguards. Over time he developed standards for the town/county/state lifeguards to pass.
He really transformed what was a rag-tag style of lifeguards into a full-fledged official lifeguard corps, training academy, and set the standards for what is still used today.
John was eventually hired to run the lifeguards and manage an entire private beach club instead of working for the town beach.
One of the biggest challenges of this, since it was a private beach club, John now reported to a President of the beach club who ‘oversaw’ how things were run. I started working for John as a helper on the beach and then eventually as a lifeguard and for the first couple of summers, things were great.
The President of the beach club took pride in having the best staff and making sure that lifeguards were well paid and to his credit safety was the utmost priority. This private Beach Club certainly catered to the more ‘wealthy’ clientele who wanted a nicer club instead of going to the public beach.
Some of the advantages were the amenities which were lockers, cabanas, private parking, and a very nice restaurant that served great food and drinks. This was one of the few beach clubs that also had the ability to serve adult beverages.
One of the good things John had instituted was that any returning member of the staff from the previous summers automatically got a raise, this ensured that staff returned the next summer avoiding a lot of re-training and as you can imagine ‘growing pains’ with a new staff.
What was even better was that if you returned multiple summers you still got an additional raise. Most summers this was a dollar or two. As an example I started at 7.25$ at 14 years old (this was back in the late 90s) and by the time I was in college I was making almost 15$ an hour.
Typically the president of the club serves a term that was a few years and when his term was up a new President was ushered in. Upon taking office the new president loudly proclaimed that he wanted to ensure that the club had ‘fiscal responsibility,’ and he would be personally going over the books with a ‘fine tooth comb’.
His first order of business was to cut everyone’s pay all the way back to minimum wage and fire most of the lifeguards. Now as noted above, the staff was there for a long time, knowing most of the members and how to run the place.
Prior to the start of the summer upon learning that their hourly wage would be cut, most of the senior staff immediately left and were quickly hired elsewhere. The lifeguards were spared at the appeal of John to ensure safety, although some senior guards left for other beaches and pools, John was able to convince the lifeguards as he would ‘take care of things’.
Onto the MC, while John agreed to have the staff take the pay cut, he convinced the new president that any lifeguards with additional certifications would get 2$ an hour on top of the base minimum wage.
The new president obviously didn’t consider that any of these lifeguards would put in the effort or if it was feasible to get any certifications in time for the summer season and he agreed to the plan.
As you can imagine, John basically established the process and curriculum for becoming a lifeguard and personally trained and hired most if not all the trainers in the town and county. John was also a volunteer fireman and knew all the EMS personnel and not surprisingly had either taught them in school or hired them as lifeguards in their past lives.
John quickly called in favors from every trainer and certifier across the county who were more than happy to repay all the favors John had done for them in the past. Most waived the training fees and expedited the training sessions for the lifeguards and they ‘wanted to promote’ safety for the community.
Prior to the start of the memorial day weekend and what is effectively the unofficial start of summer, all of us lifeguards and new staff become certified in pretty much every single possible certification that existed at the time.
I mean I’m talking crazy complete overkill and unnecessary certifications for a ‘regular’ lifeguard. We got trained as either EMS or EMTs, although lifeguards had to be certified in CPR – we re-trained and got our CPR certifications again, Lifesaving ocean and pool rescue techniques, Certified Swimming Instructor, Certified Food Inspector (the club had a kitchen), Certified County Pool Operator license, Certified Sanitary Inspector (cleaning the bathrooms), we even had one guy who wanted to learn how to SCUBA, the county’s firefighters had a water rescue team who coincidentally were certified SCUBA instructors, most of us guards become certified divers, open water divers, deep water rescue divers the whole works.
I could go on and on about all the certifications we got.
The lifeguards not only went back to their original wage but in most cases went well above what their previous wages were. At 18 years old and back in the 90s, I personally went from making $15 an hour to $27 an hour all due to the certifications and trainings.
It took a month or so for the fallout to happen, while the new president tried to renege on the deal, John was smart enough to have a formal arrangement in place and there was nothing the new president could do besides complain about it.
He winded up resigning his position ‘to spend more time with his family at the beach’. We rarely saw him around that summer, and I think he eventually stopped coming altogether opting to join another club.
John made nice with the new president and explained his philosophy on training and keeping staff, the new president agreed and some of the senior staff winded up coming back with the promise of their original wage.
A few weeks ago, I heard from friends and former colleagues that just at the start of the summer season John passed away in his sleep of natural causes at the ripe age of 91.
He was still working although not as much in the past, it was more of an I wanna keep busy type of thing than a need to work. Every morning he would take out the lifeguard’s row boat and get some exercise in, after all, he was a Certified Rowing Instructor.
RIP John, you were the best.”
5. Don't Want To Pay Overtime? If That's How You Think It's Going To Work, Then Fine
“Many years ago I worked for a large multinational Software/Hardware/Consulting place that you will have heard of, we’ll call them Employer. On this particular assignment, I was a small cog in a 300+ person project to run many of the IT systems of a major telecoms company.
My particular responsibility was Application Support for the customer care area. This covered an internal web app that the client’s helpdesk used to look up customer details, do upgrades, refunds, address changes, etc, as well as the public FAQ website and the email ticketing system used to communicate with their customers.
Most of this software was written by the ~15-person dev team that sat a few short steps away from my desk, who were largely great to work with.
I joined just as the first very small release went live, and with each new release, they added more features and more helpdesk people.
So at the start, there were two of us supporting this app, with the idea that as more releases and features were added and the workload increased, they would add more people to the team to help out.
So after a few months we’ve had the first two software releases, the number of users is ramping up and we are having more and more tickets to deal with. At this point though, the other guy on the team whispered in a few managers’ ears and got transferred to one of the other workstreams but no one thought to replace him with anyone else.
So now it was just me doing all the support by myself, which had the inevitable consequence of wait times for tickets going up.
As an example, I had a very nice lady from one of the other support teams come over and politely ask me when I might get a chance to look at the ticket she has raised.
The conversation went something like this:
PoliteLady: Hi there, I have a question about a ticket assigned to you.
OP: Sure, what’s the ticket number?
PoliteLady: 123456. We need you to implement it before we can add so-and-so.
Do you think you can look at it in the next few days?
OP: Ah, it’s a Sev3
(“Sev” meaning “Severity”, where Sev1 is a system outage, Sev2 is Urgent but not critical, Sev3 is basically the default and Sev4 is “Nice to have”)
I then do some math in my head, thinking of all the other things higher priority than a Sev3, and reply:
OP: 4 weeks.
PoliteLady: (slightly stunned blank look)
OP: That’s if there are no Sev1 outages for the next month and no one raises any more Sev2s. Oh, and we are averaging 3 Sev1s per week right now.
PoliteLady: Oh. Is there anyone else I can talk to?
OP: No sorry, it’s just me, that’s why it will take 4 weeks.
PoliteLady: (wanders off)
The reality, of course, is that I would never get to look at a Sev3, which I think she realized.
Since there were public-facing elements to the system, we also had an on-call rota in case of out-of-hours problems. There was a shared support phone, which I think was a Nokia 3310 – whose ringtone still gives me PTSD when I hear it.
The rota consisted of me and the guy who left for the other team, as he still wanted to pull in some extra bucks. You see for all its failings, the employer actually had a really good overtime setup, which included the on-call time.
We’d alternate each week, starting on Monday evening and then being on call for all the time we were not in the office until the following Monday. So if I was in the office for 8 hours, then I’d be on call for 16, then work for 8, back on call for 16, etc.
So doing a ~40-hour week I’d be on call for about 128 hours. We’d get paid 1/4 of our hourly rate for being on call, but then there’s a bonus multiplier depending on if it’s a regular work night, weekend, or bank holiday.
So I was basically doubling my salary thanks to the on-call gravy train. I mean, the 2 am callouts were not much fun, especially when you have to work for 5 hours to get the system back up again, then come back in the next day to deal with the fallout, but the pay was good and I was young.
I wasn’t really doing much overtime other than the on-call and call-outs, as when you are repeatedly called out in the middle of the night you don’t much feel like going the extra mile the rest of the time.
I was doing enough that we very rarely had an outage during the day, but didn’t have time to do anything proactive or think about long-term improvements, I could only just keep my head above water.
I think the number of Sev2s was actually increasing over time, and dealing with a Sev3 was only a dream.
I’d occasionally have a meeting with one of the three Service Managers I reported to, who’d moan a little about the number of old open tickets, but I’d just ask them what my priority should be and they’d concede I was doing the right thing.
And yes, I reported to three Managers, which worked about as well as you’d expect, but that’s for another time.
I arrive to work one day and I’m stopped by one of the support people from another team:
Support person: Have you seen the announcement?
OP: What announcement?
Support person: Check your email.
This happens at least three times before I’ve even got to my desk. I’m now intrigued and slightly fearful about what I might find. Has the project been canned? Are we going to get the project away day that has been rumored for months? My laptop has never taken so long to boot up, but when it does the news is not good.
Overtime payments are over. Starting in two months’ time, all overtime will be compensated by Time Off In Lieu (TOIL). Yeah, that acronym is apt.
No more doubling of my salary, no more nice holidays, no more…
wait a sec. I’ve just reached the bit where they explain how the amount of TOIL is calculated from the amount of overtime. That can’t be right. I go to the spreadsheet I use to track my hours and start making some edits based on the email.
Edits complete, I start trying out some numbers. Well, well, what do we have here. A plan is forming.
For the next month, I do just a little bit of overtime each day. Sometimes an hour, sometimes more.
If we have a bad week for Sev1’s and call-outs, then I don’t do as much, but if we have a quiet week then I’m staying after hours every night. A week or two into my new regime I have a meeting with a Service Manager, and they are now a bit happier as the ticket queue has actually gone down for the first time in ages.
I say nothing about the TOIL, and as the meeting is ending they are actually surprised I didn’t bring it up, as they have been getting an earful from all the other support people.
I play it down and say that I haven’t really thought about it yet but I’m sure it’ll be fine. The meeting ends with them thanking me for taking it so calmly. I just smile.
After working like this for a month, it’s now time for phase 2 of the plan. I book a meeting with one of the Service Managers and bring my laptop with the overtime spreadsheet.
The meeting goes something like this:
OP: I have some concerns about the upcoming TOIL change.
ServiceManager: Do you? What are they?
OP: Well I track my hours in this spreadsheet so that it’s easier to submit my overtime payments, and I thought I’d update it to support the new TOIL process.
OP: Well if you look at my hours for the past month, and look at the weeks when I’m on call, then the amount of Time Off that the project will owe me is calculated as this much.
ServiceManager: Right…? What’s the problem?
OP: Do you not see the issue? For this week where I’m on call, I’m owed 41 hours of time off, but I’m only contracted to work 37 hours per week.
ServiceManager: What does that mean?
OP: It means, that for any week that I’m on call I’d have to take the entire next week off work, paid for by the project. No work would get done on my workstream.
No tickets would be completed, no Change Requests and no root cause analyses will be done. We’d only be able to do half the number of tickets that we currently do, and that’s already pretty low.
OP: Not only that, but the extra few hours over my contracted hours will gradually add up, so that at some point, I won’t even be able to be on call for the full week.
ServiceManager: Take me through the maths again.
Yes, you see for the previous month I’d been making sure that I’d done just enough overtime clearing down tickets that the amount of TOIL I would be owed under the new system would be more than my contracted hours.
The Service Managers couldn’t complain about the extra hours as they wanted the ticket queue to go down, and the Project Managers couldn’t complain as this was their idea in the first place. The Service Manager said to “leave it with him” and the meeting ended.
Two weeks later an email came out from Management saying that the TOIL change was being “postponed”. I’d like to think that it was all my doing, but it may have also been the fact that many of the support people were talking about getting their names off the various on-call rotas, as it wasn’t really worth doing just for time off.
Management couldn’t just make the TOIL rates worse either, as they were mandated by the company, so they didn’t really have a choice but to back off once they were shown the numbers.
As for my workstream, the Service Managers seemed to get the hint as within a few months the team had grown from just me to 4 of us.
I finally had the time to do preventative maintenance, as well as spend more time talking with the Development team. This eventually allowed me to move to a role that was 50/50 support and development, which started me on the path to being a full-time software developer.
The on-call gravy train chugged along for another couple of years until the whole company watered it down from 1/4 to 1/10th of the hours. The project never switched to TOIL.”
4. Don't Think He Speaks English? Oh, But He Does, And He Will Definitely Listen To You
“This happened where I lived in college. It was a very liberal/progressive city, which was one of the reasons I chose to live there, so this incident really stuck with me.
This one neighborhood on the outskirts of the city was a bunch of old (but still in good shape) tract homes, with the majority of them being homeowner occupied, and had a primarily Hispanic/Latin population.
Well, as home prices skyrocketed this neighborhood became one of the few affordable places to buy a home in the whole county.
My friend and her brother had bought their house while the prices were still decent and I was renting a room there.
We are white but love the culture and are NOT trying to change it. It was the kind of place where on Fridays we would walk down to the neighborhood park where a bunch of taco trucks set up and eat and hang out with the neighbors.
Everyone was very welcoming and we got invited to all kinds of cookouts, quinceañeras, and the first funeral I had ever been to that was a huge party with dancing and laughter that truly celebrated the person’s life.
Still one of my favorite neighborhoods ever!
One day we are out front talking to the neighbor across the street, who is super nice and friendly. Suddenly this older white woman quickly waddles up to us and just starts talking… she doesn’t even introduce herself! (but I think we all know she is “Karen.”)
Karen is talking to the neighbor in that very exaggerated way that means she doesn’t think he speaks English so she must speak LOUDLY with big gestures.
(This is just straight-up racist based on his looks because we were speaking English when she rolled up on us.) She tells him, not asks him, but tells him that it is time for him to paint his house! At this point, she is doing over exaggerated Karate Kid ‘paint the fence’ gestures and saying, “paint… you know… PAINT THE HOUSE…”
We are all stunned into silence with “huh?” looks on our faces as she keeps going, “That light blue is no good… (shakes her finger in his face) NO GOOD… it’s too bright… (shields her eyes from the house like she was looking into the sun) TOO BRIGHT, do you understand?”
Now, there is no HOA or city ordinance limiting the colors of the houses in this neighborhood but none of the houses had any “unusual” or “unique” colors.
These were tract homes with only about 5 different colors when they were built and most of them were the original color or something similar. The neighbor’s house was still the original color, so this light blue is not unique at all, it’s literally one of the most basic colors and is on a lot of homes that were built during that time.
(Also, the paint on his house was in good condition, not peeling or anything.)
So, my roommate, the neighbor, and I all find our voices at about the same time, with my roommate saying, “What the heck are you talking about?” I’m like, “Who the heck are you?” And the neighbor going off in a tirade of very loud and fast Spanish… but Karen is undaunted in her quest.
Realizing my roommate and I speak English she starts telling us how she just moved in and she’s trying to ‘protect her home’s value’ and it’s obviously time for him to paint the house and SHE wants the neighborhood to have a certain “color palette” with more neutral tones instead of this “carnivaaaal” thing that was going on now… (yes, she pronounced it like the celebration in Rio but over exaggerated and it was clear she had never been to a carnival or even seen pictures of carnival because, again, the houses were mostly the same boring colors from when they were built or similar.)
My roommate and I keep interrupting her and telling her she is being racist, nobody cares what SHE wants, the paint looks fine, she has no right to tell him what color he can paint his house, and this neighborhood’s culture was established long before she showed up so if she doesn’t like it she can move because she shouldn’t have moved here in the first place with that attitude.
Suddenly, the neighbor waves his hands in front of our faces while saying, “No, no, no, no” and then pointing to himself and that’s when we realized the neighbor is acting like he doesn’t speak English.
Since my roommate and I know he speaks perfect English at this point we are just trying to contain our laughter waiting to see what he is going to do. Well, he starts talking to Karen in Spanish… the same slow, loud way she was talking to him in English, complete with big gestures and everything! Now I don’t know Spanish very well but from what I could understand he is telling her the colors of the houses in the neighborhood and how her house is blue (darker shade) and his house is blue so what is her problem?
Karen clearly doesn’t understand and is getting more and more upset but when she looks at us for help we tell her that we don’t understand what he’s saying either.
Karen is fuming and we are trying and failing to contain our laughter. This goes on for just a couple of minutes before the neighbor’s 10-year-old son comes out on their porch and loudly asks him if they are going to grandma’s for dinner…in perfect English.
The neighbor then turns to his son and says they are leaving as soon as mom gets back from the store… also in perfect English. He then turns back to Karen and starts speaking to her in Spanish again and although I don’t know exactly what he said to her there was definitely some swearing and at least one not-nice name to call a woman.
He then says to us, “See you Friday for dinner” in English and walks away.
It takes Karen a few seconds to realize what is going on… then her face turns bright red and she is just sputtering, unable to put together a complete sentence.
We just walked away, still laughing.
Now here is the “malicious compliance” part, I think. A couple of weeks later, I’m out of town for a couple of days and get back very late at night.
As I’m getting my bags out of the car I realize that it is very bright out… I know it’s a full moon, but something is just not right. I start looking around thinking one of the neighbors must have put in some walkway lighting or maybe even a flood light over the garage… and that’s when I see it… the neighbor across the street had done what Karen wanted and painted his house… a beautiful bright orange.
And I mean this thing was practically neon! Under the light of the full moon, the house actually looked like it glowed in the dark and that was why it was especially bright out in the middle of the night! I laughed so hard, I was in tears! The next day seeing it in the daylight the color was actually more of a peach than a neon and looked nice but for whatever reason, it was glow-in-the-dark orange at night (some might even call it a ‘carnival’ orange). It surprised no one that Karen turned her home into a rental and moved somewhere else.”
3. Make Sure To Use A Billion Buck System That Doesn't Work? If You Say So
“So I along with many other employees who work for a large delivery company that drives brown trucks and used to be famous for only making right turns had some fun with Malicious Compliance.
I will from here out refer to the employer as the company.
For many years before I started with the company, all drivers carried a computer that had our stops listed in them. Before it was listed in the computer, you had to look at your load and figure out your piece per stop and how to run the route.
Now as technology progressed, the software evolved to list the addresses and the pieces per address, which made things way easier. When the boxes are unloaded from trailers, they are scanned and each one receives a small label.
The small labels have the address, the tracking number, any committed time, the belt it is being sent to as well as the truck number and location in the truck. Our trucks are loaded by shelf and floor location.
There are four large shelves in the back with 1000 and 5000 being on the same shelf, 2000 and 6000 being on the same shelf, 3000 and 7000 being on the same shelf and 4000 and 8000 being on the same shelf.
Now when the box comes down the line a loader sees the truck number and load location so they know where to load it.
Now when I first started driving for the company after 16 months of loading, I felt pretty comfortable with how the truck would be set up.
The computers were always in numerical order, meaning you saw the stops on your 1000 shelf first then the 2000 shelf, and so on. Now once you learned a route, you would figure out that sometimes it’s best to start on a certain shelf due to some stops having a bunch of pieces so you could start to empty the truck.
This worked very well for many years.
Then the company put almost 1 billion dollars into a complex computer program named after a star constellation that has a belt. The name is an acronym but that’s not really important.
What is important is that this new system was supposed to figure out the best way for a driver to run the route in the least amount of miles. When the system was first released it was awful.
But after a few updates, the company made it known to all employees that we were to follow the route at least 90% of the time.
Most of us drivers brushed it off at first because it made no sense.
It would tell you that you needed to do a stop from the middle of your 8000 shelf because it happened to be next to a commit time package that was loaded on your 1000 shelf.
Sounds simple right? Well, that’s all well and good if your load is in perfect order and your truck isn’t completely full to the point that you have to climb over stuff to reach the 8000 shelf.
Well, the company kept pushing us to follow the route the computer said. So cue malicious compliance.
Drivers started to follow it 100% of the time and made sure to deliver every piece the computers told us to.
This meant that if you have a stop that was buried in the back, we would dig till we found the box. Now digging in the back can take a lot of time due to many different factors.
But by following the program 100% we started to have extreme amounts of missed commit time deliveries, which means the company has to refund that to the next shipping level. It also meant that drivers were having issues getting business deliveries done before starting pick-ups.
Then that led to missed pick-ups. For weeks we would follow it 100% and have service failures. When we were called into the office, a shop steward would simply say the driver was working as directed.
After a while, the company realized that a computer doesn’t know a route as well as a driver does. A driver knows traffic patterns and when certain places actually open.
Another aspect of the compliance came with drivers who were part of a group that didn’t want extra hours.
If a driver was a part of that group, then three days a week they would have to be off in under 9.5 paid hours. To ensure these hours were met, the company would send other drivers who wanted hours to take stops off those drivers.
The only system would usually mean that a driver would give away 10-20 stops at the end of their days. With the new system, that number about doubled. Now that part didn’t really bother drivers on the list because of the penalty pay that came with going over 9.5 hours more than twice a week.
The company eventually backed down but wouldn’t go back to the old system.
So now most drivers still deliver their routes how they did for years to ensure that customers are taken care of. The company still says that new updates will help but at this point, it just seems like they are trying to cover their own butts for how much the system costs.
Also a little PS. We don’t actively try to come to your house at the same time every day for a signature, but sometimes with how certain areas work, we are going to be there around the same time every day.
We want you to be there to sign for it so we don’t have to come back tomorrow, but sometimes we can’t help it.”
Another User Comments:
“It’s a lofty goal to try to make a system to find the optimal route based on many different variables that influence each other in unpredictable ways.
This is the hardest thing you can do with modern computers, takes loads of computational power for each route calculated if they want the optimal route.
Until we get better at quantum computing it’s just a pipe dream to think a computer can be better at it than a person, at such a small scale at least.
Computers are great at responding to trends in a stable system, but every day is different in package delivery so the computer struggles.
Not surprised it cost that much. It’s expensive to try to do the impossible.” HyperSpaceSurfer
2. Give All Customers Priority Service Despite Being Short Staffed? We'll Do What We Can
“Used to work in a hotel with about a thousand rooms. All employees were being “cross-trained” when I came on board which essentially meant rather than hiring enough people, every “idle” 5 minutes was to be spent helping out one of the other drowning departments.
Most of my time was either dedicated to service or reception, but we got plenty of housekeeping & tech department odd jobs thrown our way too. This was pretty normal since tech was by far the smallest department, around 3 people for 1000 cheaply constructed rooms, and housekeeping was also tiny for the impossible amount of work they had to do.
So what duties could be expected in reception?
- replace door batteries, light bulbs, unclog drains
- restock tea & coffee, coffee makers, kettles, hairdryers, TP, anything guests were missing/ran out of after they checked in
- room service for any isolation cases
- ticket stubbing for events
- manning the bar
- garage duties (there was a whole rental thing going on and properly returned rentals were a rarity)
- anything else that was flung at us with the label “urgent” (like room tours & occasionally even making our own staff lunches)
Ignoring our repeated requests to cut down the number of available rooms until we had enough staff to actually PROVIDE the service we advertised, management also informed us we were there to placate the after-sales cases (disgruntled customers rightly livid that they don’t get what they’re promised).
So after months of going by the book, I finally found myself a comfortable little loophole.
Any tech or housekeeping issue was obviously higher priority than reception since for example not having toilet paper or working lights/drains/doors was an unacceptable condition for guests, so waiting 2 hours to be checked in or book breakfast was preferable by far.
Having 2-3 receptionists on shift to man 3 phones, emails, scanners & printers for guest registrations (yeah we still had 1 foot in the ’90s), and troubleshoot reservations, one of us would be on the desk checking people in, if another was available they’d be on digital responses (just taking one call after another while working through emails), and I would take every single tech and housekeeping job that came.
If any of us received complaints we’d explain the situation: “I’m sorry but there’s currently an emergency (insert technical/HSK issue here) that will have to take priority. If you’d be so kind as to wait in line until my colleague comes back he’ll see to you upon his return.”
I’m pretty resilient when I don’t give a darn anymore so I told them to put any difficult guests in my line too unless their problem was a high priority.
Whenever I got back I’d have 30 mins to 2 hours to work through the line before the next thing would come up and I’d apologetically leave. When they demanded an explanation or just started yelling I’d simply explain our duties, and say I fully agree that this is not a comfortable condition for guests to be in, and they in turn would agree that providing toilet paper and other essentials needed to come first.
Naturally wanting to provide all customers with the tools to improve their future experience, I always rounded off these kinds of conversations with a warm thank you and an “If you can think of any suggestions that might improve your and other guests’ future experiences here, please let us know on trip advisor – feedback, of ANY nature, is always valuable to us.”
Reviews came flooding in that were either talking about a massive dip in quality or how understaffed/poorly managed the place was, but funnily enough I never heard one bad word against the staff.
Management didn’t make a big change to the hiring policy so I eventually left, but last I heard almost everyone had quit not long after I did and the place has since rebranded, presumably to get away from the rating that dropped a couple of stars.”
Another User Comments:
“Any hotel worker worth their salt should be able to fill out multiple roles, even more so if you’re night audit.
The issue is that due to problems that management knows but refuses to acknowledge/solve, we have to do our best to juggle things in such a way that guests won’t see it or deal too much with it.
Now if management is being cheap and refusing to hire an adequate team of employees, both in number and quality, then yeah, there’s not a whole lot you can do and guests will suffer.” Classy-Pyro
1. Want Me To Keep Wearing This Shirt? Okay, Boss
“Socially and politically our work environment is a mean girls club. I work at a secondary education institution, on the Support team. For stupid reasons, a hideous shirt that one of the support staff was wearing one day, became our mandatory Monday shirt.
Cue this week – it’s photo week. We are taking group photos of all the staff, learners, and various teams and committees. These are all going in the annual magazine, which is quite a big deal.
All staff were informed that they could wear whatever they wished, as long as it lined up with the colour palette of the magazine – this was shared with everyone. They actually chose really pretty shades of pink, peach, mauve, and sky blue.
The Support team was really happy we could skip the ghastly shirt. Until we couldn’t. Last week Thursday it was communicated to us that we would wear The Monstrosity. Of the whole institution, our group would be the only one that looked like crap.
The next day (Friday) I was at the hairdresser, and inspiration struck. I already have a short pixie cut that I color ultraviolet (basically very dark brown with a purple sheen). I revealed my plans to my stylist and she loved it.
After my haircut, I went shopping. Now one of the things touted as an ‘advantage’ of the ugly shirt was the array of colours it contained and how versatile it is, as “you can wear it with so many colours”.
I just don’t think you were meant to wear all the colours together at once.
Now previously, I ruined the photo when the sleeveless shirt unexpectedly revealed the tattoos on my left arm/shoulder. So I knew this year they would strategically place me with my right side facing forward (I know how they compose and space these photos by now, I’ve been here too long).
So imagine their surprise when I pitch up with an asymmetrical pixie cut – long bangs sweeping to the left, regular sideburns to the left. And the right side is shaved in a buzz cut.
All coloured bright purple. Seriously, when I’m facing that way, I look… different.
So they try to subtly hide me in the middle, at the back, slightly behind the person to the left (to hide those pesky tattoos).
Because if I’m facing forward, I look sufficiently professional. But I’m wearing killer platform heels (something I haven’t done in ten years) which makes me almost a hand taller than everyone else. I politely decline their request to take my shoes off.
So I have to sit in the front.
Now you can clearly see my formal dress pants in bottle green. As well as my undershirt in vibrant teal. My killer heels are in pale, sparkly gold.
And my wide salmon pink belt. Now, I didn’t waste a dime on these items. Wearing any of them alone or in different combinations look fine, so I will be using them all.
No matter what they tried, they could not find a way to make the group look “coherently polished and professional.” Because one way they had a tatted-up admin (if they photoshopped those out, I would complain politely but firmly).
The other way they had an angry emo boy. One way the height was off. And the other way they had someone in an ensemble so garish it offended the senses.
This afternoon a while after work, we were informed that the group photo would be redone for the Support team.
We were kindly requested to wear the colours as indicated in the colour palette tomorrow. In the group Whatsapp, I commented “Duly noted” and received a ton of PMs joking about it.
On the brighter side, I have received a ton of compliments on the hairstyle.
Something so daring, in a sane environment I never would have tried it. I’ve coloured it back to dark ultraviolet (box colour yo, takes 20 minutes), which compliments my light pink dress nicely. And the wide salmon pink belt rounds it off well.”