on the edge

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Greg Black

gjb at gbch dot net
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If you’re not living life on the edge, you’re taking up too much space.

FQE30 at speed

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Amnesty International Australia — global defenders of human rights

global defenders of human rights

Médecins Sans Frontières — help us save lives around the world

Médecins Sans Frontières - help us save lives around the world

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Electronic Frontiers Australia


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The FreeBSD Project

Thu, 27 Apr 2006

Customers can drive you to distraction

Everybody who deals with customers knows that my title is a truism, but sometimes it can be interesting to examine a case.

Recently, I told the story of a customer who was in a state because the power went out suddenly and they had been seriously inconvenienced as a result of lying to me about having finally got all their equipment protected by UPSes. Yesterday, they arranged for the electricians to come back to do properly what had been arranged so long ago. As instructed, they shut down everything while the electricians were on the premises.

Late this afternoon, they finally rang me to ask what I was doing about getting everything going again. I was waiting to be told the electrical work had been done. They said they had emailed me yesterday. I asked why they had not followed up, or at least checked that the email had left their systems. This upset them, so I let it go, beyond telling them that they knew how to do these things and that they also knew how to check that their ADSL modem was functioning—which it wasn’t.

To cut a very long story short, they said they were desperate to have all their machines running now that the UPS stuff was in hand. (I had told them that I’d only sanction one machine running until the work was done, because that one machine was indeed on its UPS.)

So I said that we now needed to get a lamp or something else that didn’t draw too much current and go around to check that the new outlets were really connected to the UPS. At this point the customer went ballistic, saying that they’d already spent three days with most of their computers unavailable and they just couldn’t spare the time to do this silly checking. Of course, the sole reason they had a problem was their earlier refusal to follow the agreed plans and get all the machines protected by the various UPSes that sit there in their building for that purpose.

I then said, “OK, if you really want to power up the machines without us first checking the electrical work, all you need to do is to sit down for a minute and write me a quick email stating that you are happy with the electrical work and that you take full responsibility for anything that may happen in future if it turns out that the work was not done right.”

“But that’s not fair,” protested the customer. So I explained that what wasn’t fair was the fact that they expected me to drop everything and jump through all kinds of hoops because they refused to follow my advice. I said that they could get the machines running in a couple of minutes if they sent me the email.

And then, surprise! They decided that I’d better step one of their staff through the process of testing the wiring after all. This time the job had been done right, so now all their machines are humming away and I can be comfortable that the next power outage won’t result in me having to spend hours solving problems that should never happen.

Of course, the owners of the business have gone home in a snit and they will be even more cranky tomorrow when they tell their staff to chase me up about other things that were put on hold while the crisis was fixed—as I told the staff who stayed behind to sort out the UPS testing, tomorrow is my wedding anniversary and I just won’t be willing to take their calls.