The rich-company trap

Long ago, yours truly did
stint as software contractor with the New Zealand Dairy Board, which was then, if memory serves, turning over $2 billion. My task was to finish project begun months earlier by an NZDB staffer. They were surprised when I finished it in three weeks.
I was shocked that they were doing it at all. Their computer was supplied with superb programming language, but they had ignored it and had instead spent lot of time and money inventing one fraction as efficient.
They were quite happy to spend large sums, because large sums were coming in the door. It was appropriate, you see. One wonders if recent example from Telecom indicates similar attitude. It was certainly gross sloppiness.
It began when I called 123 to get the regulation depth of the trench that carries your telephone cables from the street, because I was planning new house. The exceedingly helpful 123 chap (they always are) told me, then asked if I would like to reserve my new numbers. I was surprised that I could do it so far ahead, especially since the timing of my move was uncertain.
The helpful 123 chap said he would make computer note to call me on the first of the month several months later, to see how I was going, and perhaps to make date for disconnecting my old address and connecting my new one. Unfortunately, what happened was either that the note actually entered was different, or someone cannot read, because few days short of several months later I was called by mystified Connectel chap who wanted to know where my house was. He had gone to connect me, but could see only bush.
Two days later my telephones went dead, I called Faults from neighbour.
“Why are my phones not working? Because you’ve moved. So we’ve disconnected your old numbers and connected your new ones.
“No, I haven’t moved. And there is no new house to connect to.” Embarrassment at Telecom. Quick reconnections. month’s credit on both line rentals in compensation for all my sturm und drang. Fine. No, not fine. The connections were made with an obsolete code called PPR (permanent price-required), so every time I made toll call an operator would pop out of the cabling and tell me how much and charge me for doing it.
That was fixed, once I found someone in Telecom old enough to know what PPR was. More embarrassment. Two more rental credits. Fine. No, not fine. My next Telecom account showed that I had been charged for the two reconnections. Another call to 123. Embarrassment again. Two more credits. Fine. No, not fine. On the first day of the following month my phone started making that funny noise again. I had been disconnected again. This time the computer line was not struck, so I called 123 on that and mock-plaintively asked if Telecom had something against me (does it read this column?). I was told that the note about my upcoming change of address had been made in two places (some system!), but only one had been corrected before. More embarrassment. Another credit.
The time of at least six people, all paid by Telecom, was wasted during that long-running shemozzle. Then there were all those rental credits. Not cheap saga. Big, rich companies, particularly if they are also monopolies, should set up their systems so that they always function like poor, little companies who habitually pinch every millimetre of every dollar. Otherwise they can all too easily fall into the wasteful ways of the rich.

Nobilangelo Ceramalus: Writer, commentator, journalist, desktop publisher, graphics-designer, illustrator, webmaster, photographer.

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