Let’s Take Stock Of This Flawed System

, , , , , | Working | October 30, 2020

I work in an ops team that handles the deliveries of our stock. One day, my boss gives me a task to problem-solve a list of deliveries for one of our big customers.

Usually, what happens is we import the stock, store it in a warehouse, and then tell the warehouse how much to deliver while removing the stock from our system. But for this specific customer, we import the stock and deliver by the container to the customer’s own warehouse. They then help themselves to the stock they need and send us a self-bill detailing what they have used at the end of every week. We’re talking around fifteen metric tons of various stock per week. On receiving the self-bill, my department amends our system to signify that the stock has been used and is no longer in the warehouse.

Now, at this point, you might be thinking to yourself, “That sounds like a terrible system with a massive margin for error,” and as it turns out, you’re absolutely right.

This customer is managed by my coworker who, while nice enough, has a tendency to blaze through all her work and not look back. What could possibly go wrong, you ask? At the end of the financial year, the discrepancies in the system are something like 20,000 kg surplus of Product A in blue, 12,000 kg missing of Product A in pink, and 10,087.5k g missing of Product B. How we ended with a discrepancy of 87.5 kg of a product we sold by the metric ton is beyond me.

Coworker: “[Boss], what should I do about this self-bill? The stock doesn’t exist on our system.”

Boss: “Take it to [My Name]. They’re great with this sort of thing.”

My analytical brain and I get dropped into this problem of finding what happened to over £100,000 worth of stock. This first involves me combing through a year’s worth of orders and cross-referencing the customer’s order list against our own, and let me tell you, that was a fun afternoon, reading sixteen-digit reference numbers over and over.

On identifying the discrepancies, I then pull the self-bill we received and compare it to the invoice on our system to spot the difference. That’s easier said than done, because the self-bill lists the quantity by the number of cartons instead of the weight of the order. I see on the self-bill 360 cartons and have to manually work this out to its weight in kilos to compare to our order list. It wouldn’t be a big deal if they were 10 kg boxes, but, obviously, they’re a random weight of 22.68kg.

Of the five issues that I find, two of the self-bills haven’t been received for whatever reason.

One week’s self-bill includes 10,000 kg of Product A in blue but was, in fact, processed as 20,000 kg of Product B.

Another week’s self-bill is for 4,000 kg of Product A in blue and 4,000 kg in pink. Guess what was invoiced? 8,000 kg in pink and none in blue.

The final one is the icing on the cake. The self–bill comes through for 8,000 kg of Product A in blue, 4,000 kg of Product A in pink, and 2,000 kg of Product B. I am scratching my head over this one for a long time because the amount that the customer paid us matched perfectly with what our system said they owed for that week.

As it turns out, our stock was put on as 12,000 kg of Product A in pink and 2,000 kg of Product A in blue, with none of Product B. While the correct weight of stock was removed, the different products had different sale prices, so there was an extra line at the bottom of the invoice that said, “Adjustment to make invoice correct,” and a charge of the £3,000 or so that let the invoice match what the customer paid us. So, my coworker had added £3,000 to the invoice for absolutely nothing and promptly forgot about it. Due to the self-bills, the customer doesn’t see our invoice copy so the error wasn’t picked up for months.

I never found the final 87.5 kg of missing stock, but given the value of the rest of the issues, my directors told me not to worry about it. In retrospect, it was probably due to some damaged boxes that we credited their account with.

We don’t send them stock this way anymore.

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Math Is Your Friend, Part 5

, , , | Right | October 27, 2020

We sell a variety of patio and paver stones of different sizes and prices. A customer comes to the register with a cartload of what are called mini flagstone blocks for building walls.

Customer: “I have forty of these blocks.”

Me: “Okay.”

I type in the product code. It enters and scans the price at $1.38 each. I also enter a quantity of forty.

Customer: “Wait, that’s wrong. They’re not $1.38. They’re five for $10.”

Me: “I’m sorry, what?”

Customer: “Those blocks; last week they were five for $10.00.”

Me: “But, ma’am, they’re only scanning for $1.38 each.”

Customer: “But that’s wrong.”

Me: “We have a larger size that was on sale last week. Is it possible you got those?”

Customer: “No, I got these and they were five for $10.”

Me: “Do you want to pay $.62 more for each block? If you want to, I guess I could change the price.”

Customer: “What?”

Me: “Five for $10 is $2.00 a piece, 62 cents more.”

Customer: “What? I guess not.”

She finishes the sale and leaves, still mumbling about something being wrong with the price.

Next Customer: “And I thought my math skills were bad. Just so you know, I don’t want to pay more than the price that scans.”

Me: “I think I can handle that all right.”

I wondered if she called the manager to complain that I was going to charge her the cheaper price. I hope she figured it out eventually.

Math Is Your Friend, Part 4
Math Is Your Friend, Part 3
Math Is Your Friend, Part 2
Math Is Your Friend

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And On The Seventh Day, We All Went To The Museum

, , , , , | Right | October 26, 2020

I work in my museum’s planetarium. A group of three older men dressed in their Sunday best has just finished buying tickets.

Coworker: “A planetarium show is about to start if you’d like to see it.”

They balk a bit at the suggestion but, noting that it’s included in admission, ultimately come inside. It’s then that I notice the very large wooden crosses around their necks. Considering the show that’s about to air is about the formation of the solar system, the Earth, and the early evolution of life, I’m a bit skeptical of how this is going to play out.

Fortunately, nothing happens during the show. As it ends, I open the doors for the customers and wait just outside to thank them for visiting and answer any questions. Two of the men appear almost immediately and rush right past me and… out of the museum. The third, and seemingly oldest based on his cane, is one of the last to leave and approaches me as he exits.

Guest: “That was a great show! It was so cool!”

Me: *Surprised* “Oh, wow, thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it!”

Guest: “I didn’t know a lot of that stuff. Say, what else is in this museum, anyway?”

Me: “Well, we have an extensive collection of dinosaur fossils and paleontology-related exhibits, as well as a hall about the more modern history of the region.”

Guest: “That sounds neat! I’m going to go check it out. Thank you so much!”

Me: “No, thank you!”

Several hours later, I saw him chatting up the front desk telling them what a wonderful time he had. Whether he agrees with the museum’s point of view or not, I’m just glad he had a good time!

This story is part of our Feel Good roundup for October 2020!

Read the next Feel Good roundup story!

Read the Feel Good roundup for October 2020!

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, , , , | Working | October 23, 2020

I work at a company doing technical support. Our help desk is notorious for simply forwarding tickets to us without attempting basic troubleshooting. When the help desk gets a new manager, he decides to address the situation by asking us to provide a troubleshooting process for the help desk operators to follow. We respond with a step-by-step numbered list of troubleshooting measures.

However, what we notice is that we are STILL getting a heavy volume of calls escalated to us. Looking into it, we discover why. The help desk is doing step one of the troubleshooting, and then, when it fails, forwarding it on to us without trying the remaining steps. When we bring this to the manager’s attention:

Manager: “Look, these are just help-desk people. They don’t understand step-by-step processes, and after step one, you didn’t specify, ‘Go to step two.’ I mean, I’d naturally assume that, because I’m a manager, but you can’t expect them to!”

We just stared at him, but from then on, we had to specify in our procedures to move to the next step when finishing another. Apparently, if you’re not a manager, you’re not smart enough to realize how numbered steps work without it being spelled out for you.

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Refunder Blunder, Part 47

, , , , , , | Right | October 23, 2020

I’m a manager. An upset customer calls the store complaining about how she didn’t get the advertised price on some soda.

Me: “Thank you for calling [Store]. This is [My Name] speaking. How may I help you?”

Customer: *Screaming* “You charged me too much for the sodas I bought!”

Me: “My apologies. Which sodas were they? I’ll go look to see if the sales signs were correct.”

Customer: “They were the [Popular Soda Brand]. The sign said they were supposed to be three cases for $8!”

Me: “That is correct; how much were you charged?” 

Customer: “I was charged over $17; that’s way too much.”

Me: “That is way more than you should’ve been charged. Did you purchase anything else?

Customer: *Yelling louder* “No, I just purchased the six cases and I want a refund.”

I realize she purchased six cases, and that would be $16 plus tax which would be over $17.

Me: “You purchased six cases at three cases for $8, so your price after taxes would come up to $17.32. The amount you were charged would be the correct amount.”

Customer: “Well, I don’t think it’s correct! It should be closer to $12, and I think I should be refunded the difference.”

I no longer want to deal with her.

Me: “Okay, I can give you the refund. We’re open for another two hours; you can come in anytime before then with your receipt.”

Customer: “I’m not coming in there just to get my money.”

Me: “Unfortunately, we are unable to do a card refund over the phone due to policy.”

Customer: “You need to give me my refund now or I’m calling the police!”

Me: “Oh, my apologies. Let me magically transfer your money back to your account without a receipt or your card.”

Customer: “Finally, thank you.”

I realize she doesn’t understand sarcasm.

Me: “I was joking. I can’t do that. I don’t even know your name.”

The customer hung up.

Refunder Blunder, Part 46
Refunder Blunder, Part 45
Refunder Blunder, Part 44
Refunder Blunder, Part 43
Refunder Blunder, Part 42

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