Use Your Words - Back to School Business

Today’s post is a writing challenge. This is how it works: participating bloggers picked 4 – 6 words or short phrases for someone else to craft into a post. All words must be used at least once, and all the posts will be unique as each writer has received their own set of words. That’s the challenge, here’s a fun twist; no one who’s participating knows who got their words and in what direction the writer will take them. Until now.

My words are: 

Current ~ classic ~ bizarre ~ brave ~ outside the box ~ memory

They were submitted by Never Ever Give Up Hope - thanks, Carol!

Whenever I had a quiet moment (haha!), I tried to think of a cool story to use my words. There might be so many ways because those words are so versatile. The longer I kept thinking, the more time went by, and you know how it goes.... I had a super busy summer "break", well Colin was on summer break, I was at the office.

Let me tell you about a current project we have at work. 

Before diving in, I have to explain about our school system once you're done with high school: An estimated third of the young people attend college and / or university, and two thirds pursue some kind of vocational training, meaning they have to find an employer that is qualified and willing to train them. They get proficient at a profession like hairdresser, gardener or carpenter by learning on the job during 3-4 days a week, and by attending vocational school for general education (math, correspondence, basic bookkeeping, etc.) for 1-2 days. They graduate after 3-4 years depending on the profession.

One of those vocational schools for our region is located at our neighbor town, and this school happens to be a client of ours, hubby's IT company I work for, too. 

Late this spring the school board decided to quit the classic way of teaching and keep up with the times, meaning, as of the new school year, apprentices need to bring their own notebook to class. They sat down to define specifications (hard drive, memory, software, accessories) according to the specific trade and asked us to take care of the operational handling. 

Photo Credit

So far so good. My brave and talented hubby set up an online shop in no time, it went live June 20, and the school sent out a letter to the future apprentices telling them they were free to get their laptop wherever they wanted, as long as the criteria were met, but they recommended getting it from us, the competent, friendly, local business. 

We were sceptical. You can purchase a computer at every corner, and our prices can't keep up with large retailers like Media Markt (comparable to Best Buy) even though we negotiated an OK deal with Dell (I wish they'd sponsor this post...) But hey, other than the hours that hubby spent programming that online platform and the interface to our business system, we had nothing to lose. 

For a week or two nothing happened. Hubby checked his inbox all the time, and coworkers and I started to place fake orders just for the fun of it, using silly names like Dagobert Duck. 

Then a guy called, claimed the school sent him and asked all kinds of technical questions. I transferred him to my coworker who explained everything. When he hung up he said "OK, so I just provided him with half an hour of free consulting, what if he won't order but will buy a comparable notebook someplace cheaper?" 

But then, on July 11, the first "real" order popped up, then another, then another. Even the guy who called, placed his order, phew. 

In order to minimize our risk, we asked for advance-payment which is unusual in Switzerland: usually you order, get your stuff and an invoice, and you pay within 30 days. If you don't, you'll get a reminder, and another, and another. Depending on the amount of money, the seller will decide (not) to take debt enforcement measures. We didn't want to get into that position, so we clearly stated "money first".

Needless to say this caused some turmoil. People called and asked to pay in monthly instalments. "We're only just learning about this requirement of bringing our own computer to school, it's bad enough how much work clothes, tools, books and commuting are going to cost us, a new laptop is not in our budget, we just spent our money to go on vacation" they claimed. Of course they were right. The people who decided that every apprentice needs to buy their own notebook, have a nice salary and didn't even think of the financial implications.

I had the most bizarre phone calls, mostly from parents. Can't 15 year olds do phone calls these days? 

Like the Mom who called and told me about some person called Knowreplay, something or other, who sent her a message, however she wasn't going to be home today, what was she supposed to do? It took a while for me to find out what she was talking about: The automatic dispatching system of the warehouse was advising her of the upcoming delivery. The e-mail message was being sent by noreply@...

A student suggested he'd skip the online process, hit the ATM and drove to our office to "cash and carry" his laptop immediately. I loved that he took charge, though!

Oh, and don't get me started on the people who ordered but didn't pay. I didn't want to lose precious time and started calling them. "We are sorry, this user is currently not reachable" and no possibility to leave a message. Landline numbers that kept ringing, but nobody home to answer, the list goes on and on. I asked my coworkers who are IT guys after all. We looked at the email addresses of those students. Of course 90% have an account with a free service, and some of those providers are known to send messages titled "your order" or "invoice" or that contain pdf attachments to the spam folder. So I sent another message with a harmless title telling them to check their spam folder and to please settle their accounts so we could initiate the order.

One Dad accused us of ripping off the poor students. He found the same type of notebook someplace else, and it was cheaper, he said. I was so tired of those calls. What did they expect? A discount? Does anybody ever call Amazon to tell them they found an item for a better price? "You know I work in Quality Management, and I can smell bad deals" he said. "Also I consulted my firm's IT Manager, so I know what I'm talking about." Good for him. As polite as I could I told him he was free to purchase wherever he pleased. He didn't stop. Between the lines he admitted that he wasn't 100% sure it really was the exact same item. Dude, just make up your mind!!!

When I hung up I was exhausted and angry about people who strain my patience and waste my time. I was thinking I'd much rather have a day off and use it to take pictures for a photo blog challenge like the one themed outside the box - this month's theme is black and white. This guy on the phone certainly seemed a bit of a black and white kind of person. 

However with the orders pouring in, there was no thinking about taking time off. Just the opposite, I even went in on a Sunday to get everything done.

About a week later Quality Dad ordered. Not only did he order the rip-off notebook, he also went for the backpack, the backup hard drive, the wireless mouse, the pen, you name it. So I guess our deal wasn't too bad after all. Hahahaha!

(Speaking of backpacks, one Mom said she didn't like it and asked why there weren't any notebook cases, and could I please get one for her son? I might, but I am afraid she wouldn't like the zipper or the strap, so no...)

Photo Credit

Now these items come from different warehouses all over Europe, and Dell works with logistics partners, so this family got hit by a handful of deliveries over a couple of days, and Smart-Ass Dad called on my day off, so my coworker had to listen to his complaints about this logistical and ecological nightmare. 

Even though he was right, it is a nightmare (but for different reasons - don't get me started here) he should be happy he got everything he ordered, and he got everything in time. 

Delivery times for customized notebooks range from 7-14 days, which was stated in bold letters underneath every iteam on the webshop, and families who only just got back from vacation, called in a frenzy. Summer break is short around here, 

Colin went back to school this Monday, and the apprentices began their training as well. 

The ones who haven't received their goods yet, started to fire off nervous e-mails. 

A Mom called to tell me their notebook arrived. "Yay!" I said. "Nope" she went. "it's doa". She assured me that everything was plugged in properly. I asked hubby to deal with her. After the obvious (unplug, re-plug) he invited her to come to our office. She declined. "Too much traffic", she said. True. Friday late afternoon, not a good time. But then again, school started on Monday, and if we needed to initiate a warranty case,... Hubby suggested she dropped in tomorrow as he spends every Saturday at the office anyway. On Saturday he texted me "that notebook runs as smoothly as they come!?"

One Mom was totally taking the cake. She sent a rant message about late deliveries (geez, read, lady, read and do the math before you order! Ordering on 8/4 if school starts on 8/8 is not going to work out!), greedy big corporations that benefit from hard working people, and her poor son who was the only one who didn't bring a notebook on his first day of school. She wasn't happy with my answer explaining the process and giving her the conservative eta (8/18) so she called and told me she called Dell directly, and they said without an order number they couldn't help her, so she demanded the number from me... 

I felt bad for the boy. Not only was his start at the new school a bit rough, but he has to deal with his pushy Mom every day.

So I have roughly 7 more years to raise my sweet son to be able to look after himself once he graduates from high school. 

So far he's doing quite OK.

Remember his tooth incident and the LEGOs he wanted? It was a rare item that he wanted, and I told him I wasn't going to hunt for it at different stores on a Saturday, so he cold called toy stores in the area. "Hello, this is Colin Gerber speaking, I was wondering whether you carried the LEGO Speed Champion Ford Mustang?" 
"I wouldn''t know without an item number, sorry" the lame-a** sales assistant said. What is wrong with service providers??? 

He wasn't going to fold, though. "Hold on" he said. Ran to his room, got the LEGO catalog and told her the item number was 75871. Well done, and a well deserved gift, wouldn't you say?

Now go find out what my friends' words were, and what they did with them:                                                                                                  

Baking In A Tornado 

PS: This one just came in, I thought it was fitting...