Friday, August 15, 2008

None Of Us Is As Dumb As All Of Us

Of course, the title of this post is a reference to the Meetings poster from Despair Inc., but I only used it because Despair doesn't seem to have a poster up about Bureaucracy. And when Despair Inc. lets you down, who is there left to trust?


Ok, so I have this situation at work.

You see, I'm assigned to a program where we're using Oracle. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Oracle, it is a very high-end database system. It's also the market leader, and with good reason: it's got very good performance, and when configured properly, it's nearly bulletproof.

But: it's complicated. Oracle needs people with lots and lots of training to run it properly, to keep it tuned and well-managed. We didn't have any people on-hand with that level of expertise, so I and a co-worker got to be trained at my company's expense.

Incidentally, I suspect this is where Oracle makes most of their money. I mean, Oracle licenses are expensive, no doubt; but they just made Ten Grand off of the training that the two of us took! And those classes were just the basic Admin Part 1 and the basic Admin Part 2 classes; we haven't even done all the really fancy stuff yet. Oracle also offers classes specifically for backup and recovery; for performance tuning; for database design; for instruction in the PL/SQL language. It's a racket, I tell you; for a single person to take all these classes, would take several tens of thousands of dollars.

But I digress.

Well, I work for a very big company. And Oracle is a very big company. And big companies, in order to function, have to design "proper channels" for every bit of information, and for every dollar that changes hands, and for every operation. But these systems have one serious flaw:

They're designed by people.

And they're populated by people.

Ok, that's two serious flaws. The two serious flaws are that they're designed by people, populated by people, and there's no permanent way to delete bad information once it gets entered into the system.

Three. The three serious flaws are.... Ok, you get the point.

And when two big companies get together to try to do business, often the systems from one company and the systems from the other company are mutually anathema. One company says you must do X before you do Y; the other says you must do X after you do Y, and so you can't do either X or Y and both companies get mad at you. And then you explain the situation to your boss, who then calls the other guy's boss at the other company, and then they get into a big fight, and the problem never gets resolved until both companies break their rules just this once....

Well, the handling of the billing for these classes has officially gotten all fouled up.

You see, my company has issued each of its employees a corporate credit card, to be used anytime they have to spend money on company business--especially for travel-related expenses, but also for trips to the local computer store, and for training needs. After making the expenditures, the employee receives a bill; and then he files an expense report, which is approved and paid by the company.

In theory.

When all the planets are in the proper alignment.

But! In order to save money, my company has instituted this nifty cost-cutting measure: if you haven't used your card in the last year or so, your account gets deleted and you can't use the card anymore. If you then have new expenses, you have to apply for a new card.

So most of us are walking around with corporate credit cards that don't work.

Our boss told us, "Sign up for this class and put it on your corporate cards." We duly signed up for the class and put it on our cards. My co-worker, shortly thereafter, received a package of course materials; I did not.

After a week or so of waiting, I decided to call up Oracle to see what the trouble was.

My call was routed through Chile, of all places. My co-workers thought this was hilarious.

So after determining what the problem was, I contacted the correct point-of-contact within my company to get my card reinstated. Upon getting confirmation of this, I contacted Oracle again, and they were able to verify the account was active!

When my package of course materials showed up a few days later, they all joked about my "package from Chile" and wondered if I needed to keep it hidden from the Narcs.

Then the course started. And I was the only person on the roster with the words "Not Paid" next to my name.

What!?!?!?!? So I asked the helpful lady at the desk why it said I hadn't paid. She checked the online records, and those records said that I had paid, so I shouldn't worry about it.

Fine. So I took the class; and a wonderful class it was, I might add. Especially because it makes me more employable. And because my company paid for it. (Or so I thought....)

So a week or so later I got the bill from the credit card company. I opened it up, expecting to see a number vaguely resembling that on the printout I'd made when I signed up for the class--something just above five thousand dollars. (That's $3600 for each of two classes, minus a big chunk because of some discounts).

The actual number on my bill: $915.00.


So, I looked over all my records, checking to see where the nine-hundred and fifteen came from. That number was nowhere on any of my printouts, nowhere on any of my receipts. None of my expenditures were anything close to being evenly divisible by 915.

I have no idea where that number came from.

So of course, I'm very hesitant to fill out the expense report just yet. I want to make sure that I'm paying the right amount of money, so it doesn't come to haunt us later on. I mean, my employer would love to get over five thousand dollars worth of training for employees, while paying less than a fifth of that amount; but if we let it slide, eventually it will turn into a huge mess that will consume far, far more than the amount in dispute just in terms of the prorated salaries of the employees who are trying to resolve the situation.

But until it's resolved, I live in fear that the credit card legbreakers are going to be stalking my family. Although they are corporate cards, they are issued in the names of the employees, after all....

So it looks like I get to spend more time calling up women in Chile with lovely (if undecipherable) accents. (So it won't be a total waste, even if I can't get my case resolved....)



So what brought all of this up? Well, I was reminded of it today after my wife found this little tale at the site of a family friend. We thought it was very, very funny--but only because it's totally true.

1 comment:

Big Doofus said...

Part of your post reminded me of this...

NOBODY expects the Spanish Inquisition! Our chief weapon is surprise...surprise and fear...fear and surprise.... Our two weapons are fear and surprise...and ruthless efficiency.... Our *three* weapons are fear, surprise, and ruthless efficiency...and an almost fanatical devotion to the Pope.... Our *four* *Amongst* our weapons.... Amongst our weaponry...are such elements as fear, surprise.... I'll come in again.

I have a corporate card, too, and I'm the biggest money-spender in our company since I manage all of our trade shows. You'd laugh at how much money I've been able to expense on things like food and beer.