back to article BOFH: Cannot terminate PFY instance... ACCESS DENIED

"Have you seen this?" the PFY says, looking up from our revised contract document. "What?" I ask. "Did you realise there's a penalty clause in our contract for early termination? We have to give the company 2 YEARS notice of termination of contract?" "Sounds about right. It works both ways though - they have to give us the …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I would have laughed, but I've been on the other end of the spectrum with this. I was once on a contract which didn't have a dissolution clause clearly spelled out, and when the contract completed early the idiot HR manager thought that he had to fire me to get rid of me. Never mind the fact that said clause wasn't there because any contract can be terminated by mutual consent of both parties, which I had given - I still ended up with a firing on my record, which made it hard to get new contracts.

    The only thing about the situation that cheered me up was that his job became vacant a couple of months later. So of course, I applied for it.

    1. Lord Elpuss Silver badge

      Re: Ouch

      And did you get it?

    2. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Ouch

      I had a similar experience with the head of our HR when they were restructuring.

      I didn't get any managerial post in the main IT section (I was in a satellite unit serving just the music, graphics, printing and design units) because it emerged at interview that I "didn't have any SQL experience" and they were only prepared to offer me a 1st line tech post with a pay drop of £12k.

      Fast forward 12 months...

      I'm heading down the staircase at a tube station in the city of London. The former head of HR who fired me is heading up the same staircase...

      "How are you? Did you find a new post?"

      "Oh yes, at £10K more than I was on with you."

      "Oh good, so what is it doing?"

      "SQL data manager for a big-pharma research company. Took me a couple of weeks, but I managed to pick it up fine. You?"

      "Oh, I'm err... on my way to Caxton House."

      "Isn't that where the DSS are based? You have a job interview there, then?"

      "Erm... yeah, kind of."

      "Well. Nice seeing you." *grin*

  2. MrWibble
    Thumb Up

    ""They signed it! Although I do admit after you've read a contract that's been revised 47 times there's a fair chance you get clause-blind after a while and rely on the other party using tracked changes. When you really shouldn't.""

    My boss has a habit of only looking at tracked changes....

    1. Matthew 3

      Seen this one done too

      A former boss of mine was arguing with a customer for weeks over one particular paragraph in our firm's contract. In the end he agreed that he'd cut that paragraph out to get the business. Sadly he 'forgot' to remove it from the 'edited final version' of the contract he sent them.

      They signed it.

    2. Rosuav

      This is why you should use source control instead. Just 'git fetch' and 'git diff master origin/master' to see what's changed. There's no way that you can slip anything past that, so your other end would have to resort to burying the changes in legalese.

      Source control FTW.

      1. Amonynous

        Oldest trick in the book. Any semi-competent lawyer would never rely on tracked changes during the revision process. New draft arrives, all changes are accepted and the resulting document run through a specialist comparison tool (e.g. Workshare) to generate your own change mark up, can even deal with comparing multiple drafts of documents to track back to earlier revisions or to deal with multiple parties drafting changes simultaneously.

        1. Robert Grant Silver badge


          Hilarious that that's the sort of work lawyers have to do, or that it counts as work at all. Can't wait til we automate their jobs.

          1. Amonynous

            Re: @Amonynous

            The point is that they *have* automated that part of the 'work' since it is non-value adding. In ye olden days (WordPerfect 5.1 generally counts as ye olden days in law firm tech circles), you'd have been paying £££'s per hour for some assistant solicitor to slog through drafts red-lining all the changes that the other law firm had sent over. Any serious contract would go through multiple drafts (even dozens) so the bills quickly mounted up.

            These days, the job is done by someone in a back-office person in about 0.01 seconds using software. And they'll be working for low pay somewhere cheap, like Manila or Belfast, not in a shiny office in the City where all the Partners meet their clients. Nobody likes paying legal bills, and believe me that big clients are very good at beating up laywers on costs and ensuring they only pay for value-add work, not donkey work.

            1. Cameron Colley

              RE: Re: @Amonynous

              Not so sure the staff would be "somewhere cheap" in my experience the back office staff are situated in the same office buildings, or ones nearby, the fee earners. Staff who do that kind of work are generally secretaries or skilled document production personnel rather than someone hired on the cheap.

              Your basic premise is correct though -- the work is automated and isn't classed as lawyers' time.

      2. Colin Miller

        > This is why you should use source control instead. Just 'git fetch' and 'git diff master origin/master' to see what's changed.

        And does that work with the binary blob that is (old-format) MS-Word documents?

  3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson
    Thumb Up

    Nice one

    Extra points for messing up the legal eagles!

  4. Jad

    Phones 4 U ?

    We're getting a new phone contract for the company, with a credit for phones and calls ...

    You can tell that the IT department means so much to the company when they decide not to buy shiny phones and opt to buy us all Nokia C2's ...

    Apparently we're "all in the same boat", except of course for the fact that we have to set up everyone else's smart phones because they don't seem to be able to do it themselves, and we are obviously blind to the fact.

    I keep seeing "optional extras" (e.g. "Nokia WH-930 Purity HD Wired On-Ear Stereo Headset By Monster") for my C2 that I believe I might just have to purchase. Anyone got any better/more expensive options?

  5. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    There is another fun assumption floating around..

    .. some people really think that a PDF is immutable.

    First of all, most PDFs allow you to cut & paste the contents, so you could reproduce what's in it with some changes (in 30 years I have not come across a single digitally signed version, nor one where cut & paste was blocked) which saves you scaning and OCR-in it, but for years it has been possible to edit PDFs directly too.

    It is possible to block editing when you generate the document, but I have only ever come across 2 docs that were protected that way. Thus, the small investment in a PDF editor can pay off pretty quickly if you are of evil intent.

    Personally, I "always* read what I sign, and that includes reading T&Cs of online services. There is a simple rule with contracts of any kind: the first part giveth, the second part taketh away, especially if it's printed in 6 point light grey on white..

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: There is another fun assumption floating around..

      Ah, the digital equivalent of invisible ink!

    2. Reading Your E-mail

      Re: There is another fun assumption floating around..

      "It is possible to block editing when you generate the document, but I have only ever come across 2 docs that were protected that way."

      and those can be quickly removed with any number of PDF security removal tools, both online and offline versions :)

    3. Tim99 Silver badge

      Re: There is another fun assumption floating around..

      ".. some people really think that a PDF is immutable."

      *NIX command: pdfclean LockedFile.pdf UnlockedFile.pdf

    4. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: There is another fun assumption floating around..

      That's why its called Pointless Document Format - it does absolutely nothing it says on the tin!

    5. laird cummings
      Big Brother

      Re: There is another fun assumption floating around..

      I work as a publisher in Pharma - Document control *and* ensuring re-usability of content are big issues in my day-to-day life. Most major deliverables are presented in final form via PDF. Digital signatures are creeping in, but the validation process to demonstrate source integrity to various regulatory agencies is a copper-plated bitch, so those are usually reserved for high-urgency, high-consequences documents.

      The upshot is that subordinate ('Minor') PDF document versions are fairly open, but approved ('Major') PDF versions are locked up tighter than the sultan's seraglio. Those documents for which digital signatures are part of the validated process are locked up tighter than the sultan's vigin daughter.

  6. Lee Dowling

    Talking of contracts

    The school I work for just got one of the cheapest leased lines in the world, I think.

    We called round several places to get a leased line (finally, it's not just me that's sick of balancing unreliable ADSL connections) and got lots of quotes back. Some negotiation later, my bursar comes in laughing to himself. Managed to wangle a three-year contract with a Virgin reseller, somehow for less than the cost that Virgin were reselling for. Cue lots of shouting on the phone and very, very, very stressed employees the other end.

    Turns out, by the time the bursar was picking himself up off the floor of my office, he already had received a contract to those terms, signed it, sent it back, and got confirmation. And the termination clauses that said company had inserted were, shall we say, not biased to either party. It would probably cost them more than they would lose on the leased line to cancel, but only just, so we either get a hefty bundle of free cash to cover the entire length of the contract, or they have to supply us with a loss-making leased-line. Oh, and we got a free upgrade to the bandwidth because of some reason-or-other that means they'd have to supply an even-more expensive line than the loss-making one they were originally going to give us.

    We have an installation date near Christmas, too. Should be interesting. They are currently trying to pull the old "well, it's near Christmas and the equipment in your road needs an upgrade" line, but given that the Virgin Media installation guy who surveyed us said that - if it wasn't that he needed the reseller's information and permission - he could have had it in in about an hour with no work necessary, that's line is unlikely to wash. They're obviously stalling, but we don't mind. A clause in the contract states activation dates, etc. and that if they aren't met, we get paid for that too.

    I've seen that bursar almost reduce salesmen to tears in order to make a good price, and they usually end up regretting it, while we normally end up revelling in it.

    1. TRT Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Talking of contracts

      Better than the bursar being reduced to tears and having to keep taking the dried frog pills. Godd on yer!

      1. Lee Dowling

        Re: Talking of contracts

        It is true that, since reading Terry Pratchett as a child, I have been singularly unable to not use the word bursar without thinking of his characterisation of the position.

        It's very annoying when you're working in a school with one...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Talking of contracts


    2. Chris007

      Re: Talking of contracts

      Worked at a large pharma company back in 99 and they were just putting in ATM lines. one was supposed to be a 100mb VBR (short distance between 2 sites) - cost was supposed to be around £15k I think

      The BT account mgr rang up saying they'd made a mistake on the contract and although the price was showing as £15k they'd also put down a CBR service (cost £100k). Was roughly told "that's a shame, for you"

    3. Chloe Cresswell

      Re: Talking of contracts

      I had a client in a not-spot when surftime ended.

      He rang me, a BT rep had offered him a 512/512 leased line for £6K a year.

      I told him to take it. It took a year before we paid due to the large (1.5K a month) bills arriving.

      Finally we got a letter that basicly said "you're right, it was quoted at 6K, we'll therefore honour that. Please pay us the 6K. Also, the contract ends in 38 days. You can't renew it."

      But it was nice while it lasted! :)

    4. laird cummings
      Thumb Up

      Re: Talking of contracts

      One supposes the Bursar is high on the Headmaster's Christmas list...

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The times

    > You could install Windows Vista on every desktop

    Windows 8. Get with the times.

    1. ADJB

      Re: The times

      It's possible, though highly unlikely, that in some universe on some timeline Windows 8 will be a good operating system, we know that will never happen with Vista.

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: The times

        Has support for Vista now finished?

        1. Frumious Bandersnatch

          Re: The times

          Has support for Vista now finished?

          Of course not. Just do what everyone else here does and nip over to alt.sysadmin.recovery.

  8. Herby

    Be careful...

    ...In contract negotiations one must be very aware that the phrase "Be careful for what you ask for, you may just get it".

    Or as I remember it, in cross examination, or negotiations never ask a question that you don't already know the answer!

    Of course it goes without saying: Never really trust a lawyer!

    Especially your wife's divorce lawyer!

  9. Jean Stone

    Did anyone else see the title and go in thinking Simon was trying to get the PFY fired by 'forgetting' to mention that all the contract monkeying only applied to him personally?

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