back to article BOFH: The Great HellDesk geek leave seek

"Well that would be on the form, surely?" the H.R. person burbles smugly over the phone. "It sort of is," the HellDesk user replies, "only it's hard to see because the characters are all blurred." "They'll be blurred because your browser doesn't support downloadable fonts," H.R. replies in a know-it-all tone. "What browser …

  1. Maverick

    Friday! back where it belongs, perfect

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Amen and upvote to that!

      Now if we could just get Dabbsy back in the right day too, we could all slack off nicely until beer o'clock...

  2. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

    This sounds horribly familiar

    Sounds like our old expenses system at work, which was so long and convoluted, and with so many approvals and sign-offs that getting expenses actually paid sometimes took 2-3 months.

    It only got "sorted out" when some of us started putting in expense claims for the interest on our personal credit cards that we had to use for funding the original expenditure (as we're obviously not trustworthy enough to have company cards...), as we weren't getting the money back in time to actually pay the things off on time.

    Our current system is a bit better (and somewhat quicker), but it's still going to be interesting to see if the beancounters realise how long filling in a claim takes, when done during worktime at the hourly rate I get paid ;)

    1. Locky

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      Ah, that's opex, beancounters only care about capex...

      1. Richard Jones 1

        Re: This sounds horribly familiar

        Its OPEX only until the bean counters in collaboration with satin decide that some staff costs should be capitalised because of the projects they are working on.

        And then the expense codes all have to be changed on the special Excel form someone in Outer Mongolia developed but the system throws a wobbly because staff costs and expenses should be OPEX not CAPEX. The staff cost centre has not been changed to a capitalised one as some staff still work on routine work. However, this problem only comes to light when the claim is stuck in the system having been approved via the wizzy system of pass the electronic parcel and the approvals cannot be unwound; because unwinding never happens its not been coded for...


        the £2,000 plus bill cannot be paid because the refund is delayed

        then the disciplinary hounds chase up the unpaid credit card bill.

        Oh yes, suddenly my lot decided that expenses were not worth the hassle so no one went anywhere, "xyz have a specialist team for doing that".

        Meanwhile hell is waiting to freeze over.

        It became clear that the company had lost the plot completely.

        I kept a record of how much extra annual pension I earned with each day at the office, it was the only way to keep sane.

        Then early retirement was never more welcome.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: This sounds horribly familiar

          "bean counters in collaboration with satin" (satin?)

          When I was in the Civil Service Satan was the Inland Revenue (or vice versa). There was always some, apparently new, IR regulation as to why this wasn't an allowable journey, even when the reasoning contradicted that given for disallowing the previous journey.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This sounds horribly familiar

        Reminds me why my IT budget was so much bigger when i managed to lease everything and pushed as much to OPEX as possible. spend spend spend. watch the Bean counters email so you can leave or arrange a mechanical failure in the lift or explicit emails from said bean counter to CFO before it gets Flagged.

    2. big_D Silver badge

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      Sounds like our old expenses system at work, which was so long and convoluted, and with so many approvals and sign-offs that getting expenses actually paid sometimes took 2-3 months.

      I was lucky, when I started work, it was same day.

      I had a credit card with a 250 quid limit (I was 19), I was working away for 12 weeks and each weeks hotel bill, including meals came to between 240 and 250 quid... So that meant rushing back from Plymouth to Southampton on a Friday afternoon, filling out the expenses, grabbing the cash and going to the back on Saturday, so that I could use the card again the next week!

      I tried getting the limit raised, but I hadn't had the card long enough, so I had to do the same dance every week!

      1. Rampant Spaniel

        Re: This sounds horribly familiar

        Amen. A certain UK cable company had an amusing process for reimbursement. You filed it the form online and v printed it (out also registered the claim in the payroll system pending verification). Then you photocopied your receipts. All sane so far. Then it had to be sent in a special 'expenses envelope' which we like the proverbial hens teeth. They rejected any requests in normal envelopes, they refused to send you envelopes and they shit entire housing estates worth of bricks when I got hold of an envelope and made duplicates on the colour copier. Amazing how quick they got me a stash of envelopes when I refused to buy anything myself.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: This sounds horribly familiar

          I once worked for a company that did credit cards; unfortunately they didn't have a specific "corporate card" product of their own (personal cards only) so refused to issue credit cards to anyone - everyone had to use their own for any expenses. However expense claims were only processed once a month and paid with normal pay packets the following month, so you could be paid up to 8 weeks after incurring the expense.

          This may have been fine for the senior management on 6 figure salaries, but when they had a project with large numbers of more junior staff having to travel away 2-3 times a week at zero notice (so more expensive train fares) and also stay away from home sometimes 3-4 nights a week, that meant they were asking some staff to wait all that time to be reimbursed more than their monthly pay came to. When I left, that company were losing staff at the rate of 2 every 3 weeks, out of a total staff of under 200.

          1. big_D Silver badge

            Re: This sounds horribly familiar

            Most of out employees don't have credit cards (credit card penetration in Germany is around 30%). That means that most employees can't even push the expenses out to the end of the month.

            But the company books the hotels and train tickets and they try to get as much as possible billed directly on invoice to the company. The employees also get a float to take with them for meals etc. whilst they are away.

            That said, the rules in Germany are very tight and you get around 24€ for meals per day (if you are away for 24 hours) between 8 and 24 hours it is only 12€.

        2. DiViDeD

          Re: This sounds horribly familiar

          You should try being a contractor for a bank which shall remain nameless (the one whose offices are all in the Citi).

          I wasn't entitled to a company credit card because I was a contractor, so I paid my own expenses and claimed them back. Only their expenses team could only reimburse Citi credit cards, so I got a Citi card. Only they could only reimburse if they had an employee number, which don't get issued to contractors....

          By the time they agreed that I could invoice the company for my expenses I'd racked up A$12,300 (about £1.47) in expenses and was getting nasty letters about paying my credit card bill from the same bank that was holding the money!

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      Our old one used to insist on a flaky ms release of java 1.4.

      Being Java developers, (on jdk 1.6 by this point) meant any updating of actual Java pissed it off.

    4. Warm Braw

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      At least homebrewed cock-ups can sometimes be "sorted out".

      I once worked for a well-known provider of transport services in a large metropolitan area, whose employee interactions were mediated by a popular (with boardrooms) brand of "Enterprise Software". In all the time I was there, I was never able to complete a timesheet because even the expensive third-party consultants that had been brought in to wrestle the system into a state of basic utility were shrugging their shoulders helplessly.

      I assume it's due to the amazing number of different ways you can render the message "The computer says no" in German that the suppliers had failed to translate so many of them into English.

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: This sounds horribly familiar

        I assume it's due to the amazing number of different ways you can render the message "The computer says no" in German that the suppliers had failed to translate so many of them into English

        I had a customer who had an ERP system (that we weren't responsible for), which came from Germany. On Christmas Eve they got an error message that was one word, about 40 characters long!

        The software company had closed for Christmas and nobody spoke German, so they tried the international operator, they couldn't help, but they then rang a German operator and they also couldn't make head nor tail of the word, but came up with a literal translation:

        The first character is after the last character of the file. The techs then managed to work out that it was complaining that the import file was empty (EOF).

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      The company I still work at (hopefully not much longer) uses AMEX as the company card. To apply for it though, it goes on your credit report/score. I used to use it all the time for one off things that would come up; car repairs, doctors, corrective lenses, what have you.

      I would always pay it and fill out the expense form in Oracle to reflect the personal expenditures.

      One guy in my group tried to do that an fucked it up for the rest of us.

      They called him to the carpet. He asked me to show him the correct way to do it. He then did it the correct way. They still called him to the carpet. He said he knew of other people doing it but they weren't getting in trouble.

      Next thing we know, they send out a memo saying that the cards can only be used for business purposes. I went on AMEX and canceled my card, shredded it heavily (almost to a plastic powder) and sent it in an evelope to the department that handles the corp credit cards with a note that said Fuck You.

      They are still trying to figure it out and they asked a bunch of us about it. Especially all of us that canceled our cards about the same time.

    6. Andy Davies

      Re: This sounds horribly familiar

      like filling in detailed timesheets - I always used to put down an hour or so as 'filling in timesheet' <g>

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That intranet system...

    Sounds terrifyingly similar to the one I have to support and develop for every day.

    Anon, in case it actually is the one I have to support and develop for every day.

  4. Terje

    This obviously can't be right! The bastard on the side of a helldesk drone!!! Sure there is the common enemy but still... Unless this is just a ploy to get the drone to take the blame for some blunt accident waiting to happen...

    1. Tom 35

      The enemy of my enemy is my friend.

      1. Anonymous Coward


        The enemy of my enemy is ALSO my enemy, but aliances can be fun to manipulate.

      2. Trygve Henriksen

        The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less.

        (The Seventy Maxims of Maximally Effective Mercenaries. Maxim 29...)

      3. ShadowDragon8685

        Maxim 29.

        The enemy of my enemy is my enemy's enemy. No more. No less.

        [e]Oh wow, ninja'd. Amusing to see how far Schlockians have penetrated, though.

        1. Myvekk

          Re: Maxim 29.

          I was about to add it as well...

    2. imanidiot Silver badge

      Know thy enemy. The BOFH is just doing some recon. Reminding himself WHY he has a seething hatred of Helldesk drones.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We used to have a time management tool like that. One day someone discovered they could divide activities into sub-tasks. He was bored, so booked sick leave as a series of activities like:

    lying in bed

    throwing up

    lying in bed

    rushing to bathroom


    Someone else couldn't get a straight answer from his boss about what to charge to a customer, so he booked half a day as "pissing about". That one didn't go down so well...

    1. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      icon says it all

    2. Number6

      I remember being invited into the project manager's office along with a few others to witness him calling the accounts department to tell them that if they didn't get their act together and stop delaying our purchase orders (usually a problem around the end of a month) then he'd be telling his team to book to the waiting time overhead number if the stuff we'd ordered didn't arrive.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ah, the move to an online HR system.. ours is that good that they don't even have the correct certificate to authenticate the site so you have to add an exception. We must have a cheap supplier.. A/L use to have to be authorised by a manager but soon got dropped to our call centre team to do.

    Yes the old system needed replacing, not by this though..

    1. Tom 38

      My employers moved from a hand rolled Lotus Notes DB for HR and someone handing out payslips for payroll, to an awful 3rd party software for HR and payroll is "in the cloud".

      The HR software requires IE 7 or 8. The Payroll site requires IE 9+. Neither of them work in anything else, and I use FreeBSD...

      Now that we don't have to maintain our own HR software.... we spend longer managing the updates that we pay the vendor for.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward





    I am suffering *_right_now_* the birth pangs of some oversold internal (anti)social networking that will "replace email" and make us "collaborative" and "more efficient", outsourced HR Helldesk and sundry other "gee whiz look at us being digital" niceties.

    Will the burbles never learn?

  8. Thunderbird 2

    Is this really the best you can do? With all the time since the last episode I was hoping for a longer, more worthwhile read. You do realise BOFH is addictive and we need our fix.

  9. Sarah Balfour

    Fer feck's sake Reg!

    Gerrit sor'ed! I had BOFH and Dabbsy bookmarked, and then they both vamoosed - was beginning to worry that Dabbsy'd been collared by GCHQ. I've now found him by accident twice, and I usually end up reading him about a week late.

    I don't take to change well. I don't take to owt well, as it goes.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Fer feck's sake Reg!

      RSS is your friend...

      Only this is between you and me, right? Coz El Reg are only going to cock it up if they realise this still works.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Has anyone

    Had a brush with Tibbr?

  11. Hairy Airey

    Oops Simon...

    If you are saying "proceedures" to someone you would need to explain where the two Es "together" are. See me after class...

  12. SteveK

    Cryptoanalysing BOFH

    I'm starting to think there's some sort of data encoded in the BOFH schedule - whether it appears on Friday or Saturday is clearly a binary state and then there's a variable number of weeks between episodes..

    Or perhaps something is just telling me that it is pub-o-clock.

  13. bed

    I had a company credit card too

    With which I could buy things from Amazon, or e-bay, or whatever but not travel, hotels or general day-to-day expenses etc., for which I had to use my own credit card then, at the end of the month, endure a java front end to 'orible financials, print out the resultant information and post via the internal mail somewhere to be processed (not approved, that was done electronically), the money arriving in my bank account some time later. The process must have made sense to someone.

    1. Mark 85

      Re: I had a company credit card too

      Chances are, that if you had visited the finance department, there would have staff and printers and copier and file cabinets. All the paper generated via the computer would have been printed, copied and stored because they couldn't comprehend that the info would stay on the server. OTOH, most of those offices would prefer to still use quill pens and candles for light. I think the spirit of Scrooge is taken literally as an operations handbook instead of the morality tale it is.

    2. Red Bren

      Re: I had a company credit card too

      > The process must have made sense to someone.

      It made sense to the beancounters who earned their annual bonus for demonstrating how much interest the company could earn by holding on to the money they owed for as long as legally possible.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I had a company credit card too

        >The process must have made sense to someone.

        It made sense to the beancounters who earned their annual bonus for demonstrating how much interest the company could earn by holding on to the money they owed for as long as legally possible.

        Exactly. Some years back, I coded financial tools for a well known accounting program in use then. While working on a special project for one client, I found out from their bean counter, during a beverage lunch and development consultation session, why you get your paychecks after 14:00 on Friday. It was specifically so they could earn the interest over the weekend.

        AC because they're still around and I'm still doing stuff for them.

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Re: I had a company credit card too

        No, the issue is that no bean counter expects to get fired for being too cautious, but they do know that if they let something through that shouldn't, however small, a bigger bean counter will be on their tail. S/he in turn knows that there are even bigger bean counters waiting for them to slip up, who know that there are............

    3. Anomalous Cowturd

      Re: I had a company credit card too

      My most blatant one was a receipt from Asda for a dozen Durex ribbed condoms, which I insisted were PPE.

      Questions were asked, but they couldn't argue with my logic...


      1. Cpt Blue Bear

        Re: I had a company credit card too

        "My most blatant one was a receipt from Asda for a dozen Durex ribbed condoms, which I insisted were PPE.

        Questions were asked, but they couldn't argue with my logic..."

        The Girlfriend once filed her boss's "entertaining" expense claim under "laptop servicing". Questions were indeed asked, referred to her boss, grudgingly paid and he was told not to bloody try on it again.

  14. sisk

    And THAT, boys and girls, is why the technology department should be involved in the purchase of any mission critical computerized system.

    I still smugly mutter "told you so" under my breath every time our HR people complain about the horrendously expensive system they chose to replace our aging in-house system for taking employment applications. Oh, and they did this without bothering to tell the in-house programmer that they'd tasked with creating a new one and giving me just enough time to get midway into the project. Wanna get permanently on my list? That's one real quick way.

  15. Alan Sharkey

    Opex vs Capex

    Ah, well I remember that when I had a computer budget, We had a limit on Capex, but not on Opex. Computers were Capex but accessories were not. So we used to buy diskless and memoryless PCs (we could get more of them that way) and buy the disks and memory to go in them off the Opex (limitless) budget. Everyone was happy apart from the beancounters

    Those were the days.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Opex vs Capex

      I'd be tempted to just buy the empty case as a capital expense.

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: Opex vs Capex

      And the auditors. Components are only opex if they replace an existing broken one.

      1. xchknfrmr

        Re: Opex vs Capex

        By definition an auditor is broken.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    well 'business logic"

    For a long time it was impossible using our (ex)companies travel system to book a hire car to the airport in the uk and then a hire car in the US for the business trip. Cos they were on the sane day and who would want two hire cars o the same day. Much wrangling and personal cc use was required.

    And yes you useless tossers at HP this was the least of your screwups

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: well 'business logic"

      You are Carly Fiorina and I claim my $100M

  17. Adrian Jones

    Sounds familiar

    A company I worked for had a leave booking system built in Lotus Notes (iirc). If you booked Friday to Monday off, it would take four days off your available leave.

    Reporting the bug didn't make any difference, of course.

    We soon discovered that putting Monday as the start date and the previous Friday as the end date gave us four extra days of available leave.

    Shortly after that the system was scrapped and we upgraded to drawing on a wall-planner.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trust me with a credit card, oh no.

    Asked to travel for work, check.

    Without a company credit card I needed cash.

    I was handed $30 000 dollars cash for a trip to Moscow and $17 000 dollars cash for a trip to Miami.

    So they trust me with $47 000 dollars cash and to do my job far away from home with little or no support.

    But give me a company credit card, no way, you're not senior enough says beancounter handing over the cash.

    I had the money to do the job and support myself so I wasn't that bothered, but if I'd got mugged on the way to Heathrow I wonder how the mugger would have responded to my request for a receipt?

    1. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: Trust me with a credit card, oh no.

      "you're not senior enough says beancounter handing over the cash.".

      That is the hierarchy system of accounting.

      It always irked me working for a local authority that I was on a "Casual User" car mileage allowance, while I had to travel in my own car every day.

      But senior council officers, who never needed to use their cars from one month to the next had an "essential users" allowance with a fixed monthly lump sum minimum payment.

  19. Dafyd Colquhoun

    The fun of a corporate card

    I've had a couple of corporate cards, both as a graduate engineer and as a senior engineer. The days as a graduate were a lot more fun: lots of travel, buying electronics etc. All good. One day-trip up north took a turn for the worse when we missed the last flight out of Rockhampton. Trying to find accommodation at short notice in Beef Week took considerable effort. I swear that most of the room in the establishment were rented by the hour (as happens when cashed up country boys arrive in town) ... Anyway, the only way to get home the following morning was business class on the first flight, which left before the corporate travel agent opened. We had surprisingly few restrictions on the corporate cards: no booking travel. The travel rules were: no domestic business class travel. So when the team leader said to us: book the business class flight on your card and we'll sort it out later I don't think he appreciated the quantum of faeces in the ventilation. It was all justified (compared to accommodation for another night and flying out the next day). The reaction of the guy in row 2 of the plane was priceless. He was a board member of an associated company (common shareholders), and was very interested to know why slightly smelly people in trade clothes were sitting in front of him.

    At another place the corporate card was a Diners. Biggest piece of shit I've ever used. Companies love it because the cardholder is jointly liable for expenses, so if the company refuses to pay the bill you're on the hook. The problem is that in rural areas nobody accepts the bloody thing, even petrol stations, so you need to have some spare $ on your personal card.

    Still beats the risk of using a personal card to buy stuff for the company and hope to get reimbursed. It was nice scoring the points for $20000 worth of GSM modems, but the boss wised up. When I went to spend $15000 on a new oscilloscope I was told that he'd pay for it through the company accounts since it was a capital purchase. When the scope was delivered it included the credit card receipt on the invoice which showed he'd paid with his personal card and scored the points. Out bastarded!

    1. Number6

      Re: The fun of a corporate card

      Some people may recognise this story - company gave out Visa cards to people who needed them, all was well. Company was acquired, cardholders told to trade in their Visa for an Amex as this was the preferred card of our new US owners. At least one of the staff read the Ts and Cs for Amex, realised that the cardholder was personally liable, unlike the corporate Visa, and pretty much everyone refused to agree to the new Ts and Cs and I believe a compromise was reached where they were allowed to continue with the Visa cards (I was a bystander, not travelling enough to need a company card). To add spice to the tale, I had arranged to meet someone from another company site at Amsterdam airport on the way to a client meeting, and he had a corporate Amex which, as it turned out, was not accepted at the airport train station back then (and still may not be) so ended up using his personal Visa to buy our tickets. Needless to say, this tale got reported back to our site too.

  20. geopsychic

    When did Simon move to the US?

    This describes our HR system perfectly.

  21. chivo243 Silver badge

    The Dashboard is coming

    So, this portal thing they speak of has been rebranded as the Dashboard... It will be landing in our organization anytime soon. A service hosted in another country. Nothing good will come of it. Just more glitzy stuff to distract the users...

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    By the way… Welcome Back, Simon.

    Thought I better throw this comment in, a Welcome Back, Simon.

    I've missed the articles and have been re-reading your back catalogue almost going back to the Striped Irregular Bucket articles. Needed a chuckle and a reminder of why I don't work for a big company. (The Daily WTF gives me a good insight into what really happens, and of course, the BOFH does what we'd all like to do in such situations.)

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Night shifts

    Where I worked previously we had operators running night shifts (including weekends) BUT the clocking in system only recognized 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday, so it counted them as not having worked at all.

    We had to dream up all sorts of kludges to get them accepted as having worked and get them time off in lieu.

  24. Ex-techie

    (Ab)use of the Corporate Amex

    I used to work for a large, UK based, Tier 1 provider of wet string. Said employer occasionally* didn't pay suppliers' bills on time and, unsurprisingly, was sometimes* blocked from placing new orders for tin until the previous backlog of 6 months of invoices was paid. A project was stalled because a supplier had implemented the aforementioned tin block and the customer was (understandably) getting uppity. Up steps one of the Sales Managers and orders £150k of server on his corporate Amex card.....

    Explaining the expenses claim to senior management, and getting it authorised, was a masterclass of cunning, NLP (or some such psych-babble bullsh1t) and the application of copious amounts of alcohol.


  25. TechicallyConfused
    Thumb Up

    Okay so. . . Hands up if your intranet/HR system bears a striking resemblance to this.

    I just thought it was our parochial life sucking, sanity stealing systems that made you want to die rather than try and book holiday.

  26. chivo243 Silver badge

    How does Pugsley apply here

    The photo sucks! Has no relationship to the story. Moderate this!

  27. ShortLegs

    Corporate card was needed... Global Crossing, who had a habit of forgetting to pay utility bills for switch sites, and consequently suffered from self-inflicted outages when the supply was disconnected. Cue senior managers paying utility bills on credit cards.

    I still have the Notice of Disconnection that was served at Connect House (PoP, NMC, Field Ops, etc) because the electricity bill hadn't been paid. And then the eviction notice as the rent hadn't been paid on a building we paid for, refurbished - and then Facilities sold without informing anyone.

    Still, at least the system was better than CSL, who used Psion Organisers to record and submit timesheets, with no logical connection between client tasks and internal task numbers. The Psion was nice, the in-house application was abysmal. A weeks worth of timesheets could be lost by pressing "save" instead of some arcane menu command, as "save" saved the application, not the data.

  28. ADC

    Does anyone know where the printer-friendly button has gone?

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Sounds so familiar...

    Was moved to an electronic HR system couple years ago, so instead of a certain number of days (fairly certain we only ever got as far as half days) we now have to do it in hours, except it works at a certain number of 7.5 hour days, but the math is so bad that even if you ONLY do whole days it takes about three bookings before your remaining total is something point 489125960 hours remaining or similar. Login is linked with network account system that enforces special characters, but the web UI fails on most special characters and locks your network account for you. Yep I've wanted solve the problem with a baseball bat before...

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