back to article How do you call support when the telephones go TITSUP*?

A story with a difference from the On Call vaults today. Who do you call when the phones stop working? A Register reader reveals all. We're back in the 1990s for a tale from "Frank" (obviously not his name), who found himself dealing with a problem when all the phones in his company failed. Sure, it meant the On Call phone was …

  1. Wally Dug
    Big Brother


    I know someone who would set-up the divert function on a Friday night on her desk phone, and during the weekend, call her phone which diverted her call overseas. Obviously she was found out but she still worked for us so I expect it was more of knuckle rap than anything more severe.

    1. TonyJ

      Re: Divert

      What a strange thing to do. Other than costing the company money, why would she have done that?

      I worked at an insurance company where it was found out that some of the call handlers were calling a silent number to make them look busier than they were. Apparently if you rang it, it connected but as the name suggests was silent.

      1. Mikehhh

        Re: Divert

        Sounds like she would set her phone to divert to an overseas number, then that would allow her to make an overseas call by calling her own local number, and presumably only have to pay for a local rate phone call? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

      2. Wally Dug

        Re: Divert

        Yes, it cost the company money, but conversely she got "free" overseas calls to her family and these calls apparently lasted a good 2-3 hours. This was the early 90s when overseas calls could be quite expensive - especially ones lasting 2-3 hours!

        I never knew about the silent numbers, but a pretty sh!tty way to annoy your hard working colleagues...

        1. KarMann Silver badge

          Re: Divert

          To be fair, your colleagues will only be annoyed if they find out.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Reclaiming Private Call Costs

          I had the joy of managing a Count Council Tech Support team, when the PABX's came under my remit we were saddled with the process for reclaiming private call costs. This was an honesty based system which relied on the staff ember remembering to report it then one of the switchboard team would search for the call to that number and work out the call cost by hand.

          This cost 10X more than the cost of the call. I managed to automate the searching and tariff calculation and managed to reduce the cost of the process to the point where it only cost 3X the cost of the call. we had already barred premium rate and overseas calls for all but selected staff members and my own view was that if a team member was spending hours on the phone for personal calls than this was a disciplinary matter about 'theft of time' rather than an issue trying to recoup 45 pence for a long call to a local number.

          I was put under pressure to develop code to spot repeated calls to 'personal' numbers but I refused and cited the rare personal calls I would make to call home and tell my wife to put the kids to bed as I was working late.

          I pointed out that if they tried to charge me for that call I would just leave work, go home and put the lids to bed rathert than work late, again, and miss eeing them.

          1. ColinPa

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            We had an honesty box system. Every month a printout would come round, and for each phone there would be a list of external numbers etc which were direct dialled.

            For our phone, there was always about 10+ hours a month to a national number. Both me and my office mate(Martin) denied it.

            We phoned it ... and when someone replied, Martin said "oh hello Mum.. we were just checking the number, I hadn't realised it was your work number".

            1. Snake Silver badge

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              "We had an honesty box system. Every month a printout would come round, and for each phone there would be a list of external numbers etc which were direct dialled."

              Had that in one of my early jobs at the turn of the '80's, in an office that had around 12 people. I was the one responsible for processing the printouts and I absolutely resented the fact that [actually petty & micromanaging] management did this to the workers (as I had no reason to ever call out, being in accounting).

              Turns out that the other 'menial' workers felt exactly the same way.

              Which we 'notified' the company of when we quit en mass a number of months later.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            I worked in a university office in Edinburgh which had a fax machine. Ask the 'rents, kids.

            As was traditional there was a jotter beside it in which one wrote down number called, pages sent and, crucially, work or private. I had to send a renewal notice to my insurers for proof of NCB so I faxed it and, very honestly, wrote down the details in the jotter. Two pages including cover sheet, UK number.

            A month later I got a manually produced invoice for 4p. I decided to wait and see what happened.

            A month later I got a manually produced reminder. Still 4p.

            I sent them a cheque, for 4p.

            They paid it in.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              We had a charge limit of 5p, we would spend 50 pence working out that we were not going to charge for the call / fax. I think 1 in 50 charges were more than the 50p it cost to work out the charge.

              I did eventually manage to get agreement that people could fax 2 pages without reporting it but ever managed to get the call charges dropped.

              And yes they would accept a cheque for 5p at the point where the bank were charging us 20p per cheque for processing.

              Our internal costs for processing an invoice and payment by cheque were actually £1.17.

              The most frustrating part of this was that even though most of the resources required to process this bulllshit was funded by my budget I didn't even get the £1000 per year that was collected.

              1. Adrian 4

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                "The most frustrating part of this was that even though most of the resources required to process this bulllshit was funded by my budget I didn't even get the £1000 per year that was collected."

                Should have raised an internal invoice to the person that did, for the cost of £1.17 per invoice.

                Collected income £1,000

                Collection costs £23,400-

                Net £22,400-

                All too many penny-pinchers only do half of the cost/benefit analysis.

              2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                I've never worked for quite such a petty company, but every company I have worked for has had some kind of "keep personal calls to a minimum" mandate. I suppose the whole point of charging for everything rather than just calls over a certain cost is to keep sending that message - yes, you can make personal calls, but we are watching you.

                Having worked with some people who would take every advantage possible of company or co-worker largesse, I can see why spending £1.17 to recover 5p in costs could equally be seen as spending £1.17 to avoid 10x 50p in costs (plus quite probably the lost productivity as such calls are not always made at break time) which such people might have run up if they thought no-one was looking.


            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              A colleague was in S England on business, and had permission to stay in a hotel that was way outside normal expense rates because the ordinary hotels were full due to a local event.

              He submitted his expenses claim, on which was a 7p phone call. HR called him to query the large bill, but only asked if the call was personal or business.

              When he told them that it was a call home to let his family know he had arrived OK he was told that personal calls were not permitted and the 7p was deducted.

              We were working for BT at the time.

          3. AlexG_UK

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            My first real job was a long way from home (nearly 500 miles) and I missed my family so every few days I would walk down to the phone box and feed it lots coins to talk to my parents. The company's MD noticed me heading out quite often (it was only a small company .. 60 or so of us) and asked what I was doing. I told him it was a long distance personal call and didn't fell right using company phones to make it.

            So first up, he said it was perfectly reasonable to make personal calls from work and in my situation understood why I would feel the need to. He then went on to say, "anyway the cost in lost productivity from you walking down the road to the phone box, far outweighs the pennies your call is going to cost the company".

            1. Jou (Mxyzptlk) Silver badge

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              That reasonable type is too rare!

            2. GlenP Silver badge

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              Before people tended to have their own mobiles (and before free roaming) I always used to tell the users that they were welcome to make a call home on an evening, wherever they were in the world, but to keep it reasonable.

              The person who was phoning home 10-20 times a day from abroad was reported to their manager.

              1. Tom 7

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                I was approached by someone who wanted to know why I'd called NY on several occasions. I hadn't but the call times matched my lunch in the canteen times when generally the 5 or 6 of us in that office would be enjoying subsidised food and possibly Adnams on a Friday. (or <£4 bottles of Chateau Neuf de Pap if we were dining visitors). Nothing else came of it though I did learn that a chap in one of the nearby offices had a wife who spent a lot of time working away in NY.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              I once worked at a place where contractors couldn't make any outside calls. These were OK for employees because the cost of their personal calls could get deduced from their pay. Contract staff had to walk to the lobby and take their turn to use the one payphone. My hourly rate meant it must have cost the company at least 100 times the cost of a call to tell the wife I'd be late for the school run.

              The beancounters and management thought this arrangement was just fine. Costs were being seen to be carefully managed, KPIs were being met, etc.

          4. Terry 6 Silver badge

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            Over the years I met a number of beancounter types who'd happily spend £1 of the organisation's money to save 50p.It's a kind of mental balance sheet that accumulates the money saved, but ignores the money spent or time wasted as being part of ongoing expenditure.e.g. time consuming and complex low value car mileage forms that wasted far more expensive staff time than would be saved by preventing the odd couple of quid here or there. No normal claim was ever for more than 20 miles a week but the form could take about 30 minutes, which would have costed >£10 of staff time to complete, and then, theoretically have to be checked in all its stupid detail* by an admin.

            And not just money. I can think of a few where there would be significant time wasted accounting for the time used in precise and frankly often meaningless detail.

            *You couldn't just submit a claim for the daily round journey, or even a list of places visited, mostly within a half a mile of each other. Let alone submit your timetable of journeys on a claim form for a circuit that didn't often vary from one week to the next.You had to submit the milometer/tripmeter reading at the start and end of each stop. Then enter these into a table and add them up to show a total for each day's journeying. (In my case I automated it and stuck in a random mileage figure for the start of each day).

            1. Wally Dug

              Re: happily spend £1 of the organisation's money to save 50p

              I used to work for a bank and one time it was my turn to travel by train from Glasgow to Edinburgh, collect a cheque from Head Office, then return to Glasgow. As it was my first one of these trips, I was cornered by some of the other guys in the office - take your time in Edinburgh and don't rush back otherwise you'll spoil it for everyone.

              As it was a lovely sunny day, I had a nice wander in Princes Street Gardens eating an ice cream as I had just "missed" the next train back and the whole trip took about 3 hours or so.

              Alternatively, as the bank had an on-line real-time banking system, Head Office could have just credited a suspense account in our branch and we would have received the monies immediately...

            2. lglethal Silver badge

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              I once got a rather stern talking to from a HR manager, after they implemented a new system where you had to book your time to various projects in 15 minute intervals, when I asked for a project number for booking project numbers.

              The booking interval went back to only every hour 3 months later. My boss told me on the side, that another manager having heard what I had asked for, ordered his staff to calculate how much time they spent per week, doing their project controlling, and then went to Finance and demanded that amount of money be added to his departments budget. Realising that every department would soon be doing the same thing, and it would all come out of the Finance budget, they quickly reverted back to the old system.

              I never did get an apology from the HR manager, or a thank you from that other manager...

              1. PM from Hell

                booking time

                I was once asked to start booking time for my tech team in 6 minutes slots 'because that's what lawyers do' I had a chat with a friend who was a lawyer who confirmed that whilst in theory he did that in reality he worked in 30 minute intervals and that he also had a very nice PDA (when these things were new) with an app to allow it to happen.

                I 'enthusiastically' agreed with my boss that this was the way forward and talked to him about the efficiencies we'd have with the guys being able to just press a button to start / stop recording their time on projects then presented him with the proposal to buy and implement the PDA's, Server app and associated infrastructure and the cost of an administrator to manage it all.

                Unfortunately he turned it down so we carried on just 'making it up' at the end of the week before going to the pub.

                He din't realise we had stopped doing time sheets 2 years earlier, our admin team couldn't cope with a team where members might be working on 20 different projects in a week so we 'piloted' a weekly review / reporting process.

                1. Rob Daglish

                  Re: booking time

                  My first role out of school was as an IT apprentice in a form of accountants, and all the staff billed their time in those 6 minute increments to each customer lest anybody should be undercharged…

                  End of the first week, it was explained that I too should be doing these timesheets. So I did, and as I spent around 15 minutes filling it in, I duly added three increments of “Completing Timesheet”.

                  I was taken to one side by the owner, and told that this was not the done thing. He did stop me from doing timesheets though, so not all bad!

              2. keith_w

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                One company I worked for did project time accounting as well although, but had a project time booking number for time spent doing the project accounting work.

                1. Caver_Dave Silver badge

                  Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                  I have to account for the many projects I work on in 15 minute intervals, and write a weekly report for each project manager that I had either worked for the previous week (justifying the costs) or am going to work for on the next week (planning).

                  It takes me 45 minutes most weeks, which my line manager happily sign-off as a business expense.

              3. TomPhan

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                I've got 30 minutes booked as HR Activity every Friday to deal with filling out the not-a-timesheet.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                  I haven't used our leave booking system for twelve years. Nobody seems to have noticed.

              4. Snake Silver badge

                Re: project number for booking project numbers

                Utterly classic :-p The problem with all too many book-learned business graduates is that common sense isn't really all that common. Maybe if some analysis expertise is taught along with their business administration, they'd learn to look at both sides of a problem instead of their single one, that being simple profits.

              5. PerlyKing

                Re: Timesheets

                My current place not only wants us to book time in 15 minute increments so that they can "accurately" track what we've been up to, they also insist that we book the whole week's time by Thursday evening, and the month's time about a week before the end of the month. And we can book a maximum of eight hours a day.

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              I worked as a consultant travelling up to 1500 miles a week, it wasn't uncommon in the company, several of my more senior colleagues never used their company cars for personal mileage and had something more exotic for private use. One didn't keep an eye on his milometer reading and the small over estimation on several thousand journeys had added up to the point where the car milometer was 5000 miles less that his last expense claim.

              Even after using the car for personal mileage for a couple of months and a holiday he ended up driving up and down the a1 for day before returning the car with a 'reasonable' gap in the milometer reading

              1. Ken Shabby
                Big Brother

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                I always wondered why my old man used to get the garage to wind his 'clock' forwards during a service.

            4. A____B

              4 Yorkshire-men hit bean-counting!

              Several years ago, the place I worked at decided to stop "frivolous" travel by making it a requirement to get an "approval to travel" form before going, and a strict approvals process for expenses.

              Nothing unusual there - except the approval to travel form required FIVE sign offs - including a UK VP and a senior VP in the parent company's US office. Given the number of people working on customer sites, this must have occupied 2 very expensive managers, full time [unless of course they just rubber stamped it - but that would have undermined a critical business process and they wouldn't do that, would they?].

              This had to be done every week (they later relented to every 2 weeks), even if you were working at the same site on a long term contract.

              Expenses were similarly under heavy and costly examination. (Rough order of magnitude guess is ~£20 - £25 per approval/claim per person per week)

              I guess it was worthwhile - after all a Travelodge on a business park is such an appealing destination that it's no wonder people would fiddle the system to go there!!

              1. Tom 7

                Re: 4 Yorkshire-men hit bean-counting!

                I was at BTRL and at one point I could spend £5k and would have to explain it later. After privatisation the inundated the place with contract accountants and managers and after an interesting time where the cost of sending a tape to the US was over £20 and I couldn't get it sent to meet a deadline for chip manufacturing so a $300k project was several months late I started a bit of an investigation with the union and we worked out that BT was spending around £100 checking every £5 people spent. This was at the time they gave everyone a level above me a Mondeo whether they wanted or needed it. Many were left in the car park as they had far better machines at home and nowhere else to leave the Mondeo.

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: 4 Yorkshire-men hit bean-counting!

                A UK Governmental organisation I worked for issued an edict that air travel was forbidden as it could appear that we were "going on a jolly".

                We worked in the South-East of England, and one of our major contractors was based in the North-East - 45 minutes by 'plane from City Airport at a price of about £40 each way, or a whole working day's travel by train (with three changes) at a cost of £270 each way (they never booked ahead, so paid "full price" for the train tickets!).

                When it was necessary to send a team of people up there, I dread to think what the loss of productivity, the hotel bills, and the train fares cost.....

                Anon, natch!

                1. Not Yb Bronze badge

                  Re: 4 Yorkshire-men hit bean-counting!

                  Suspecting you worked for British Rail (or whatever it's called those days)

            5. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              When I had my first company car, I was told to add 10% on business mileage, due to inaccuracies of odometers* - wink wink, nudge nudge. So I did it for other company I worked for. My colleague and I lived fairly close together and commuted on a similar route. I lived closer, but did more business miles going to the same place - but he was warned about adding extra miles.

              * Years later, I found out it's true, thought I was making a little bit extra, but in fact was just breaking even....

            6. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              a kind of mental balance sheet that accumulates the money saved, but ignores the money spent or time wasted as being part of ongoing expenditure

              The thing is that these types often expect that you carry out such form-filling in your own time. After all, the plumber who fixes your boiler charges for parts and labour for the hours he spends in your airing cupboard, not an additional 30 mintues for invoicing.


              1. waldo kitty

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                After all, the plumber who fixes your boiler charges for parts and labour for the hours he spends in your airing cupboard, not an additional 30 mintues for invoicing.

                ahhh, but he does... you just don't notice the extra $$ or five built into the hourly rate specifically for invoicing time ;)

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                  Exactly, a one off charge for a one off task for one client has a total cost that encompasses all the time they spend within the rate they charge for the job. The admin time becomes part of the calculation of what they should charge for the job.

          5. Andy A

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            Allocated company mobiles, we were supposed to go through the itemised bill and reimburse the company for personal use.

            I've never been a big phone user, so a typical month would see my personal total at around £1.

            I never paid, reasoning that processing such payment would cost the company more than that.

            I did get a query when I went on holiday to Australia, because the total that month reached £20. I pointed out that it was more than offset by me fixing a problem for someone who rang me late in the evening while I was on the bus from my hotel to the airport in Singapore. Case closed.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              @Andy A

              You answered a work telephone call whilst you was on holiday? Why? And why did you take your work telephone on holiday with you?

              Sir, I think you need more beer, urgently

              1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

                Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

                Probably because, like me, personal use of a mobile phone is a tiny fraction of the work use, so it's not worth the cost of having a personal mobile phone.

          6. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            I once worked at an organization where I heard of one of the contractors, who had privileged access to the phone system and the block lists, set up his own premium rate number, and then called it from his desk phone for hours.

            Was not a big surprise that he was escorted off-site when the management found out.

          7. Filippo Silver badge

            Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

            There's some types that like that sort of stuff. Spend pounds to verify the correct allocation of pennies. Me, I can't fathom.

            In my block of flats, some units are served by a lift and some others aren't. We ran some math and figured that we'd split the power bill 90/10 between units with lift and units without lift (which still have lights).

            At the first meeting, one of the no-lift guys wanted separate power contracts for the two groups. The fixed cost alone of making a second power contract was something like eight times the energy bill of the no-lift group. Thankfully, he was voted down.

            1. rcxb1

              Re: Reclaiming Private Call Costs

              <blockquote>Spend pounds to verify the correct allocation of pennies. Me, I can't fathom.</blockquote>

              I can. It's only pennies when everyone is behaving. Knowing before-hand there will be a light shone on their activities does seem to keep dishonest people in-line.

              Occasional random audits and swift punishment seems like a good balance, except when it's an executive who gets caught...

      3. Evil Auditor Silver badge

        Re: Divert

        Same thing happened here recently among some client service staff of the national postal service. While working from home they phoned external numbers, presumably their own private phone, to avoid getting any calls, allegedly to avoid work.

      4. ShadowSystems

        At TonyJ...

        When a previous employer of mine found out that some of the staff whom were supposed to be returning client calls to update client records, update project information, or otherwise follow up on issues, were instead calling the "time lady" (the automatic "At the tone the time will be..." one from oh so long ago) & merely pretending to talk to clients, said employer quietly had us of the IT section "work some magic to put a stop to it".

        My manager gathered us in for a meeting to brainstorm potential fixes, which were written down & handed to the Legal department to make sure we weren't about to get the company sued. Legal put big green checks next to the Good Ideas, put a fat red highlighter through the Bad Ideas, & handed the list back. Manager took the Good Ideas & put them into a new list, ordered in "best first, worst last" for us peons to put into motion.

        Now, I'm dutifully putting one of the Good Ideas into practice like a good little minion when one of my coworkers gets it into his head that we were wasting time implimenting "all the stupid shit" and that he would "fix it once & for all". Thankfully he didn't bother to tell anyone of his plans first, otherwise the eventual shit storm would have been much worse.

        I finished my item, the manager signed off on it, & I got to go home for the weekend. Since I wasn't in the On Call que for it, I didn't hear about said shit storm until I returned on Monday.

        It turned out that my oh-so-brilliant (and now EX) coworker had jiggered our PBX to: 1) Log the date, time, & extension of any employee that called the time lady; 2) played to said employee the "This number is out of service. If you feel you have reached this recording in error, please call..."; 3) run a script to call said employee's home number after the close of the business day, every. sixty. seconds. until about 5 minutes before the open of business the next morning.

        I was rather glad I hadn't been among the ones that called that number, I probably would have joined the angry howling mob coming for said ex coworker's head. I was, however, the poor minion whom had to make *very* sure said "fix" had been purged from the system & could *never* happen again.

        We later learned that said ex coworker had been handed over to the police for causing what we would now call a DDOS of the employees' home phone service.

        Moral of the story: Don't do something mind-numbingly stupid on a Friday that requires the Legal department to come in on their day off to cover the corporate's ass. You will NOT enjoy the consequences.

      5. MrReynolds2U

        Re: Divert

        I've had staff call the talking clock, their mobiles and repeatedly call numbers with IVR systems so they could bump up their call times. This only became clear when supervisors actually bothered listening in and checking when numbers were called repeatedly.

        1. adam 40 Silver badge

          Re: Divert

          Don't diss that stuff, back in the '90's audiotext was a big thing and I wrote software for a company providing the equipment for premium rate services such as "Telephone Jukebox" where you could listen to singles over the phone. And more juicy content (ahem!).

          Turned out most of the call volume was during 9-5 when bored office workers wanted some respite.

          So - it paid my wages.

      6. Marty McFly Silver badge

        Re: Divert

        Very common in Inside Sales. We had to screen out all the phone numbers from the Sales Rep's territory which went to movie theater lines. Then we knew the actual volume of outbound calls they generated.

    2. jollyboyspecial

      Re: Divert

      I've had that issue much more recently. A company with an IP phone system contacted me over their bills. They were being billed for a lot of overseas calls. When I checked the CDRs I found that all the calls were from one number to a number in Dubai.

      So I checked the setup on the particular extension that was making the calls sure enough it had a forward set at the handset level to a Dubai number. The interesting thing was I could see no outgoing calls from that number other than the forwards suggesting that the phone was not in use. So I asked the company who that extension belonged to. "You must be wrong" says the customer "that's Bob's phone and he can't be making any calls. He's seconded to another branch at the moment."

      You can guess what came next can't you? The branch in question was in Dubai and the number the calls were forwarded to was Bob's phone in the Dubai office. Bob's email signature had his UK number on it so he decided it was easier to forward his phone than get his email signature changed.

      The problem for the company was that they took their UK phone system from a provider in the UK and their Dubai system from a provider in Dubai. So the calls from the UK broke out onto the POTS network in the UK and were therefore billed at international rates. And the best bit? A lot of the calls being forwarded were originating in Dubai and many were made by Bob's colleagues in Dubai. So the company was being billed for two international calls for a call being made locally in the Dubai office.

      Needless to say Bob was not very popular with his management.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Divert

        To be fair to Bob, he was just a bit clueless - he wasn't trying to deliberately defraud anyone

    3. AW-S

      Re: Divert

      This was a popular scam by some employees - divert their landline DDI to a family/friend number in a high cost overseas location. On a BT Monarch based PBX *21* had to be entered on the handset itself - so one diverted number per weekend.

      On some Mitel SX2000s you could call your voicemail from outside and change the forwarding on the fly. So calls to all your family and friends overseas.

      There were really only a couple of countries that showed up on the call logger and this was almost expected behaviour by some groups of employees, I'm sorry to say.

      Not such a problem now, as every site I manage now has UK premium rate/DQ blocked and overseas calls with a certain > per minute charge blocked too.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Divert

        "every site I manage now has UK premium rate/DQ blocked and overseas calls with a certain > per minute charge blocked too."

        You sound like the sort of guy who objects to splitting a restaurant bill equally because you didn't have a starter.

        1. AW-S

          Re: Divert

          Nice try.

          I warn my clients against allowing 118nnn call-though charges - and we therefore block the entire range. That means that everyone pays the same for DQ.

          With respect to your attempt at humour, I'm always happy to split the bill equally (rather than going dutch), even though I don't drink alcohol or have a third course. Being vegetarian also means I cost a lot less than most meat/fish eaters too.

          I'll give you a thumbs up because you reminded my of the "Who Dares Wins" sketch about splitting the bill. It's here @ 41:40 - and that was funny.


        2. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

          Re: Divert

          Oh, hello Karen.

          "the sort of guy who objects to splitting a restaurant bill equally"

          A perfectly normal one?

          No-one wants to pay for your meal. There are two types of people: those who will refuse to your face, and those who will complain about you afterwards.

      2. Manx Cat

        Re: Divert

        Upvote for the Monarch - that is a LONG time ago!

    4. DS999 Silver badge

      She should have diverted another phone

      If she'd found a phone in an unoccupied room, or a phone that would likely not ever be used to receive calls, she wouldn't have been found out the people being called were her family.

    5. G.Y.

      Re: Divert

      I was at a company where this was set up by the company, so we could call during main office. business hours -- which were our evenings.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Cost savings

    Back in the dim and distance past, I was IT support for a company that provided services for Oil Companies with offices around the world.

    Most of them we quite small with less than a dozen or so people. We tended to use small Phillips PBXs for them, wonderful things.

    One place in Africa had HUGE phone bill, even more than we were expecting, so I came up with a plan...

    Everyone would have a PIN code that would report back the use of each code AND set the guard hut up with local calls only.

    I never did get the reporting system to work properly, it was too flaky to be reliable, BUT just saying that the call billing would be logged to your pin and restricting the calls worked, and the costs dropped to about a 1/3 of what they were, and the first month savings paid for the ticket and time to do the work...

    Turns out because the guards previously had unrestricted calls, they would supplement their meagre income by selling international calls.

    1. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Cost savings

      So how did the Guards start supplementing there income after the calls where restricted? Stuff started walking out the door after hours perhaps?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Cost savings

        Possibly, but not from our budget :D, so not our problem...

        1. yetanotheraoc Silver badge

          Re: Cost savings

          Right up until they make off with the PBX.

  3. Stuart Castle Silver badge

    A few years ago, I got called to see my boss. Apparently, the switchboard had notified him that I had made a *lot* of calls to india, which were very expensive. Can't remember the exact details, but there where hundreds of pounds worth of calls made from my desk phone.

    I was called to explain this. I explained I did not make personal calls on my office phone (I have a mobile for this), and that I did not know anyone in India. While I did have international calls enabled on my desk phone (by default, international calls were disabled on the company phones), this was purely so I could deal with some of our US based suppliers. I did not call any other country, and only called the suppliers on rare occasions. He didn't really believe me so I asked if he could give me a print out of my previous calls, so I could look into it.

    He did, but had to request it from the Switchboard, so it took a couple of days.

    When I got the print out, I spent about 5 minutes going through it before I noticed something odd. All of the non US international calls were made when the building was closed. While I often used to work late, even if I'd have wanted to, I wouldn't have been allowed in the building when it was closed. The only people allowed in were the security and cleaning staff, so I highlighted all the calls made while the building was closed, and took the printout back to my boss. He apologised, and said he would deal with it.

    Never heard any more, but I did notice that a security guard I had considered a bit of a friend vanished after that date, so I suspect it was him.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Have heard of something similar...

      A cleaner worked out that managers had international call access, so had started by calling home... and, because the manager had 2 phones, then progressed to acting as an 'exchange' for friends and family using the old skool method of simply holding the 2 handsets together

    2. General Purpose

      Ah yes, now I remember the time the mysterious billing for international calls was solved by finding the cleaner's address book beside a manager's phone.

    3. Timo

      This brings back memories

      At my workplace around the same era, we noticed that the cleaners were really adept at knowing which phones had international dialing capabilities.

      1. adam 40 Silver badge

        Re: This brings back memories

        One office I was at the cleaners were very efficient at removing any biros from the desks, and pads of postit notes etc.

        Of course you then had to go to the stationery cupboard and get some more, and the cycle repeated.

        The whole office never had a biro less than 95% full, on average you'd expect it to be 50%.

        Annoyed at having to go to the stationery cupboard almost daily, I went to the lab and applied the heat gun to the biros, bending them at funny angles. The cleaners seemed to lose an interest after that...

  4. Hans Neeson-Bumpsadese Silver badge

    At my first ever job, the office had recently got a newfangled telephone system, where you could set up your phone to forward calls to another extension. One day, someone in the office wondered..."If I set up my phone to divert calls to you, you set up your phone to divert calls to Bob, and Bob sets up his phone to to divert calls to me....then Alice tries to call me...I wonder what would happen?"

    The answer turns out that it would break the PABX for the entire building, resulting in an expensive call-out for an engineer.

    1. Ian Johnston Silver badge

      In Ye Olde Days I used to while away boring evenings by dialling 031 ... 041 ... 031 ... 041 ... 031 to see how many it took to tie up all the lines between Glasgow and Edinburgh and get "number unobtainable". The answers was "surprisingly few". Generally between 12 and 20.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Some colleagues of mine did something similar on a plane that had phones. It turns out the answer there was 4.

      2. Potty Professor

        Local Calls?

        When I was at college in Rugby, shortly after STD was introduced, a friend of mine, who lived near Oxford, worked out that it was cheaper to call home by dialling a series of local numbers than going direct using the STD codes. Thus he dialled 96 to get to Coverntry exchange, then 94 to get from Cov to Warwick, then 97 to get to Banbury, then another code to get to Oxford, followed by his parents' local number. The only trouble was, because the local lines weren't amplified, they would have to shout into their respective handsets to be heard at the other end. Never tried it myself, I used to dial my parents on STD, let it ring twice, then hang up. My Mum would then, expecting it was from me, ring me back so that they paid for the call.

        Many years later, when I was a delivery driver for a local pharmacy, I carried two mobile phones, my own was connected to the hands-free in the van, and the works phone incoming calls were diverted to my own mobile, so if anyone called the works van phone number while I was driving, mine rang and was picked up hands free, but if I wanted to ring the shop or a customer (to determine if they could accept a delivery), I would make the outgoing call on the works van phone whilst stationary. Of course, I cancelled the Call Forwarding when I was not on duty driving the van.

        1. david 12 Silver badge

          Re: Local Calls?

          In the USA, telephone trunk lines typically ran alongside railway trunk lines, and (originally) connected a series of independent telephone companies. Long distance calls were routed on standard routes (the same way railway box cars would be routed) and charged standard rates (the same way railway box cars would be charged), with the standard charge collected at the start and distributed among the independent rail / phone operators.

          Come Christmas, when the long distance lines were all busy with people making family calls, my ancestor, a shipping manager who knew every railway siding in the USA, with gross disregard for the charging errors, would call his brother on the other side of the USA by working his way from one operator to the next by instructing them to divert along little-used local connections following little-used local railway routes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Local Calls?

            When I worked for the Big Broadcasting Concern in London, we were allowed to make local personal calls free. We had a national "internal" engineering exchange system, so it was a fairly simple hack to interconnect the EMX to the office PBX phone system in each building around the country. It was then just a question of using the "special" extension in each building to route calls around the country!

            Anon 'cos it was a bit naughty!

            1. AlbertH

              Re: Local Calls?

              The one that was really amusing was back in the '80s, when I set up a "Call Diverter" across two phone lines in a Vicar's Frocks Shop ("Clerical Garb" Shop) in Surrey, and diverted the incoming calls to our naughty broadcasting studio in Dulwich. The Diverter was operated by a timeswitch so that it only worked at night, and so, on the air at night, "Bedside Radio" gave out the shop's phone number as our "Call-In" number!

              There were two side effects of this:

              During the business day, the Mother of one of our DJs worked at the shop, so fielded any Radio Station calls she received....

              ....and, better yet, the "Radio regulatory Authorities" (and the Police) raided the Clerical Garb Outlet looking for our pirate studio!

    2. Coastal cutie

      Have a Friday beer (or beverage of choice) for making me laugh out loud with that one

    3. swm

      At a local university it was possible to forward voice mail. So some student forwarded a message to another student who forwarded it to another student etc. Eventually the message was hours long. You couldn't delete it without listening to the whole thing.

      They finally had to get a master password to delete the entire thing.

  5. jollyboyspecial

    A setup like that must have been ancient even in the nineties, as such I can't believe the issue had never occurred before.

    1. tin 2

      Or brand spanking new. I used to deal with early Cisco callmanager stuff that couldn't do a lot of what long discontinued PABXs could handle fine.

      It was like some dudes had just hacked together some code that was a bit like a PABX, bigged it up massively, and then sold the company to Cisco to handle the fallout.

      Also time critical shizz on windows 2000? Do me a favour!

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Oh man, you're giving me flashbacks :(

  6. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Beancounters not on the job

    So the printouts only handled the first 100 phones installed (or whatever) and the beancounters never noticed that the invoice from the phone company was more than what they had records for ?

    How did they explain away the difference ?

    Sloppy job, there. Very sloppy.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Beancounters not on the job

      You assume that there was some procedure in place to actually look at the printout.

      I've worked in places where they would have had formal, documented procedures to retrieve and file the printout religiously each week, but probably not to act on it.

      Actually....I can think of one place that probably would have had a procedure to take the printout, make a photocopy of it, and then file both

      (yes, I used to do quite a bit of contract work for local government departments)

      1. eionmac

        Re: Beancounters not on the job

        One paper filled locally, photocopy sent to HQ by post.To ensure records survive a local fire.

        1. gotes

          Re: Beancounters not on the job

          One paper filled locally, photocopy sent to HQ by post.To ensure records survive a local fire.

          In theory.

          1. Rob Daglish

            Re: Beancounters not on the job

            Looks like we’re going to need a bigger fire…

  7. GlenP Silver badge


    Back at around that time, when Premium Rate meant calls made before 1pm, the Head Beancounter used to come round every month with the call log printout requiring an explanation for any calls made during the morning. I'm sure the time spent doing this cost far more than any saving in bills.

    When we moved premises and I specified the new Nortel phone system it was "too expensive" to include call logging!

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "...during which time those used to having handsets welded to the side of their heads had to find other ways of looking important (doubtless via the clunky mobile telephones of the day)..."

    I've often wondered how office staff would continue to look busy nowadays if their computers weren't working!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      How to look busy when the computers aren't working

      It's easy. You constantly bug IT to ask them when the computers will be working again.

      1. gotes

        Re: How to look busy when the computers aren't working

        If you're a senior manager you drag the whole IT department into an hour long meeting to figure out when it will be fixed.

    2. sandman

      Easy, go old skool by walking around carrying a bunch of paper. Bonus exercise too.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Terry 6 Silver badge

        Reply Icon

        Oh my God Yes. Back in the, late 70s it must have been (The Manchester Woolworth's fire was just across the way while I was there).

        I'd a taken on job after Uni working for a catalogue company. Filing nasty bits of paper into tightly packed plastic wallets. It was pretty clear from these what would happen, since the wallets would start reasonably in order, then quickly become less so. Then ordered again. But each cycle was a new bunch of clerks. The company didn't want to invest money in a decent filing system- or even adequate filing space that would have made the job less physically painful (the wallets cut our fingers to shreds).

        So, when I'd had enough of this I first started making a giant ball of rubber bands, then went on to organising competitions for flicking them over the top of the manager's door into his little office.

        And finally, having been sent to do an errand one day and realising that I could wander round the building for hours by holding a big envelope, neither being questioned nor missed, I did that until the day we were all taken down to Personnel* and dismissed.

        *HR was a distant future.

  9. Amentheist

    (he did not elaborate)

    "Flaw in the system"

    Great touch

  10. Bobbins

    I used to work for a very large, well known multi-national who was rather proud of it's own in-house global telephone network. You could dial any extension, anywhere in the world, from any other extension.

    In the UK all of the company mobile phones were on one of the big networks of the day (with a name derived from VOice/DAta PHONEs). The company had a deal with them so that by dialling a 5 digit access code, the mobile phone was connected directly to the company network where you could then dial any extension.

    Us technical types realised that once the mobile phone was connected into the company network by using the 5 digit access code, you could also dial 9 for an outside line - and then dial any number anywhere in the world! The outgoing call was logged against the company switchboard and was effectively untraceable back to the mobile. Even better, the 5 digit access code worked from any mobile phone on the network - not just company phones but personal ones too!

    This loophole in the system was eventually closed, but it took the best part of a year. In the meantime some of my colleagues regularly had some nice long chats to their emigrated siblings....

    1. Amentheist

      Untraceable? Surely the different stages of the calls would be in the CDRs? Pretty neat though.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Of course they were, but they were never recorded/logged.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      I did something similar with a Big Computer Company's phone system. At company I worked at, tech staff were not allowed to make international phone calls. Which caused lots of hassle for the project were were doing with BCC's people in Silicon Valley. The solution was to call the local office of BCC, have a pretend business conversation with someone about a non-existent support issue and then ask them to forward the call to extension 123456. A project member in the bay area would then pick up the call.

    3. G7mzh

      I know someone who used to work for a large public sector employer. As he was part of the "on call" staff, his mobile could be reached by dialling an internal number - which was also reachable by DDI from outside. Those in the know could thus call his mobile by making a local call.

      In theory, these calls were logged and the employees billed for any personal calls, though it had never been known to happen.

      He has since retired, and had the mobile number transferred to his own PAYG account. The company was privatised and changed ownership twice. Over ten years later, the short code still works.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        The same thing happened to my mobile number when I left my previous employer!

        I still occasionally get support calls (even after 6 years) from people there who are using a Very Old phone directory. I tell them to try calling the official number - though I am tempted to tell them to try washing their laptop with nice warm, soapy water to get rid of the 'virus' ...

    4. John 48

      I recall a tale from the first place I worked back in the 90s. Engineers would from time to time phone the local sports club to book squash courts. The beancounters got wind of this and had a call block put on the number.

      However the company was one with a myriad of offices and partners all round the world with a tightly integrated phone system, and the beancounters were obviously not used to dealing with a lab full of very tech savy engineers, who soon worked out that even on the most restricted extension you could dial another office switchboard, and from there hop to another and another. So it did not take long for them to come up with a route that would get them back to the sports club. The only downside was the 26 digit number they had to dial.

      Needless to say the long number stood out on call reports like a sore thumb! The beancounter went on the warpath to complain to the teams engineering manager, demanding that he tell them off and stop them doing it again. To his credit, the manager told the beancounter that he thought their solution was brilliant, and he would do no such thing! He said in fact he would go and congratulate them, since it displayed exactly the right kind of inventive problem solving skills that the company needed.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Let me guess, that beancounter's telephone was also blocked from making and receiving external calls as those weren't necessary for his job. Don't piss off engineers.

    5. swm

      Reminds me of the time at MIT when someone left the door open to the local on-campus exchange. A student wandered in and added some jumpers so anyone on an MIT extension could get access to the IBM network. Many students took advantage of this by getting on the IBM network, going to a city of interest, and dialing* a friend's number.

      Took about a month before this was discovered.

      *Yes, this was in the era of real dial telephones.

  11. AnotherName

    Remote access internet

    Many years ago the company I worked for was putting in a call centre system for travel company based at a London rail terminus. While there I met up with their IT guy, who happened be someone I knew from previous employment. He showed me to the call centre in another building and I started work. After a while I needed some data from him, and decided to save time and pick it up from his PC over the network rather than bother him. Once I got into his PC to look for the file I needed I found a rather large (for the time - 1990's dial-up access) porn stash. He had apparently set his office phone up so that he could call it and get it to dial back to his home from where he would surf the internet on the company connection and dump the files on his work PC at no cost to himself. I don't know if he ever got caught as I only dealt with the call centre staff after the initial visit.

  12. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

    My first job

    We had a spiffy computerised PBX (it used the company's computer...which is why we had this brand of PBX). Outside calls required an 5-digit access number. Depending on your privileges, you could call local or long distance. But every call was logged. I did a little back-of-the-napkin calculation and figured that the number of people in the company, divided into 99999, came out to around 20. So...I started trying other access codes. Sure enough, I hit one within 20 tries.

    Not that I'd ever misuse this knowledge. But someone did, because the access code was changed to 6 digits, shortly afterwards.

    Then, there was the time at uni, when I worked in an office. We had the old multiline phones with the row of line buttons along the bottom. One of the lines had outgoing WATS (free long distance calling), the other two were restricted to on-campus local calls. Some phones had the extra line, mine didn't. I found my way into the wiring closet and added (but did not label) the WATS line onto my phone.

    // buttset in the pocket

    1. david 12 Silver badge

      Re: My first job

      WATS, -- Wide Area Telephone Service -- was the name and brand given to the service that permitted free/local incoming calls. It allowed your friends/ customers to call you for free / local.

      "Free" because in the USA, local calls were free (included in the subscription, base rate). Only "long distance" calls were charged. (Although the "local" area was not large).

  13. Andy A

    I have flashbacks..

    Reminds me of the time our PBX lost its links to the world around 11 am on the Friday at the lead-in to a bank holiday weekend. Officially not our responsibility, and I was being collected by the rest of the family at lunchtime, but as site IT bod it fell to me to get the right BT department to respond.

    Had to spend the 100-mile trip on the phone, making sure that the people attending would have the right security clearance, giving their names to site security (who luckily had an "emergency" POTS line), getting them escorted to the PBX, chasing up progress...

    It was well after 5 when the system was back up, but there were brownie points galore when I returned on Tuesday. In the meantime, several of these were consumed ----->

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Free international calls

    One of my first jobs out of Uni was installing some custom CTI software on site in Europe. As it happened, I had the admin details for both the production and the test/backup ACDs (no mere PABX, you'll note). I also knew that the test/backup ACD had no call blocking or logging enabled.

    I might have occasionally made after-hours use of this to call my girlfriend back in the UK...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Free international calls

      Pre-WWW, for a customer accessible server for reporting problems and delivering testcases, we had dial-up modem, Internet, direct leased line (available at a price for certain customers), and ISDN dial up.

      While outgoing calls on the modem phone lines were traced, we never did find out who in the company paid for any call charges on the ISDN line. This made it possible to use the ISDN voice channel for outbound calls without any tracking by the company phone system, or charges for calls.

      I did not use it that much, but it was useful for avoiding being tracked when having phone interviews just before I left the company!

      As this was also before always-on home data services (ADSL and the like), I did also use the dial-in modem lines with a call-back SLIP service to access the company systems without my home phone line being charged for more than the initial call triggering the call-back. But that was sanctioned for the out-of-hours support people, and I was responsible for setting it up, as well as being on the on-call rota myself.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Dave@Home

        Re: Free international calls

        Reminds me of a period in the early 2000's when onsite as a group of subcontractors at RBS in Dundas St.

        In the testing lab they had a nice mainframe type box, which had a secondary ISDN data line for remote support. We figured it was a test box, we'd know when IBM needed to connect, so why not.

        Many an afternoon spent on a MUD a colleague had on his home box, while we waited for build scripts to finish.

  15. Red Ted

    PABX flaws

    A colleague at one place I worked in the mid '90s managed to trip and hit their head on the corner of the desk. It wasn't too serious, but being a head wound bled profusely. So someone tried to call for an ambulance, and discovered that the PABX wouldn't let you dial 999, or any variations on that!

    Fortunately someone had a mobile so they were summoned that way.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: PABX flaws

      That's pretty crazy, we had it too when provisioning customers if certain defaults were omitted on the SBC config. You'd be surprised how quickly BT would get in touch if a customer dialled 999 and the address info on the DDI wasn't available in Calypso. If only BT had such responsiveness in other parts of their org

  16. TDog

    NHS Trust fund

    Our community NHS service shared a building with the district health authority - which meant that when we became a trust we had to allocate the phones to either us or them. The lass doing it did a marvelous job and had sorted out about 1000 but couldn't identify 3 lines. She asked me if I could help as BT, as one would expect, couldn't.

    So I said "ring them - I'll do it". First two were faxes but probably didn't cost more than £100 per year on a 24 million pound budget. Executive decision made by me - ignore them - it's not worth worrying about.

    Last phone call went to the Director of Public Health (i.e. top medical bod in the district hierarchy). I recognised his voice but he didn't mine. He was very scared. I rapidly expained that this was an exploratory call re Trust separation. By now I had cottoned on to this being the major crisis phone line. To relieve his concerns I said "I'll just put it down as another fax with a do not disconnect note, shall I?"

    That was one very relieved DPH.

    1. gotes

      Re: NHS Trust fund

      That reminds me, at a place I used to work, for reasons unknown the CEO's office had a dedicated phone line for his fax machine. It did come in handy though, since the site was prone to power outages and the E1 that carried all the other calls was pretty useless once the UPS batteries had drained.

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: NHS Trust fund

        I was at the site a a large county council some years ago doing some work. Across the other side of the open plan office were a couple of "suits" and what I discerned from their conversation, a BT and NTL comms engineers. Neither would take responsibility for the live phone line that had been discovered terminated in a cupboard. Hopefully, one of the engineers eventually worked out whose line it was.

        I did wonder if anyone was a bit disappointed the line had been "found" :-)

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: NHS Trust fund

      How major a crisis was he expecting on that line? Was it the "red" phone "in case of nuclear war" or something? I'd not expect someone answering a "major crisis line" to sound scared. The person taking THAT call is clearly the one who is supposed to handle the major crisis, or at least his NHS department part of it. Or did you you type "major crisis" instead "major incident" for a good reason?

      1. DryBones

        Re: NHS Trust fund

        Probably along the lines of, "Anthrax attacks at multiple points in the London Tube, we have a mass casualty event in progress."

  17. Bruce Ordway

    run out of paper...stop everything

    Brings back memories of the old Lucent Legend PBX's, back in the 90's.

    After working in engineering with PLC programming, the Legend system seemed familiar, like a close cousin.

    In general I liked that old hardware. the voice boards were pretty sturdy, except that ports used to blow in the spring ( lightening strikes ).

    The admin computer had an interface board, OS was an AT&T version of unix pretty straightforward.

    The management software though... wasn't exactly "user friendly".

    I can't remember any details today but I'm sure that software was at the root of one or two strange outages.

    1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: run out of paper...stop everything

      The AT&T system used in a PBX was probably a 3B2.

      For the 5E and 5ESS International Exchanges I had a small amount of involvement in, they used 3B20Ds (a special version of the Western Electric 3B20 mini, arranged as a fault-tolerant dual processor cluster) as the Administrative Module to control the exchange.

      I know that after I left, they switched to using systems from Sun for the AMs.

      Whilst at AT&T, I also used somewhat strange systems called 3B15s, which were like 3B2 model 400 but in the form of a minicomputer, with SMD removable disk packs. These were used for recording call data for charging purposes.

      When you consider that AT&T at the time owned 'UNIX' and were the people who defined System 5 and the UNIX trademark and source code, it's a bit rich to call it 'strange'. Stunted, maybe. Unfriendly, maybe again (but what was wrong with sysadm anyway), but strange?

  18. clayusmcret

    This is still relevant today. Yesterday my eye doctor's tech called me from her own cell phone. The office phones and all computers were down. Seems they're all connected on one of the cable/ISP providers. She had to go home and pull up the day's schedule from a backup they kept posted offsite and call each patient from her own phone. It all came back online later, but they were TU until then. They couldn't see any patients because ALL of the records were cloud-stored.

    1. Cheshire Cat

      Here in NZ, a couple of years back, someone put a JCB through the only data line coming out of one of the rural towns. This took out not just the internet, but all the phones - including the mobiles.

      This killed off all EFTPOS payments, and some businesses (who had moved their booking systems to The Cloud) suddenly didn't know what to do at all. This is not to mention the horror experienced by the under-25s who were unable to tweet, post pictures of their lunch to facebork, or watch netflix.

      Other people, who still carried cash, owned DVDs, watched broadcast TV and kept their diaries with local copies, had no issue...

      1. DryBones

        So invest in more infrastructure then, got it.

  19. Ian Johnston Silver badge

    I was working in the engineering department of an ancient university when they discovered the hard way that it was a bad idea to leave lab telephones set up with unlimited international dialling. "The hard way" was getting a phone bill for 40% of the entire departmental budget one quarter while a research student from Malaysia whistled casually and looked at the ceiling.

  20. Great White North

    I worked nights for a former large international mainframe company.

    When things got slow my office mate and I would play with the phone system.

    One night I put together a multi hop call to him, as I recall we managed to hit London, Paris, Hong Kong & Toyko multiple times to the point that there was many seconds delay from my phone to his which was 10 feet away.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not phones but…

    Beancounters again :-( Company got acquired by a US PE group, new expense rules came in, only cheapest flights etc. I did it once, just to prove the point. Cheapest flight to Stockholm mean travelling to Stansted instead of Heathrow (about twice the distance for me) and landing about 90 minutes by coach away from the city instead of 20 minutes. Plus the flight times meant I had to go out a day earlier for the meeting and so stay an extra night in the hotel. The flight saving was trivial, and negative by the time I’d had the extra night in a hotel, let alone eaten (I did draw the line at obeying the meal expense policy which just assumed that USD30 was plenty for a hotel dinner anywhere in the world…). More to the point, instead of just getting up at stupid o’clock and jumping in a taxi to LHR, I lost an entire billable day to travelling, which outweighed the flight saving 10-20 times. I won that argument, but it didn’t stop me leaving and setting up on my own shop soon after, where we have an expense policy which basically boils down to “do what works for you, just don’t take the piss” :-)

  22. Evil_Goblin

    In South Africa the highways team started installing new robots (traffic lights) with SIM cards in so the systems could phone home via a preset number to notify support team for a call out if there was a problem.

    After a month or two the bills for this system started getting very expensive, upon investigation it turned out the commissioning engineers would clone the SIM cards and then sell them on the black market - as no one had envisaged the scenario the contracts were unlimited and unrestricted - truly the holy grail back in the noughties!

  23. Stevie


    Not phone-related.

    I transferred into a new department and was asked to replace their "expert scripter" who was retiring. One of the jobs he had written was represented to me as "vital, if this doesn't run we are in big trouble".

    Said script ran at regular intervals and sent an email if there was a problem of a certain type. The problem was detected by examining the output of a "ps" command and using "cut" on the output to extract the pid, which was typically 3-4 digits on that hardware.

    We had deployed a new Unix infrastructure from another manufacturer and the expert had ported this script to the new hardware, but had never checked it was working.

    The expert had also usefully redirected stderr to the bit bucket because he never figured out how to make his dot profiles work for logon shells *and* batch shells and the script would fill the server mailbox with "can't do stty keyboard configuration stuff in batch mode" error messages. Said dot profile had a truly staggering amount of code that I think was trying to find out if it was running in a logon script or not. It certainly had no other purpose, but didn't work anyway. I surmised it was the work of several people. I digress.

    As part of another project I sorted out the problem with the dot profile so that it *would* work in both use cases (if tty -s etc of course), and that is when I discovered that:

    When the expert had deployed the script on the new servers, he forgot to also deploy the mailing list file with the addresses for that "vital" email, and the script was failing on line 2 as a result.

    Smiling to myself I fixed that, and discovered that:

    The new hardware was super virtualized. One side-effect was that pids were now 6-8 digits long rather than three or four. The "cut" command presented only the most significant of those digits to the rest of the "logic" and so was not working. At all. The "vital" email would never go out.

    So I replaced the "cut" part of a massive pipeline with "awk" and the script started doing what it was supposed to.

    And that afternoon the condition it was built to detect came about and fifty bajillion emails went out to the man who had told me how important it was he get said emails.

    And BOY was he pissed. "Stop these G_D_ emails!"

    So I descheduled the "vital" script.

    All-in-all, an avalanche of suck.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    All these tales of yore...

    I figured someone would mention IP phone phailures! Our large internationally-known government broadcasting agency has been converting to IP phones. Where did they start? The IT department! Where did the first failure occur? The IT department! Who was now unavailable to take any other IT-related trouble calls(points to the audience)

    Meanwhile, we have to make large number of long-distance and overseas phone calls from our offices and studios. Strange to see one of our techs come in on their day off, only to realize he spent several hours catching up with the family!

  25. hoola Silver badge


    About 15 years ago whilst working for a local authority in the UK I needed to be able to call some international numbers, mostly in the US and Finland for support. On the first occasion things had gone belly up towards the end of the day and a critical support case needed to be opened. This had to be done by telephone however this sent manglement in to meltdown because it involved an international telephone call and, heaven forbid, maybe more than one.

    We all sat around and twiddled our thumbs as the brown sticky stuff dripped everywhere whilst there was much hand-wringing about allowing the calls to be made. Bear in mind that this balls-up was affecting the Council's ability to deliver a core service to the public.

    After what seemed like hours (I cannot remember how long) we had permission to get one telephone enabled to make the calls. This was done and once the call was made, promptly disabled. The reason being that it might be abused and cost money. That the few techies involved in this debacle had no time to go for a coffee passed the top floor wombats by.

    This was repeated several times a day for the next few days until the telephony team got fed up and just left it on.

    Strangely, the only calls that were made were to the suppliers.

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