back to article Meet the merry pranksters who keep the workplace interesting, if not productive

The Reg's weekly confessional column, Who, Me?, is on holidays with shoes off, a festive drink in hand, and a warm fire. That's a combination that's set our mind wandering into the Who, Me? mailbag for a roundup of some stories we think deserve to be told together. A few months ago, you may recall, we told you about "Philip," …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Made life interesting

    Right back at the beginning of my career, I was regularly picked up and tried to be placed in a bin.

    I was 20, skinny ass but adopted superhuman strength.

    Now if someone did the same today it would be called abuse.

    I didn't see it that way then, and I still don't. We were as bad as each other.

    In the early 2000s, we collectively left a banana under the fflap of a office chair of one guy.

    He used to claim he changed his trousers every day, and had 5 pairs of them the same

    The sticky hole strengtheners for sheets going in lever arch files were great. Get one to stick on his arse on the trousers, It'd be there all week.

    Let's not forget the NERF wars either...

    Happy days

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Made life interesting

      The NERF wars ceased when a colleague took an arrow to the knee.

      I mean eye.

      Turns out that NERF darts aren't quite as soft as assumed.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Made life interesting

      Actually, if someone tried to pick me up an put me in a bin, I'd call it assault, and be calling the police accordingly. Anything which involves actual manhandling and the possibility of harm isn't a prank.

      1. tiggity Silver badge

        Re: Made life interesting

        Way back in the last century my (deceased for a while now) dad picked up one of the factory bosses (after a particularly prolonged bout of martinet behaviour from said boss ) and picked him up & put him in a bin (large industrial one) - "With the rest of the rubbish, where you belong".

        No police called or other repercussions - he did get a standing ovation from the rest of the factory floor though! ... as boss was taller & a lot heavier than my dad would have been even more embarrassing for boss to have done anything about it

        Times were different then (good in some ways, bad in others)

  2. Andy Non Silver badge

    Going BOFH on a spammer.

    A confession from the 1990's when I was working as a contractor in the days when the internet was more trusting and open to abuse. It would be more difficult to repeat some of my actions today. I started receiving spam emails from a company selling holiday homes and time share properties. They arrived almost daily and there was no unsubscribe option. My email address appeared in the TO part along with a number of other people's email addresses, notably in alphabetic order and alphabetically close to mine, so the same spam must have been sent to hundreds of people over multiple emails. I politely emailed back and asked the sender to remove me from his spam list, but my request was ignored and the spam continued to arrive. After a few more months of ongoing spam I'm afraid I lost it one day and went full BOFH on him. The link in his spam led to his website, a small company fronted by one man, with a grinning mugshot of him on his contact page. He gave his full name, business address, contact email address, telephone and fax numbers.

    I did all the usual miscreant deeds of the day, and subscribed his contact email address to the most extreme pornographic sites I could find and to dodgy looking scam / get rich quick sites, but then became more creative and went on to search for suitable web contact forms. I arranged for around ten random companies to phone him as he was 'interested' in their products or services and submitted his fax number to various organisations to receive their brochures and price lists. A bit more difficult but I managed to arrange for the wholesale delivery of one ton of fresh bananas to be delivered to his business address. Guessing he'd have nowhere to put the fruit I ordered a container at the docks for him to store it. As he would likely be somewhat fed up by now and in need of a holiday, I booked him a hotel room for a week at the seaside and a hire car from his business address to the hotel, with a different company's hire car to bring him back again (he was to be invoiced for all the things I'd booked / ordered). Finally, thinking of his health, I arranged for him to visit a private clinic where a doctor could discretely examine him and his problem of an oversized testicle.

    Oddly, the spam stopped straight away. As he didn't know it was me who gave him the grief, he must have stopped spamming everyone.

    1. BOFH in Training

      Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

      Or went out of business or went crazy and checked into a mental hospital.

      I remember the good old days of mailbombs.

      It was a more innocent time.

    2. keithpeter Silver badge

      Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

      And here's me working for an organisation with a £60+ million annual budget and having to provide two referees and wait 3 months for a business account that will supply goods against a purchase order.

      They were trusting times indeed...

      1. Gene Cash Silver badge

        Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

        an organisation with a £60+ million annual budget

        Those... amazingly enough... are usually the ones that don't pay their bills on time. I don't know if it's bureaucracy, incompetence, don't-care, or just skinflintness.

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

          None of the above: it's policy. Money paid late to a supplier is money sitting in the company bank account, growing interest.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

            Can confirm. My first proper summer job was for at the Finance department of a huge, well-known multinational back in the late eighties. I was covering Accounts Payables (that is, paying invoices sent to us) and was told on the first day to always submit payment for two working days after the due date, and to simply strike any "administrative fees" from the amount - expressly for the purpose of keeping the money in our account two days longer. Never saw a reminder.

            Then again, that company is a shadow of its former self today as business and technology has moved on.

            1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

              Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

              These days there is "statutory interest", implemented specifically to give the small guys leverage to make the big guys pay up. Provided the small guy stands up, there's pretty well no defence against paying it - other than paying the bills on time.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

              I did 6 months in accounts payable for an energy supplier in the late 90's, in the UK.

              All the big inter-company bills were paid the Tuesday or Thursday after the due date or the fist one at the start of the next month.

              Some times the bills to all the other companies were in the region of £3M for the month.

          2. Potty Professor

            Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

            My late wife was a Certificated Accountant, and worked for a manufacturer of large electrical machinery, in the Accounts Payable department. Their instructions were to pay the largest invoices each month, followed by smaller and smaller ones until the monthly budget was used up. Thus, all of the really small bills kept getting kicked down the road to the next month, and therefor never paid.

            During the five or so years she worked there, the company took suppliers to court for non payment of its invoices, but in each case the defendant's case was that they were withholding payment against a much larger debt owed to them. The Manglement never learned, and continued with their "Largest Bill First" policy for the whole time she was employed by them.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

              Yeah, right. That's called trading while insolvent, and directors go to jail for it when it's that blatant.

              1. Great Southern Land

                Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

                And In Australia, can also be held personally liable for outstanding tax debts.

          3. rafff

            Money paid late to a supplier is money sitting in the company bank account, growing interest.

            As a contractor dealing with such companies, I used to put a note on my invoices that late payment would be subject to rather more interest than they were earning. About 2% pcm was enough; it really compounds up.

            I did not often have to invoke the interest clause.

            1. Dave314159ggggdffsdds Silver badge

              Re: Money paid late to a supplier is money sitting in the company bank account, growing interest.

              Of course you didn't, because it doesn't actually happen except in the imaginations of people who watch too many far right conspiracy theory videos on youtube.

          4. phuzz Silver badge

            Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

            A few weeks ago I got a letter from our letting agent asking us to please pay our rent in one lump sum on the due date, and not to only pay a third up front, with the rest a week or so later.

            The thing is, we always have paid in one lump sum, so someone somewhere in that letting company is holding on to 2/3rds of our rent for a week each time. Fuck knows what's going on, but at least I have all the bank statements to prove our side of the argument.

    3. swm

      Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

      In the early days of the ARPANET there was a chain letter that circulated. I forget the contents but the header was 6 feet long with all of the previous recipients and a marvel to behold! Many famous computer people were there.

    4. Coastal cutie

      Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

      Have as many beers or beverage of choice as you can muster - that is BOFH levels of inventiveness and I salute you

    5. Great Southern Land

      Re: Going BOFH on a spammer.

      I see great things in your future. Join us on the Dark Side.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Can't say anything else.

    The file may still be active.

  4. chivo243 Silver badge

    Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

    During the summer vacation at one place, the second floor would be opened from one end to the other for various workers, cleaners, painters etc. Every door was opened, and you could see out of the office 150m down the hall. At lunch one day, I grabbed a hand full of old style mouse balls, and headed to the end of the hall and started 'bowling' the mouse balls the length of the building. I might have rolled 3 out of 10 end to end. I got some strange looks from a colleague in an office I thought was empty.

    1. aerogems Silver badge

      Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

      We did that in college... Only it was back when burning a CD wasn't a sure thing and you would have a decent chance of ending up with a coaster, so we would "bowl" the coaster discs down the hall of the dorm. Or use them as makeshift frisbees.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

        No need to burn CDs - that's what the AOL CDs were good for :).

        1. chivo243 Silver badge

          Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

          I thought AOL stuff came on diskette? Showing my age??

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

            Yes, we're talking about the period in which parchment was abandoned in favour of paper.

            Be glad, at least you skipped the wax roll stage. They were rubbish in the summer.


          2. Michael Strorm Silver badge

            Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

            There was a point circa the late-90s/early-2000s when it seemed that almost every one of those thick, Windows PC-oriented computer magazines would have a CD for AOL or one of its competitors tucked inside- sometimes even more than one- and that was in addition to the "proper" covermount discs.

            I did actually use them as coasters around that time.

            (Maybe the AOL floppies were earlier; I only started buying PC magazines circa 1998 or so, and almost always the CD version).

            1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

              Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

              Did you ever pop one in a microwave for ten seconds? Pretty, pretty...

        2. Lil Endian Silver badge

          Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

          I preferred Cupuserve media :)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

            I recall Compuserve being our international carrier when I worked at a consultancy. Those were the days I always travelled with a screwdriver and crocodile clips as that was simpler than taking phone adaptors with me - the first thing I did when arriving in hotel rooms in places like Germany or HK was to rig my phone connection :).

            Nothing makes you appreciate Wifi 6E more than looking back at how we got data around the world before with 300 baud rubber cup modems. That said, I do get the impression we got more useful stuff done exactly because bandwidth was super precious. No cat videos then, and mail headers were not 6K a piece because Microsoft likes to stuff them with what appears to be the complete works of Shakespeare..

            1. Trollslayer

              Re: Mouse Balls! prank or hyjinx?

              Ask the mouse.

            2. Lil Endian Silver badge
              Thumb Up

              Acoustic Couplers...

              Did you ever turn up at a hotel that had trim phones in the rooms? Yoiks!

              Yeah, it was a different game when the web was inhabited by geeks that would research their problem before posting a post that's been posted, and posted, and posted, and...

              And then the cats appeared!

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Acoustic Couplers...

                For us oldies the Net was an engineering feat that we learned to use from its most basic level up. In those days, online instant messaging was "talk user@ip address" and the only reason we started to use X was because it gave us more command lines on one screen :).

                That said, the whole hypertext approach was a major improvement because it tied in more tightly with the then most important development work on the Net: interoperability, a feature that companies like Microsoft (who were very late to the party) have tried to bury ever since..

            3. deep_enigma

              Re: mail headers

              "mail headers were not 6K 60K a piece because Microsoft likes to stuff them with what appears to be the complete works of Shakespeare.."

              FTFY. Not even joking one bit. :(

              (I don't know if I've actually seen one that hit 60Kb, but I've seen many that topped 40 and several that I'm pretty sure bulged out to at least 50Kb. *shiver* *twitch*)

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    The best 'mosquito'

    This was in one of the electronics mags (can't remember which) and had both a timer and a light sensor, so it was only active for fairly short periods, and also only when the light was below a certain level.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The best 'mosquito'

      The Dutch mag "Elektor*" maybe?

      * The non export version used to be called Elektuur :)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The best 'mosquito'

        I think you’re right. I could dig into a box in my attic where I have every English printed edition, right from edition 1 back in the 1970’s, through to when I stopped my subscription sometime in the 2000’s (when they started to focus on digital editions) - but there are hundreds of copies to search. I suppose I should really haul them down to the recycling centre, as I doubt anyone else would want them.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: The best 'mosquito'

          I would, but I would have to wait until at least the end of January as I'm supposed to move country first and nothing is going to happen until everyone stops partying and the storms have abated..

        2. EVP

          Re: The best 'mosquito'

          Don’t throw away such a treasure! You’ll find someone for sure to collect them.

    2. DJV Silver badge

      Re: The best 'mosquito'

      It was Elektor 1990 - issue 7

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge
        Thumb Up

        Re: The best 'mosquito'

        Top job mate :)

  6. aerogems Silver badge

    Reminds me

    May have even been an old El Reg Who Me/On Call, but somewhere I read a story about how one day a manager goes on vacation for like 2 weeks. While they were gone, the staff hired a contractor to put up drywall in front of their office and make it look as if it was never there. Manager comes back and the entire office pretends like they don't know who he is, and of course where his office should be is just a wall.

    1. swm

      Re: Reminds me

      At the University of Rochester a few decades ago over the weekend someone rewired the elevators in the math building interchanging the 2nd and 3rd floor buttons. The also interchanged all of the office labels between the 2nd and 3rd floors. Professors would come in to work and were puzzled why their office key wouldn't work.

    2. Throgmorton Horatio III

      Re: Reminds me

      In the 1980s I worked for a big pharmaceutical company in Kent. They had collected a lot of 'interesting' people who were often a bit eccentric and difficult, even though they were fairly eminent scientists in their own areas. One of these had a lab in the building opposite that we could see into from our lab, and while he was away on holiday his lab was gutted & converted to offices - his technician was redeployed elsewhere in the organisation. On return there was no lab, no technician and no job any more, though I've no idea how anti-personnel dealt with the situation.

  7. F. Frederick Skitty Silver badge

    I discovered that you could assign multiple extension numbers to the same phone socket, in addition to the same extension number being assigned to multiple sockets. So the head of sales and IT director had their extension numbers assigned to each others sockets in addition to their own extension number. Since they were on opposite sides of a busy office, they didn't realise that their phones always rang at exactly the same time. The head of sales was pretty laid-back and didn't seem bothered by all the exrra calls, but the IT director was going nuts.

  8. Oglethorpe

    One unpleasant Christmas, I was the on site technician for a shut down facility. My job was essentially to know which buttons to press if things caught or threatened to catch fire and, while I waited, eat food on the expense account and lament not seeing my family.

    Because the manager's office had a TV console, a chair that would embarrass an 80s CEO and I a few movies on tape, I elected to forward the phones to that office. In addition to instant forwarding, the system had a feature that triggered forwarding after a set number of rings. This was great, because it meant I could catch the emergency line on both sides of the operations building.

    Christmas ended without incident and I handed over. A few months later, I heard that the new site manager had nearly lost his mind over emergency calls going instead to his desk. It tuned out that the new digital telephones could, and had been muted so the actual emergency telephone didn't make a peep during the calls (nothing dangerous, just things that needed to be addressed quickly). Unfortunately, the muting meant the main phone would silently ring 10 times, then pass through to the manager. Until then, it hadn't been noticed because everyone understood that, no matter who you are, you answer the emergency phone.

    Fortunately, it was ascribed to gremlins in the new telephones and no searching questions were asked.

    1. Mister Dubious

      Silence! Silence, I say!

      Years and years ago -- decades and decades, actually -- my employer installed a new phone system. It could do magic! It could forward extensions, manage ad-hoc instant conference calls, play "I'm not here" messages and take voice mail, ... We all supposed some unknown descendant of Graham Bell and Gandalf must have built the thing. (You remember "years and years ago," right?)

      Our working quarters were cubicles of various sizes; mine was a two-desk billet. One day a happy gathering in a nearby four-holer grew annoyingly loud, and my office mate decided to put our whiz-bang new phone to good use. She dialed an outside number, then patched in the neighboring phone for a spur-of-the-moment conference call, and hung up as soon as the neighbor answered. And he heard something to the effect of "... that our sins will not doom us nor condemn our immortal souls, for a loving Father knoweth us and knoweth our frailties and ..."

      The external number she'd called was Dial-A-Prayer. The racket ceased -- I guess she'd put the fear of the Lord into them.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Silence! Silence, I say!

        We used to do that with the sex chat lines, and conference in the newest intern. Then watch from the other end of the room as he went pinker and pinker...

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pranking is abuse

    Pranking is a form of mental and/or physical abuse.

    To those that say that everyone in a team does it, are you sure they want to or like doing it? It can easily be a form of bullying.

    1. Rikki Tikki

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      Sometimes, yes - I have heard some truly dreadful stories (that I won't even describe here).

      It can depend on the intention, though: back in the day, when managers were real managers, we used to have Friday afternoon office footy sessions (with a foam ball), using the boss's office as the goal. He was ex-navy, and understood it was just letting off steam (and also knew that we would come up with the goods when he needed), so he arranged to be at meetings on Friday arvo.

      1. Insert sadsack pun here

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        The sign of a fun prank is at the end of it, everyone including the target finds it genuinely amusing. But there are plenty of bullies, dipshits and YouTubers that think "c'mon, bro, it's a prank" is an excuse for bullying or abusive behaviour.

    2. Gene Cash Silver badge

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      Hermey knew it was still taped to the underside of the step-stool

      Ok, that one was gold.

      Anyway, I remember one of those Adam Savage "ask me about Mythbusters" sessions. Someone asked if there was any pranking on set.

      He said that he and Jamie thought about it, then they realized that considering how inventive and creative everyone was, it would quickly and seriously get out of hand. Plus a lot of stuff was too dangerous to be fooling around.

      There was one time - the ancient battery episode - where an assistant producer decided to make things more like "American Choppers" where there was major reality-show "cast drama". So he electrified the "battery" to 120 volts (edit: over the objections of the rest of the crew) and Adam got seriously shocked when he touched it.

      You can see it in the episode. Kari & Tori have serious "it's not funny - shit's about to hit the fan" expressions beforehand and Adam is FURIOUS and quickly walks off.

      That AP was quickly fired.

      1. Claptrap314 Silver badge

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        Getting into a prank war with THAT crew? Stuff of nightmares. And induced heart attacks.

        They made the right call.

    3. Lil Endian Silver badge

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      Sorry, but no.

      A prank is a prank. Abuse is abuse.

      Those that claim a prank to hide their true intention of abuse are abusers, and will receive my unfettered ire. Likewise, SJWs making false assertions can woke off, and leave the snowflakes to the meteorologists.

      1. Elongated Muskrat Silver badge

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        I was with you, right until you started saying things like "SJW", "woke", and "snowflake" and it became pretty obvious that you are one of them. Don't you have a column to write for the Scum abusing some members of the Royal Family, or something?

    4. werdsmith Silver badge

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      If it’s abuse I’ve always found it to be welcome abuse. It always ends up in laughter and more creative ingenuity.

      Whereas I cannot stiffbacked work environments for any length of time.

    5. spireite Silver badge

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      Snowflake detected......

    6. lglethal Silver badge

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      I'm glad that I entered my industry (Aerospace) after pranking had died out, as I've heard plenty of stories of things that had I been on the receiving end would not have left me a happy bunny. Hell, a lot of them were out right dangerous (although perhaps not thought so at the time - for example Skydrol, a hydraulic fluid, got used in a lot of pranks, but is now known to be awfully carcinogenic, and those pranks have probably led to more than a few cancer cases).

      Still for me it's always been super clear, if something is for the entire team (chair football or races, cricket in the hall, etc) then it's all good. Anything that targets a single person is not on.

      Just because someone laughs along, doesn't mean they're actually OK with what happened, and the risk of things escalating is just too high for my liking.

      So things for the team go right ahead, things targeting one person, think again.

      1. Will Godfrey Silver badge

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        You my be surprised to know, that laughter is sometimes an indicator of extreme stress. The first time I saw that was when some kids were horsing around in the sports changing room slamming doors on the other kids... until one of the kids lost a finger - the kid went totally hysterical.

      2. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        Try being on a scaffolding gang, where you're put in the boot of a car for 10 hours. Or a high rise window cleaning outfit, where if you don't jump over to the next building you are a target for ever to the rest of the crew.

        Real abuse is given by the perp(s). Clearly intention is paramount. Yes, if someone is not happy with a prank, it should stop with an apology.

        Can we not conflate pranks and abuse, please?

      3. This post has been deleted by its author

    7. Dave K

      Re: Pranking is abuse

      You're over-generalising. Pranks fall into many different categories. Most are pretty harmless and the victim of the prank can often see the funny side as well. Done right, these can be a laugh for all involved and help teams to bond - so long as they don't go too far of course. You also have pranks against a particular person with a superiority complex. In these cases, the victim usually has it coming for being a bit of a tit to to their colleagues. Treat people with respect and you're less likely to have colleagues wanting to bring you down a peg or two.

      Some pranks can go to far, I agree. Certainly if you're damaging possessions or causing distress, but these are typically the minority I find. The vast majority are just harmless fun with no mental or physical abuse involved.

      1. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Re: Pranking is abuse

        Dave, an important point to consider, I think...

        I'll link prank again.

        If an action is "wanting to bring [someone] down a peg or two." it is not a prank. It is an act of vengeance. Any humour is only intended for the perpetrators to enjoy.

        "Some pranks can go to far, I agree." and I agree too. Anyone genuine prankster (eg. no narcissism) would stop and apologise for any distress, and hopefully, attempt to make amends.

        1. Dave K

          Re: Pranking is abuse

          I agree, but to clarify when I say "wanting to bring [someone] down a peg or two." it's more in the meaning that a practical joke can help some people realise they aren't as infallible as they think they are.

          Case in point, at a previous company there was an ex-IT-support member of staff who'd moved to working on an ERP implementation project. She was pleasant enough, but liked to act as if she was the god of all things technical because of her previous role and this did irritate a few of her ERP colleagues. So one day they stuck a piece of gaffer tape over the optical sensor on her mouse.

          Result was a phone call to me (the new support tech) about a faulty mouse. Went over to her desk, found that the cursor wasn't moving and so I instinctively turned the mouse over to reveal the tape on the underside. She went rather red at missing this, there was a chuckle from the others in her office and the god-complex rapidly evaporated.

          Now this wasn't an act of vengeance, it was a harmless prank, But it had the desired effect. I should add that your link provides several definitions of prank, such as "to play a trick on someone that is intended to be funny but not to cause harm or damage" and "a trick that is intended to be amusing and often to make someone look foolish" - I'd say these apply quite nicely to the example above and show that you can bring someone down a bit with a prank.

          1. Lil Endian Silver badge

            Re: Pranking is abuse

            Nice one sir! Thanks, I couldn't read that meaning in your previous post, your anecdote fits with not being abusive, so I'm glad I upvoted in the first place. Good clarification, and well said :)

            The only time I've had an optical mouse fail like that I thought I'd misplaced some belly button fluff! :/ Still, better than the old mouse ball days. Boy, did they pick up some gunk! (Especially if chivo is involved!)

            Wishing you and yours a happy new year!

      2. Lil Endian Silver badge

        Some pranks can go too far...

        A friend of mine had an on-going prank relationship with his cousin, over many years. They lived a few hours apart. Whenever they got together, something was going to happen!

        My favourite was when my mate was visiting his cousin. Everything was a normal family get together, but with both on full alert to each other, as usual. Nothing happened. Until bedtime. My friend was dozing off.... Then the music started. All night. And all night said friend was searching everywhere for hidden speakers, with no luck. In the morning the cousin had much enjoyment lifting up the floorboards to retrieve the speakers... Although he'd "been had" my mate was pissing himself while he was telling me :)

        Skip forward to a future visit, a prank gone wrong, and both of them nearly plummeting 50m down a cliff into the Channel - they called a life time truce. (Which is still in effect.)

    8. parlei

      Re: Pranking is abuse


      Sounds all fun and games, but some people are just victims.

      I only prank deserving entities, not individuals.

  10. trevorde Silver badge

    No desk policy

    Worked for a company where the MD had been to business school & come out with a brand new, shiny MBA. One of his new mantras was a 'clean desk policy' ie at the end of the day, your desk should be clear of working papers. Needless to say, there was a lot of scepticism from all the engineers. I decided to take this to the logical extreme & implement the 'no desk policy'. This involved squirreling away everything to the extent that my cubicle was completely bare.

    The MD visited our outpost & actually took a step back when he passed my cube. My manager has words with me afterwards about taking the p155.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: No desk policy

      I heard a tale years ago about a national UK newspaper editor who instituted a sort-of clean desk policy: realising there was no way of making a room full of journalists ever clean their desks, he required the cleaners to remove anything higher than the rim of the in-tray.

      He came in one morning to discover his dictionary started at 'P'...

      1. breakfast Silver badge

        Re: No desk policy

        Ironic seeing as it sounds like someone was taking the P...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: No desk policy

      My first job was in an office that had a clear desk policy. Everything had to be put away in secure cabinets every night (well, we were working on the development of military hardware, but the whole site wasn’t under the necessary security). It was back in the days before personal computers (in fact, my own electronic calculator was often borrowed by others, as a stopgap between slide rule and queuing a program on the mainframe). The discipline (of using my desk as a workspace, and not for storage) stayed with me all my career, and often proved invaluable.

    3. Terry 6 Silver badge

      Re: No desk policy


      come out with a brand new, shiny MBA. One of his new mantras was....

      Some of us do postgrad management training of one sort or another ( mine was in education leadership BTW) pick up the certificate and hopefully some improved insights. And then get on with the job like before, but hopefully better informed ( and with a pretty certificate to wave around as needed).

      And others just become clones of the trainers and their particular ideology/dogma - going on to try and implement all the latest fashion in bloody stupid policies that the course has promoted.

  11. Shred

    I recall hearing a story (possibly via The Register) about a prank played on an office worker who spent most of the day talking on the phone.

    His colleagues glued a single 5c piece into the phone handset. The next day, they glued a second 5 c piece into the handset. This continued for several,weeks, with the victim spending each day getting used to the new ever so slightly increased weight of the phone handset.

    Eventually, it was ridiculously heavy and there was simply no more room for coins… so one night, they took all the coins out again in one hit. Cue the victim smacking himself in the side of the head with the much lighter handset the first time he tried to answer a call.

    1. gnasher729 Silver badge

      Sounds like bullying to me.

    2. Giles C Silver badge

      Sounds like a lifting course I once had to do.

      Instructor walks in with a cardboard box appearing to struggle under the weight of it,

      Asks one of attendees to pick it up, the box is empty and ends up bouncing off the ceiling.

      1st lesson check the weight of anything you are trying to lift yourself and don’t assume that what you have seen is true.

      Essential skill but someone these days would probably take offence.

    3. Rob - Denmark

      It might be from an episode of The Office:

      Or The Office might have gotten it from somewhere else.

  12. StargateSg7

    This story wasn't really about a prank per se but rather some AWESOME Mythbusters-worthy demonstrations of the power of modern electricity!

    Our original very-remote backwoods-located Northern British Columbia data centre in the mid-1990's had multiple 400 Kilovolt lines coming in from BC Hydro to power many megawatts worth of Intel i860 RISC Processors (fastest CPUs ever at the time!). We have played many times before with flash-arc cooking and exploding pork roasts, turkeys, whole chickens and beef rump roasts to beautifully done chunky bits and pieces BUT one illustrious winter day our fellow System Admin team was bored to utter tears for more localised ENTERTAINMENT, so we somehow found the longest solid copper pipe (about 2 cm diameter!) available that we somehow drilled or dug into and completely bored through a large and quite heavy 3 metre long Douglas Fir log that had been cut up by Hydro line workers clearing away trees and brush nearby!

    The PROBLEM WAS that this log was WET WOOD -- Still soaking wet from the rain and snow and STILL green from being cut recently. This solid copper rod, now fully run through the entire log which was subsequently stood up to lean on a tall section of local rock face near the facility was connected via massive cables installed on a massive reel that is normally run over to a fail-over switch that goes to a large box filled with very large ceramic resistors that are DESIGNED to overheat and explode to help save our very expensive supercomputing gear from any incoming super-surges and super-spikes. The fail-over switch can also be tripped manually to re-direct the incoming multiple 400 KV lines away from the computers over to the failover-line and resistor box in a TEST configuration. In our infinite wisdom, the resistor box was disconnected and the still-wet log and a secondary metal grounding box became the end-destination of the failover line.

    By a MAJOR stroke of luck, we had an actual Power Engineer on our site at the day looking on with great amusement at our shenanigans who noted that the log being still wet MIGHT explode if it suddenly got really hot, so it was BEST we be inside of the building lest there be a small but still dangerous explosion. SMALL was NOT the operative word here!

    When our 1960's relic of a System Manager stoked his ever present but sweet smelling and elegant smoking pipe and finally flipped the failover switch via a hydraulic mechanism, the MULTIPLE incoming lines of 400,000 Volts at 1000 Amps flash arced through the solid copper rod AND through the wet log wood all at once much like a full-blown lightning bolt grounding out into the soil.

    The ENTIRE LOG EXPLODED with such a deafening boom and massive pressure wave that the concrete walls of the data centre actually shook violently for a few seconds! The force was so great, I would say it was equivalent to a large exploding military shell! When we finally came out from under some empty racks and ventured gingerly outside to feast our eyes upon the results of our wicked ways, we found no log and no solid copper rods but rather burnt wire ends and many charred needles of wood actually embedded INTO the concrete wall much like you stick pins into a corkboard and also many blobs of melted copper fused into one inch diamater craters pitted deep into our walls and elsewhere around the property!

    These deadly shards of charred wood and melted copper were found as far away 100 metres and had any person or beast been nearby, they would have been SKEWERED into Swiss Cheese. Hastily repairing and reconnecting the failover lines and switches back to their original configuration, we also REMOVED all evidence of our pitted walls and charred tiny wooden arrows with simple grout and some dirt to hide our dasdardly deeds! We spoke to no-one else and merely bribed the resident 3rd party power engineer to keep quiet with some quality Rum and a wonderful linguini lunch and dinner.

    INTERESTINGLY, we did hear much later of an incident report being filed by a local mining agency about an unauthorized shallow explosion being detonated on the day of our illicit exploits that was caught by a local seismic activity recording system BUT we kept our mouths shut and never heard anything of the matter ever again!

    It was, however, NOT THE LAST OF THE SHENANIGANS that we pulled with flash-over arcs on incoming 400 KV lines --- but those are stories for another day!


    P.S. TL;DR -- We flash-arced a big current through the wet wood of an old log and a copper pipe that exploded with a VERY BIG BOOM to violently shake our data centre and cause needle-like shards of wood and melted metal to embed deeply into concrete walls!


    1. GrumpenKraut

      "MULTIPLE incoming lines of 400,000 Volts at 1000 Amps"

      Yeah, right. In excess of 400 MegaWatt to power CPUs at that time, totally believable.

  13. Sparkus

    whiteboard fun....

    With one or three others, used to write out detailed acquisition plans where in our mid-sized technology infrastructure company would be running a hostile takeover of some industry giant.

    Very detailed. Naming names, dollar amounts, dates, industry 'co-conspirators', banks, stock valuation impacts, etc.

    Then we'd sloppily erase about 3/4 of the whiteboard leaving just enough detail to provide fodder for lunchtime gossip.

    1. I could be a dog really Bronze badge

      Re: whiteboard fun....

      Reminds me of a tale I can only tell second hand ...

      Back in the days of blackboards, in some classrooms we had portable roll-round (the ones with multiple flexible sheets, so you could roll them up to get the next panel) ones (on castors). A teacher had spent ages filling ones of these with notes for a class ...

      Between that, and the class happening, some enterprising students wheeled the blackboard round into the store room, and borrowed another from another classroom - which they carefully wiped clean. As told to me, the teacher was "somewhat upset" to find all his work erased - until he spotted the real one sitting in the store room.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Posting anonymously

    Early days I was targeted by a guy who was looking to increase his perceived value in the company.

    The revenge was going through the bins getting every coke can I could find and tiring them to get her and putting them under his attached to the exhaust

    Lunch time … he popped out

    After lunch he walked back in red with anger, one quick finger gunning later he burst out laughing

    We stayed friends for a few years after that

  15. Bruce Ordway

    about an inch a week... oh yeah.

    Rather than a cubicle and weekly movement, we did this to an open area and reduced the clearances daily.

    ( space similar to Les Nessman's "office" )

    Eventually the occupant stood and angrily uttered "this f***ing thing has to go" and started re-expanding.

    The rest of us couldn't contain ourselves, broke out laughing... so did the target after a slight pause.

    Later on, another joker would wind that persons phone cord around one of the legs of the desk.

    i.e. the person suddenly could no longer reach nearby reference materials while on the phone.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Before DNA testing was routine…

    Someone (no, not me) got into the big bosses corner office late on a Friday and dropped a deuce in the waste paper bin.

    The resulting stench come Monday will never quite leave my nostrils.

  17. Unoriginal Handle

    Two spring to mind.

    Taking flatpack cardboard boxes, unflatenning them and making a wall out of them in my boss' office so he had to dismantle it to get in.

    Watching the Teutonic contingent at a company work summit all walk in together to the hotel/conference centre's auditorium, take up a row of seats, then socialise together making no attempt to mingle for the next two days. Each morning - same row of seats... Day 3, they walked in to the auditorium to find someone had asked the hotel's housekeeping for hand towels which had been draped over the row of seats they'd occupied the other two days. A moment of bemusement, then they sat down. Much amusement among the other EMEA attendees ...

  18. Potty Professor


    When I was at school, we had a lecturer, Mr. Holloway, in the Drawing Office, who liked to creep silently about amongst the drawing boards and check that you were working. I discovered that the wires that kept the ruler parallel across the board would alter in pitch if one side was twanged whilst the tension was altered by a slight upward pull on the other side (the wire crossed at the top of the board and passed around two pulleys at the bottom). One afternoon I was idly playing "When the Saints come marching in" when Hollow Bollocks turned in my direction and said "Whoever it is that's twanging, please stop". I stopped, but to my delight, someone on the other side of the Drawing Office took up the tune without missing a beat. HB immediately swung around and started to advance on the other miscreant, and when they stopped, I took up the beat again. We had HB swivelling back and forth for quite some time, until he bellowed "If whoever it is doesn't stop, the whole class will get Detention". We stopped.

  19. SotarrTheWizard

    We had a manager who loved his buzzwords. . . .

    . . . and never, ever locked his desktop. We added a few words to his auto-correct settings. He was particularly fond of the word "petabyte". Which we arranged for MS Word to 'correct' to 'pedophile' . . . .

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    To my shame

    I once set it up so I could control a colleague's CD tray remotely. You know, when we had those ones that powered in and out. And we had CD drives. I owned up before the guy completely lost his mind.

  21. Juan Inamillion


    Many years ago my then g/f and I went on holiday to Gomera (one of the smaller Canary Islands). It turned out the island and our hotel in particular were very popular destinations for German tourists. Sure enough every morning we got down to the pool all the sunbeds were either occupied or had towels on them, sometimes for hours with nobody turning up.

    One night, late after returning from a local hostelry, definitely a bit worse for wear, we thought what fun it would be to take all the towels from the little store room by the pool and put them out on the sunbeds and see what happened in the morning. We came out at about 10am to an eerily quiet hotel and no-one in or around the pool. Obviously very curious we went to reception and asked where everyone was. The receptionist said 'It's Wednesday, all the Germans have gone on their scheduled walk round the island...'

  22. Captain_Cretin

    Dobby/Philip ?

    I see several different people's stories have been compressed into one.

    The call forwarding prank was mine.

    The manager involved was so ineffective, I used to refer to him as "Captain Kirk's cardboard cut-out", or "Cardboard cut-out" for short.

    Why "Captain Kirk" ? Well, he had this way of being very over energetic in meetings with other managers, making out he carried the weight of the whole company on his shoulders - while doing eff all on the topic once they had all left.

    At the end of my tenure (I got fired ); after another diatribe from a factory manager over a constantly failing set of safety cords - I lost it, and explained in great detail that the manager and foreman had botched the installation by not only buying and fitting the wrong spec equipment, but by bodging it's installation as well (because it was cheaper), and then went on to point out that it could be fixed for pennies and 30 minutes work, but that the Manager and his cronies didnt want to admit they got it wrong.

    This fault had probably cost the company millions in productivity by this point, as the safety cord failed at least once per day per line, and because we were based at a different site, it usually took us an hour to get there and reset it each time.

    After the fix - which I didnt do, as they were busy firing me, the safety cords never failed again.


    The safety cord run was 50 meters, but the 50m kit was 3x the price of the 25m kit, so the idiots ordered 2x 25m kits for each line, and just tied the ends together, pocketing the extra cash.

    The problem was, these safety cut-outs were spring-loaded, so the springs were constantly pulling against each other, and the slightest touch would set them off, requiring 2 guys and some patience to get them reset and back in balance.


    Weld/bolt an upright at the mid-point, fit a ring bolt and tie the two runs to the bolt, so each 25m run was independent, and not pulling against the other end.

    It took 4 guys 4 hours one Saturday morning to fix all the lines; and the fact they took 4 hours suggests they were slacking off for half of the time.

  23. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

    I never pranked anyone

    Because you never know who you might end up reporting to. And what their taste for revenge might be. But I did have some fun.

    Boeing was slowly easing into a no smoking environment when I started there. Step one was to move all the smokers into one corner of our open bay office. A single room about an acre in size. One of our group members, a smoker, was moved to that corner. So when he needed to speak to one of us, he'd just pick up the phone and call. And then he'd turn to face the callee (is that a word) across more than 100 feet to facilitate a remote sort of eye contact. So one day he calls me, turns around and sees me looking back at him. Through binoculars.

    Fortunately, he had a pretty good sense of humor and just had a good laugh.

  24. kmceject

    Taken down a 'peg', er four legs

    Long ago in the distant past I worked at a place with three people with the same first name. The third one, who was a bit of a petty dictator that nobody seemed to know what he did except make phone calls all day was known as D3 . He worked on a room that had four programmers, a telcom account manager, and no friends. For context, this was back in the 80s or 90s where all desks were typically buried up past the height of the monitors with piles of paper. The telcom guy had several shelves on the wall with his 'filing' that had one day failed and created an avalanche of paper some six meters across the office!

    One fine Monday I came in and my office mates in the tech department suggested I go see D3's desk. With the wry smirks across that team I figured D3s desk had similarly slid. But lo, his desk was still covered deeply with its half meter layer of paper concealing his little used computer. Oddly though the pile was about 20 cm shorter than it had been on Friday, Well, the four metal legs on the corners of the desk were absent! He sat on the other side in his chair, that although it also was at the lowest setting still didn't allow his knees under the desk. He was on the phone so I went to check with one of my friends who explained that a argument had broken out the last week with one of the other programmers and although we had no proof, we expected it was his style. The lowering of the desk was masterfully done with nothing apparently out of place on it too. But then I noticed the piece-de-resistance where the seat height adjust rod was also missing!

    Well D3 tried for a few weeks to get someone, anyone, to help him out restoring his desk (even found where the legs were hidden.) but to no avail. One day I was riding in the elevator with him and he begged me for help. I suggested that he should purchase a case of beer and leave it atop the desk. Later that week I heard that a case of beer had appeared on his desk. The following Monday the beer was gone, and the desk had been restored! I never asked who was responsible...

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