Thursday, December 29, 2011

Beam me up Scotty...there's no intelligent life down here

This story happened a while back, but I thought it deserved to be published here as a testament to human ignorance and stupidity.

I was working on a project for one of my clients and as part of my analysis I needed to speak to the users of the paper copies of the monthly statements for the firm's general ledger accounts. The supplier's invoice confirmed that they produced and printed statements for the general ledger account range, so all I had to do was find out who they were distributed to and speak to those people.

It took about five or six phone calls to locate the person who received the boxes of statements that were shipped to us each month by the supplier. When I finally managed to speak to that person I asked him who he distributed the paper copies of the statements to. I could hardly believe what he told me. He said that nobody used those statements anymore because they were now available on the internal intranet. Apparently around one year earlier the users had told him that they didn't need paper copies anymore.


Almost afraid of the answer, I asked him what he did with the printed statements if the users didn't want them. He nonchalantly told me that every month he dumped the boxes of statements into the Iron Mountain bins (Iron Mountain is a company that shreds confidential documents).

You've got to be kidding me. So you're basically saying that forests are being destroyed so that the supplier can print these statements and ship them to us, and you turn around and have them shredded?

Now, you and I can see everything that's wrong with this picture - right? Well, Mr. Ignoramus couldn't see a problem. I asked him why he didn't send an instruction to the supplier to stop printing the statement copies. He told me it wasn't his job.

Not your job? Wow!

I have seen lots of things during my career as a consultant, but the Big, Stupid, Lazy-Ass Award definitely goes to this guy. So I got out my big stick and aimed a swing right at his air-filled head hoping to knock some sense into him.

I asked him if he ever wondered why he didn't get a very big bonus working here. He said he didn't know. So I explained that pulp and paper companies choke our atmosphere with greenhouse gases while cutting down trees and ruining precious natural habitats to make paper. Then they mark-up the cost of that paper, sell it and put it on trucks (adding more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere) and send it out to companies like the supplier who prints the statements. The supplier marks up their costs for the brilliant white, 30 weight bond paper and toxic toner that they use, plus the cost of their staff who load and offload the boxes of paper generated by their massively expensive printers, (and they no doubt charge for wear and tear on their printers too) and they charge that back to his employer to produce the statements. His employer then pays a transport company to pick up the boxes at the supplier and deliver them to this brainless idiot (again, more greenhouse gases). Then the brainless idiot opens the boxes and dumps their contents into the Iron Mountain bins (for which he is being paid a salary). Finally Iron Mountain is paid to send out a truck, drag the bins downstairs, shred the contents and to drive the shreds back to their facility for recycling (even more greenhouse gases). And his employer is PAYING for all of this!!!

After a stunned silence he asked why I was yelling at him. So I patiently explained that his stupidity was costing his employer a small fortune every year. Then I asked him if he was going to contact the supplier to have them stop printing the statements for the general ledger accounts.

He had four words for me. He said "It's not my job."

And in case you are wondering - no, I don't have a good enough imagination to be making this stuff up.

There's some people that you just can't knock any sense into. As an outside consultant I was not authorized to instruct the supplier to stop production of the general ledger statements, but I easily found someone else in the company who was more than willing to take care of it.

But still - it kind of makes you wonder how some people manage to cross the street without getting themselves killed.

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