After months and months and months of work Surround SCM 5.0 and TestTrack 7.6 have shipped. You can download them, you can buy them, you can buy two, and they make lovely Christmas presents. This ends the shameless corporate plug.
Speaking of being hungry (yeah, well, sometimes transitions just aren’t that smooth) the other day I called and ordered a pizza for takeout from a local pizza place. When I got there they looked me up in the computer, I paid for the pie, and then they said it was still in the oven and would be out in a couple of minutes. Ten minutes later the guy behind the counter begins searching through the oven and the pizza boxes. I know already this isn’t going to be good.
The counter guy goes and gets the pizza making guy who confirm that they did indeed make the pizza but that it is nowhere to be found. The pizza making guy asks the very poignant question:
“How do you just lose a pizza?”
Another round of searching resulted in nothing, nothing except a very obvious look of fear on the faces of the counter guy and the pizza making guy. They both come up to me and say, very apologetically, the my pizza was indeed made, but that the pizza delivery guy took it by mistake when the counter guy should have had it to give to me. The pizza making guy said he’d make a new one right quick and it would be ready in seven minutes.
Now it’s my turn to talk, I wait just a second to let the drama build, stand up from my chair and in my best “I’m the customer and you darned better well treat me like the king unless your idea of king more resembles King Louis XVI then I’d just as soon pass” voice:
“That’s alright guys, I used to work in a pizza and I know how it goes.”
This does three things for me.
1. I get to see the looks of relief come over the counter guy and pizza making guy’s faces. This of course is quickly followed by them changing expressions to the more devious “Should we slash the pizza driver guy’s tires or just dump a vat of sauce on his head” face.
2. I get a handful of free pizza coupons for my trouble and the fact that I didn’t yell and jump around like a crazed baboon.
3. I get seven more minutes to watch the counter guy answer phones and type feverishly into the pizza order taking computer.
Now, item #3 doesn’t seem like a great benefit, but what it did was it took me on a trip down memory lane to my days in the pizza business. Back in those days our “computer” was really a dumb terminal connected to some dumb mainframe somewhere. Unlike this pizza place though I was a hybrid, I was both the counter guy and the pizza making guy. You could say I was the counter-pizza making guy, except well, I was actually for making pizza. All right, that was my last French Revolution joke, I swear on Robespierre’s severed head. Ooops.
Anyhow, I remember when taking orders over the phone you had to steer the customer in a direction that the computer could handle because the user interface had a very specific order that it wanted things entered in.
It broke down like this:
Quantity + crust type + size + half and half or full + specialty type + toppings + coupons.
Which basically means if someone called you up and said:
Customer: “Um, yeah, I want one supreme, but only on half with the other half being triple anchovies, on the pan crust in the medium size and I have a coupon that says here it will cost me $4.99.”
That meant you had to work it backwards into the format the computer liked. A pain, for sure, and you got real good an interrupting people like this:
Customer: “Um, yeah, I want one supreme…”
Me: “What type of crust?”
Customer: “Err, uh, pan I suppose. But I only want that on half…”
Me: “What size?”
Customer: “Um medium I guess.”
You get the idea. That system more or less worked until you got to the coupon stage where no matter how you prepped the customer the whole thing fell apart. Way up at the corporate level it was decided that you needed to enter the coupon code for a given coupon so that they could track the effectiveness of different advertising campaigns. I suppose its purpose was to tell them that a coupon for a $4.99 pizza did better than a coupon for a $5.99 pizza. What it worked out to in the field was a dozen or so screens of coupons codes that weren’t listed as numbers or something easy to find but rather a helpful “description”:
MedHalfSupXAnch – 4.99
Sacre bleu! It took forever to track down the right code, when it happened to be in the system, and forever when you had some guy holding on the phone and three other phones ringing is not a good thing. To solve the problem we all just kept calculators next to the terminals and would subtract the amount of the coupon from the regular price and then add that value into the computer as a discount, not a coupon. The end result was the customers were happy, the phones got answered, and the corporate guys didn’t get their fine tuned data telling them that people prefer cheaper over more expensive when it comes to pizza.
I’d say it was a win situation for everyone, except for the corporate guy. But at the end of the day he drove home in a BMW and I drove home smelling like anchovies so I wasn’t going to feel too sorry for him. To finish a theme, it was exactly like the common man standing up to the aristocracy in 18th century France. Well except using a calculator isn’t exactly the same as The Enlightenment and being starved out in western Europe doesn’t quite map to a part time job in western Ohio. But other than that it was exactly the same. Sort of.