Friday, March 25, 2005

"I'm crackin' skulls"

"Listen, Denise. I know you'll handle the training issue of getting your employees to return phone calls when they should. I'm more worried how this happened in the first place."

"Well, he paid the premiums, but they didn't get posted to his account."

"Obviously." I'm getting even angrier now. "But how did that happen?"

"Steve, most of our policyholders remit payments to our payment center in New Jersey. But there is a small group of mabye 12 or 15 policyholders who send their payments here. To this office."

"To THIS office?!"

"Right. As I understand it, this has to do with our acquisitions. At one time, we were going to process all payments for our own cusomers here, and then transmit the information directly to home office."

"And it was a failed experiment, basically."


"I thought we offloaded all those to Jersey. YEARS ago!"

"Well, we did, except for these."


"I.... I don't know, Steve."

SNAP! My pencil breaks between my fingers. I hate the sound of those words. I'd rather hear silence.

"HOW are we transmitting the information for these 12 to home office?"

"There's a program... the programmers made it. Someone types in the amounts and it creates a file and then we send the file to New Jersey over the internet."

"Encrypted, I hope."

"Hm? What does that mean?"

"Who made the program? What programmer?"

"I- I- I'm not sure."

I close my eyes. I am very close to cracking right now. I suppose most of this is not her fault, but she happens to be the unlucky one who's in front of me.

"Is there a report that gets generated when these payments are keyed?"

"They open the file and print it out in notepad, I think."

"You THINK?"

"Well, they have to modify the file anyway, so it's no extra work."

"What do you MEAN, they have to modify the file?"

"The amounts come out wrong, and they have to be corrected manually."

"They come out WRONG!?!"

"Steve, it's been like that since before I got here-"

"GO get me a copy of the latest file!!" I shout. "Bonnie, get Pat from IT in here!" Denise dashes from the room.

A minute passes.

"Steve, I've got Paul from IT. He says Pat isn't in the office."

"Put him through!"

"Paul. Where's Pat," I bark into the phone.

"He's smo-.... he's on a break."

"Go down and get him. Tell him I want him up here five minutes ago!"

"But Steve, he's all the way down in the courtyard-"

"Just GO!!"

Denise re-appears in the doorway, reports in hand. "Call extension 238. That's Marty, who processes the payments that go to New Jersey."

I dial.

"This is Marty."

"Marty, tell Steve about how the corrections that have to be made to that payment file for New Jersey."

"What this program is doing," he begins slowly, as if caressing each word with his lips, "is it's taking the payment amount from employee A, and applying it to employee B, so that I have to manually enter the file that is created and edit the various amounts that are being inserted into the file. All except for the payment amount for the first employee, which is getting dropped altogether-"

"So everybody has the amount of the person ahead of them."

"Right. And I correct them manually."

"Thank you Marty."


"Does IT know about this.... bug?"

"I told them about it, and nothing got done," Denise says.

"You know what that is, Denise? That's an EXCUSE. That's BUCK-PASSING."


"So you told IT, and they did nothing, and you just FORGOT about it? What if your house was on fire, and you called 911, and no one showed up? Would you go shopping?"

She goes pale and stares at me, wide-eyed.

"Call Dom. Call me. And if you don't hear anything, call us again. And if WE don't do anything, call the CEO. But I'll tell you right now, you DIDN'T call me. And I'd bet money that you didn't call Dom either. So I DON'T wanna hear that no one's helping you!" My voice is getting louder.

"There's a REASON I have an open-door policy here. It's for all of YOU, to help you solve your problems. But it's also for ME, so I don't have to listen to NONSENSE."

"Steve, I have a LOT going on here. I don't think you appreciate how much-"

"So it's on your things to do list?"

"It fell between the chairs!"

"It's been this way for YEARS!!"

Pat appears in my doorway, stinking of cigarette smoke.

Jesus, man, did you get any in your lungs?

"What did I miss?" Pat says.

"Are you familiar with an application that customer service uses to send payments to New Jersey?"

"Sounds familiar."

"Who wrote it?"

Please don't say Landon. Please don't say Landon. Please don't say Landon.