Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude

Filthie's Mobile Fortress Of Solitude
Where Great Intelligence Goes To Be Insulted

Wednesday, 23 November 2022

The Real World - Or Utopia?


That’s okay, kid.

We don’t care, and we hate you right back!


There’s a reason engineers and technical people ‘never f*** down’.  We have these people called ‘customers’. They’re often assholes, morons, or both. Most of them don’t have the attention span to watch that vid, and if they did most of it would go over their heads. They want what they want: it has to be incredibly light and incredibly strong. Workmanship must be first rate, and next to free. And they need it yesterday.

And if you think this state of affairs is bad and you can do better…let me tell ya about a little company in Hinton, Alberta. 10 years ago it was an industrious pulp mill when I dealt with them and one of our A accounts. When those guys called, my job was to jump and hustle. Sometimes I had to bend over. But on the whole…although they drove us bonkers we made great money off them. I think Weldwood owned that mill back then.

One day the manageMINT noticed that the buying patterns in the mill didn’t always make sense. For sure, there were kickbacks and corruption involved here and there and some of their top guys got fired and some vendors got blacklisted. I got a rude phone call one day from some corporate ass hat demanding that we take back a $60,000.00 control valve and issue a refund. I explained that they’d had it for years and it was a damned good idea that they keep it - it was a spare for a critical process. They’re made one at a time in Helsinki, and delivery at the time was 16 weeks.

Nope!!! Take it back! Or get scratched off the approved vendors list!!! I started the return process and handed it up to the boss to deal with. He couldn’t believe what he was seeing, so went to see them, buy lunch, and find out what was going on. He came back looking befuddled and defeated. So - what happened, I asked. 

It turned out that the management was going to learn everyone a lesson about corrupt business practices, kickbacks, and back door selling - or else! They put the bean counters and the ladies in the purchasing department in charge of all procurement decisions! I laughed and told him to stop pulling my leg. He walked away shaking his head. All sales inquiries and dealings were to go through them. He was serious.

The valve came in, so I called another customer and told him we had another critical application control valve in stock, new and in the crate for a good price. He told me to shut up and take his money.

Aaaaand of course, a month later, Weldwood calls back - they need that valve they sent back!!! Yesterday!!! Well…sorry, I says, I sold it because they didn’t want it. “Get a new one in! NOW!!!” Well…sorry: delivery is 16 weeks. Y’see, there’s exotic materials of construction on this thing to withstand aggressive chemicals, there’s processes and tests to be done as it’s made to meet API and ASME compliance and certs, hydrostatic tests, etc etc. These things don’t grow on trees or are sitting on shelves. Delivery is maybe 15 weeks if she wants to spring for the air freight. She hung up in my ear and called the boss. I guess we’d been nastily cut from the vendors list previously… and he was all grins as he explained to her that there was a reason her mill had maintenance and reliability teams and tradesmen. They understand scheduling and availabilities and plan around stuff just like this. That is why they had a $60,000.00 valve sitting in a crate gathering dust. He told the frazzled young lady that now she basically needed to buy TWO valves. One for the rush, and one for a spare. No, we will not stock them here for her. Then he hung up in her ear. 

I dunno why I did it… but I sent a quick email to a couple contacts I had in maintenance over there, and gave them the name and contact info of the guy I sold theirs to…maybe they could buy it back from him. I apologized for not being able to help them out. 

The next week I got an email back stating that our points of contact in the future would again be the trades and maintenance guys as it had been before. Oh…and we had been quietly put back on the preferred vendor list.

So… if you trades guys think us engineering and technical guys are the source of all trades related fuckery…be happy. You could be dealing with accountants and purchasing ladies.

Just some food for thought…


  1. When I was thunder running for the company, my first brand new van was a GMC Savanna. 1998 Model, with a 350 Vortec and was a heavy 3/4 ton. That meant a 1 ton truck frame and suspension with a normal cargo van body on it. I could haul two complete systems in it without effort. I put a trailer hitch on it and drug four or more systems around when needed. It would do 100 mph all day, and I even took it on 4WD only trails in the national forest to hit my radio sites. Great vehicle.

    After that one was worn out (4 years, 275K miles), the next one was spec'd by a secretary. I got an all wheel drive 1/2 ton Ford. It had the smallest engine available, and even had an AIR CONDITIONER in the cargo hold. It didn't have cruise control. I found a tech in Colorado that wanted the space and the AWD, and I traded it for a 98 Yukon 4WD. I drove from central Texas to Colorado Springs over two days to make the swap. I walked with a limp for a week. Cruise control makes you soft....

    But yeah, don't let a secretary spec out a tech support tool.

    1. My companys fleet dept bought some Ford pickups with 460 engines because they got a "deal". But they refused to spring for the extra gas tank. The chart changer in Medicine Lodge could not drive his chart without coming back to town for gas.

  2. Story gold right there. Seen similar waaay too often.

    Gotta love a good buyer team though. Had a pair during new plant startup that could find anydamnthing if it was too be had. Pre-internet. Kept those two guys happy.

    Steve S6

  3. My brother and I made good money for years by stocking industrial and medical vacuum pumps and listing them on eBay. Long delivery and distributors ordered only when sold. When the imbeciles without spares broke down they eventually went looking on eBay in desperation. I have made several cross country drives to bail one of them out. Not cheap and no mercy shown.

  4. I was hired as Director of Maintenance for a startup small air tour company about 20 years ago. Their purchasing queen was a guy (I think) who knew precisely zilch about airplanes or the Friends Against Aviation regs that go along with them. I couldn’t get parts without going through this yahoo, who’d then go find the cheapest item he could, documentation or certs be damned. After several thousands of misspent dollars because I couldn’t install anything without source docs, the HMFIC’s saw the light and let me use my contacts instead.

  5. Men and women as purchasing agents for a company are much like women HR directors and HR staff. Little dicktators that control their slice like a kingdom.

    1. Probably former supply officers and NCOs.

  6. Holy hell that brings some memories. Just in time shipping, no spares, vendors must keep spares for us (like hell they do), trying to convince management that after we replaced the melt pump (a $1MM item) with the spare, we also needed to send the worn-out one back for a rebuild (6 month process) so that it could become the new spare. Nope, not spending money for rebuild since we just installed a new one. My favorite is the safety engineer telling me I need to spend several thousand to retest transfer hoses every year. Hell, I can buy new hoses for less than that. Nope, if you buy new hoses you gotta test them before you use them. What. The. Fuck? I am constantly surprised that any company actually makes a profit, my personal opinion is that most companies are just coasting on residuals and eventually it will all collapse.

    1. don, knew a bank employee, one of a myriad of vice presidents, who told us some of the messes the bank officials made.
      shook my idea that people at the top know what they are doing.
      the law that states that people are promoted until they reach the level of incompetency!
      convinced me more than ever that if God were not keeping the earth spinning the whole thing would collapse immediately into a pile of dust

  7. Years ago we sold a storage array to an air pollution board. The tech team had us split the quote into controller+shelves and drives so both quotes would be under their capital controls limit... An important note is the drives were standard size in a normal drive carrier but had storage-specific firmware. Purchasing saw the drive quote and put them out to bid. Another reseller convinced purchasing 'those drives are obsolete, you need these alternate drives'. Said drives were for servers, not storage.

    When our engineer went out to install the array he installed all drives and turned the array on. The controllers looked at 30-odd drives, saw server firmware instead of storage firmware and put up a great middle finger. So. they had to buy the correct drives from US, then put the server drives on the shelf for eventual use. Buyer wasn't punished and the other reseller wasn't banned.

  8. My brother, an actual engineer, was made a regional sales manager. He spent so much of his time flying hither and yon to show that in spite of what the salesman had said, the device will always be out of spec when used in that way. Now let me show you the procedures and features to properly use said device. What's that, no there are not 'hidden' functions. You didn't read the manual, did you?

    This was high end optics, including DoD customers.