Shark Tank: Nice guys drive alone

It's only 60 miles as the crow flies from this pilot fish's front door to one of his customers, a government office on the other side of the hills.

But he's not a crow -- and it's a two-hour drive on a good day.

So when the government office calls with a server that won't boot, fish hopes he won't have to make the trip.

"All the diagnostics indicated that there was no power to the disk controller, which lived in the back of the tape system rack," says fish. "So I asked them to make sure the tape drive was switched on."

"Of course it is!" office's data processing manager snaps. So fish grabs a power supply and a few other pieces of equipment, and heads for the hills.

Two hours later, he arrives, and the first thing he checks is the main power switch for the tape cabinet. It's off.

"The switch on these units is in a particularly silly place, at the base of the cabinet about two inches from the floor," fish says. "But you don't need to get down there to check it out, since lights on the tape deck equal power on, no lights equal no power.

"The DP manager claimed the cleaner must have knocked the switch off while vacuuming the room. I read him the riot act, and brought up the clause in his maintenance contract about wasting my time and the charges that could apply for this, a minimum charge for four hours of my time plus travel time at a ridiculously high hourly rate."

But fish is Mr. Nice Guy, so just this once he agrees to waive the charge -- and gets back in his car and drives home.

A few weeks later, fish fields another call from the same user -- and it's almost exactly the same problem.

"The system won't boot again, we run through the diagnostics, it looks like there's no power to the disk controller," says fish. "I hate to ask but I do anyway: Are you sure that there is power to the tape drive cabinet?"

"Of course there is!" replies DP manager.

OK, says fish, remember what happened a few weeks back? Are you really sure there is power to the tape drive cabinet?

"Yes, there is," DP manager says. "What time will you be here?"

So fish grabs the power supply unit again and heads for his car.

Two hours later -- "only after you have driven these roads do you really know the meaning of the word wend," he grumbles -- fish is back at the government office.

"I arrive, walk up to the tape cabinet, switch it on, get a signature on my job sheet and go back to the office to prepare a bill for a ridiculously large sum of money," sighs fish.

"Being a government office, they paid without a murmur."

Copyright © 2002 IDG Communications, Inc.

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