Tuesday, December 12, 2006

20 years' worth of loo roll and other great over-ordering misadventures

In an earlier career roughly 25 years ago, I was responsible for ordering 10 x RL02K-DD instead of 10 x RL02K-DC.

Seems a minor matter, doesn't it?

Sadly, RL02K-DD were sets of 100 RL02 computer disks (themselves as big as a microwave). What I meant to order was 10 single disks - RL02K-DC.

So I ordered 1,000 disks instead of 10.

The resultant convoy of trucks careering around Europe was enough to make the earth slightly shift on its axis and I was partially blamed for filling up a car park in Nijmegen, Netherlands with trucks full of disks for six months.

I never made the same mistake again!

I was therefore fascinated to read the story of Dorling Kindersley books which basically went to the wall (and was purchased by Pearson) when some poor soul ordered 13 million Star Wars books to be printed. They only sold three million of the books. Try to imagine 10 million books sitting in a warehouse. It is quite a lot. The resultant problem caused the business to leave the hands of its founders.

Imagine my interest then, today, when I read this in the Guardian diary:

We are indebted to Local, the English-language news service of Sweden, for the undeniably heartening news that police in the western town of Hagfors have placed their first order for toilet paper since early March 1986, when a minor administrative error - the result, it seems, of an understandable if, on the whole, regrettable confusion between the Swedish equivalents of the word "packet" and the word "pallet" - left them with a small 20-year surplus. "It took all day to unload," recalled station chief Björn Fredlund fondly. "We filled 12 garages with it. But we started the last roll on Thursday." (What's more, we did not make that up.)

You have to hand it to those Swedish policemen. They seem to have handled (literally) their problem of over-ordering with terrific style.

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