Saturday, July 16, 2011

Build, Break

I messed up at work today.

The store had scarcely been open for half an hour when the phone rang and the caller ID flashed "BOOKSTORE AR OFFICE". I knew it was accounting on the other end, probably calling for the manager, and I answered chipperly enough. But boy was I off!

"Hayley? Can you come see me for a bit?"

I rushed down the hall, but still didn't feel anxious, partly because the accounting woman is so kind and partly because I couldn't imagine a worst-case scenario. And so, I was surprised in a bad way when she held up a few sheets of paper and began quizzing me.

When she finished her explanation, my anxiety dissipated, it was only a check I had rung out wrong, and while it was indeed a terrible mistake, it could be corrected easily enough.

That is, corrected easily enough if I didn't make the problem worse before I made it better. And you know me . . . !

I scrolled through our records to figure out why I had rung the check through the register for less than it had been posted for. It was puzzling when the record referenced on the check itself revealed no payment information at all. Very strange. I searched by the customer's name, and when the record flashed on the screen my stomach turned cold.

I had posted the check to the wrong order. The order had been build. The order had been shipped. The wrong computer had been sent out. In short, I had created an even bigger problem that a few hundred dollar surplus in the store account.

I swallowed and shuffled into the back room, endlessly thankful that the manager had taken the day off, and unsure of whom to direct my discover to. "I made a big mistake--" I announced to the room. The purchasing manager looked up slowly. "Well, what'd you do?"

"I billed and built the wrong computer. It already got shipped out."

The Apple tech shrugged from in front of his laptop. "So we'll send the kid a return label and build him the right computer. He can just send the wrong one back. It's not a big deal. Problem solved."

I sighed miserably, not knowing how to make a return label and not imbued with confidence in my ability to make this solution happen. What if the customer was mad? What if he didn't want to send the other computer back? We'd have to wipe it when it arrived, anyway, and reorder the registry to make sure all the serial numbers matched the right people . . . I really had created a bit of a mess. Further, I turned back to the original problem: correcting the surplus created by under-ringing the check. Mindlessly I rang out the correct order, following the accountant's instructions, writing little notes and reconciling all the records. I skipped down the hall back to her office.

"You've figured it out then?" -- "I think so, I just wanted to check with you that I've done it right?" -- "Oh, I'm sure that . . ." -- "Well, I rang out the whole order . . ." And she made a face. Of course, in retrospect, what I did makes no mathematical sense, and most of my conscious mind knew this as I went through the motions, but the part of my brain that was on autopilot was too afraid to consider that there might be a flaw in my process.

I was sent back to the store with more explicit instructions, and I sheepishly pulled the Apple tech from his morning tasks. "Um, can you do a post-void?" He didn't even ask any questions, knowing I'd messed something up, and left with his register manager functions I finally balanced accounts on our end. (Which, I'm still not certain I did correctly, but I was too afraid to ask. I'll find out tomorrow, I suppose!)

I left a voicemail with the unfortunate customer, and wrote him up a nice letter to accompany the computer and the return label, explaining the situation. I built a computer and with the help of the Apple tech got it registered properly, and I even convinced the guy in charge of shipping to make sure it got sent out that very day. I sat down in relief when the situation had wrapped itself up, and the Apple tech walked by with a stack of the day's mail.

"More checks for you! I have every confidence you'll ring them out properly this time." When I groaned he smiled and patted me on the back. "You know I'm just teasing you," he grinned.

And so I feel very much like Anne Shirley: "I may make mistakes, oh, of course, but I never make the same mistake twice, that's what's good about me!"

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