If it works at 7-Eleven, what could go wrong here?

It's a few decades back, before microwave ovens are a standard feature of office break rooms, when this consultant tech pilot fish gets a call to fix a big photocopier that's under a maintenance contract.

"It was at the state capital headquarters of the education department," fish says. "I was told the copier kept jamming, spreading toner spots across the pages and staining the pages with oil.

"I arrived, checked out the copier and found nothing wrong."

But problem reports keep coming in for the next three weeks. It's always the same complaint, and there's always nothing wrong with the copier when fish arrives.

To make things even more unpleasant for fish -- who's starting to get a reputation with the client for incompetence -- he learns that some kind of dysentery bug has been making the rounds of the office for a while, so he has to take special care with his hand-washing while he's there.

Finally fed up, fish tells his boss to take him off-call for the day so he can sit and watch the copier from the start of the workday.

Boss does, and fish takes a seat near the machine to watch. All morning the copier works beautifully, with no problems at all.

Then, just before noon, one of the office workers approaches the machine with his lunchbox. He opens the access door on the copier, slides out the fuser assembly and lays two hot dogs across the top of it.

Upon questioning the worker, fish learns that multiple people have been cooking their lunches on top of the fuser. Fish then tests the printer -- and gets jams, toner spots and oil stains.

He promptly heads to the department head's office and shuts the door.

"I said that I wanted it perfectly clear up front that there was nothing wrong with the copier," says fish. "Then I told him that he should advise his employees that the 'dysentery bug' going around was likely silicone oil poisoning from the lubricants used in the copier and was the result of cooking food in the copier.

"I then told him that if we got a call about this problem again, we would back-bill them for all the previous visits for this issue, amounting to about $25,000 for a $20,000 copier, and we would remove the machine.

"As I left his office, I heard him ask his secretary to call his doctor's office."

Sharky prefers his dogs Chicago-style. True tales of IT life? Pretty much any style will do. Send yours to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll snag a snazzy Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

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