And now you know

This pilot fish is the support supervisor for a government-employee retirement system. Among his responsibilities: Making sure that tax forms -- including the very important Form 1099 -- go out to all pension recipients.

"We have special network printers devoted to printing nothing but 1099s to be sent out," fish says. "These forms are printed on special stock that can be fed through a folder-sealer machine, which uses pressure on small glue tabs on the side of the stock to seal them for privacy."

When it comes time to upgrade the 1099-only printers, fish makes the rounds with a tech from his staff to inspect the new installations. But at one site, he notices something odd: The folder-sealer machine next to the printer has a thick layer of dust on it.

That clearly indicates the folder-sealer hasn't been used recently, even though the printer is churning out 1099s as fish is standing there.

Fish knows the local staff was taught how to use the machine when it was first installed two years before. When he asks the tech how they've been preparing the forms for mailing, the tech has no idea.

He asks a member of the department's staff. She shows him a glue stick.

"They had been manually folding and sealing each and every 1099," says astonished fish. "Incredulous, we led her to the folder-sealer and demonstrated it to the stunned and delighted employee.

"Within minutes we had a crowd of laughing and happy staffers around us, all wanting to see the thing demonstrated again. They apparently had never even seen it in action and had certainly never used it.

"As I walked away shaking my head, one of them called after me, 'I always wondered what that was for!'"

Sharky wonders when you'll send your true tale of IT life to me at sharky@computerworld.com. You'll get a stylish Shark shirt if I use it. Add your comments below, and read some great old tales in the Sharkives.

The Best of Shark Tank includes more than 70 tales of IT woe submitted by you, our readers, since 1999. Which all goes to prove, conclusively, that hapless users and idiotic bosses are indeed worldwide phenomena. Free registration is all that's needed to download The Best of Shark Tank (PDF).

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