Two bad bosses do more than double the damage

There's a high price to pay when layers of ill-advised business decisions come crashing down at the PC repair desk

Bad management decisions have a nasty habit of trickling down the business chain to ill effect. For example, when a corporate office sets policies that make no sense for those doing the actual labor, it should be no surprise to see these same guidelines complicate the lives of us working stiffs. I learned this firsthand during my days at the computer repair desk of a now-defunct electronics store.

At this establishment, the managers were determined to make us the best in customer service and repair. However, the approach was poorly planned and horribly designed -- a disaster waiting to happen. One detail in particular was a sticking point: Instead of setting aside a separate part of the store for the repair area, the support zone was out in the aisle.

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I'm sure the young, idealistic, inexperienced MBA at corporate headquarters who came up with this asinine idea felt it would allow the PC repair staff to "interact with the customers and promote the store's great PC services." (Insert stock photo of smiling tech talking to happy customers.)

The reality was that it made it nearly impossible to complete PC repair work quickly, and it opened a security hole bigger than the Large Hadron Collider. There was only one locked-down hood for securing customer laptops. If you were working on more than one laptop at a time, you had to keep a keen eye on the others so that no one would steal them.

Officially, store policy stated that while a repair associate was working on a customer's computer, they were not to leave it alone. The company had only one PC repair associate working at one time. Say you were working on several different machines at once and needed to use the bathroom -- the preferred option was to find a member of the PC sales staff to watch the desk while you were gone.

But if the sales staff were all tied up with customers, your only option was to put everything away. A computer taken apart? Assemble the computer quickly or put the parts in a bin. In the middle of a two-hour malware scan? Stop the scan, shut down the computer, and lock it up. When you came back five minutes later, you have to pull everything back out of the cabinet and start again. Sure, this makes perfect sense (sarcasm dripping).

It got worse. The company ran into financial trouble, so it cut staff and slashed hours. On any given weeknight, it took at least three salespeople plus the PC repair tech to fully man the PC department. However, as the hours diminished, only one salesperson was assigned to the floor.

As the PC repair tech juggled jobs on several machines that needed to be completed that evening because this is what the salesperson promised, angry, impatient customers circled like sharks. "Yeah, we need some help over here. We want to buy a computer, but the other sales guy is busy." Then from the other side, "When you get a chance, I need help with the wireless routers." Then over the loudspeaker would come the announcement, "We need a PC repair tech at the customer service desk ..."

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