Is the only way for a small business to survive to rip people off?

It’s 7 o’clock on Black Friday and here I am walking through an airfield in almost pitch black.

In the last week or so my sleeping pattern has been erratic to say the least it’s over I’m not getting to sleep till about 3 AM or I waking up absurdly early. Normally when my sleeping goes to pot this is a sign of life wanting to kick me square in the balls. I’m right in a way well, I’ve had some news that I can’t even share on my open platform into my life. Not yet anyways.

With today being black Friday and the last working day for many small businesses it’s a good time to post about an experience I’ve been having over the last couple weeks.

Where to start on this one. have a bit of Pentatech shortly, I’m an IT engineer and I have been for the last 15 years. all of that experience has given me a solid ground and troubleshooting methodology.

So just recently a position came up with a very, very small IT related position.

When I say small it’s a one man band type of their working out of a Portakabin and a van.

Now should’ve started ringing during the interview especially at the “technical part”. When asked to go to generic question or what would you do when a PC refuses to boots as most people although this isn’t a quick or easy answer

There was a special moment when his eyes glazed over and I knew I had already lost him technically.

Needless to say after 20 minutes of “interviewing” I got the job.

It is outstart in a little under two weeks he was going to Vietnam. The purpose of the trip is to look up how to start a charity over there giving away laptops which here in the western world we would deem unusable. So in short for minimum wage, and I really mean minimum wage, he wants someone to look after his entire business until February when he gets back.

Ring that I have nothing else to do with my time I thought I’d give it a shot and see how this plays out. After all everyone keeps telling me that “a job is better than having no job at all.

Side note number one. What is it the lesser you get paid in the world the more shit you have to deal with. This is a universal constant. The amount of shit you are expected to gobble up and just accept it because you have to count yourself lucky that you have a job is simply bewildering. If I get the chance I will write about my new debt collecting part of the role.

Huge alarm bells started on day one. I tuneup and he’s in the middle of a laptop “repair”. The repair is simple, disassemble the old laptop and puts the motherboard into a new case.

I hate anything to do with laptops when it comes to repairing. There are so many screws and to date I have yet to put one back without a couple of screws leftover.

All is going well until the time it comes to insert the DVD drive. Very quickly it’s apparent there is a slight change in the case and there is a plastic rage that’s is there which isn’t on the old one.

My world I would’ve been straight onto eBay and picked up the right parts for the job for just 5 pounds.

Not with this company. His solution was to go and borrow a hacksaw and start cutting away at the inside of the case.

I kid you not that on my first day I’m watching my so-called employer take a hacksaw to the inside of a laptop case to make the DVD drive fits.

On the fifth and final reassembly of the laptop I noticed that he chats away a couple of dust protectors for the inbuilt trackpad. Despite me being quite vocal about they are needed to stop dust and crafts from getting into the Switch mechanism he threw them away anyway guess what. The trackpad button stopped working a couple of hours later. Dust has gotten into you Switch mechanism causing the button to be on all the time.

Quite why I didn’t run for the door I will never know but I guess the lure of easy money was still strong.

It too late that my employer also does web hosting. Sporting a very small chance to intermixture revenue for the company I start to ask him about the service that he has. It turns out he has absolutely no idea but still manages to stiff people £200 a year for very basic web posting.

The second alarm bells start ringing when he asks can I design websites. In my head I’m thinking yes I can, I’m quite proficient at doing a decent looking website these days but there’s no way I’m doing that sort of work when I know he’s billing me out at £35 per hour and I receive £6.50 per hour.

I simply nought and smile saying that I’ve had a little experience and I will see what I can do.

After he finds the long lost passwords to his own WebServer I started having a dig through the traffic I was impressed that one of these websites was thundering through 40 GB a month. As I looked at the website in question there was one glaringly obvious question. How does a very simple full-page HTML-based websites with no backend database connection go through 40 GB a month.

The answer is: very easily when the server has been hacked. No fair enough the quality of porn on the server wasn’t actually too bad but despite shutting down the offending website the service deals remain on an metric fuck ton of blacklists. This answered another question I has why he doesn’t have his own domain name based email address instead of Google.

Figuring to myself that I’ve been a little bit lacklustre with doing anything over the last few months I would stick with it and see what I could do.

Turns out that another one of my jobs, not mentioned in the interview, was to populate a couple of websites that he’s already “designed”. Are used the word designed very loosely as it looks like a page that would be hosted on geocities.

In my head I think this is money for old rope as I have a few Indian friends he would jump at the chance of earning a couple of times per hour doing basic data entry.

On this particular job nobody knew the username or password for the website, not even the client. It turns out that the Bosshard is employed someone fresh out of college to set up this website and wasn’t able to get the username of passwords from him

So no I have to jump onto the backend of the server, won a few SQL scripts to change the username and password and eventually get entry.

Then I discover the Joomla! installation is hopelessly out of date and has never had any security patches applied. It then transpires that you can’t update Joomla! without updating the server. Something that’s never been done in the three years he’s had it.

So now I’m left with having to learn how to update server, make backups and do you have boatload of admin stuff for the low, low price of £6.50 per hour.

At this point I’m still thinking its money for old rope and I’m quite enjoying learning something new but in the back of my head something still doesn’t feel right.

At this point it is two days before he is due to leave

The rarest of where things happened and a customer walks in with a laptop running incredibly slow. It’s taking about 12 minutes on a reasonably suspects laptop to boot up into Windows.

Long story short all I had to do was disable a service that is well known for having problems and tying up the processor. Time to fix: 12 minutes.

The boss looked mortified that I could fix something so quickly and this resulted in an hour long conversation about, and I quote, “how do I know it’s fixed”.

I fight my corner and win but it was a shallow victory. The more technical I got the more his eyes glazed over not understanding a simple thing. He didn’t even know what the ping command was for.

The next day he disappears off to Vietnam leaving his whole company in my hands.

At first I can put up with the constant questioning of how I’m fixing things. Then internally I start defending him as he has been bitten before by people who said they could do the job but had no clue. After a month i snap as he then started asking me the most basic of basic troubleshooting questions.

This is the point where I wanted to walk away. It turns out that he “fixes” systems by doing the following.

When possible bootup the old system and collect all Microsoft-based product keys.
Make a copy of my documents.
Charge £35.
Reinstall windows.
Charge £50
Do not install any Windows updates.
Copy the backup of my documents onto the new laptop.
Charge £35
Hand laptop back to customer.

Then it starts to get more interesting. If they have been using Microsoft office we then reinstall that but we don’t see the set up their email account.

His “fix” is fundamentally flawed because anyone who is slightly technical or helped out a friend or relative fix a computer knows that people do not keep the usernames and passwords for pretty much anything.

Now don’t get me wrong I know that businesses have to make money and the above solution is a sort of solution but surely in this day and age it’s the last thing you do when you’ve looked it all the other options?

This is what really pissing me off is that more than one person I’ve spoken to who allegedly works in IT says that this is the first port of call rather than the last.

I’ve been told to apply this fix to anything I can.

Slow PC.
Fieriest infection.
Malware infection.
Hardware problems.
And yes if you can’t print as well charge them for it

In a very small way I understand where he’s coming from trying to make as much money as possible

But

many, many times I said why don’t we look at attracting new customers, sending out special offers to the existing customers he has hard. Doing little things like saving over Christmas card just to stay fresh in the minds of previous customers. In short increasing the number of customers to aid more money

I was told “no, just charge you any you can the most amount of money you can”

To give you another example. Going back to one of his website clients he wants to charge me out at £35 an hour for six hours work when the job realistically took me two hours. I don’t have a problem with this at all because things like this are what they are.

Why do have a problem with is when I walk in and see the clients to get payments For the work and an outstanding invoice it turns out the job that I have just done was supposed to have been done for months ago before I even starte.

Suddenly I’m faced with having to dig myself out of the situation that I didn’t put myself into and also become a debt collector.

It to write this is not the first job he’s done but hasn’t collected money for. It’s just in this particular instance he hadn’t done the work and wanted to get the money coming in.

In amongst his partying in Vietnam and setting up this so-called charity he then asked me to start collecting payments for work that he has done two months prior to me starting. This means that these invoices are formance old and he doesn’t know if one of them has been paid or not.

So now I’m having to chase up the stats by emails and sending letters and telephone calls and yet he still sends me a message on Skype asking me why haven’t people paid.

Rights therein then my suspicions were confirmed that he is just a scamming fuck wit. Seriously he doesn’t have a clue and he can’t understand why people aren’t paying him money for a job that he said he had done but hadn’t four months ago.

He wonders why people are a little bit upset with him when he’s asking them if they have paid him. Can anybody else see the problem with that?

There is going the extra mile in a job role But how many miles do you go as part of the course before you realise you’ve just done a marathon for nothing.

So as the Black Friday evening approaches I’m off to the Portakabin for the final time to collect my stuff and walk away from all of this.

In those immortal words I’m not being paid enough for this shit.

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Is the only way for a small business to survive to rip people off?

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