Comment On The Ace in the Hole

After spending his first three years out of college in an entry-level position with Ask.com, Erhen was ready to move on to something with more responsibility. One day, he received a phone call from a company that wanted him to come in for an immediate interview. [expand full text]
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Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:04 • by everythingdaniel
Ohh my.....


Not even sure where to comment on this one.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:04 • by MechanicJay (unregistered)
Well, it's too bad, this sporting goods supply company hadn't even gotten to FIRST base yet...technically speaking.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:05 • by stewieatb
never underestimate the power of old, tech-illiterate people to commit wonders of stupidity

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:07 • by AnnyNMoose (unregistered)
I enjoy 'working with the internet'





fapfapfap

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:09 • by Addison (unregistered)
WHAAA

I find it amazing that they managed to keep themselves sequestered for so long that they thought ordering online was a new idea. I mean really. They must not have hired anyone under 30 in the last 15 years.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:10 • by Optedout (unregistered)
Haha I have a customer like that .. but without ridiculous budget constraints .. thinking he's leading the information revolution.. I try to help as good as I can but sometimes they come up with ideas that were shot down decades ago :)

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:10 • by T Bank (unregistered)
Wow! That is so 1995. Yes I worked for a fortune 500 company that put its mail-order catalog on the web. Despite every technical person in sight screaming that this is not the way to do it, they insisted on having every web page an exact photographic duplicate of the printed catalog.

Rewind your mind, if you can, to 1200 baud modems. Imagine how long an 8 1/2 by 11 "inch" .gif file takes to download...

Yes they insisted on measuring everything in "inches". Couldn't waste the time to hear about "pixels" much less the radical idea that other people don't have your computer.

After many months and many dollars the site did exactly as we all expected: flat nothing. So, of course, they promoted the genius whose brainchild this was.

The web is not a magazine.

Or a newspaper.

Or a TV set.

Or a movie.

It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.

Think about it:

2009-07-07 09:24 • by Hiring Manager (unregistered)
We could be the first sporting-equipment supplier in the world to offer this frist post.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:27 • by Connect to Reality (unregistered)
Use the internet for ordering processing? Keeping track of statistics in real time? Who invented this interweb? Al Gore you say? Brillant!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:30 • by LoztInSpace
273371 in reply to 273360
Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:30 • by snoofle
Well, most things cost $xxx.99, so almost $2000.00 is like $1999.99, right?

That should be enough to build anything-web; it's just computer stuff, right?

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:31 • by Claxon
I can see where the confusion was... They didn't explain to Erhen what this "Internet" thing that they obviously invented was, or what they meant by a "Web-Sight". Lack of documentation...

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:33 • by Bobby Tables (unregistered)
273374 in reply to 273371
LoztInSpace:
Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

Well, what do you expect for $2,000?

Look, I say we store the price of the item in the web page itself, and the total order price in a cookie. Should make our site very popular!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:38 • by Bernie (unregistered)
What is the snail mail address for The Daily WTF so that I can post a comment? (Maybe I'll be first!)

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:40 • by Frank (unregistered)
I've had dealings with a variety of clients, and occasionally I'll get a client who's so far behind the times that it scares me.

I've taken countless hours, both billable and non-billable, to explain the merits of the internet and the associated costs to obtain those merits. These people need to know that either they go all in to create something they're looking for, or they have a very simple "We're here, this is us, hello, come to our store and see our stuff!" website.

I billed $4500 for a website once - I couldn't talk the client out of it. Beautiful website, had all the stuff that programmers love - Fully dynamic, database driving the flash animation and page creation, playing with some neat tech to get it all looking fantastic... I loved doing it, but felt guilty. I just could not talk the client out of it, convince him it was overkill for his needs.

He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:42 • by AndrewB (unregistered)
The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:43 • by Satanicpuppy
273379 in reply to 273374
Bobby Tables:
LoztInSpace:
Let me guess. Eventually someone came along and saved the company by putting together some PHP/MySQL injection riddled piece of crap and thought they were god's gift to the world of computing and commerce.

Well, what do you expect for $2,000?

Look, I say we store the price of the item in the web page itself, and the total order price in a cookie. Should make our site very popular!


Heh. There was a time when I'd have set up a storefront with custom logos and stuff for 2k. It'd have been a good weeks work. I might even have imported their catalog...If it was in a good digital format.

It ain't a day job though.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:48 • by Who (unregistered)
273381 in reply to 273376
Frank:
Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

Well I can't speak to the cleanup part, but at the other end of the pipeline, so to speak, I worked for a large pet store chain a while back.

It was 2:00 AM. The huge new fully automated warehouse with robots to stock and fetch the merchandise was not working yet. 30 semi trucks were coming at 6:00 AM. Yes it was go live day and we were dead.

In the midst of extreme stress, one guy pointed to the hundreds of pallets of dog food and said "Just think. In two months this will all be dog crap."

We all laughed, and then realized we weren't dealing with an air traffic control system here. Just dog food. We went back to work and got the system online by about 6:45.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:48 • by IByte (unregistered)
273382 in reply to 273376
Frank:
He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

That gives a whole new meaning to "taking cr*p from the boss"...

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:49 • by Master Chief
I certainly hope someday after working in professional environments long enough that I'll be able to keep the level of professionalism that's shown here. Honestly, I think I would've shit myself laughing at these guys.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:52 • by Zylon
This story is so cringingly absurd, I'd really like to know which parts of it weren't made up.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 09:55 • by basseq (unregistered)
To be fair, the hiring manager had wanted a website since 1999, and actually had a pretty good idea. If the board had let him run with it then, that company probably would have been worth quite a bit.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:03 • by LAN Mind (unregistered)
Hey, you gotta give it to the old codger; he wanted the web site all along, and was only constrained by likely even older codgers.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:07 • by Zecc
273389 in reply to 273381
Who:
Frank:
Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

Well I can't speak to the cleanup part, but at the other end of the pipeline, so to speak, I worked for a large pet store chain a while back.

It was 2:00 AM. The huge new fully automated warehouse with robots to stock and fetch the merchandise was not working yet. 30 semi trucks were coming at 6:00 AM. Yes it was go live day and we were dead.

In the midst of extreme stress, one guy pointed to the hundreds of pallets of dog food and said "Just think. In two months this will all be dog crap."

We all laughed, and then realized we weren't dealing with an air traffic control system here. Just dog food. We went back to work and got the system online by about 6:45.
Good story. TFS

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:15 • by Zor
Geez, keep it quiet! Now every college kid with a garage is going to rush to create the first online sports equipment store!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:18 • by SR (unregistered)
273391 in reply to 273390
Zor:
Geez, keep it quiet! Now every college kid with a garage is going to rush to create the first online sports equipment store!


And presumably come on here to shout FRIST when they've finished.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:19 • by hallo.amt
Some companies are still doing it...
http://www.hild-radwelt.zeg.de/Blaetterkataloge/Bulls2009DE/Blaetterkatalog/
take care, it's in German

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:27 • by hikari
To be fair to the guy doing the hiring, if they'd listened to him 8 years ago, they might well have been slightly ahead of the game (or at least in with the game). Assuming this actually happened a couple of years ago.

They sound like someone who can actually see the merits of new technology, but is stuck working in a company that can't.

Really you have to feel sorry for him; he's probably a pretty good manager, just lacking the exposure to the modern world to know how things currently work, although he's obviously perceptive enough to see how they can work.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:28 • by Paul (unregistered)
This story has /got/ to be apocryphal.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:32 • by Bri (unregistered)
First!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:33 • by Wooble (unregistered)
273397 in reply to 273378
AndrewB:
The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


He just found out about this great new product called a "digital" watch. They're available in all the better mail-order catalogs. One day, you may even be able to buy one on the Internet.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:47 • by Ren
Wow... just... wow.

I was about to post a "This is where you leave", but it just kept getting better and better. I kept cringing and waiting for the candid camera to come out.

Mail-order catalogue? Two thousand dollars budget? They apparently somehow missed the first dot-com bubble.

But seriously, he should've offered to make a presentation on how stuff works nowadays for the CEOs, then offer his expertise at $100/hour or so.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:48 • by RobFreundlich
273399 in reply to 273376
Frank:
Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??


We used a service like this for a while. They came out once a week, and charged (I think) $75/month.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:51 • by Brent (unregistered)
273400 in reply to 273367
T Bank:
Wow! That is so 1995.


1995 is being generous. I was phoning in orders from catalogues I had gotten of the internet before there was a web... typically by sending an email to a mail server which would autoreply with the catalogue. But I remember one store actually did it via finger.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:53 • by ClutchDude (unregistered)
Kinda reminds me of my favorite parts website: Mcmaster.com

Almost every item can be seen on a catalog page, with a image identical to that in the paper catalog.

Thankfully, they have a decent search engine and click-through that gets you to the part you need in 1/10th of the time with complete specifications. They even allow you to order AND pay online!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 10:58 • by ObiWayneKenobi
I kind of feel sad for the company. You have to wonder what sort of person runs a business and then shuts themselves up in a hole without caring how new trends can help them improve their business. Shouldn't a good business owner ALWAYS be looking to improve what they do?

Oh, wait. The owner of the company was probably some middle-aged idiot who doesn't care a lick about actually running a business so long as he gets enough money coming in to pay for his six cars and huge house on the beach. Actually improve your company? Who does that?

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:01 • by Salami
273403 in reply to 273386
basseq:
To be fair, the hiring manager had wanted a website since 1999, and actually had a pretty good idea. If the board had let him run with it then, that company probably would have been worth quite a bit.



Or...

Their existing client base, most of whom had been with company for decades, having become internet savvy, shop around for the equipment and realize they are grossly overpaying, and take their business elsewhere, in a huff.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:01 • by hatterson
273404 in reply to 273367
T Bank:
Wow! That is so 1995. Yes I worked for a fortune 500 company that put its mail-order catalog on the web. Despite every technical person in sight screaming that this is not the way to do it, they insisted on having every web page an exact photographic duplicate of the printed catalog.

Rewind your mind, if you can, to 1200 baud modems. Imagine how long an 8 1/2 by 11 "inch" .gif file takes to download...

Yes they insisted on measuring everything in "inches". Couldn't waste the time to hear about "pixels" much less the radical idea that other people don't have your computer.

After many months and many dollars the site did exactly as we all expected: flat nothing. So, of course, they promoted the genius whose brainchild this was.

The web is not a magazine.

Or a newspaper.

Or a TV set.

Or a movie.

It's the web dammit. Still can't get people to hear that.

As contrasted with the internet which is not something that you just dump something on. It's not a big truck. It's a series of tubes.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:02 • by amischiefr
273405 in reply to 273372
snoofle:
Well, most things cost $xxx.99, so almost $2000.00 is like $1999.99, right?

That should be enough to build anything-web; it's just computer stuff, right?

Definitely. The 1's cost only 0.000001 cents per 1 and the 0's are free. I don't see a problem with getting it done in under 1999.99.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:06 • by amischiefr
273406 in reply to 273382
IByte:
Frank:
He ran a service that cleaned dog crap out of people's yards. He had 4 employees. $4500 website and I did it on the cheap. Can someone please tell me how lucrative the dog-sh*t market is??

That gives a whole new meaning to "taking cr*p from the boss"...

Wouldn't that be "taking crap from the customer?"

I believe it.

2009-07-07 11:12 • by sammy baby
I believe this story, absolutely.

Back in the day, I was doing some work as a systems administrator for a small regional ISP. One of my clients was a guy who had a microscopy supply company - they sold lab equipment to schools, research facilities, basically anyone with a need to look at reeeeeeally small things. They were fully on board with what they used to call "internet commerce" back when we still felt like we needed a name for it: the cost savings they'd realized on not having to ship a paper catalog anymore was more than enough to justify hiring a few college kids to maintain their site.

At the time, it was powered by a horrible mix of CGI scripts which drove an order-form based (read: no shopping cart) which sent credit card information around in unencrypted e-mails. (When I raised this concern with the owner, he looked surprised. "Most people I know are comfortable buying things on the Internet," he said. "That's because they know that the companies they deal with are taking steps to protect their payment information," I replied. "You're not. I know because I run your site for you.")

But the owner was convinced that his site was truly groundbreaking, and one day he called my office on his cell phone to share a big new idea with me. After about fifteen minutes of lead in where he basically tried to warm me up on how great the site has been for him so far, he said, "So here's my idea: I want to be able to update the price of an item in my database, and have it show up on the web, in real time."

I managed to get out the word "Well," before he cut me off. "I have to go now, I'm getting an MRI done on my brain and they say I need to turn off my cell phone. But I'll call you back about this later." He never did.

Another time, he sent me a very angry e-mail demanding to know why his site was down. I tested accessing the site from my desktop, and Google Translate, and glanced at the server logs - all suggested perfectly normal activity. When I told him so, his next email became indignant. "Well, I'm in Beijing right now at a client's site, and I can't get to the site at all." When I asked him if he'd tried speaking to any technical support resources there, he responded, as if speaking to a child, "I can't talk to anyone here. They all speak Chinese."

Oh, and about those college kids - the head college kid called me up in my office one day, sounding a bit sheepish, and said, "Um, the boss asked me to call you. Do you have any reason to think that the server has been hacked?"

I grew alarmed, immediately started watching system activity, looking for alarms, anything - but everything looked normal. "Um... no. Why?"

"Well," intern replied, "we have these pictures on our site - they're jpeg images of the products."

"Yeah?"

"Well, we have a few of them, and they're supposed to be in color, but they're now in black and white."

I paused a few moments to wait for the next sentence, but it didn't come. "Um," I said, "are you asking me if someone broke into your web site and replaced your color images with black and white ones?"

There was a long pause, and when he spoke again, he sounded even more sheepish. "I told you," he said, "he told me to call you."

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:18 • by universe man (unregistered)
273408 in reply to 273378
AndrewB:
The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:18 • by Steve (unregistered)
Aside from the $2000 part, this would seem to me to be a great side opportunity for someone working in an entry-level job.

I know that much money won't go far for a custom-website. Does anyone have an idea of how much it would take to set up a bare-bones, cookie cutter website with the ability to process orders? Obviously, the customers aren't goint to print out and mail in their orders. I can't believe there isn't a template or code out there that someone couldn't just cut-and-paste and add some graphics and text to.

Say he bills his time at $20/hr, thats 100 hours, or 2 1/2 weeks of time to set up something. Yes that is an abysmally low rate, but you have to start somewhere. The experience you gain and putting it on your resume is the greater compensation.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:22 • by Anonymous (unregistered)
So this was seriously from 2007? Wow. I wonder if the hiring manager really did say "we could be the first sporting-equipment supplier in the world to offer this service" or if that was a bit of an embellishment. If so, I'm actually impressed by their level of technical incompetence. And that certainly doesn't happen very often.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:28 • by Steve (unregistered)
Another thing: You give this company something that allows their customers the ability to place orders online, and they are going to find money for additional funding for it real fast once they realize how behind the times they are.

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:31 • by Pjotr G
273414 in reply to 273409
And of course the hardware and software developers use is free!

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:33 • by kastein
273415 in reply to 273401
ClutchDude:
Kinda reminds me of my favorite parts website: Mcmaster.com

Almost every item can be seen on a catalog page, with a image identical to that in the paper catalog.

Thankfully, they have a decent search engine and click-through that gets you to the part you need in 1/10th of the time with complete specifications. They even allow you to order AND pay online!
I actually like that... my worst order ever from digikey was when I ordered some parts that fit every electrical spec I had, but they showed up and were approximately 1mm square. Had I been shown a picture of them on the search listing I would have at least expected that and been able to design for it ahead of time instead of having to hack something together at the last minute. Now digikey is adding pictures or at least line drawings of most of their products to the site :)

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:43 • by Micah S. (unregistered)
273416 in reply to 273408
He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.

And when they meet it's a happy land?

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:44 • by Schnapple (unregistered)
273417 in reply to 273408
universe man:
AndrewB:
The real WTF is that Erhen's watch tells him what year it is.


He's got a watch with a minute hand, a millennium hand, and an eon hand.


What happens when they meet?

Re: The Ace in the Hole

2009-07-07 11:50 • by Grimoire
273418 in reply to 273393
hallo.amt:
Some companies are still doing it...
http://www.hild-radwelt.zeg.de/Blaetterkataloge/Bulls2009DE/Blaetterkatalog/
take care, it's in German


Still common practice in smaller companies. They really don't understand the concept of the web. Audio Video Unlimited does the same thing with their flyer: http://www.avu.ca/flyer/index.php. They create a low-res image of each page. For some of the pages, the smaller text is unreadable.
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