• Wyrd (unregistered)

    This is a really good WTF. I especially love the last line of the last paragraph:

    Ever since “The Big Purchase”, Brad has never been able to live down his mountain of coal. Every time he passed others in the hallway, he knew that they knew about the coal, and they knew that he knew that they knew. No one really poked fun or laughed at him, but it didn’t matter. Brad was no longer thought of the senior trader at Æxecor; instead, he was the guy who accidently bought all that coal.

    -- Furry cows moo and decompress.

  • KW (unregistered)

    I've heard of this happening with oil futures, too.

    Honestly, the whole thing sounds reasonable except the $0.20 on the $1 part. The coal spot market should've had buyers for that at less of a loss than that.

  • Mason (unregistered)

    I don't know if this particular case actually happened, but I'm sure that it does happen occasionally. Why? The costs of the checks to make sure that it really never ever happens would be too high. These systems aren't just created out of the blue one day with a fixed set of rules; they evolve from the system that existed before, with a higher overall efficiency so that people have an incentive to do it the new way. The first commodities markets probably had essentially no checks. Then a few mis-deliveries happen, and people start to put some checks in. Levels of checking are added gradually until the frequency of mis-deliveries gets acceptably low, and there it stays.

    Every level of checking is an inefficiency; add too many, and the process gets too expensive. But how do you know when you have the right level of checking? When these kind of mis-deliveries are rare, but do occasionally happen. If they actually never happen, then you're probably wasting too much time checking things; you should dial it back some until it starts happening once in a while. That way, you know you have just enough checking.

    And this sounds plausible enough in this case - a software bug (as described) plus a misleading address (deliver barges of coal to Pier 3? No problem!) plus some arrogance ("But we can't take delivery of..." "Shut up and place the order, you imbecile!") equals 28,000 tons of coal delivered to your office building.

  • luis.espinal (cs)

    If this really happened, I would take that as a sign that there is such a thing as divine justice, for I know there are arrogant people like Brad that need a slice of humble pie to be forced down their throat by a cataclysm :)

  • Capt. Obvious (unregistered) in reply to Forumtroll
    Forumtroll:
    During the company's attempt to offload this payload onto interested parties, it turned out that the scrap metal shitment was mostly consisting of special metal alloys that had several handling and trade restrictions applying (EPA restrictions).

    I see what you did there.

  • Peter (unregistered) in reply to Mason Wheeler

    You might want to look into that - at today's rates, a 30 year mortgage for $240,000 is $1189 per month. A 15 year mortgage is $1687.15. Both are using the current Well Fargo rates.

    Now, what you say makes sense if the mortgage rate is higher. Once you get into the 15% bracket, for example (assuming a 15 year mortgage is .5% less), the monthly payments are 2086 and 2253 -- much closer to your argument. At 20%, the two payments start to get quite close.

    But at today's rates? Not actually so much.

  • George Nacht (cs) in reply to KW

    I see your point, but I believe that Brad actually sold the coal for more than 20%. It was just all these wharfing, unloading and whatever fees that made for such a big loss as a result. Then again, I am not in the trade myself....

  • Da' man (unregistered) in reply to additional to why it happened.
    additional to why it happened.:
    And I really should learn to spell check...
    Noted. 28.000 spell checkers will be delivered to your office tomorrow morning.
  • metzomagic (cs)

    Probably a bit late to the wooden table with this, but:

    Notice anything off about that XML? If you said, "value should be 0 instead of False", then give yourself a pat on the back.

    Wrong. XML is a contract between two parties, usually (but not always!) defined by a schema. Without having access to the schema/interface spec, you can't deduce anything at all about what data type or possible values <value> can take on. It could very well be True/False, or true/false, or 1/0, or even yes/no.

    Aside from that, one of the best WTFs in a long time! One simple problem in the code results in hundreds of thousands of dollars lost and all the related bother of trying to shift the stuff. Priceless.

  • Central Harlem Anonymous (unregistered) in reply to Mason
    Mason:
    I don't know if this particular case actually happened, but I'm sure that it does happen occasionally.

    No. The system is highly optimized to make sure that the commodities are delivered only to the locations specified in the contract. For you to buy a coal contract and have the coal delivered at your home or office would be as likely as walking into a McDonalds, ordering a hamburger, and having the salespeople give you a live cow. The original story as posted is nonsense.

  • Seraph (cs) in reply to KW
    KW:
    I've heard of this happening with oil futures, too.

    Honestly, the whole thing sounds reasonable except the $0.20 on the $1 part. The coal spot market should've had buyers for that at less of a loss than that.

    I don't think the issue was that he sold the coal for $0.20 cents on dollar. Rather I think 9t was that (selling price of coal) - (cost of dealing with coal) = 0.20 * (cost of buying coal).

  • brianguy (unregistered) in reply to Drew
    Drew:
    News article or it didn't happen.

    .gifs or it didn't happen... oh wait!

    (p.s. this stuff doesn't always make the mainstream news, they're too busy reporting on who will be on the next season of their favorite reality show, at least my local paper is.)

  • brianguy (unregistered) in reply to Merle McClelland
    Merle McClelland:
    Using Google, I can't find any references to a company with the name "Æxecor", "Aexecor", or "Execor", other than in various versions of the text of this story at numerous web sites. I suspect that "Æxecor urban legend" will be showing up on Snopes.com shortly.

    there IS an Execor, they're in the middle of NJ though. no pier, no riverfront. I can only think that hopefully the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

  • aristos_achaion (unregistered) in reply to BG
    BG:
    This reminds me of a story that orrured at an unnamed company. The company had a contest in which the winner would receive any product that the company produced valued at up to $500. The winner selected the Access Developer's Toolkit. When the contest organizer put in the request he wrote up to 500. The warehouse at the time did not have 500 copied in stock so they sent the order to the factory which a few month later delivered a truckload of software valued at $250,000 to the winner

    Of course, unless you're 100% sure that the right of first sale applies to software in your country or you actually need 500 licenses for the Access Developer's Toolkit (which I imagine they didn't, given that they didn't have it already), that 500 copies would be worth a great deal less than $250,000 to the winner. And, for that matter, given the ease with which software is produced, I imagine the producers took a great deal less in actual losses.

  • xplayerhaterx (unregistered)

    Guys. All this talk about how unbelievable this story is - that's the point of any WTF, especially the good ones. These incidents aren't to impress you with clever writing, but to make you confused and shocked, they're situations that shouldn't really ever occur if people adhere to the correct procedures and practices. They're ironic, conceivably all true, that's the draw to this site. let it go. kthx

  • xplayerhaterx (unregistered) in reply to Merle McClelland
    Merle McClelland:
    Using Google, I can't find any references to a company with the name "Æxecor", "Aexecor", or "Execor", other than in various versions of the text of this story at numerous web sites. I suspect that "Æxecor urban legend" will be showing up on Snopes.com shortly.

    The real WTF is how many new people are visiting the site lately, and completely don't understand it. Comments are much more amusing when there isn't a mile long debate on the veracity of the story. You really haven't imagined yet another possibility as to why you won't find a real company by that name except that Alex mistakenly thought his story was all true? What?

    Mason:
    I don't know if this particular case actually happened, but I'm sure that it does happen occasionally. Why?

    Absolutely. Just look at the solution as it is, to DEFAULT to addresses that are simply assumed to be legitimate? I'd have to see the real software system to verify that but some net searches and fellow readers here suggest that's the case. Have you ever had something shipped to you which must be signed for, and after repeated attempts, they either hold it or ship it to the billing address instead? It's happened to me! I never changed my billing address when I moved to college campus, and so they sent my monthly meds to my parent's house instead, since that was my billing address. Sent the product there for each of the next six months too, auto-debiting my account the whole time, I had no idea, I just assumed my the dorm's mailroom was woefully inept... (i guess my parents were just very forgetful)

  • nobody (unregistered) in reply to Forumtroll
    Forumtroll:
    the scrap metal shitment was mostly

    I like this word. It means "a shipment of some item which causes an exclamation of 'Oh SHIT' when it arrives."

    Usage example: So last week I ordered a boatload of porn from Amazon and I accidentally clicked the 'gift wrap it and send to my mother-in-law' button. Man, was she ever pissed when she got that shitment.

  • Tom (unregistered)

    Brad sounds like a real dick, treating people who work under him like that. I'm glad this happened to him.

  • bullsballs (unregistered) in reply to Forumtroll

    For every senior exec that insists that THEY and ONLY THEY understand what is going on, well, you get it in the end! While others who listen to their subordinates and realizes the subs know what is up, will go much further. This mentality exists at every level of business, and causes financial ruin many times a year. And when someone says, "You sure that's what you want?", perk up your ears and listen to what they are asking! BTW! I got's $500,000 of rotting meat in the yard. Where ya all wants it? Anyone seed Billy Ray??

  • Gordon (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    Yeah. You hit the nail right on the head. Hah!

  • Michael (unregistered) in reply to Pete Bassett
    Pete Bassett:
    Best WTF in a long time.
    My thoughts exactly.
  • @stacymlee (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    Heh, Nice.

  • Ima Ryma (unregistered)

    For want of an "0" the coal came, And bit the trader on his butt, Giving the jerk unwanted fame As his trade's perfect storm did cut. Computers like their "0"s and "1"s To give them reason to compute. Data put in them hits and runs According to programmed pursuit. To err is human, not machine. One day this human trader will Be unemployed, still cocky mean, Replaced by circuits sure and still.

    Of the "1"s and "0"s of this trade, It was 1 big 0 that was laid.

  • WW (unregistered)

    A company I worked for many years ago sold an entire product (a specific sort of custom data service) that not only didn't exist, but the "life demo" they had at their booth at an industry convention was hooked to a PC under the table. Then everyone had to run around and actually write it.

    Coincidentally, the owner of that company also dabbled in commodity trading. Due to an oversight on his part, he once came within hours of actually owning some insane amount of frozen orange juice. (this was before XML had even been invented, so he couldn't blame that) He sold the contract in the nick of time, but for a while he was very close to needing a really, really big freezer.

  • asigottech (unregistered)

    Its fake, viral, no trace of company or person except this story and a fake bio of brad no listings in company registry etc etc - check facts before rolling with this kind of thing

  • Anonymous (unregistered) in reply to asigottech
    asigottech:
    Its fake, viral, no trace of company or person except this story and a fake bio of brad no listings in company registry etc etc - check facts before rolling with this kind of thing

    It's been anonymised!... sigh.

  • Denyse (unregistered)

    I love it that the trading exchange is WTFSE. I can only imagine what it stands for. What The F**k Senor, Eh?

  • Skean (unregistered)

    Brad sounds like a douche who had it coming, and karma obliged.

  • pat b (unregistered) in reply to Forumtroll

    Closest case I know was a guy was working at American Airlines ordering some aircraft from Boeing. What he failed to grasp was that boeing assembles aircraft from parts, and that one of the parts the customer must specify is the engine. Engines are expensive enough that Boeing won't pay for them, the customer has to buy those separately.

    I would guess he really annoyed the boeing guys, so they arranged to deliver the aircraft with loaner engines then they pulled their engines off the wing and trucked them back to Seattle.

    To get new engines, one has to get in a 18 month delivery schedule. Even spare engines are somewhat of a scavenger hunt, particularly for 12 aircraft.

    They got some used engines after a month and they eventually got new aircraft, but lets say "I met him working as a computer programmer, at a university, not as a buyer at American Airlines Chicago".

  • Obbop (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    I chortled and chuckles with giddy-like glee upon reading thine comment.

    Hairy Krishna!!!!

  • Jim (unregistered)

    Wow, he must have been REALLY naughty this year.

  • Jody (unregistered)

    Is it still available? I need about half a ton. I have a minivan, I can pick up?

  • Calli Arcale (unregistered) in reply to pat b
    pat b:
    I would guess he really annoyed the boeing guys, so they arranged to deliver the aircraft with loaner engines then they pulled their engines off the wing and trucked them back to Seattle.

    Y'know, that might explain how this story came to happen. If Brad irritated the wrong person within the system, I could see them making sure he actually does get PRECISELY what he asked for, even if it wasn't what he meant, knowing this is their only chance to render this sort of comeuppance upon him. ;-)

  • Niali (unregistered)

    So the XML element stored a string "False" instead of 0. The other interface passes "1", but then this code (quoted from article): bool physicallyDeliver = (getNodeVal("PhysicallyDeliver").toLower() == "true");

    ...would assign True to physicallyDeliver ONLY if the string were some case variant of True; False, 0, and 1 would cause the boolean physicallyDeliver to be set to False.

    This code should have made it physically impossible, not inevitable, for the delivery to slip through.

  • Rickdude (unregistered)

    Dear Lord in Heaven! I feel for that guy. No one, no matter how big a jerk, deserves that kind of nightmare. I've made some mistakes as a business owner by thinking I was on top of situations when I wasn't, but something like that would ruin me... I'm guessing it pretty much ruined him, or came close.

  • Stinky (unregistered)

    Could have been worse. Could have been pork bellies.

  • Stinky (unregistered) in reply to Niali

    Actually, there is no way to tell from this snippet what exactly they were doing.

    We can assume from the story, however, that it was something like:

    bool physicallyDeliver = (getNodeVal("PhysicallyDeliver").toLower() == "true"); if(physicallyDeliver){ throw some error; }

    In this optimistic model, anything but the the word true would pass the test. Makes a good case for pessimism, right?

  • Stinky (unregistered) in reply to Niali

    In case anyone cares, better code would have been:

    switch(getNodeVal("PhysicallyDeliver").toLower()){ case "true": //handle true case break; case "false": //handle false case break; default: //throw appropriate error

    }

  • Christopher Ihm (unregistered)

    OK, I think I know what the WTF part is but in "WTFSE" what does the SE mean? :)

  • Melvin (unregistered) in reply to Forumtroll

    "scrap metal shitment..."

    Freudian slip? It sure made me laugh... :)

  • Jules Siegel (unregistered)

    Is this a true story? Where can I authenticate it?

  • Joe Blow (unregistered)

    This story is a work of fiction.

  • WhatHeSaid (unregistered) in reply to metzomagic
    Wrong. XML is a contract between two parties, usually (but not always!) defined by a schema. Without having access to the schema/interface spec, you can't deduce anything at all about what data type or possible values <value> can take on. It could very well be True/False, or true/false, or 1/0, or even yes/no.

    This the first thing I thought when I got to that part, but I only have academic knowledge of XML, so I thought maybe the element <value> was some sort of special reserved-word-ish dealio that could only be binary. In all DTDs. Evah.

    Now I'm back to thinking that what I thought I learned is actually what I learned. Or something. So thanks.

  • Pessimist (unregistered) in reply to Stinky
    Makes a good case for pessimism, right?

    Eh, I don't think pessimism can solve anything...

  • Floored (unregistered)

    Was there a schema to verify the XML against and did the programmers hand code the XML generator/parser? The company's application should have been machine generated against the schema and any transactions should have been rejected by trading partners for the violation of the PhysicallyDeliver value

  • Floored (unregistered) in reply to Christopher Ihm

    Stock Exchange

    But I think commodities are traded on markets that do not have stock in the name and end in E, EX, of X for exchange. Not a rule, just the pattern.

  • Pong Lenis (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    Is it poop?

  • dotyrs (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    OK, THAT comment was funny! Thanks for the laugh!

  • Half Bottle (unregistered) in reply to Aaron Priven

    Ok smarty pants... what?

  • Erik (unregistered)

    This story is a bunch of crap. I hope you die in a traffic accident.

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