Cars in traffic in Auckland, New Zealand - copyright-free photo released to public domain

Reese was driving home from work one day in 2012 when his cell phone rang out over his driving music. It wasn't a number he had stored in his contacts, but the area code and prefix were clearly from his office.

"Hey! This is Janet." An airy voice reverberated through his car's interior once he put the call on speaker. "I tried your extension first, but you didn't pick up. Anyway, we're waiting for you in the conference room!"

Janet the PM, Reese reminded himself. Having no idea what she was talking about, he frowned at the interminable line of cars ahead of him. "What?"

"Initrode wants to talk about integrating with our ERP. Remember?"

"Yes, I know. Now?" It was past normal business hours for most of the company.

"I sent out a meeting invite."

"I never got one."

"Well, why don't you go ahead and dial into the conference call?" Janet's cheer was undiminished.

"I can't do this while I'm driving!" Reese protested. He glanced at the dashboard clock, at the red traffic light glowing in the distance, then sighed. "Go ahead and get started. I'm not too far away, I'll turn around and be there soon."

"All right! We're in 4-B."

It took Reese 20 minutes to turn around and return to the suburban office park, annoyance smoldering in his chest the whole way. In the parking lot for his building, lights were cutting on as the sun approached the horizon. He turned off the engine, took a deep breath, then exited the car to hurry off to Conference Room 4-B.

While jogging through corridors and stairwells, Reese reminded himself about the potential client at hand. Initrode focused on point-of-sale systems like cash registers, and wanted help with pulling, consolidating, and reporting data from these machines on a daily basis. While the ERP offered by Reese's company wasn't state-of-the-art, it was more than qualified to handle this.

Reese finally reached the conference room door and pulled it open. The other meeting participants had staked claims around a speakerphone. Their heads all swiveled to stare at him as he dropped into a seat at the far end of the table.

"Great, our expert just stepped in!" Janet smilingly announced for the benefit of those on the phone. "Let me introduce you to Reese, he is our expert on client/server integration. Reese, we're talking with Ed from Initrode. Ed was hoping for a little more explanation about how their systems would communicate with ours."

"Sure." His heart still pounding from exertion, Reese struggled not to sound winded. "Uh, the standard way we handle integration is through a desktop client application that you would license from us and install on your machines. That application would communicate with our servers." They were working on a more modern REST interface, but as that was in its infancy, he couldn't bring it up.

There was a pause on the other side. "You mentioned a license? How much would that cost?"

"Three thousand," Janet replied.

"Three thousand?"


Another pause. "We were ... well, you said this application was the 'standard' method. Is there a non-standard method, then?"

Janet cast a pleading look toward Reese.

Reese nodded. "Well, we do have an OLE interface, but it's pretty old and unreliable. We've been phasing it out elsewhere—"

"How much would that cost?" Ed asked.

"I'm not sure," Janet replied. "I'd have to find out."

"I'd also have to do checking on my end to see whether it's even feasible," Reese cautioned. "I'll need more information on your current setup."

The meeting adjourned with everyone promising to forward information to everyone else. Over the next few days, Janet learned that using the OLE interface would be cheaper for Initrode, and once they heard that, that was all they cared about despite warnings of potential fragility and unreliability from Reese. Initrode then demanded an all-inclusive proof-of-concept before going forward with any formal sales or projects. This request smelled fishy to Reese, and he made his reservations known, but the powers that be insisted that he comply. Reese wound up producing a simple application in VBScript with an accompanying .NET library that did all the client/server heavy lifting. He also included a big dialog box that displayed each time the application was opened: "This is a demo application for testing purposes only."

Reese sent off the demo along with all the source code. Everything went quiet for a few months. Initrode seemed to disappear off the face of the Earth ... until, of course, the demo application they'd deployed into production and trained their staff to use began breaking down.

As Reese listened to Ed's frantic pleas on the phone, he had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. "I'm sorry, but that code was given to you as-is with no guarantees or support agreement. I need to escalate this to my boss."

When Reese went to his boss' office and explained the situation, she let out the laugh that he'd been forced to suppress. "Now we can muscle them into an actual project!"

Only that never happened. Initrode still refused to sign on the dotted line. They wanted bug fixes to the demo app, that was it. The changes they wanted were all minor tweaks they could've made themselves with the source code Reese had given them, but for some reason, they refused to touch it. Reese's initial development was billed as consulting. The frantic call from Ed was billed as consulting. Reese's bug fixes? Billed as consulting. Consulting rates were rather high, so high that it ended up costing three times as much as if Initrode had simply agreed to a project from the start.

Reese eventually left to pursue new opportunities at a different company. As far as he knew, Initrode's horribly expensive demo still lived on.

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