Earth Minus Jeans Equals Slacks ( the 5th silly bit )
Every now and again, a day comes along in your working life that you and your colleagues have collectively been looking forward to. It's a joyous day, a fun day, a day that feels like that first morning in spring when the temperatures finally lift and the smell of freshly mown grass wafts through the air and you throw your windows wide open for the first time since September. It's the day when nobody 'throws a sickie' because everyone wants to be a part of it.
That day is NOT Audit day.
It's funny because only this morning you were thinking to yourself with a cold dread that it must be at least three months since you had a visit from the company auditors.
You must be due one soon... oh god.
And then it happens. The phone pierces your senses with its shrill tone, and you know exactly who it's going to be. You just know. As phone calls go, you'd rather get one at 3am from some gravel-voiced psycho telling you he's got your wife and kids, and to not worry about paying a ransom because firstly, he knows you're piss poor and secondly, he's already eating them with some roast potatoes and three veg and they're going down very nicely thanks.
Well, maybe not as bad as that but certainly a close second.
You can barely hold your hand still enough to lift the receiver.
" Hello Vladimir, it's Malcolm.... the company auditor. " ( Notice how he left a little pause for effect between his name and his job title. He's going to enjoy this phone call. )
At this point he always casually asks you how you are . We must assume from this that even they, even auditors, somewhere deep down in the murky depths of their subconscious, just want to be liked like anybody else.
" Fine thanks... " At least I was until you called. Now I'm tossing up between Beachy Head or the path of an oncoming train... " And yourself Malcolm? "
" Yes, I'm good. " I wasn't, but now that I've called you and heard in your voice how your heart has sunk like a duck tied to concrete, I suddenly feel a strange sense of well-being.
With the pleasantries over and done with, ( a huge relief for him because he's never quite got the hang of the concept ), you'll be told the date he plans to visit, and an outline of what store preparation he needs carried out, in order to make the process of counting everything as smooth as possible for him. He'll fax you over a list to make absolutely sure you don't forget.
So at this point, send another member of staff to Whsmith with enough money to buy up their entire stock of A4 fax paper.
You're going to need it, because in comparison Moses had it quite easy.
Auditors are without doubt, as strange a breed of human being as you will ever meet. Everything to them is numbers, and we mean everything. For evidence of this, when Malcolm and his sidekick ( who is likely to be short with a humped back and bulging eyes and answers to the name Igor ) arrive, offer them a cup of tea.
" It's two sugars for you isn't it Malcolm? "
He'll consider this question with a furrowed brow as if you've just asked him to recite one of Stephen Hawking's equations.
" Err... best thing to do is put a third of a teaspoon in first, then a whole teaspoon, then add another third of a teaspoon, and then two sixths of a teaspoon... er, and then we can tally it all up at the end, okay? "
Right okay, two teaspoons it is then. Moron.
" Did you have a good weekend then Malcolm? "
He'll grab his calculator for this one, so expect him to get back to you on it. He'll call you over when he's ready to answer.
" Right, Vladimir. The results of the good weekend question. Of the forty-eight hours, nine hours got seven out of ten, fifteen hours got six out of ten and the other twenty-four got five out of ten, gives us a total of two hundred and seventy three, that's a minus on the previous weekend of fifty-six.... "
I'll gather from this that it was average, but all I asked was 'did you have a good weekend? ' you complete and utter weirdo. I wasn't even interested anyway, just making idle conversation.
And so it goes on. Numbers. Always numbers. At the birth of his first child, from the moment the baby boy popped out, Malcolm took control of proceedings.
" Okay people, in order to get this done quicker let's each take an area. Doc, if you count the fingers, I'll count the toes and darling... come on, sit up, sit up... you count the testicles. "
When the birth of his second child was imminent, his wife strangely ordered him to stay at home.
The jargon they use is quite remarkable as well. The language that passes between Malcolm and Igor can be trickier to make sense of than that of an undiscovered tribe in the Amazon rainforest.
Here are some helpful translations for you:
Malcolm: " Igor, do we have a balance reconcilliation of section seven point three? "
Translation: Have you counted the jackets over there yet?
Igor: " I'm just in the process of updating the carry-overs that were processed from last week's price reductions, and re-entering the forwarding figures into the systems. "
Additional translation: Give us a bloody chance will ya!
Overhearing all of this, ( they like to talk loudly at each other from opposite sides of the store for some reason ), you'll be praying that one of them falls off a ladder just to bring some normality back to the atmosphere.
Failing that, there will be one redeeming feature about their visit, and that's the reams of technology they bring with them packed into several cases that they cart around to make it look as if they are government agents.
It always fails on them.
Set yourself at a safe distance. Grab some popcorn and a Shake and enjoy the show that follows. Observe as Malcolm taps away at his laptop - swears under his breath - gives it a rough shake - swears and curses some more - thumps it - thumps it some more - shouts " you stupid, stupid bastard! " at it - smashes it on the floor - kicks it - jumps on it - throws it against the wall with one last tirade of abuse, and then picks up the phone to ring Head office and speak to the Systems Manager who bought the equipment to tell him in " no uncertain terms.... "
This is the best part. After an initial exchange of four letter vocabulary, you watch from behind him as he suddenly goes quiet.
" ...what other wire? " he says irritably. He turns, his face having just turned a tiny bit paler, and delves into the laptop case. He fishes out a lead with an attachment that looks like it might just have been the crucial component to operating the technology that is now unfortunately scattered across several of the home counties.
Without a word he puts the phone down, grabs a pen and paper and carries on as if nothing had happened.
Priceless. Patience is not a virtue with your company auditor. Having a short temper is.
One of the most frustrating aspects of their personality is their short term memory loss.... and one of the most frustrating aspects of their personality is their short term memory loss.
No, that wasn't a lame attempt to crowbar a joke into this manual, more a demonstration of just how short term it can be sometimes.
" Right, " says Malcolm leafing through some sheets of paper. " So you've counted all the accessories for me already, yes? All the packs of socks, underwear, belts and so on? " Basically all the awkward fiddly stuff I can't be bothered to count myself.
" Yes, all the counts are written down there, " you reply, indicating his papers.
" Everything in the stock-room as well? " Yep, can't be bothered to count all that either.
" Yes, all done. "
" Good, and all the accessories such as socks, underwear, belts and so on? "
" Yes, they've all been counted. " Like I said five seconds ago when you asked me that ten seconds ago.
" Okay. " He pauses to study his checklist and scratches his head. " And what about the stock-room, that's all counted? "
" Yes, the stock-room has been counted. " Again, I refer you to the answer I gave roughly a quarter of a minute ago, not a quarter of a century ago......... and now you're going to ask me about the accessories again aren't you, so go on, you know you want to.
" And finally the accesso- "
" Yes, I have counted the accessories. The accessories have been counted. The counts for the accessories are written down here, which-I-wrote-down-when-I-counted-the-accessories! "
You should be able to get away with this blatant display of sarcastic insubordination, because Malcolm will be too busy wondering whether the stock-room has been counted to notice.
By this point, the information should have finally lodged itself in his cranium, but don't be surprised if he comes back to you about five minutes later to ask whether all the accessories have been counted.
When the moment arrives for Malcolm to inform you he's ready to give you a result, you will notice a wonderful wave of contentment washing over you. This is regardless of whether you think the audit result is going to good or bad.
The reason for this is because it means they're finally about to leave.
Get the rest of your colleagues to prepare for the moment they exit the store, get those party poppers at the ready, get 'Celebration' by 'Kool and the Gang' cued up on the stereo and put the champagne on ice.
When he takes you into the office to show you the figures he's arrived at, tee up the feigned expression of concern and surprise you always pull that fools him into thinking you actually give a rat's arse about being minus three thousand pounds.
Let's face it, audit results are always bad anyway. The only occasion you might have a good one is when everything has been counted accurately - which never happens. Remember, Malcolm doesn't want you to have a good audit, but don't take it personally. He's not being nasty or unfeeling here, it's just that he doesn't want anyone to have a good audit. From his point of view, if businesses didn't lose money and stock, they wouldn't need people like he and Igor with their numbers, jargon and failing technology.
Having given you the bad news, he'll then discuss with you the possible reasons to how you've lost so much stock. He might suggest there has been an anomaly in your paperwork and admin and advise you to check through it.
On the other hand, he may suggest that you're an incompetent imbecile who shouldn't be allowed to manage an ashtray, let alone a fashion store.
Yes, the latter is more likely.
Of course, he may also want to double check that everything has been accounted for.
" You have counted all the accessories haven't you? All the packs of socks, underwear, belts and so on... "
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