Stupid layoff tricks

SAN FRANCISCO (10/17/2003) - If Eolas Technologies Inc. can collect US$521 mil from Microsoft Corp. for patent infringement, I certainly deserve a few bucks. It was my idea to have every Microsoft app automatically install itself as the default. The Blue Screen of Death? Also my idea. (They wanted to do it in mauve.) And I suggested they ship software riddled with security holes, thus ensuring steady traffic to the Windows Update site.

Unkind Cuts: My call for stupid layoff tricks uncovered some doozies. A few Cringesters said they logged on one morning as usual, only to find their network IDs -- and their jobs -- deleted. One reader worked for his county government's IT department, which could fire only people who were on probation. So just before budget cuts, everyone on staff was put on probation. But the best stupid layoff story concerns the CEO of a small firm who gathered all employees in his office, put everyone's name in a hat, and had his secretary pull two of them. "You've won an all-expenses-paid trip to the local unemployment office!" And people say corporate America has no heart.

New Definition of Hell: One member of the Cringe squad recently dialed up Hewlett-Packard's tech support line and spent 30 minutes on hold listening to The Eagle's "Tequila Sunrise" -- over and over and over -- interrupted by the occasional "your call is important to us" message. Then when the concert finally ended, he got disconnected. Like the song says, "You just get numb."

What's in a Name? Dell touts the UltraSharp LCDs on its Inspiron notebooks, but some Cringesters report the screens are nowhere near spec. According to my spy, Dell switched from Samsung to Hitachi LCDs but forgot to tell its customer service reps, who suggested that users' system information reports -- which listed the LCD as a Hitachi -- must contain "a typo." When users looked under the hood, they found Hitachi labels. Dell spokesdude Jeremy Bolen won't comment on any screen vendors save to say they all "must meet minimum criteria." Now if he could only say the same about Dell's service.

Got some hot tips or underappreciated Eagles' lyrics? Lay 'em on me at cringe@infoworld.com. I'll pay $50 for the best.

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