Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The $372 Cup of Coffee

I just need to rant for a moment to clear my mind and try to get ready for lunch service. You probably never imagined that restaurants struggle with IT problems, just like every business.

Yesterday late afternoon we were closed as usual for a Monday and I was in my office doing battle with the inevitable heap of paperwork from the prior week. It being very cold in my office on an exterior wall without any insulation or heat, I brewed myself a pot of coffee and brought a cup back to my office, to try to stay warm.

Naturally, as I was moving from one filing cabinet to another, my elbow tapped my clipboard, which rapped my keyboard, which collided with the mouse, which upset the cup of coffee—all over the mouse and worse, all over the keyboard. Long story short, after about 30 minutes, the keyboard ceased to function, despite my best efforts to get the coffee away from the electrical contacts.

No surprise there: keyboards and coffee are pretty incompatible. Not wanting to lose a lot of my day, I went to the closest place to pick up a new keyboard. Given that it was the closest place, the keyboard options were limited, very limited. The cheapest option was a $70 wireless keyboard/mouse combo from our dear friends in Redmond, Washington.

Twenty minutes later, I effected the keyboard and mouse switchover with surprisingly few problems. Important foreshadowing: installing the drivers took 10 minutes. Ask yourself, why does it take 10 minutes to install a USB driver? Still, I was pretty happy for I had expected plug-and-pray to work like it always does: not in the least. But, within 20 minutes, I was up and running, although at first, the mouse was uncooperative. Closing everything down and rebooting managed to get the mouse back in action.

So at that point, I went home last night in a fairly good mood, thankful that my dumb mistake had only cost me about a half an hour of my time and $70. Well, add $2 for that pot of coffee, for $72. Stupid me, I know better than to have drinks around keyboards from my almost 20 years in the computer world.

Fast forward to today. It's check writing day and I have a huge stack of bills to pay, so I go to fire up QuickBooks for the first time since I shut it down before attemping the keyboard and mouse surgery. Of course, it took forever to try to load my database. In fact, it didn't ever load. After several attempts, I managed to see that it was choking on one of the DLLs in the Microsoft (remember our friends from Redmond?) Visual C++ Runtime.

Remember that 10-minute installation of the USB driver? I checked the log file and well, suffice it to say that the majority of the 10 minutes was dedicated to upgrading a whole bunch of my runtime. And the new runtime files are incompatible with QuickBooks. Two more hours on top of the hour that I already spent were needed to undo the mess that the new keyboard caused. At $100 an hour for my time (a bargain!), that's another $300 on top of the $72.

And thus ends the saga of the $372 cup of coffee. Can you imagine Chef Average who had not spent nearly 20 years in the computer business trying to figure this out? God help him. He'd still be out of business. I don't know how small businesses without IT staffs function in this electronic world. I really don't.

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