The Bastard Operator From Hell gives a helpless salesman a run for his money ...

    So I'm sitting in the office when I get a call from a salesman trying to flog me some ATM kit. He got my name from one of those magazine 'free subscription' forms a couple of months ago, which contains information inaccurate by a factor of 10, (except the 'Spending Authority' which I inflated by a factor of 100). A little white lie never hurt anyone and periodically dispels the rumour that there's no such thing as a free lunch.

    I mentally switch to junket-mode, and tell him it's the technical manager he wants to speak to and can he hold. Two seconds later he's talking to my party-stopping imitation of one of our better-known technical managers.

    "I'd like to come and meet with you to discuss a future-proofed network solution, if that's at all possible", he gushes.

    The last thing I want him to do is come to the office and ask around for "the technical manager", so I go for the quick junket.

    "Well," I say, "I'm a little tied up with some equipment reviews this week".

    He's pausing a little too long for my liking. This probably means he isn't fully committed to crowbarring open the expense account.

    I turn up the heat a little.

    "Then I've a budgeting meeting next week to earmark spending in the next quarter, so I'll be busy preparing for that as well".

    He smells dosh and goes for it.

    "Tell you what - how about meeting for lunch - you've got to eat, right? No obligation, I'll just outline our products and I'm sure you'll see the advantages for yourself".

    "Well ...", I stall.

    "Luigi's, 12 on Thursday?"

    "I, ah ...", I burble, playing hard-to-bribe.

    "OK, I'll make the reservations", he closes, like a true sales champ.

    I get into our electronic meeting planner with the manager's password (his wife's name - I mean, if they're not going to try to be secure ...) and make the entry for Luigi's. I make sure to select 'Hide Appts' option, as three can be a crowd.

    Thursday rolls around and I show up at the bar at 11.30am and work my way through 'imported spirits' while the tab's open. By the time the sales guy gets there, I am, as we in the Ethernet trade say, in a promiscuous mode. I will buy anything. Or at least I would if I had any money. Which I don't. However, I do have several of the manager's business cards and a fairly acceptable version of his signature down pat.

    The next three hours whirl by as I look through several catalogues of shiny, beta-tested, 'top-of-the-line' hardware, drooling as only a technical manager can, and dropping comments like: "nice lights". By about 3pm I feel it's time for the stress period, so I tell him that there is no networking budget for the year as I spent it all in advance last year.

    He starts crying in an attempt to make me feel guilty. I pretend to fold and tell him to order me a truckload of goods which I'll fake as last year's order.

    "Will it work?", he sniffs.

    "Of course ...", I say. "Now, you go and clean up, you're a little bit of a mess".

    He exits for the bathroom, and I quickly check his wallet. There's about 70, so I remove about 40 of it - I don't want to leave him totally broke. While I'm at it, I remove his last payment method by jiggling my trusty permanent magnet around the magstripe on his credit cards, then make my way to the bar to order another drink.

    I talk to the barman till the sales guy returns to the table.

    "Well", I say. "I have to get back to the office".

    He eyes me suspiciously.

    "Tell you what", I say. "How about I sign an order form and you can fill it in back at your office?"

    A salesman's dream.

    Just time to whizz through the manager's signature, pocket the dosh and I'm halfway back to work as the police roar by on their way to Luigi's.

    Obviously their treatment of defaulting clients hasn't changed recently. With any luck, it'll just be the one kneecap - unless, of course, the chef's throwing arm is back in ...