Copyright© 2008 by Anthony Concept
"Looks like we have an intruder Jim."
Hi, I'm Jim Taylor. I'm the head bean counter and systems manager for a medium size supermarket chain. Bruno DiCarli the owner took over the family business when his father passed away, then it was just a small grocery store, Bruno had expanded the store into a self serve market when I first met him. I was starting out as an accountant and Bruno needed someone to handle his book work, I was his man.
I'd inherited a tidy sum when my spinster Aunt Millie passed away, I came from a small family so the inheritance was more by default than earned.
As Bruno continued to expand his self serve he offered me the chance to invest money in the business. After some thought I could see that the way things were shaping up in the supermarket world that this would be a good investment. We worked out an agreement where I would own 2% but be a silent partner. I would however take a more active role in running the financial side of things, also I would be setting up a computer system.
Computers were at the early stages of development when we purchased a Rainbow PC. We also bought a database management system called Dataflex. After a bit of in house training I was able to implement several small programs to monitor the stock levels and purchasing needs. We also purchased Lotus 123 to do our accounting work with.
Bruno had a Daughter Teresa and two sons Tony and Joey. When Teresa and Tony the two elder children left school they started to learn the business. Joey was a lot younger and was still at school.
As our supermarket expanded Bruno decided to open another store, he asked me if I wanted to run it but I declined. I suggested that he give Teresa and Tony the opportunity to prove themselves. The two of them took control and over the next few years more than proved themselves as competent managers.
Business was booming and we opened a third store thus giving the kids a store each to run. By this time computers had become of age and we had linked the three stores together. My little part of the organisation was the accounting, ordering and monitoring sales trends. At the time of this narration I had an assistant named Ed Delaney.
Bruno ran the No1 store, Teresa No2 and Tony No3 store. Everything was running smoothly until Bruno collapsed in his office. Fortunately his heart attack was only minor but it was obvious some major lifestyle changes were required.
Bruno was going to put Alan Tatlow in charge but Mama DiCarli had other ideas. Son Joey had grown up and Mama wanted him to take the reigns instead of Alan. Bruno didn't think Joey was ready for that amount of responsibility but Mama pressured him and he relented.
Joey had been spoiled rotten by Mama and in her eyes he could do no wrong. Both Teresa and Tony tried to talk some sense into her but she was adamant. So Joey took over.
Joey to give him credit was a very bright lad, having grown up with the supermarket business he knew how thing operated. He just didn't have the maturity to be in charge.
Joey's first clash with me was in the first week. He came into my office and told me he wanted graphs for the last weeks trading, something he could easily get on his own node of the network. When I told him that he said that he wasn't asking me for the graphs he was ordering me to give him them.
"Joey my boy, if you have a request I suggest you put it in writing, if and I mean IF, I consider it a valid request I will find time to do it."
"I'm in charge of this store and if you can't take my orders I will give you your marching orders, is that clear?"
"Sonny, I've got news for you, this department is NOT part of No1 store. I don't take orders from you or anyone else apart from your father. As far as you giving me the sack, I don't think so."
"We'll soon see about that," he snarled as he walked out the door.
Ed looked at me and said "I think someone has a swollen head Jim, maybe we should keep an eye on him he can be a sneaky little bastard."
"My thought exactly Ed, I think Mama's interference in the running of the store is misplaced."
Sure enough a short while later I received a phone call from Mama complaining that I wasn't giving Joey a fair chance to do his job.
"Mama, I think we should have a meeting between yourself, Bruno, Joey and me. Joey has the mistaken idea that my department is under his jurisdiction, he needs to understand that he cannot just come in and throw his weight around and expect me to jump to attention."
"Joey told me that you threw him out of your office Jim. I won't stand for that."
"Mama, arrange for the meeting after lunch, we will come out to the house."
"Very well then Jim, I'm disappointed in you though."
When Joey and I arrived at the house we found that Bruno had gone one step further and called Teresa and Tony to attend as well. When we were all seated Bruno spoke to Joey. "OK Joey, you seem to be the one with all the problems, let's hear what you have to say."
Mama butted in, "I'm sure Joey has a good reason for his complaints haven't you Joey?"
"Yes I have, I made a valid request for trading graphs and Jim refused and threw me out of his office. I want him to be told that I'm in charge and when I give an order I expect it to be obeyed."
Bruno gave Joey a look of contempt, "Joey, against my better judgment I let you manage No1 store, I don't think you are capable but you mother thinks otherwise. First and foremost, accounting, stock flow and computer management is NOT and I repeat NOT part of your responsibility. Secondly, although he doesn't want it known, Jim owns 2% of the business and takes orders from no one, do you understand that, NO ONE?"
"But Mama said I was to be in charge."
"If you continue the way you've been going, that will change believe me."
Teresa and Tony simply looked at Joey with contempt. "For Christ sake grow up Joey, you're supposed to be running a business not acting like a Prima Donna," growled Tony.
Teresa gave Joey a large piece of her mind as well, "I disagreed with Mama wanting to put you in charge, I didn't think you are ready for that yet, seems like I was right."
"Teresa", Mama warned, "don't be like that to your brother, you know he means well."
Bruno spoke up, "I'm tired of all this arguing, I want to make myself clear Joey, anymore problems and 'out you go' understand?"
The meeting finished with a very contrite Joey looking at Mama for support, Bruno glared at her and she looked away.
"Looks like we've have an intruder Jim." Ed told me.
The first job of the day was to run a security check on the system. We had set the code to high light any unauthorised changes in red and sure enough there was a small routine side tracking the rounding up away from our daily profit.
The lowest denomination of the Australian currency is the five cent coin, however prices still use the one cent increments. When the customer reaches the checkout the total purchases are tallied up and rounded off to the nearest five cents, the first three cents benefits the customer and the last two cents is rounded off to the benefit of the store. One of the routines I have in the code is to monitor this rounding off, seems like someone is dipping the till.
A moment later Teresa rang me asking what was happening with the system, "Last night's accounting was all out of whack Jim, we had more money in the registers than the final readout suggested, what happening?"
"We seem to have an illegal routine hacked into the system that is sidetracking the round up."
"That fuckin' stupid bastard Joey, Christ the old man is going to kill him for this and I can't wait to be there when he does."
I gave Bruno a call and told him what was happening, "Jesus Jim how could he be so stupid, he must realise he would be found out. I'll call a family meeting for one o'clock, don't tell him why. Christ, three kids and one's an idiot."
When we were all settled Bruno asked every one to give their weekly reports, Teresa and Tony knew what was coming so they didn't comment on the rounding off problem. Joey reported his store was running well and everything was under control.
"You seem to have every thing under control Joey" said Bruno, "What can you tell us about rounding off?"
Joey's face lost all colour, "What do you mean father?"
"I think my question is quite clear Joey, tell us what rounding off is, or better still, what does it mean to the store?"
"The customer gets the lowest three cents and the store gets the highest two cents, it is supposed to even out the difference in price."
"And what if the store loses that difference?"
"Th ... there is a ... a loss"
"Exactly Joey, perhaps you can now tell us how the code in the management system side tracked it away from the daily profit?"
"I ... I don't know what you mean father."
"Your daily take was correct to the profit read out wasn't it?"
"It seems strange that No2 and No3 had more money that the read out suggested, yet No1 store matched the read out perfectly."
Mama put her two cents worth in, "Of course it was correct, Joey is very clever with figures."
"You keep out of this Mama, your interference in the business has gone too far. Your clever little Joey altered the code in the management system so he could pocket the rounding off for himself, that is stealing from the company."
Teresa didn't mince her words, "Joey, you are a stupid, greedy spoilt little brat, you have been given every thing on a platter and what do you do? you shit in our faces, you make me sick."
"It wasn't me it was Jim, he wants to get rid of me ... yeah it was him that altered it and then put the blame on me."
Bruno looked like he was about to have another heart attack, "You are not only a thief but a bloody liar as well. As of now Joey you are out of a job. I wouldn't trust you to sweep the floors."
Mama tried to smooth things over but an enraged Bruno told her forcefully to butt out.
Teresa spoke up, "I want Joey to work for me at No2, I'll teach him what responsibility is or I will kill him."
I could see that the stress was having a bad effect on Bruno and suggested we take a break and all cool down a bit.
When we resumed the meeting Joey said he would pay back the money but Bruno wouldn't have a bar of it.
"When a dog kills a chicken you tie it around it's neck as a constant reminder. You will put the money you stole from us in a glass jar and it will sit on the dresser in the kitchen to remind you of your selfish stupidity."
It was decided to put Alan Tatlow in charge of No1 as was Bruno's original choice. Mama knew when to keep her mouth closed.
Once we had sorted out the problem I told them that my doctor had warned me that if I didn't wake up to myself I would be following Bruno. My cholesterol was far too high as was my blood pressure, my intention was to take a month off to wind down and modify my diet.
"Ed is a full bottle on all of my work and I don't have any doubts he can run the system without me. One of the checkout girls has shown a bit of interest in computers so I think it would be a good idea to put her with Ed to help out."
Mama was all worried about my health thinking about how Bruno collapsed.
"You take good care of yourself Jim, we don't want you to end up like Bruno."
"That's right Mama, that's why I'm going to take some time off. I'm thinking about hiring a small motor home and just travel around for a spell."
I went back to the store to break the news to Alan and to let Ed and the checkout girl Erin, know I was taking some leave and they would be running things.
Allan was happy to be in charge, he had been sorely disappointed that Joey had been given the job in the first place but realised that 'family' came first. I told him that he had been Bruno's first choice but the petticoat government had overruled him.