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O P I N I O N

The Industry Standard

July 24, 2000

Snack Attack!

An unlikely culprit is menacing the Internet Economy.

By Carl Steadman

 


Where's Napster's Pay Service? Don't Ask
(February 5, 2001)

A New Business Cycle
(February 5, 2001)

News Briefs
(February 5, 2001)

End of an Era at Amazon.com
(February 5, 2001)



B2B Marketplaces: What Users Think of the Next Big Thing

Baby Boomers: A Technology Profile

GenX: A Technology Profile

Online Transportation Sites



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Twenty-three Gummi Bears are missing today. That makes 268 Gummi Bears since last Friday. The company is in a state of panic.

How many were lost before Friday we may never know. This is what we do know: On Friday it was discovered that our snack budget, already quite generous, had been exceeded by 1,700 percent. "We're spending more on Gummi Bears, licorice ropes and tasty bite-size Goldfish than on Porsche Boxsters for new recruits." We are assured this is no small amount. "This is no small amount," the e-mail reads, in boldface blue for emphasis.

We now sign out all snacks. Six pretzels, 18 chocolate-covered raisins, one starlight mint. I tally my selections and check the appropriate boxes. I am nearing my raisin quota, and it's only Wednesday.

I learn I am the chief suspect. Gummi Bears, it is thought, are particularly attractive given my low salary and lack of Boxster. Each weekday, when I arrive for work, I am weighed in. They weigh me again before I leave.

We have now exceeded the snack budget by 2,400 percent. At this rate, the Boxsters will soon be repossessed. A board meeting is convened. After dining on caviar and salmon puffs, the board makes an announcement: There will be no more snacks. We return the next day to a darkened, snackless office. No amount of switch-flicking or mouse-clicking will get the lights or computers to turn on. After examining my teeth, the engineering staff announces what they believe to be the source of the problem: rats.

D-Con and large traps are ordered. The next day, we find no dead rats. However, my laptop is missing.

I'm called into the CEO's office. "About your e-mail last night," he says, closing the door. He shows me a printout: "RATS NEED SNACKS."

I explain my missing laptop. "The e-mail was most likely written by the rats," I say.

He re-examines the paper. "They have a good command of the English language, for rats."

I shrug. "They're probably using the built-in spell check."

If the Internet was designed to withstand a nuclear attack, it is pointed out, then why should we grind to a halt over some overgrown mice? The engineers hold up frayed cables.

We call in a rat expert. "In my expert opinion," he says, "the rats have been driven into your office by the vast amount of construction in the area." For blocks around, old warehouses are being replaced by open-plan office space, all prewired. We ask him how we might rid ourselves of the rats. "In my expert opinion," he says, "stop the construction."

More notebooks are gone. The desktops remain untouched, but for their chewed cords. The rats must prefer the smaller keys. The engineers devise new, more efficient ways to kill rats. One calls for a redesign of the traps, to include an Ethernet port; another involves a giant Tesla coil. All will take at least 16 weeks to design and develop and another two weeks to test.

A secret committee is formed to discuss the rat issue. We meet near the epicenter of construction, to keep the rats from spying. "What?" I continually say, deaf but for the sound of jackhammers. The meeting is not a success.

The last of the notebooks is gone. The rats have also taken our conference room white board and a supply of dry-erase markers. Jack, our VP of business development, has become lead negotiator. He returns with a list of demands from the rats: more snacks, a seat on the board and their own Humvee.

We are slow in our response. The rats attack our database server. They take all our customer records. We accede on the snacks, but continue to stall on the remaining items. Jack brings in a mediator. The rats refuse to compromise.

The engineers demonstrate a prototype of their Internet-ready rat trap. "This is where you connect it to the network," the lead engineer explains, pointing out the RJ-45 jack.

The rats announce their soft launch and invite our entire staff to the party. Many of us attend. Snacks are served in empty boxes of D-Con. Who knew they had such a great sense of humor?

Today I submit my resignation. Tomorrow I start work for the rats. They offer a competitive options package, and they're very generous with the snacks.

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