back to article 'They took away our Cup-a-Soup!' Share your tales of bleak breakout areas with us

In 2012 a shaky hand placed a flash drive into a brown paper envelope and addressed it to The Register's London HQ in felt-tip pen. Once we'd shoved the thing into a non-production lappie to ensure it wasn't Anonymous*, vultures kept striding past, mugs in hand, to take a peek. google_hq_6_big The Register obtains covert …

  1. Joe W

    From my cold, dead hands!

    At my last job: They took away our free coffee. Granted, it was only the nasty stuff made by Friele, and it was a drip maker, but still. In the lunch room we got a huge Nespresso monolith instead, which is expensive and the coffee is not that great (at least the selection they offered). Our guess was that somebody's brother in law or somesuch sold these on a commission.

    We actually put a coffee machine elsewhere and used some departmental funds to continue buying coffee. The comments of the group leads were along the lines of "from our cold, dead hands..."

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Mushroom

      Re: From my cold, dead hands!

      At the current "paulf & co" the most awful brouhaha has broken out about changes to the supply of free tea bags. We used to get a rotation of PG Tips, Typhoo, and Tetley*. Now TPBP have decreed we get something called "Country Range" which no one had heard of until it appeared. Reasons cited have been demolished by the now thirsty tea aficionados in the Engineering Corps: "It's cheaper" (it's not), "It simplifies ordering" (BS), "it's allergen free" (So were the others).

      The rumblings I've heard suggest this has caused far more upset than it would ever have saved. If nothing else I've learned you don't piss off devoted tea drinkers (British or otherwise) if you want them to get on with their work rather than stand about bitching about the new tea bags.

      We've never had free coffee (only Nescafé which is NOT coffee!) - and reception are under strict orders to rugby tackle anyone daring to help themselves to coffee from the filter machine brewed for visitors. OTOH we get free a food event once a month (usually cheese and biscuits - yum!)

      *I'm sure those three brands alone will spark lively debate on the merits, or otherwise, of these brews, but they're better than what we ended up with.

      1. PerlyKing
        Joke

        Re: TPBP

        The context suggests that "The Powers That Be" would be appropriate, but that would be "TPTB". So what are TPBP?

        * The Powers Be Powers (?)

        * The Powers, By Pluto!

        * The Pointy Boss Powers

        * The Powers of British Petroleum

        * ???

        1. teebie

          Re: TPBP

          Tea polluters, bad people

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: TPBP

            Tea Pirates of the British Populace

        2. paulf Silver badge
          Pint

          Re: TPBP

          It also suggests

          Friday alcohol craving causing finger trouble

          and

          A rushed comment lacks proof reading because the boss is fast approaching down the corridor after his meeting and will catch me goofing off!

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: TPBP

          Three pointless bloody pillocks.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: From my cold, dead hands!

        "I'm sure those three brands alone will spark lively debate on the merits, or otherwise, of these brews"

        Of course. Yorkshire tea. Accept no substitutes.

        I did try some "fair trade" stuff once. I quickly came to the conclusion that in tea growing country they quickly worked out that after they'd flogged off the good stuff to the premium grade buyers they could get equally good money by shifting the naff stuff to the fair trade buyers. It's put me off buying anything with a "fair trade" label on it ever since.

        1. paulf Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: From my cold, dead hands!

          Normally I drink only strong filter coffee, but at home if I have tea iit's Yorkshire Tea only as I expect my tea to be Steam Loco Crew Strength (tm). That's three bags in the tea can, leave them in, just a splash of milk, let it stew on the shelf over the firebox hole during the next trip = normal strength.

          I recall once being asked to make a cafetiere of coffee at my grandparents house. I made it my strength (about 3x their normal strength). They were normally pretty active, even into their late 80s, but after mine they were bouncing off the walls (and no I wasn't asked to make coffee again!).

          1. Martin an gof Silver badge

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            normal strength

            My wife won't drink anything except strong Yorkshire - and in South Wales we get the loveliest soft water to make it with. I, on the other hand, grew up with a parent who never put more than one teabag into the pot, poured the tea almost as soon as the water was in and used plenty of milk, so I got used to warm milk with a vaguely tea-like flavour until I spent a sandwich year lodging on a farm just up the road from my place of employment.

            There, they emptied the previous day's dregs from the pot at about 5am, added another spoonful (or a bag - it was a while back and I can't actually remember!), topped up with water and left it on the Rayburn until breakfast. Breakfast tea was seriously good, and through the day the pot just got topped up with tea and water as necessary meaning that by last-orders the stuff was almost like treacle.

            Fortunately caffeine sends me to sleep...

            M.

            1. Gene Cash Silver badge

              Re: From my cold, dead hands!

              > Fortunately caffeine sends me to sleep...

              Finally! Someone else with my "affliction"...

              1. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                Finally! Someone else with my "affliction"...

                People don't believe me that I don't tend to get "wired" on strong coffee or tea. I also have a problem with Lavender, believe it or not. All those products containing essence of same which claim to be "calming" or "soothing" or help to "relax" you before bedtime. No, for me smelling Lavender - even the nice stuff that grows in our garden (though the essences are far, far worse) - is almost like deliberately sniffing warm vinegar. Makes my eyes water and if there's too much of it, it gives me a headache. Please don't put it in my bath!

                ...much like certain kinds of (mostly savoury) pastry. I love a good pork pie, but too much of the pastry and I get a sharp pain behind my eyes.

                I know I'm odd. I've lived with it long enough not to care :-)

                M.

            2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: From my cold, dead hands!

              South Wales we get the loveliest soft water to make it with

              Tea made with soft water just tastes wrong to me - although this might well have to do with living most of my life in areas with very hard water..

            3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

              Re: From my cold, dead hands!

              Fortunately caffeine sends me to sleep...

              Tea has far more theobromine than caffeine - theobromine is the same stuff that is found in chocolate (which is why you need to be very careful how much tea dogs have - they can't metabolise theobromine well and it takes time to clear out from their system).

              One of my previous cats was partial to tea dregs.. (and now, finally, our eleventh cat that we've had during our married life is normal.. as in, has no odd habits..)

          2. Robert Sneddon

            Terry Pratchett had it right

            "Captain Vimes will have it boiled orange in a builder's boot with two sugars and yesterday's milk." Proper copper tea.

          3. Rich 11 Silver badge

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            Tea. If it can't dissolve a battleship it's not yet brewed.

          4. Tim99 Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            Tea bags?! No thank you.

            1. Stevie Silver badge

              Re:Tea bags?! No thank you.

              Yeah, I used to be that way until I found out from a tea importer that "morern tea" is formulated to be quick brewing with or without a bag.

              Seems that in the late 80s there was research done to get rid of that tedious mucking about with rolling, boiling water and five minutes brewing alchemy in favour of tea that would "brew" in the saem timescale that coffee could be made.

              Whether in bag form or loose.

              Sorry to burst yer bubble.

              Can't get the decent teas any more anyway. I used to have a six foot shelf full of 1/4 lb caddies, each with a different tea in 'em. I've still got some of the caddies with tea in them, but the cans have rusted. Oh well.

              I had to stop drinking Earl Grey when Jackson's of Piccadilly were wound up. Every other brand tastes like someone dripped Fairy Liquid in the PG Tips.

              Always liked Fortnum & Mason's Royal Blend too. Last time I saw it was in "England" in Epcot's World Showcase.

              1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: in favour of tea that would "brew" in the saem timescale that coffee could be made

                Tea brewed like that will not be ISO3103 compliant.

                Mind you, six minutes brewing falls very much into the "deeply stewed" category. These days I dip the teabag in and remove it straight away and sod British Standards.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: From my cold, dead hands!

          Yorkshire tea. Accept no substitutes

          This. Especially as they do a loose tea mix that also tastes good. (for many and various reasons we rarely use tea bags. I also have a standard leaf tea mix[1] that I use..)

          [1] 3 parts Licorice tea[2], two parts Darjeeling and one part Lapsang Souchong. Truely wonderful - fragrant, smoky with a bit of sweetness.

          [2] Essentially normal black tea with some licorice flavouring and flowers. Tastes more aniseedy that licoricey. Available from J. Atkinson & Co of Lancaster.

      3. Stoneshop Silver badge
        Headmaster

        Re: From my cold, dead hands!

        the most awful brouhaha

        ITYM brewhaha. Especially as you mention PG Tips.

      4. MiguelC Silver badge

        Re: Nescafé which is NOT coffee!

        As a spanish colleague of mine once put it, "Nescafé" is a contraction of "No es café" (literally, it's not coffee). No arguing there.

      5. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
        FAIL

        Re: From my cold, dead hands!

        It's cheaper" (it's not)

        It never ceases to amaze me how so many companies get obsessed over the price of tea bags and will seemingly do anything to minimise what is probably one of the smallest incidental costs of running a business.

        I worked for an outfit which got uppity about line managers claiming for takeaways for their staff who worked into the evening. That had a really negative effect given no one was paid overtime and it was such a small price to pay. The practice continued but the damage had already been done and a massive amount of goodwill was lost.

        Probably the worst cases are where a company will try and save pennies yet spunk thousands up the wall on something no one really cares about, while even antagonising people, like replacing comfortable and well-loved chairs with crap ones to match a new corporate colour scheme.

        1. Chris King Silver badge
        2. uccsoundman

          Re: From my cold, dead hands!

          I understand that a majority of this audience is from Britain, but I am absolutely astonished that any company anywhere in the universe gives free ANYTHING to its employees. In my experience in Corporate America, free anything is the FIRST to go. The cost of a coffee pot could put a penny on the stock price. As for motivating employees, it's simple; work like a slave or get fired. Don't like it, there's the door.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Thumb Up

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            Having run the coffee concession at a previous employer, I can tell you that a buck a week from a dozen engineers is enough to keep us all swimming in coffee, including the periodic purchase of a new coffeemaker.

            So that argument that it clsts too much is total hogwash. The cost of toilet paper and cleaning services far exceeds the cost of coffee.

        3. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: From my cold, dead hands!

          like replacing comfortable and well-loved chairs with crap ones to match a new corporate colour scheme.

          Or the carpet tiles. Carpet tiles at eighteen quid a pop, all so the floor could go from bog-standard hard-wearing carpet to something laid out in a pattern supposedly reminiscent of the corporate logo. What a fucking waste. They didn't even realise that a quarter of the tiles would get trashed by the winter mud traipsed in by the Hardcore Smokers Guild illegally using the fire door every ten minutes for their desperate nicotine fix.

          1. PhilipN Silver badge

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            Forgot to check whether this is Bootnotes, but anyway :

            Carpet tiles! Corners rucked up by clumsy cleaners. Fraying. Stretching, shrinking and moving. Ugh!

            Now - Lino! (That is short for linoleum, youngsters).

            Lasts many decades if properly cared for.

            Then in the late '60's early '70's some new-fangled rubber or vinyl (anyway something beginning with "poly" I suppose) came along and every newly-decorated office in the land stank like a plastic bag caught on the exhaust pipe.

            1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

              Re: From my cold, dead hands!

              Carpet in a work area is a smart move. It kills noise, and makes walking around both quieter and more comfortable. Unfortunately, my company has decided that bare concrete is far "edgier" than carpet, and thats what we have to deal with.

              The engineers are NOT happy. Open office plans are bearable if done right and counter productive, literally, if done wrong.

              1. Down not across Silver badge

                Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                The engineers are NOT happy. Open office plans are bearable if done right and counter productive, literally, if done wrong.

                I am yet to see one that is in any way bearable.

              2. Martin an gof Silver badge

                Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                Carpet in a work area is a smart move

                Depends on the work area. If there are electronics knocking about, the static build-up possible with a typical nylon office carpet - or even vinyl flooring - can be quite deadly. Other than natural fibres (yeah, right), the only easy answer is something like concrete, probably sealed with a dissipative floor paint which needs re-painting on a regular basis if you happen to have castored chairs.

                M.

                1. Terry 6 Silver badge

                  Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                  I've worked in an office with some kind of carpet stuff. Stuff that generated significant static in just a couple of steps.Moving across the room and passing a radiator was sufficient to give the kind of jolt that was painful enough to discourage people from moving.

              3. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                Re: Carpet in a work area is a smart move

                I beg to differ on this one.

                An office I used to work in had a metal door and brass door handle. It was ok until they put carpet in. Then every time I wanted to leave the office I used to get a massive belt* off the door-handle. The solution that worked for me was to stick a plastic bag over the door-knob.

                *An electrostatic discharge.

                1. Stevie Silver badge

                  Re: Massive Belt off a Doorknob

                  The cure for this is to carry a coin in your pocket, the larger the better. Before touching anything grounded, do so with the coin, grasped firmly. The ouch of the belt comes from the point discharge. Widening the area of contact lessens the ouchy to the point you may not even feel it.

                  Alternatively touch a seated colleague on the ear before grasping the door handle. It'll still hurt, but it will hurt the colleague too and pain shared is pain halved, so they say.

                  1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

                    Re: Alternatively touch a seated colleague on the ear

                    I did used to have visitors who were sceptical of my reasons for having a plastic bag over the door-knob. The above technique was useful in teaching them otherwise, particularly those who would say "now if you bought expensive shoes you wouldn't have this problem."

              4. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

                Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                Carpet in a work area is a smart move.

                I work in an historic building on the top floor. When built, our floor had the centre-strip of the long room laid with glass blocks in order to let light through to the floor below (saved on candles and gas lamps resumably.)

                In the 80's when the building was being converted/modernised, the designer was apparently quite keen to retain that as a 'feature' until it was pointed out to him that, in the Victorian era, ladies would not have worked on that floor and hence modesty wasn't a concern. Especially as the glass blocks were not particularly frosted..

                The centre-line was covered below and carpeted above to ensure that the people working below don't get free upskirt shots (not that most of the women wear skirts - jeans seems to be the standard dress. And none of the men wear kilts..)

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: From my cold, dead hands!

            "Or the carpet tiles."

            Rebuild of lab after a serious fire.

            Issue 0. Only staff above a certain grade allowed to have offices. As the staff are apt to have rather confidential discussions from time-to-time and spend a good bit of time at desks writing reports rather than at lab benches that won't fly. So the "writing room" came to be invented. Looks like an office, feels like an office but it's not an office, it's a writing room so non-office level staff can use a writing room.

            That was the preliminary. Then comes the significant issue here. Office or writing room, entitlement to "carpet" or whatever name was given to the non-woven fabric concerned was above the grades of any of those going into the new facilites, even the most senior who were entitled to a non-shared office. As it happened it was one of the latter's office that was fitted out first with the lino or vinyl or whatever the membrane was made of. At this point someone checked the prices and discovered that the "carpet" was actually cheaper than whatever it was that had been laid. So in the end only the senior scientist whose office was fitted out first got the plebian "lino" and everyone else, down to the humble writing room dwellers, got the posh "carpet".

            Need I say this was a Civil Service job?

            1. Tim99 Silver badge

              Re: From my cold, dead hands!

              Many, many, years ago when I was a relatively junior Scientific Civil Servant the Union Rep came into my office (it was an area where smoking was allowed) and noticed that I had a large glass ashtray. Hang on, he said, you shouldn’t have that at your grade... He then looked around and inventoried a triangular hat stand with 3 coat/hat pegs (should have been a peg on the back of the door); a kneehole desk with drawers on each side (should have been a table and cabinet); a square of carpet on the Lino under the desk (not senior enough for carpet); and an anglepoise type desk lamp (How did you get that?).

              He said that the office should have been cleared and “appropriately fitted”, so we had better get that fixed. “Fixed” meant that I needed to have my staff file updated, because now that I had this stuff I was entitled to it even if I was moved.

              1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

                Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                One story I heard was that a couple of staff were sharing an office. On examination it was found they had a hat-stand they weren't entitled to but the office was smaller than they were entitled to. The smaller office now meant that the regulation size carpet was wall-to-wall and they weren't entitled to that. After some negotiation they kept the hat-stand, stayed in the same room and someone came to cut six inches off all the carpet edges.

                1. hoofie

                  Re: From my cold, dead hands!

                  Someone has the same story on PPRUNE about RAF provided Officer accomodation. On moving in the person concerned found they had wall to wall carpeting - bonus ! When it was determined their lowly status didn't permit this [Wing Commanders only and above etc.] someone came round and trimmed the carpets back....

      6. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: From my cold, dead hands!

        A lot of workplaces over here, stock a variety of different "Earl Grey" sorts of tea & usually easily available Tetley.

        When they stock "Red Rose" I'm running for the door for two* reasons.

        *It's crap, not even the Canadians will drink it.

        *I came to the White Rose province & I am naturally biased against the House of Lancaster.

        1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

          Re: From my cold, dead hands!

          Bigelow is worse than all of them.

    2. Trixr Bronze badge

      Re: From my cold, dead hands!

      My first job in the UK in the late 90s was a real shock to the system. Central London, biggest law firm in Europe (at the time), full restaurant in the basement...

      Tea supplies in the office areas were the crappiest drink vending machines known to humankind, with that powered instant "tea" shite and at 7p a pop.

      Honestly, at least on the Heart of Gold, you would be flying around on a cool spaceship with an Infinite Improbability Drive, even if you couldn't get a decent cuppa.

  2. chivo243 Silver badge
    Trollface

    Break? out? Room?

    What is this frippery? Now get back to work, and off my lawn!

    Our staff lounge(closest thing to a B.O.R) has a water kettle, fridge, coffee machine and tables. Our office has a generous meeting room at 2x3m! I wish El Reg allowed pix to be uploaded...

    1. hplasm Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Break? out? Room?

      Breakout area? Pseudocorporate Bullshit.

      If it doesn't have hidden tunnels, pickaxes, fake CVs and ventilation pipes made from coffee tins, it isn't any good for breakouts!

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Break? out? Room?

      Ours is similar.

      Although in addition we do have a well stocked 6ft beer fridge, cocktail video game unit and pool table, so not all bad.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Break? out? Room?

        we do have a well stocked 6ft beer fridge

        A beer fridge is no bloody use to anyone unless it can be freely opened from 7.45am onwards.

    3. Uncle Slacky Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Break? out? Room?

      When I first started work in the early 1990s (at the Cornish training college of a certain telecommunications behemoth which no longer exists) we used to get pots of coffee and tea (and biscuits, if memory serves) with REAL CHINA cups and saucers laid on by the catering staff during morning and afternoon breaks in an actual break room.

      Icon: nearest thing to an old fart icon.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Break? out? Room?

      At a previous company, trying to hip and cool had a common area, complete with Scaleltrix track and football table.

      Turns out it was just for show, as a college was told off for using it!

      1. The Oncoming Scorn Silver badge

        Re: Break? out? Room?

        Where they there on a field trip?

  3. Stoneshop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Go on, join us by the watercooler: we could use a laugh

    How? 'They' took away our watercoolers, which had been installed about a year earlier at a comparatively substantial cost (additional power and cold water piping; the 'unit on the kitchenette counter' model, not the 'keg on a pillar' model), citing maintenance cost.

    Soon after, they upgraded the coffee machines. I'd like to think they had to because of increased usage.

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Meh

      Re: Go on, join us by the watercooler: we could use a laugh

      Our water dispensers (filtered mains - hot and cold) are being removed because, we're told, they're not used often enough and the cost of flushing them to keep the water fresh is higher than getting bottled water. They'll be replaced with the keg on a pillar type which I assume will go green as they'll be hardly used too...

  4. Alister Silver badge

    join us by the watercooler:

    We can't, they removed all the watercoolers and replaced them with a jug of tap water in the fridge, which never gets filled up.

    1. DJV Silver badge

      A fridge!!!

      You lucky bastard!

      We can only have a drink by standing outside facing upwards with our mouths open when it's raining!

      1. Solarflare

        Re: A fridge!!!

        You get to go outside?!

        Oh if only...We're have to hope that the tears of our colleagues have moistened the air enough that we can condense some on our tongue as we work...

        1. Tom 38 Silver badge

          Re: A fridge!!!

          We never used to have a cup. We used to have to drink out of a rolled up newspaper.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: A fridge!!!

            You got newspapers? We have to scoop it up with our hands. Which is hell on soup day.

            1. AbelSoul

              Re: You had hands!!!

              You lucky, lucky, bastards.....

            2. Rameses Niblick the Third Kerplunk Kerplunk Whoops Where's My Thribble? Silver badge

              Re: A fridge!!!

              Hands? HANDS?? Luxury! It's corporate policy here that all staff have their hands removed on joining the company after a member of maintenance staff made a rude gesture at the CEO in 1993. I'm typing this with my nose.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: A fridge!!!

          You have collegiate tears! Luxury! We have to suck any moisture we can find out of the dry dust that's gathered in the corners of the room, *and* the boss charges for it!

          1. VikiAi Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: A fridge!!!

            Our new building (under construction) explicitly doesn't have space for a fridge in the tech office. Little do they know that when they close my remote outpost and move me there, the lovely large fridge I have all to myself will need a new home and by damned, the other techs and I will make it fit somewhere!

            1. Martin an gof Silver badge

              Re: A fridge!!!

              doesn't have space for a fridge in the tech office

              Had a boss at a previous place of employment who very nearly bought one of these when it turned out that new kit took up substantially less space in the rack than the old kit: Canford rack-mounted fridge

              M.

          2. hoofie

            Re: A fridge!!!

            Dust? Dust! I used to dream of dust.. [continue in a recursive loop]

      2. chivo243 Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: A fridge!!!

        That's what the hippies do when there is acid rain...

        Electric Kool-aid Acid test in my coat pocket

      3. Loatesy

        Re: A fridge!!!

        Is it fresh rain?

        You're lucky.

        We have to use powdered rain . . .

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: join us by the watercooler:

      You have a fridge?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: join us by the watercooler:

        I did hear of one request for a fridge for a lab staffroom that got turned down. A request for an environmental chamber got passed. It looked just like a fridge.

  5. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    Meh

    We had a communal fridge that wasn't plugged in, but was still used by people for months before they realised. It was an open secret that everyone knew there was no nearby socket to plug it in, yet didn't tell anyone else.

    1. Tom 38 Silver badge

      We had a communal fridge that broke, but no-one ever cleaned it out. After about 6 months, someone from FM slapped a "Biohazard" label on it, and then when we moved office 3 years later they had to get in a specialist disposal team to finally deal with it.

      1. VikiAi Silver badge
        Alert

        The student fridge here would fit that description if I didn't trolley it outside for a defrost and hosing out every 4 months! (Note, that is a different fridge to the one I mentioned above which I keep in pristine condition, since I am the only one regularly using it - I'm the only full-time staff at the outpost, though part-time staff are welcome to use it too, they usually buy their lunch).

  6. BebopWeBop Silver badge

    unintended consequence

    I worked within the NPIA for a year. Coffee and tea bags were removed to save money (negligible sums even if they were made up). The result - a mass migration to local coffee bas during th day, casting time and effort at a saving of diddly squat. But that's the Home Office for you (diddly squat. Now by comparison a large US company had office in Bristol with fantastic tea and coffee. It encouraged people to meet close to where they worked and also the mass migration of R&D folks from the manufacturing group to get over and socialise.

    Cost not large, impact unmeasured of course.

    1. FlossyThePig

      Re: unintended consequence

      I remember reading "Odyssey: Pepsi to Apple" by John Scully when, after moving to Apple he discovered a non-corporate world way of working. One detail, was white boards on the wall next to coffee machines. People from different areas could discuss, and potentially solve, technical issues, making notes on the boards.

    2. Valerion

      Re: unintended consequence

      A place I used to work at used to have a couple of toasters and supplied free bread and butter. Everyone came into work early and made some toast and went and ate it at their desks.

      Then they took it away, saving probably £10 per week, so everyone stopped coming in 30 minutes early.

      1. John Arthur
        Flame

        Re: unintended consequence

        Yeah, I worked once at a place with toasters. It is not funny standing outside in the freezing cold while the powers that be decide that the fire alarm was not triggered by a raging inferno but by someone who had forgotten their toast.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: unintended consequence

        "Cost of everything, value of nothing" comes to mind

    3. uccsoundman

      Re: unintended consequence

      I worked for a company that did that for coffee, and then for lunch. They decided that we needed to buy our food from their very expensive cantina. When we started going out to eat instead, they made a rule that nobody could leave campus during lunchtime (if you beeped out and didn't have a Doctor's note, you could be fired). So we started brown-bagging. New rule; no lunches from home in the lunch room. So we started eating at our desks. New rule, no eating at the desk. Finally they came right out an said it; no eating any food nor consuming any beverage that was not purchased at the Cantina. Doing otherwise could be a offense. Fortunately our customers got wise and put pressure on them. It seems that a $2 million dollar female client needed to use the washroom and discovered there was no T.P. after lunch. Management suggested she should bring her own TP on the next visit. Client used our contract with her as her TP. Policy changed. Now that company has different owners and things run a bit better.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: unintended consequence

        Can I hazard a guess that this was in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: unintended consequence

          "Can I hazard a guess that this was in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave?"

          Probably. It's the sort of thing the Truck Acts made illegal on this side a long time ago.

      2. Antron Argaiv Silver badge

        Re: unintended consequence

        They tried that where I ran the engineering coffee concession. Was told the coffee pot was a "fire hazard".

        These are electrical engineers. We told them that was BS, and we were not buying coffee at the cafeteria when we could have our own far cheaper. Our management was part of the coffee concession and backed us up.

        Were I in that situation, I would have pushed it, so as to get fired for bringing in my lunch. Then had a conversation with the press.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    First they came for the coffee

    An IBM office, back in the day. It had a workers area and a client area and a nice big drip coffee machine serving both. This was already an anachronism at a time when vending machines had taken over most IBM offices. One year about a decade and a half ago, it was announced that coffee was a taxable perk and to save us from ourselves, the coffee would no longer be supplied. Being an enterprising crowd, since the machine was still there we arranged to put a few pence in a jar every day and some kind soul would go round the corner and buy a big bag of ground coffee, some milk and sugar in the morning. This caught facilities management off guard but there wasn't actually a rule against it SO after about a month of this, an electrical safety audit was commissioned from which the filter machine was excluded and, without it's up to date sticker, was taken from the building to be replaced by a vending machine.

    It's my experience that when a company starts getting petty about small things, they quickly build up to larger ones.

    My previous job, 2 years ago, people had to bring their own tea and coffee but there was a hot water spigot and a cupboard full of mugs, mostly donated by vendors on each floor as well as a coffee franchise in the building canteen. For the "benefit of the environment" the franchise started charging for paper cups and selling reusable moulded plastic ones and to support this, the company cleared out all the old ceramic mugs which had been re-used for years so people had to pay for new plastic ones.

    1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: First they came for the coffee

      "It's my experience that when a company starts getting petty about small things, they quickly build up to larger ones."

      HP. Doughnuts. QED.

    2. PerlyKing

      Re: First they came for the coffee

      It's my experience that when a company starts getting petty about small things, they quickly build up to larger ones.

      I've worked at a couple of places where they started by putting out fruit baskets around the office every morning. Then they put out fruit baskets in the kitchen area. Then they stopped putting out fruit baskets. Then they started making people redundant.

      1. E_Nigma

        Re: First they came for the coffee

        Yup, a company starting to save on things like that usually means that it's not doing great financially and that things are probably only going to get worse.

        1. uccsoundman

          Re: First they came for the coffee

          No, it is much more likely to mean that they are "Optimizing Shareholder Value".

          1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            Re: First they came for the coffee

            It's likely to come to the same thing in the end, at least as far as employees are concerned.

      2. lglethal Silver badge
        Joke

        Re: First they came for the coffee

        Those damn fruits bankrupted the company did they? Thats why you should never touch the stuff. Vegetables either, they're just as bad. Stick to Meat and your job will be fine!

        1. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: First they came for the coffee

          Stick to Meat and your job will be fine!

          This works to everyone's satisfaction if you target those who are most likely to be made redundant soon.

    3. Mog_X

      Re: First they came for the coffee

      an electrical safety audit was commissioned from which the filter machine was excluded and, without it's up to date sticker

      That's why it is always useful to have a roll of PAT Test stickers handy.....

      1. iron Silver badge

        Re: First they came for the coffee

        I always made sure the electrician tested my kettle when he came round the workshop. Usually with a tea or coffee as well as the PAT tester. :)

    4. trevorde

      Re: First they came for the coffee

      Company I worked for was bought by Big Blue. First thing to go was our free lunches, albeit a simple sandwich or roll. Obviously, that didn't p155 off the minions enough, so they stopped the free tea and coffee. I left shortly afterwards.

      1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

        Re: First they came for the coffee

        Simple plan that works in a wide range of circumstances.

        First you stop feeding them.

        After a while, you can stop paying them.

    5. Flat Phillip

      Re: First they came for the coffee

      It's a reasonably reliable sign, especially during the dot-com days.

      If they started to muck around with coffee or fruit or whatever, it was time to either burn down your leave or find another contract. It didn't mean things were going bad tomorrow, but you had fair warning.

  8. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    Pint

    Full stop

    El Reg's got beer on tap? Oh, hell yes - that's an office I can believe in.

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Joke

      Re: Full stop

      <coughs> There's something quite dangerous about sober, thirsty, journalists. The El Reg manglement aren't that daft. </coughs>

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Full stop

      ...and was I the only one who read "The Reg offices often bring smiles to the faces of our crew, who are almost certainly the most "mental" people in our building."?

  9. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "downgraded the staffers' coffee machine to a cheaper, crapper one"

    I really hope you meant "crappier" and not "crapper". Not that it makes much difference to my view of coffee.

  10. knarf

    jagermeister on tap

    I know someone that knows a dev in Poland who works in a place where jagermeister is supplied free on tap. This sound great except their all half pissed all the time dealing with other dev stresses.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: jagermeister on tap

      their all half pissed all the time

      So you've been to Poland.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    We have a breakout....

    Commonly referred to as the transporter.. Now partially useless after ops took over a nearby wall to mount 5 4k tvs to watch stats on.

    The kitchen behind said wall is a bizarre black hole for milk and teaspoons, occasionally brightened up by microwave immolation (about once a year since I started).

    There's also a separate room with a pool table and table football (the pool table is about as a straight as a member of Parliament and table football is held together with duct tape).

    Fun times.

    Anon. Because its still better than other floors in the office.

    1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

      Re: We have a breakout....

      What is it with teaspoons ? Do they have a wormhole to vanish away to, like Douglas Adams' biros ?

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: We have a breakout....

        There are about 6 people in this building, shared between 2 companies, though we have an extra couple of home workers who come in a few times a week.

        I think I've bought three 12 packs of teaspoons, and yet we've still got about the same number as when we moved in here. Yet we seem to be gathering dessert spoons, I'm wondering do they have a growth stage in their lifecycle? Or are they the reverse of amoeba, and 3 teas spoons merge into a borg-spoon.

      2. Down not across Silver badge
        Boffin

        Re: We have a breakout....

        What is it with teaspoons ? Do they have a wormhole to vanish away to, like Douglas Adams' biros?

        That was the question in the mind of some Australian boffins who proceeded to conduct a longitudinal cohort study on the disappearing teaspoons.

        1. Tigra 07 Silver badge
          Facepalm

          Re: We have a breakout....

          "Stealing teaspoons is wrong:"

          Strongly agree 31 (33%)

          Agree 23 (24%)

          Unsure 15 (16%)

          Disagree 13 (14%)

          Strongly disagree 12 (13%)

          A quarter of people disagree that stealing teaspoons is wrong? With half of them feeling strongly that it is their God-given right to take the little spoons? What's wrong with these maniacs...

  12. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    Not exactly a breakout area

    My team's pig-pen was located next to a meeting room. A meeting room greatly favoured by those with over-generous budgets for lunchtime meetings. We'd eye up the lunches being delivered and decide whether to go to the canteen that day or just wait for the meeting to end.

    Mmm Cointreau crèmes brûlées.

    Sadly, when relocation was on the cards all those folk managed to find themselves transfers to divisions that weren't being relocated out of central London and the meetings became a thing of the past, well before I took the relocation.

  13. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

    One water cooler use case

    One place I worked in had an extremely nice flex-time policy. Great perk.

    Unfortunately the flex time and dealing with civilians in general rubbed our new Great Leader the wrong way. He was a newly retired Marine who seemed to combine the aggressiveness of Chesty Puller with the ego of MacArthur.

    So the story (perhaps apocryphal) goes:

    GL: "We need some serious discipline here. People wandering in and out whenever they fscking feel like it... That's BS! Everyone will be at their desks at 0800 sharp..."

    Deputy: "Sir... you do have the authority to order that. But what's going to happen is that everyone will just stand around the water cooler from 0800-1100 bitching about your policy..."

  14. Joefish
    IT Angle

    Not a breakout room, but vending

    I remember a visit to an Italian aviation engineering firm some 20 years past and being shown their vending machines. The coffee machine would put a Star Trek replicator to shame, for gadgetry and options, and all operated by pre-paid, active and encrypted staff keys.

    Next to it was a rusting rock-ola style coin-operated snack machine full of packets of dried things, that I doubt even the Fonz could get to dispense. I was advised not to touch it or anything that came out of it as it hadn't been restocked in years.

    Priorities.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    AC for obvious reasons

    The company I work for has the water coolers with the five gallon purified and mineralized water bottles on top. We go through a lot of those bottles. One quarter times were tough and we were on credit hold so the bottles never got refilled. They had the cleaning crew take the empty bottles outside and fill them with the water hose and then put the caps back on.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The one perk I got for my team...

    Had to get a fire permit, training, etc. But we set up a smoker and a grill outside. We try to do our weekly group status meeting outdoors on Fridays. Leaders take turns cooking and serving. This week is mine.

    Tomorrow's treat, weather permitting, are some smoked chicken carcasses currently marinating in a beer/hot pepper mix. For the vegetarian I'm doing some strange acorn squashy-roasty thing my wife came up with. Smoking will commence at 0800, for a 1300 meeting.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: The one perk I got for my team...

      Fuck ancient Rome and Athens, THIS is civilisation!

    2. ThatOne Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: The one perk I got for my team...

      Hell yeah!

  17. NightFox

    A few years back I started working at an international dot.com in London that tried sooooo hard but just couldn't get it right; the place was soulless, everyone just sat at their desks and worked 8:30 till 6:00, no talking, no water-cooler moments. Management weren't overbearing, that's just how the work environment seemed to have developed. They had large rooms filled with beanbags and swings which no one ever used. They even had beer fridges; every Friday at 5:00 everyone would grab a free beer - then go back to their desk to drink it in silence whilst working for another hour.

    I managed 4 weeks there.

    1. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge

      @NightFox. Sounds horrid. Why didn't they swap out the beer for Victory Gin?

    2. nwillc

      Worked somewhere with a beer friday - they never stopped to think that a good chunk of the contractors didn't drink. I remember showing a new person to their desk, and finding every drawer, cabinet, cubby, stuffed with full beer bottles. Apparently the last contractor had wanted to fit in but didn't drink so just stashed them.

    3. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      "8:30 till 6:00"

      Even on Fridays? Must have either been a very long working week or very long lunch breaks.

  18. Kingsley

    No pool for you

    I worked for a web company in the early 00s who were trying to be more hip and trendy so bought a pool table for the kitchen area.

    No one ever played it because the boss would just hear you and come to tell you to stop slacking off.

    Not really sure why he bothered buying it.. company didn't last long.

    1. M.V. Lipvig

      Re: No pool for you

      The place I work for put in a video game a few years back, one of those flat tabletob jobbies that plays the best of the 80s arcade games. 2 weeks later, a camera was put in near the machine, positioned to watch who might be on it. Never see anyone actually use it, but someone did put a sign on it that says "It's a TRAP!"

  19. Jay 2

    Many years ago (and two offices back) we acquired some sort of coffee machine (sorry, I'm not an aficionado, it crunched beans and made OK coffee) to stop everyone disappearing to Starbucks nearby. Though it was not the most reliable of machines. Then we moved out to Canary Wharf and it was joined by a similar machine, which took slightly different beans and didn't taste as good though it was somewhat more reliaable. A few years later the mothership decided we'd be moving as they had spare floor space and it suited their balance sheet. As this building has a canteen and coffee shop upstairs and to stop the current incumbants from complaining the two trusty coffee machines were banned. The is some sort of free "coffee" available now, but my god it is disgusting.

    Another gripe is that when we moved from Canary Wharf we also had to leave behind our nice Herman-Miller chairs for some shitty, useless chairs as along with many other things that's how it was... their way or the highway.

    Well before the coffee machines we used to have free lunch bought in every day. You ordered first thing in the morning and and luch it arrived like magic! Obviously the reasoning was to keep us near our desks. Though the office at the time was a bit out of the way, so it would be quite easy to use up your lunch hour. There used to be a few toasters too, but I think the frequent fire alarms put paid to them.

    1. paulf Silver badge
      Alert

      I had a similar problem when we moved offices a few years ago and the person in charge of our newly built office decreed that everyone will ditch their nice comfy, but generic red+black, office chairs for new crappy chairs upholstered in the selected corporate hue. I had a very comfortable special posture chair in red+black that was specially purchased after an occupational health assessment confirmed it was necessary. I asked if I was also expected to replace my chair and told in no uncertain terms "yes". I then asked if I could have her cost code so I could charge it with the £1000 a new chair in the correct colour would cost. A special exemption was hurriedly offered to me (and several others who also had non-standard chairs for similar reasons).

      With hindsight I'm surprised she buckled so quickly as she had a long history of pissing money up the wall, until a new CEO gave her a rapid and hard boot in a big cost cutting exercise.

  20. Putters

    Frank.

    Back in 1990 when I joined LUL working in the Bakerloo Line offices there were no breakout areas. There was, however a bloke on 'light duties' called Frank, who worked in a small kitchenette in one corner of the floor. Frank's job was to start off round the offices on the floor (nothing open plan in those days) collecting everyone's cups. Then dishing out tea or coffee on the next circuit. Repeating continuously for the whole day - other than at around 11am, when he would bring round the bacon rolls if ordered on the previous circuit.

    1. Rich 11 Silver badge

      Re: Frank.

      This is what used to be commonplace in all large offices in the UK until the successive financial turmoils of the 1970s. Frank was basically a tea lady for the 1990s -- good on yer, Frank!

    2. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

      Re: Frank.

      I worked awhile in the Earls Court Signalling Inspector's offices. We had a "Frank" too, with a similar perpetual mug rotation. His tea was midway between Bakerloo line and Northern line in colour (sorry I don't have the Pantone code). The mugs were massive. Frank looked like the kinda guy you wouldn't want to argue with. To make sure I didn't upset him my boss suggested upping the number of sugars I had (around six IIRC), which worked, but boy did I get stomach cramps.

      When I worked out on the track with gangs some of the tea makers would pour umpteen pints of milk into the urn with the tea bags, boil that up and the result was surprisingly palatable. Anything was better than Griffin tea, which was what all the LUL canteens had UUUUUUUGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!!!! I can still remember the taste to this day.

      1. Rich 11 Silver badge

        Re: Frank.

        and the result was surprisingly palatable

        Tha dussn't know tha's born, lad.

        When I was about eight or nine, in the early seventies, me and a mate used to spend our time at the end of our road, about a mile out of town. This was where the river and roads met the train line, so we'd piss about climbing on the bridge and watching the trains go by (which weren't many, except in holiday season for the east coast resorts). We got to know the signalman who worked one side of the river and the gatekeeper who worked the two crossings on the other side.

        Some summer evenings one or both of them would give us money to cycle back into town and fetch them fish and chips. In return we got half a bag of chips and a mug of tea to wash it down. It may just have been an urban legend amongst signalmen, but it was said that the signal hut which contained an iron stove and a huge blackened kettle had never been free of tea since the LNER was incorporated a hundred or more years earlier. Every shift, someone would just scoop out the previous set of tea bags, throw in a handful of their own, top it up with water and put some more coal in the stove.

        Proper tea, that was.

  21. nwillc

    They tried to charge IT for coffee

    Worked one place were they decided the coffee was costing them too much so they bolted on an after market card reader to the existing machine. The idea being we could pay with the cards we used at the cafeteria - where they didn't trust the cashiers with actual money.

    Being IT we figured out that if we selected the coffee you wanted, inserted the card, and immediately hit "brew", while yanking the card out,

    the reader couldn't process the transaction but the machine started brewing. Left there about a year later ... and the hack still worked.

    1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
      Pirate

      Re: They tried to charge IT for coffee

      Being an EE, I would have worked late one day, opened up the machine and bypassed the card reader in a way that it still appeared to function, but did not affect the operation of the coffee maker.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: They tried to charge IT for coffee

        Maybe not the best idea. Unlike the hack it would have left evidence.

  22. An0n C0w4rd

    Break room downgraded

    They took away the foosball machine and the air hockey table, which was all the entertainment in the room. All they left was the fridge, microwave, a soft drinks machine (not free), and some tables

    I got one of the CAD people to print out a huge sign on their plotter printer thingy that said "THIS SPACE INTENTIONALLY LEFT BLANK" and taped it to to the floor where the entertainment used to be. I think it survived months. Not sure when it got ripped up. May have outlived me in that building.

  23. Gene Cash Silver badge

    Feminine sanitary supplies

    I can't find the link now, but I remember reading an article by a female venture investor.

    She'd check out the women's executive restroom, and if it didn't have a tampon dispenser (or it was empty) then she'd conclude the company was on the downswing and refuse to invest.

    I seem to recall she said the test had something like a 95% success rate in predicting if the company went bust in the next 6-12 months.

  24. Angry IT Monkey

    CRAP In The Afternoon

    Tea bags? Cup-a-Soups? Pah!

    Worked at a certain outsourcer that decided toilet paper and soap were optional luxuries. For months we were encouraged to use the facilities at a nearby supermarket. Talk about pushing staff to not give a shit!

    You often had an early lunch if you needed to go or risk a stomach upset, not something you want in a building where the remaining soap was so watered down it was homeopathic.

  25. M.V. Lipvig
    FAIL

    coffee

    A place I used to work for, a rather large US telecom, at one time had nice break rooms with multiple Bunn coffee makers. You know the ones, been around since coffee was invented, fully plumbed, made coffee hot enough to make a McLawyer weep for joy. Folgers coffee, and it was pretty good for commercial coffee although I won't have the stuff in my house.

    At some point it was decided that this was too expensive, so they switched out our fast, reliable coffee machines for those stupid pod people machines, and required that we bring in our own. The end result was, rather than people popping out for a quick cup before going back to their desks, maybe occasionally needing to wait the 3 minutes it took to brew a new pot, they had people lined up in the breakroom waiting to brew their personalized, individual cup of plastic coffee. Each cup took about 5 minutes while the machine trickled in the water, heated it up, then brewed the cup. For the first few hours, people who were on the clock would make their coffee, then go to the back of the line to wait their turn for another since the line was long enough that they'd be done with the first cup long before they got back to the machine for the second one. Some folks spent the first 3 hours of their workday in the coffee line. They went from paying about 100 bucks a month for coffee and supplies to losing the average hourly wage of 500 people x say 2 hours a day, and that company paid anywhere from 20 to 100 dollars an hour.

    I just brought a small pot from home and made coffee at my desk which tasted tons better than the plastic stuff. If I'm going to have to buy my own anyway, I'm drinking the stuff I like.

    1. Shooter

      Re: coffee

      But on the flip side, you miss out on the "getting paid to stand around and socialize for two hours every day" part.

  26. Terry 6 Silver badge

    Bean counters

    So much of this reeks of beancounter management.

    The usual, "if it costs money it has to be removed" approach. So good managers will come up with something to improve staff moral and hopefully productivity or retention And then the BCs will turn pale at the ( relatively nominal) visible cost, while failing to notice the downstream gains of lower turnover or improved efficiency. And scrap it.

    And it seems universal. Public corps. or local govt agencies. Short term costs are more significant than long term gains.

    1. Ian Nisbet

      Re: Bean counters.

      The bean counters get to show a concrete saving.

      Intangible benefits do not contribute to a bean counters performance review.

      Behaviours are driven by assessment criteria, "you can't manage what you can't measure" and such bollocks.

  27. Martin Summers Silver badge

    I know it's not quite break out rooms but it's in the same vein. A Web dev friend of mine sent me a picture a few months ago of the gloves his company had provided to everyone because they couldn't afford to have the heating on. Needless to say he didn't stay there long.

    At my company they provide tea coffee sugar and milk. I bring my own coffee rather than drink their turgid shite, I bring my own milk now because otherwise I have to open the UHT capsules, I'm nearly at the stage of bringing my own sugar because they've got the silly individual sachets. I know it might sound ungrateful of me and their offering is better than nothing but this stuff really does get you through the day, it's the little things that aid staff morale and retention. So providing better quality stuff myself for my own sanity is a must. I also agree that if these types of things are stopped then your company probably isn't doing so great.

  28. LateAgain

    Cheep version

    Open an office with a supermarket over the road.

    :-)

  29. mr_souter_Working

    DXC Erskine

    they just took away all the plants that were around the break areas (real plants, that gave it some much needed life) - we have some plastic ones at reception.

    Some unknown company policy says that we are not allowed plants in the buildings.................

    1. Down not across Silver badge

      Re: DXC Erskine

      Some unknown company policy says that we are not allowed plantslife in the buildings...............

      TFTFY

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