Tales of the Extraordinary …


Nothing cheers me up more than tales of extraordinary stupidity. I enjoy recreating the thinking that led to decisions so stupid that they take your breath away.


This week’s top story concerns a mobile/cell phone provider in the UK, called Orange. It’s not the stupidity inherent in the company’s name that is our focus, although giving your telecommunications company the name of a pulpy fruit must be a bad idea.


The story relates to a retired investment banker who visited a Carphone Warehouse, a retailer of mobile phones, to buy an iPhone. This would have required taking out a new contract. Not an unreasonable thing for a retired person to do, you might think. (Full disclosure: being neither a heart surgeon nor Batman, I have no need for mobile telephony.)


The banker requested that his contract for the iPhone be with Orange. The required forms were duly filled in and the banker awaited a response. From Orange came the reply: no contract for you. An apparently slightly embarrassed assistant told the banker that the problem would be either his credit rating or his age.


Investment bankers tend to have good credit ratings (except for the likes of Bernie Madoff), so the assistant was not surprised when enquiries revealed that the banker was indeed too old to have a contract with Orange. Another provider, the equally stupidly named O2, was later able to accept the aged duffer and gave him a contract.


The investment banker is 67 years old.


Those are the facts of the story. Here is an inventive reconstruction of the thinking that led to it.


The scene is the boardroom of Orange. In attendance: the board of directors, a group composed mostly of acned, snivelling teenagers, formally dressed in T-shirts and torn jeans. They are, without exception, knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing cretins, but their industry is not one where intelligence is required. After all, everyone but me wants a mobile phone or two.


The cretins discuss the upper age limit for using mobile telephony. “Twenty-five,” says one director. “Oh, I think we could go to 30, don’t you?” asks a 27-year-old, the senior person in the room.


In the end, they agree that 35 should be the upper limit, so as to not unduly limit profits, but to avoid problems with the decrepit. The board then authorises itself a massive bonus and repairs to Starbucks to drink the vile sludge that passes in that establishment for coffee. None of them enjoys drinking sludge, but who would dare criticise Starbucks, the home away from home for those who don’t like their homes?


I’m not yet 67 and I don’t want a mobile phone. I also don’t want Orange to survive as a company, which obviously it won’t. I would however, like young people to show some respect for their elders and betters, as once they did. I’d also like to be seven feet tall and marry Julia Roberts. None of those things is going to happen. Sigh.


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