Have you ever "Shipped a Brick"?

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Thinking, thinking, thinking....

In past jobs, I have worked for a number of companies that were shipping new products. The ship date came, and the product was not ready. Software and hardware were seriously behind schedule. But if we were going to get paid we had to ship on time. One "old fart" noted that the shipping department would not know if what we shipped was good or bad, they just needed to "log it in" so we did what is known in the industry as "Shipping a brick" The company elders decided to just ship old parts and computers that really did not even come close to the system we obligated to ship.

The "brick" was duly noted by the shipping department. The company was paid net 30. The installer did not arrive for several months, and when he did he had a "free upgrade" (which sort of worked) and asked that the "brick" be shipped back to the company for credit. It was two years later (well after the deadline that the software was to be ready) when the system actually took real data.


I just hope that the US administration has not decided to ship us a "brick" on Y2K.


Have you ever "Shipped a brick"?

-- Helium (Heliumavid@yahoo.com), October 16, 1999


And the converse question:

Have you ever recieved "A Brick" instead of a real shipment?

-- Helium (Heliumavid@yahoo.com), October 16, 1999.

You mean, have any of us ever fudged personally, in the hope of buying more time to cover our inadequacies? Have we worked for companies that do? Have we ever witnessed the same behavior in the government?

Its a patch-as-patch can hurry-up world. Wag the dog to distract from our failures, to buy more time to make things right, rationalize that its in the highest good. Were all just fighting fires here, trying to make an impossible situation work.

The silver lining is that some of us have become conscious now of the fact that we have better dreams for the place, the ol blue marble. Maybe when the dust settles and the smoke clears, and we all have had a chance to appreciate more deeply the potential and power of humanity, well find a new approach. I like to think so.

Thanks for the provacative post, Helium.

-- Faith Weaver (suzsolutions@yahoo.com), October 16, 1999.


Yes, sort of. At one time the "ship the product today or return the money" deadline arrived and out went the product. We took down the development sign over the door, replaced it with a "maintenance department" sign, and kept developing. And we slipstreamed a new version about weekly for months until the product was usable.

Impossible schedules are often necessary to get the contract. When penalty clauses are included, the result is a brick. Such is life.

-- Flint (flintc@mindspring.com), October 16, 1999.

Hey, FW, we miss ya you-know-where!


-- Man From Uncle 1999 (mfu1999@hotmail.com), October 16, 1999.

sort of :

the [unnamed] company I refered to in an earlier post would ship 'stuff' knowing that some of the stuff was probably non- functional, unsafe, did not work, etc. in order to maintain the cash flow stream;

the company got their money on time for the initial delivery [in less than 12 days! in most cases], some of the product was returned for 'warranty repair', and the 'stuff' went around the mulberry bush over and over again until it either worked or the customer gave up;

but the company had been paid for the merchandise and was 'honoring' its agreement with the customer to ship 'workable stuff' or 'repair or replace'...

that's how they kept that cash cow giving milk...

I did not stick around there very long...


-- Perry Arnett (pjarnett@pdqnet.net), October 16, 1999.

Hey Helium,

you mean something like windows 98...

yeah, I have been on the reciving end :)

-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), October 16, 1999.

I use to work in the fine art business where they would ship some works of art valued over 6 figures. One of the oldest tricks in the book (for them anyway) to avoid paying taxes was to ship empty crates with bricks or something of the like, to provide convincing weight. If somebody in another state wanted to buy an expensive work they would provide an address in our state to ship the bogus crate to. We would send the actual work of art out of state, but our shipping records would show that it was shipped within our state, and thus was not a taxable purchase.

Personally, have I ever shipped a brick? No, but I,ve dropped a few in the toilet from time to time.

-- @ (@@@.@), October 16, 1999.

We used to ship "warm bricks."

Company I first worked for built control systems for the Electric Power industry. Sometimes, we were running late, so we shipped the shop electricians inside the 18 wheeler while they finished "ringing out" the wiring behind the panels.

One day one of these "warm bricks" turned real cold real quick. Imagine the guys surprise when while "ringing out" (a misnomer, because a Simpson meter doesn't have an audible continuity checker) a panel, they stopped the truck and made it return to the plant outside Lansdale, Pennsylvania. ALL the wires were, of course color coded. The company had inadvertently hired a color blind assembler. The entire panel had to be ripped apart.

Needles to say, we ate the penalties on the contract.

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in January.com), October 17, 1999.

Very Dilbert!

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (allaha@earthlink.net), October 17, 1999.

I used to run production control for a company that made meters to regulate the flow of air or fluids. Every year near the end of the government's fiscal year we would get huge orders (usually military) that there was no way we could fill in the 2-3 weeks we usually had before the end of the fiscal year. They had to spend the money or have a budget cut next year and it had to be shipped before the end of their fiscal year so the billing would show in the right year. We shipped the parts or at least some of them, let them be rejected and then would fill the order properly. We did this for a number of companies as well. Sort of business as usual.

-- beckie (none@this.time), October 17, 1999.

Like Beckie, I have shipped bricks, usually to government departments, school boards, etc., that were trying to dispose of funds before fiscal year end. When I did it, it was always with the approval of the dept.'s purchasing agent, who needed to make the forms and numbers add up.

An old-timer in the business once told me that the reason that bricks were used is that they used to ship empty boxes, but that the receiving dept. 'got wise' to the light shipping weight. A box full of bricks, OTH, passed the kick test.


-- Avalon (cdillon@hk.super.net), October 17, 1999.

Thats a pretty standard thing. A company I worked for would ship *part* of a system so that we could show it on the company records for the year....as a whole system of course.

-- Cory Hill (coryh@strategic-services.net), October 17, 1999.

No...but I have shit some bricks. I think come 1/1/2000 many more will be shitting bricks than shipping them.


-- 8 (8@8.com), October 17, 1999.

Great, Helium. And yes, Faith,...here:

"Its a patch-as-patch can hurry-up world. Wag the dog to distract from our failures, to buy more time to make things right, rationalize that its in the highest good. Were all just fighting fires here, trying to make an impossible situation work."

And this would be what I would call the elephant in the room...the quasi-sane, to very insane nature of the house that civilization built. (with it's good points factored in,...) And the chorus comes from afar,..."but but but,...there are good things, too! Oh, and besides which, there is no other way besides patching, hunting and pecking, fighting fires!" First, I seriously and daily question the assumption, really part of the refrain from Mother Culture, that there is no other way. Then, I wonder, daily, if a few good things are enough. The answer from within every day is: No. They are not enough. So, the challenge becomes for me to stay conscious, not nod-off to Mother's sweet lullaby entitled 'the price of progress'...and do one thing every day to prove to myself that what I do matters.

Gandhi said, "What you do may seem insignificant, but it's very important that you do it."

Edmund Burke said, "The worst mistake is to do nothing because you can only do a little."

Making, shipping and community building; time to stop fighting fires, and look for sources to problems, then implement radical (to the root) solutions.

"What you do may seem insignificant, but it's very important that you do it."

--She in the Sheet, upon the hilltop,...

-- Donna (moment@pacbell.net), October 18, 1999.

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