Make the pain stop, please

One happy day I was trying to book some tickets to the local Shakespeare production of A Comedy of Errors. It was pretty funny to see this message appear in the acting troupe’s online booking system:

Theatre Manager Connection Error

Theatre Manager Listener

Perhaps the Listener is not started, or the Firewall IP address has changed

Please call up the venue and advise them of the problem

I am not usually a person prone to violence; I just think about it. When psychosis comes to call, I often lapse back into my youth when I had time to watch Monty Python’s Flying Circus on TV. This came to mind:

“Dinsdale says, ‘I hear you’ve been a naughty boy, Clement,’ and he splits me nostrils open and saws me leg off and pulls me liver out, and I tell him my name’s not Clement and then…he loses his temper and nails me head to the floor.” (The tale of the Piranha Brothers from episode 1 of series 2, Monty Python’s Flying Circus)

How could some alleged IT professional allow a technical and truly unhelpful message to appear on a client’s Web site? Let’s phone the venue right now. While they’re worrying about putting all the words “O, that this too sullied flesh would melt/ Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew” ( Hamlet 1. 2.12-13) in the right order, let’s ask them, “did you know that your firewall IP address has changed?”

Knowing this bunch, they’d say, “You know, I get that a lot; can I call you a psychiatrist?”

It’s pretty offensive when people make online booking systems that break, and then go on to suggest that their clients take the blame for someone else’s technical uselessness. They should simply put up a message that says, “Unfortunately we are experiencing technical difficulties; please contact the venue at [phone number] to purchase your tickets. A technician has been dispatched.”

Plus, you loonies, you are making it difficult for the rest of us. My prospective clients do not get warm and fuzzy feelings about online services when they see that kind of insanity on another site. The clients I hope will sign up for my online services will see my sales guy coming and think, “Oh my god; I bet this guy’s selling a piece of crap like that thing we saw on that play’s site.”

Let’s assume you are the manager of the project and have no idea the boffins doing the coding have allowed such a totally non-customer-service-oriented message to be put up for the world to see. First, “Your offence is rank, it smells to heaven.” ( Hamlet 3. 3. 36). Second, I can only assume that you are “such a want-wit” ( Merchant of Venice 1. 1. 6). Or, you didn’t know this was happening.

In any case, please follow these steps.

Actually test the system after it’s gone live, when your developers aren’t looking, and do weird and odd things to the system as if you were as stupid as the servants in a Shakespeare comedy.

Sit the developers down and say, “Oh, were mine eyeballs into bullets turn’d / That I in rage might shoot them at your faces!” ( Henry VI, Part I 4. 7. 89-80)

Phone your client and apologize, saying that those responsible have been taken to Dinsdale Piranha’s conversation pit where they’ve had their pelvises screwed to a cake stand. If the client takes you seriously because they don’t know British humour, tell them to Google “monty python script dinsdale.”

Ford is a consultant in Vancouver with an online booking system. His wounds are healing nicely and he can be reached at