Don’t you just hate it when stores take things too literally? Our ordering system lacks something. There are part numbers for everything, and we are able to specify a quantity, but there is no mention of pack sizes, which can lead to problems.


I ordered cable ties. We go through a few of these, and I thought it would be beneficial to have a bag of them on hand. With this in mind and with the fear that, whatever my intention, the amount sent would be wrong, I ordered one of the item number.

Imagine my delight when I received a small package via courier containing a ziplock bag containing 1 (that’s One!) 2.5 mm cable tie. OK, I thought, I understand the system now; I placed an order for 100.

A few days later the courier staggered to my door carrying a large box. In it were 100 bags of 100 cable ties. Sometimes I wonder at the intellect of some of our people.

Attempts to return 99 of the bags were futile. Nobody seemed to have a procedure in place for returns, and the box gathered dust under my stairs at home. After some time, I decided that enough was enough, and having supplied as many as my colleagues with cable ties as I could, I resorted to Ebay.

My nearest colleague had a similar problem; he ordered a packet of cleaning cloths. He received a carton containing 24 packets. Not only were they unwanted, but the huge carton presented him with a particularly awkward storage problem, because the box filled the back seat of his car. Again he shared his bounty around the team, although it took me well over a year to use up all those rags! I have ordered the same product and managed to get a single packet, so I can only assume that order picking is reliant on the mood of the warehouse operative.

I’m sure that many of you will have amusing tales of ordering supplies from your central stores, particularly if you have ever been involved with the military services, but the worrying thing is the waste that this kind of practice creates. In these times of financial constraint and narrowing profit margins, we should be working hard to eliminate this kind of waste. Any list of supplies that can be ordered should specify the order quantity, but ours doesn’t!

If you have tales of stores mishaps and ways you have dealt with the consequences, please let me know.