An electrifying project

I’ve done a lot of project management in my time: from the design and installation of small-scale eco power generation plants, via the design and build of a number of restaurants to the construction of an extension on our kitchen at home. Therefore the upgrade of our electricity supply at the restaurant should be an absolute doddle. Shouldn’t it?
Well that’s what I thought until I started picking up the phone and receiving the paperwork from the two main parties.
You see we wanted to put in what’s called a three phase electricity supply in order for us to be able to run bigger ovens and avoid the panic that occasionally ensues every time the electricity trips during the busiest moment of the evening. It’s not just the fact that the diners have been plunged into darkness, nor the look through the emergency light-lit gloom on the faces of the waiting staff. But rather the language from the chefs in the kitchen who, halfway through plating up meals next to a raging gas cooker, suddenly can’t see what they’re doing and naturally complain in rather strong terms without realising that there’s no longer any music in the restaurant or protection from the loud hum of the kitchen ventilation equipment to drown out the swear words. Diners were being shocked. Something had to be done. Hence the upgrade.
So the first thing I did was phone the number on our electricity bill. Obviously those people are the ones who I buy from so I must go to them. No matter that I’d made a mistake. They gave me the number for the people who put the wires in the ground, I made another call and we were off and running. They told me that they’d be delighted to give us more electricity. All they wanted was the dosh up front with absolutely no date as to when they were going to do the work. I thought this was a little like asking you for full payment for your meal at the time of your telephone booking with no guarantee as to what time we’d be able to sit you nor, actually, as to which day.
But we needed the work doing and I assumed I was dealing with a rational organisation who’d done this sort of thing many times before and I’d be able to draw on their experience. Well that was another mistake.
After some conversation about what we actually needed and the clearing of a fairly large cheque from Oldfields, we waited a couple of weeks to see what would happen. Then we got a letter dated two weeks before it was actually delivered informing us that the work was to be done in seven days time and we’d better make sure we’d arranged for the new meter to be installed that same day. And who installs the meter? Ah yes, the people who we actually pay for the electricity. So, onto the phone to them only to be told that they need three weeks notice. “But they’re cutting us off next week!” I relied, “Could you talk to them directly to synchronise things?”. “Sorry sir”, they replied, “can’t do that. It’s data protection you know”. I know that’s rubbish and you know that’s rubbish. It’s just something to hide behind but what could I do?
Well it turned out that these nice electricity supply people had a solution. Pay them money and we could actually specify a date that the meter would be installed and, not only that, they’d do it on the day the electricity cable people were coming. Marvellous but expensive. It actually wasn’t quite as simple as that but lack of space on the page prevents me from describe the faff-on that was involved. Suffice to say, after much high blood pressure and testing of my diplomatic skills it was all set up for the Friday morning the next week.
The due day arrived and, despite a late previous night at the restaurant, I arose early to be there before 8am just in case the cable layers came first thing. They didn’t. They turned up at 10:30 just as I received a call to be told that the meter installer would be there at 11. Good, it was all coming together. I then phoned our own electricians who had to be there to complete the switch-over for us and everyone agreed that it’d take about 45 minutes to do the job and switch the juice back on. Just in time for lunch at noon so that we wouldn’t lose any trade.
So, at 11 o’clock, the meter man arrived to be greeted by quite a few of us: me, my three electricians, three cable layers, two chaps who were there to fill in the previously-dug whole in the pavement and our staff looking on with expectation. “There’s not enough room for the meter” said our meter man to a hushed audience. “You’re going to have to get a bigger box installed on the wall and give us a call to reschedule the meter fitting. I’m off”. I did a swift body swerve, stood in his way to prevent him from leaving and offered him a cup of tea. I realised that if we couldn’t complete today I’d have to continue paying for the temporary generator I was hiring and, to add insult to injury, pay the meter man’s company an aborted installation fee!
While I kept the meter man talking, one of our expensively-delayed electricians shot off to the builder’s merchant to get another meter box and, to cut a long story short, we got the whole thing up and running – but only after losing revenue by turning away numerous diners who couldn’t wait until the 1:15 actual switch-on time, and after paying through the nose to get the whole job done when I actually wanted, and after pre-paying the cable people who then specified the wrong-sized box, and after the two main parties refused to talk to each other, and after paying three electricians to stand around waiting for said parties, and after ageing five years trying to bring this all together.
Apologies to those we turned away and to those who decided to sit and wait and accept free drinks. I really hope it was worth it.

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