fun and games with vendors

Deranging the Strange Arrangement With Grainger–Now With Bonus BAMN!

A box has arrived for the human female.


Well, I don’t know if I’d call her “one who gets things done,” but I certainly am.

You see, this box represents several weeks’ worth of first-class mischief.

Humans are clumsy by nature, always dropping things and breaking them.  Last semester, the students broke a number of the glass graduated cylinders used in the urinalysis experiment.  Terrible things, students.  Can’t be trusted.

At any rate, the decision was made to order a bunch of plastic cylinders that the feckless little darlings couldn’t break.  So the female ordered 24 of one size and 6 of another, so as to fit the hydrometers on hand.

And she waited.  And waited.  Finally, exasperated, she called the vendor and was dismayed to learn that they had never received the PO at all.  So she jumped through all the hoops and asked the Bean Counters to re-send it.

And they did.

So she waited some more, and still no box of plastic piss-jars.  She called the vendor again, who told her yet again that no such PO had ever been received.  At this point, the human female recalled that it had been long and long since she had ordered from this vendor, and it occurred to her that, back in the glory days of BAMN, the program administrators wanted all POs to be emailed to a person, rather that to a helpful or useful address not tied to a transient and mortal meat-sack.  She asked the person on the other end of the phone what address would actually reach the orders department.

Armed with this little nugget of information, she contacted the Bean Counters and asked them to transmit the PO one more time.

You can see by the presence of the package and all of this boring wrapping paper that a shipment eventually resulted, so how did it come about?


Not long after the PO was transmitted to the vendor for a third time, the human female had a missed telephone call, and then an email, from chipper customer service rep saying that if the human female would call them, they’d be more than happy to set up an account and process the order.


Everything involves an account these days, so the human female called and proceeded to try to navigate the vendor’s byzantine account setup.  The Helpful Person on the other end of the line (trained by me, of course) tried to walk her through the whole process but the human female could never quite get her to understand that the University is a rather large place and the Biology Department only a small part of it–and the human female smaller still.  The Helpful Person wanted to create an account for the whole of the Department and make the human female the contact person for it—or perhaps the person in the stockroom, since that is the delivery address.  Or maybe whoever is in charge of Departmental Billing…

After about twenty minutes of internal zip codes, building abbreviations, and increasing frustration on the part of all parties, the human female had finally had enough.  Abandoning the idea of an account (for which she did not wish to be Responsible), the human female asked if they could just abandon the notion of an account and process the order some other way.

Why, yes!  Yes, they could!  Relieved, the human female launched into placing a guest order with the credit card.  Everything went swimmingly right up to the point where the Helpful Person read out the total.

Including tax.

Rule One of purchasing:  The University never pays tax.  Ever.  Slight snag, yes?

No worries, the Helpful Person told the human female!  All she had to do was make the purchase, request the tax refund form, fill it out, provide a copy of the University’s tax exempt paperwork, and sit back and wait for the tax to be refunded to the card.

At this point, if the human female had been listening instead of grinding her teeth, she’d have heard me giggling in the background.  It’s a known fact that initiating a tax refund stunt like that would make the Bean Counters purple in the face and bring on a spitting apoplexy.

Followed by a stern reprimand and a lecture about Rule One of purchasing:  The University never pays tax.  Ever.

It was at this point that the human female reached her limit.  She thanked the Helpful Person for their help  time and rang off.

Next, she contacted the Chief Bean Counters and asked them to cancel the PO entirely.

Now, obviously, here are the cylinders.


So how did she get them?  She remembered, belatedly, that this particular vendor has a punch-out right at the front of the purchasing software site, one that takes the user straight to the catalog where they can load up a cart and check out easy-peasy.  Once the PO was cancelled, she logged in, went through the punch-out, put in the order, hit a button, and took delivery about 48 hours later.   No problems, no tax, and no escaping that it was her own incompetence that led her down the garden path in the first place.

Well, I may have helped a little.

So now there is a full set of plastic cylinders for the urinalysis experiment.  The Prep Staff are always quick to point out that it isn’t really real urine, just something they whip up out of water, food coloring, and chemicals.

Theoretically.  No one has yet connected the strange results they keep getting with my capacity to quaff and process ale…

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Completing a Mischief-Birthday Sandwich: To B. E. or Not To B. E.?

I started the week with mischief and spent the middle looking at art.  I think I’ll complete the mischief-birthday sandwich by making a little annoying surprise for the human female.

She has received a box. This is not out of the ordinary.  The box is from a manufacturer she has ordered things from before, which is also not out of the ordinary.


There is only one problem with this box.

She has not ordered anything from this manufacturer recently.   Examining the box reveals that it is full of TSA petri plates.  The human female says TSA stands for “Tryptic Soy Agar, a goopy jelly which is used as a general growth medium for the isolation and cultivation of microorganisms.”

She is very, very sure she has not ordered TSA plates.  Ever.

But something about this mischief feels familiar.  Ehehehe!  Look at her!  I can practically see the gears turning in her tiny brain.  I can hear a tinny grinding noise and she’s screwing up her face.  Almost has it… Almost has it…

And now she remembers:  Last fall, I arranged for a box of plates just like these to show up unordered and unannounced.   After a lot of poking and calling and thinking, she figured out that that batch actually belonged to B. E., a colleague who works in an entirely different building.  The Vendor Who’s Responsible had simply pulled the human female’s name out of its hat as Someone in the Biology Department who often Orders Things and slapped it on the box.

A quick call to B. E. confirms that yes, ladies and gentlemen, at my behest, the Vendor Who’s Responsible has done it again.  Many of their products–such as this one–ship directly from the manufacturer, meaning that there’s one more step along the purchasing path where information can go astray.  The vendor, Hardly Diagnostic, is still laboring under the impression that the human female is the only person who ever orders from them.

So here comes B. E. now, to retrieve her parcel and reveal to the human female more details of my mischief.  First, since the wrong recipient was indicated on the box the last time B. E. made this order, this time she asked the Department’s purchasing officer to make the order for her, so that it would not look like a repeat order from B. E. and hopefully not go to the human female again.  Ha!  I have hexed the purchasing officer’s office as well, and Hardly Diagnostic just once again pulled a random Biology Department address from its collective bum and sent the box to the human female.

Because that worked so well last time. 

Second, the human female has noticed that the actual P.O. number is actually on the outside of the actual box.  B. E.  is telling the human female that she has ONE ongoing, open P. O. with the Vendor Who’s Responsible.  One. P.O.   As in “can just call them up and tell them to put any/everything on that one P.O. number.”

The human female is sitting here with her mouth hanging open, which, let me tell you, is NOT a good look for her.   She is imagining a future with just one lovely P.O. number for all her dealings with the Vendor Who’s Responsible, and now I am so torn.

On the one hand, I don’t want her to try to make the same arrangement with the V. W. R., because I really, really enjoy making her go through the whole process of getting a separate requisition number and P.O. number for every purchase.  But on the other hand, imagine all of the tangley mischief I could accomplish if I kept messing up her orders and every time she tried to straighten something out with the V. W. R., she had to refer to the same snafu’d, ever-more-convoluted mess of a mis-directed, mis-packed, mis-delivered, back-ordered, P.O. And all her scanned packing slips she sends to the bean counters would have the same P.O.  There’d be no way to match up invoices with orders, and she’d be a gibbering mess inside a fortnight…

Rats!  I hate it when I have two conflicting mischiefy ideas and can’t choose between them!

Oh, well.  I suppose I’ll let B. E. keep her one magic number and just keep having various vendors send all her stuff to the human female, and I’ll keep tinkering with the human female’s orders.

One doomed P.O. at a time.

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Take a Tip From Me

I do some of my best work with little pieces of plastic.  I’ve been amusing myself and making the human female’s life more interesting by messing with her ability to do something as mundane as order pipette tips.

You remember pipettes, yes?  Fantastically useful things, but without the single-use, disposable tips, they’re just very expensive, very precise squirt guns.  Tips come in two sizes–yellow for the two smallest size of pipettors and blue for the larger one.

The human female and her Prep Staff already have a lot of tips.  I mean A LOT, a lot.

tip cabinet

And that’s not even all of them.

The tips get “stuffed,” 96 at a time, into color-coordinated tip boxes, of which there are also bunches upon tons of manys.

stuffed tip boxes

The stripey tape is a bit of nifty science.  It starts out plain, and once exposed to the high heat and pressure of an autoclave, it grows stripes.  Any box you see here that has an undisturbed bit of stripey tape contains sterile tips.

Unless it’s one of the boxes upon which I have switched around raw and striped tape, in which case, all bets are off.

Let us examine one of the boxes more closely.


Odin’s eyepatch!  That really is a lot of tips.


Heretofore (love that word), the mortals have been hand-stuffing the tips into the boxes, the sort of mindless,  necessary busy-work that could probably be left to trained raccoons.  (They have such clever little paws!  The raccoons, not the humans.)

rocket tips

Now, the new lab exercises for the Bio 111 students call for approximately eleven million times more pipette uses than the old ones, meaning approximately eleven million more tips.  No one has time to stuff that many tips, and there aren’t enough sardines and marshmallows on the planet to convince a raccoon to do it.

Some researchers just buy boxes with the tips already stuffed in  (this is called “racked”) which is convenient but very expensive and mind-bogglingly wasteful.  The other alternative is to buy the racked tips once and thereafter refill the boxes with pre-placed cards of 96 tips each.  Since soooo many tips will be needed, that’s what the human female and her staff have decided to do.

BUT–and here’s the part that makes my evil little heart go pitty-pat—not all tip boxes are created equal.  Each major pipettor brand and several major labware vendors has its own sort of box, and the refill inserts fit only their own boxes.

So what is the human female to do?  All the old, yucky tip boxes she has are one kind, but no one knows which (possibly Fisher?)  All the fancy new pipettors came with one box of yellow tips and one box of blue tips per per set, and those are made by Rainin.  She’s got to pick a supplier and make a commitment for the long haul.  It’s like choosing a mail-order  bride, except more expensive!

Rainin is out, as their refills cost about twice what my helmet did.  Fisher is out, as she hears the box latches don’t hold up.  There are lots of other options, but she has finally narrowed it down two, a smaller vendor “A” and the Vendor Who’s Responsible.

Ehehehe!  Look at her try to do math!  If she needs to order 30,000 yellow tips and 43,000 blue tips and each comes 96 per card, and the cards come eight to a pack, and five packs are in each case, how many cases does she need to order?  And, wait!   The blue tip boxes and cards are bigger, so there are fewer packs per case, so that’s a different multiplier.  Or is it divisor?  She’s getting confused.

Oh, clever human!  She’s asked for quotes from the two vendors and has them bidding against one another.  They’re falling all over themselves, trying to undercut each other and offering all sorts of inducements!  She has offer, counter-offer, counter-counter-offer, counter-counter-counter-offer, and counter-counter-counter-offer plus offer of free goods.  Which all means more math—what is the total price now versus the ongoing cost of refills?  One is cheaper now; one in the long run, but only a little. One is offering to give her free empty boxes and sell her all the tips at refill prices.   Don’t answer yet!  Don’t forget two very important considerations for the math!  The blue tips come fewer pack to a case since they’re larger, so that’s a separate set of calculations.  And one vendor has half the number of packs per case, so their quote has to be doubled for comparison.  And that 43,000 yellow tips means ordering a partial case, and can she get a quote for just part of a case?  Yes?  More math!  It’s so exciting!  Who is going to get the bid??  It would be easier to just add them to the huge order of everything else from the VWR.  But would that be better?  Oh, the quandary!!  Time is running out–the order has to go in today.  

Come on, mortal, decide already!  Just know that whichever vendor you don’t choose is going to send you hurt and aggrieved emails for weeks afterwards.

What’s that?  The VWR has thrown in two free cases of tips?  That tips the scales.  Order going in to them and a polite decline to the other vendor.

And right on cue:  Message from the other vendor.  “I wish you’d told me.  I could have done something else.  What changed in the last ten minutes?”  The human female got to enjoy her thrifty decision for all of twenty seconds before the guilt trips started arriving in her mailbox.  I love it!

Oh, well.  What’s done is done.  It’s not as if there aren’t a million more things that need doing, so no time to dwell.


And I think I’ll just randomly remove tips from boxes.  Here. This one has 95 now, and I spit a little in two or three of them..

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Mischief Update–It’s Not All Pens Around Here

It’s not all pens around here, though you’d never know it by the ink samples on the dining room table.

No, there is a lot of messing with the human female so that she gets her exercise running around.  Take, for instance, the time the stockroom folks delivered a package that patently was not anything she had ordered.  It contained petri plates full of nutrient goo, meant for doing environmental sampling.  She called the Vendor Who’s Responsible and asked whose name was on the original PO.  They told her it was for someone named Craig Bell.  Armed with that info, she searched the A&M directory for anyone named Craig Bell.  She found a Greg Bell, so she called him and said she might have his package.  Then, since the VWR had just sent the good that were manufactured by another company, Hardly Diagnostics, she called them and was told the package was something ordered by one B.E., who actually is in the Biology Department.  So the human female called B.E., who met her in the hallway for a handoff.  B.E. got her plates, the human female had thirty minutes of her day wasted, and I had a good laugh.  Win-win, I’d say!

The human female and her prep staff were in charge of the snacks for the big, ten-day Teaching Assistant workshop that took place right before the start of the semester.  They received a schedule of all the break times and the human female carefully calculated how many snacks and drinks they’d need–six snack breaks times sixty participants, etc..  She went on a huge shopping run.  Then she found out they were responsible for two other breaks, so she had to go again.  I made sure that, on the second run, the Big Box Store was out of the cookie assortments everyone likes so much.  Or rather, they had them, it was just that each one had been opened. No idea what happened there (munch, munch…)

I also saw to it that on one of those runs, the human female’s university ID fell out of her pocket.  She didn’t know about it until she got an email from someone who works on campus saying that someone had found it and put it on the windshield of her doesn’t-work-on-campus boyfriend’s truck in the Big Box Store’s parking lot.  Rather than turning it in to the store, the boyfriend had taken it home.  The human female had to call him up and arrange to get it.  He wanted to take it to some coffee shop he was going to and leave it there.   The human female actually had to explain to him why leaving a card that identifies the worker’s department and which functions as, you know, a KEY in a public place was not a good idea.  She and the human female ended up driving all over the southern part of the city, out in the country, to catch up with him and get the card back.  That was a good one!

The first week of the semester was an absolute joy–for me.  One lane of the humans’ route to work was closed on the first day, and I arranged a fender-bender-tieup on the second.

The Thursday Night Home Football Opener caused as much trouble as predicted.  Traffic was a zoo.  Some employees were told they could leave at 1:00 and others were not.  Students were told to attend their afternoon classes, but some buildings were locked up early so they couldn’t do that.  I worked with the Memorial Student Center to be sure lockers in the MSC were available for the students to stash their stuff so they could go right to the game from class.  And then the next day, I saw to it that offer was rescinded.  Confusion is so exhilarating.

I’m still having fun with Workdon’t.  I had it mess up September’s insurance deduction for a lot of people.  And since the human female was finally able to hire a fourth Tech, I’ve had opportunities for mischief there, too.  He was hired three weeks ago, and he’s not in the system yet as far as anyone being able to code his ID card for the door locks.  Ah, door locks.  Love’em.  I’ve favored some of the Teaching Assistants and Lab Instructors in the same way.  There are all sorts of people wandering around who can’t get where they need to go.

The Purveyor of Squiggly Things continues to be a willing and able partner in the human female’s mental demise.  They are located in one of the states that bore the brunt of Hurricane Florence, so they shut down for a few days.  The human female had to put in her weekly order with them early, and then hope it came in time.  Then there was the time they canceled one item without notice (no Nostoc for you!).  The female didn’t notice it until the shipment arrived without it–no backorder notice had been sent.  Quickly, she scrambled to put in a phone/credit card order with the Alternate Purveyor of Squiggly Things–who also cancelled without any notice, on the exact same item.  The human female and her staff had to make do with prepared slides.  Then on the same lab, it wasn’t until Tuesday that the human female discovered that in one room, the jar of Nitella (a lovely freshwater alga) from the APOST contained no actual Nitella, just a lot of Bazania, a weedy aquatic liverwort that I’ve had fun spreading through all the freshwater tanks on the floor.  The human female called up the APOST to chew them out for sending bad merchandise, but they couldn’t find the PO in their system.  Why?  Because the human female had canceled the order when they couldn’t ship the Nostoc, so the Nitella in the lab was from a previous semester.  Didn’t she look like an idiot for not remembering?  Yes, she did!  And even moreso when she discovered that the Oedogonium in one of the lab rooms was also mostly Bazania.  Have I mentioned how much I like Bazania?

Then, on another order, the Purveyor of Squiggly Things just randomly changed the shipping date from one in September to one in October.  The human female caught it in time.  I still don’t think she’s realized that half of the employees at POST actually work for me.

I’m still playing my favorite game, Vendor Roulette.  The human female ordered a bunch of prepare microscope slides from several different vendors.  She received most of them.  That was too boring, so I had the Vendor Who Was Recently Swallowed by the Vendor Who’s Responsible (VWRSbVWR) send the invoice to the university’s satellite campus–in Qatar.  Never mind that POs are distributed with the email to which invoices should be sent.  Nope!  The invoice went all the way to some foreign fellow in the Middle East.  Someone there sent it to the human female, who let the VWRSbVWR know what to do with the invoice.  That was such fun that I started a whole ‘nother round–VWRSbVWR to Qatar to the human female to VWRSbVWR. That time she talked to an actual person, and it seems to have been resolved for now.

I’m still having another vendor, Lonza, send the human female Angry Past Due Notices for any university invoice, regardless of whether it is hers or not.  It’s such fun that now I’m doing it with a second vendor as well.  She’s everybody’s scapegoat, and I love it!

The last time the human female’s set of teaching labs and prep rooms was inspected, the inspector seemed preternaturally fascinated with the breaker boxes.  In one prep room, he found several slots without circuit switches, and he wrote them up, promising to send a tech to fix this Very Dangerous Problem No One Else Had Ever Found.  Nothing happened.  Then more nothing.  The human female called the department’s safety officer, who promised to put in a work order.  Not too long after, someone from Slow, Silent, and Costly came out and did the job.  A week later, someone else from Slow, Silent, and Costly came out to do the same job.  Also, the one worker at SSC who came when he was needed, actually called with updates, and did a good job the first time has retired.  I love it when smoke curls out of the human female’s ears.

The human female lost her yoga t-shirt, and I hid it so well that no one ever turned it in to lost and found.  She couldn’t ask the custodian if she’d found it, because said custodian quit on no notice.  The new custodian can’t figure out how to lock the human female’s office door, or that of her nearest office neighbor, since their locks lock and unlock “backwards.”

Construction continues to make driving anywhere in town a misery.  Lanes disappear for no reason at all, with no warning.  Getting to work is more and more like a video game every day.   And the TexDOT  (i.e., the Texas Department of Ongoing Torture) has just announced that in the next few years, they are going to widen the east bypass around the city.  Yes, the one they just spent five years redoing all the on-ramps on!

And one day, anyone trying to approach the Blocker Building suddenly found there was no actual way to do it.

construction on campus

The human female occasionally likes to listen to books on tape or books on YouTube while she works.  She was really enjoying a good murder mystery.  Too bad I saw to it that the last two hours were missing.  Never fret.  Waiting a few weeks for the book to arrive on interlibrary loan was a good exercise in patience for her.

On the homefront, the felines continue to offer me amusement and the humans bemusement.  The swirly one, at my prompting, has begun a new routine of rubbing up on the human female if she sits on the floor, with each arching rub going a little higher up her back, until she can nibble on her shoulder or her hair.  When she’s not tearing around the house or rubbing, she’s Sitting Funny.


I taught her that too.  The humans have since had to barricade that lower shelf of that bookcase you see there, because she likes to NEST.

Aaaaand the human female  is still waiting for the needlework kit she ordered in January.  Some jokes never get old.

So you can see that I have been very busy.  And a busy Loki is a happy Loki.

Sometimes I smirk so hard my face hurts.

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A Mischief Update

It’s not all plant-smashing around here. No, I have been hard at work. Let me update you on what I’ve arranged for the human female in her place of employment. (I won’t say “workplace,” because that would imply she actually, you know, does work.)

1. Fun and games with glassware: Remember the big beakers? There’s been no word on whether the one with the funny flaw is safe to use. Nor has there been confirmation on whether the Apothecary Bottles of Unpleasant Memory have been refunded yet.

2. The Squiggly Things vendor never did manage to get her the two jars of little tentacled beasts. Or rather, they did, but they did not succeed in getting them to her alive. She now has a nice stack of invoices marked “D.O.A.”

3. This same Squiggly Things vendor has sent yet another shipment by 2-day air rather than overnight. She’s going to have lots of fun trying to track it down, too, because the campus is closed tomorrow for Spring Break, so it won’t get delivered. Mischief takes no breaks.

4. The humans had some fun activities planned for Spring Break, but I’ve arranged for rain, inches and inches of it. Hey, the female should thank me. It’ll be too wet for yard work.

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