Thursday, July 06, 2006

Things I'm Still Mad About, Part 1

In early 1993 I was doing Newton software development for a company outside Cincinnati, OH. A couple of the developers were sent to an Apple development conference, but I wasn't (I was actually working for the testing department, although I was working on a little code as well).

The developers e-mailed to report. I found that Apple was selling custom-made MessagePad 110 units with transparent plastic cases. I asked one of the developers to please buy one for me, saying that I would reimburse him for it when they got back. I got back a message saying that one of them had purchased a clear Newton for me.

A few days later, though, the developer who purchased the device and brought it back had decided _not_ to sell it to me. I can't remember the exact series of events -- I think that first he wanted to charge me more than he had paid for it, because it was a rare, limited edition, collector's item, or whatever... blah, blah, blah.

As I recall, he wanted to charge me _significantly_ more money. He started talking about how he could get more money for it from someone else. I can't recollect what he eventually did with it, but the upshot was that I walked away disgusted and didn't get my rare, limited edition, collectible blah-de-blah.

I should mention that although I did not work very closely with this guy, and only worked at the particular company in question for three months, I remember his name thirteen years later -- not because of his code, or our work together, but because of this particular incident.

Of course, these kinds of things rarely provide the gratification that you hope for, and this little incident _did_ save me from indulging my spending tendencies. However, I was doing freelance Newton development, and getting paid for writing a series of articles on Newton programming. I had an original MessagePad, and a MessagePad 110 too. I can't recall if at that time I was planning to buy a MessagePad 110, or had already bought one, but in any case this would just have meant having a cooler, if possibly redundant, unit.

Now, I claim that the guy I asked who did this was, to use the technical term, an asshole. A jerkwad.

What do you think? Is this just capitalism at work? Or if I ask a favor from someone -- whether they are a co-worker, or acquaintance, or close personal friend -- and they agree, am I right to be offended that they want to make a chunk of money -- I can't remember for sure, but I think it might have been $200 over what he paid, which was something like $600 -- off the arrangement?

If he had said "you know, I bought this for you, but you know, it is really very cool, and I'd actually really like to keep it for my own use," I think I would have understood perfectly, with only a case of mild annoyance, quickly forgotten. But "you know, I've decided instead to see if I can extort some money out of you" _really_ stuck in my memory, and serves as a constant counter-example of how _not_ to do someone a favor!

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