We have a problem. The boss is to spend large amounts of otherwise useful money on standardising the corporate telephone.
"Why's he doing it?" the PFY asks.
"Because he rests under the mistaken belief that it will have some bearing on the number of phones that are 'liberated' each year and end up in the homes of our employees."
"You mean they TAKE the phones?!" the PFY asks, naively believing that larceny stops just outside our door.
"Of course," I cry. "Good grief, it's an office perk, always has been. In return for our shiny new phone we get their lifelong guilt and another crusty old monster from the year 200 BT, which in turn justifies all the room we have allocated in the basement ..."
"And this goes on a lot?"
"Ahem. Dial a number, any number, any number at all!"
The PFY types a number on hands free.
"Hello, drawing office."
"Hello, networks here. We seem to have an inventory anomaly regarding your desktop phone, serial number 138728."
My monologue is interrupted by the slamming of the receiver.
"What happened?" the PFY asks.
"I dare say they are at this very moment rushing down the stairwell to retrieve the item from their home. Remember to make up a serial number so that they don't just steal one from somewhere else. Great for getting people out of the office..."
The PFY and I watch as an employee bursts from the main entrance and hurtles across the road to the tube station. I then ring the number again...
"Hello," a gruff drawing-office-boss-like voice answers.
"Pete," I gush. "Glad I caught you before you sneaked out. Say hi to Sheryl from me when you see her, you smooth bastard."
"WHO IS THIS?"
I hang up quickly.
"Well, I'm sure HIS absence won't be noted ... now, let's get upstairs and steal his desk phone. He'll be too scared to take his work one back home tonight and will be incommunicado till payday."
"You really are a bastard," the PFY admits grudgingly.
"Of course. Now, let's get to the boss's office ..."
"... And how do you think this will prevent theft?" I ask the boss, after hearing his phone proposal argument.
"Because they're a special model - slimline with a digital display that are ONLY going to be made for THIS company with the company logo on the front."
"Well, you're way off," the PFY quite rightly points out. "If you want a phone no-one will steal, just make it weigh 20 pounds and sound like crap."
The boss is a little flustered at this because he knows that for such a move he's got to present the proposal to the board for approval. And he doesn't want the PFY and I making his master plan sound similar to what comes out of an unstealable phone ...
I decide to let him temporarily off the hook.
"Well, can't hang around here all day, networks to fix and all that."
We wander off to his relief.
"I don't think the board will go for it," the PFY surmises as we wander back to our room.
"Don't you believe it," I reply. "Whack a company logo on something original and you'll have them drooling - especially if the competition hasn't done it before ..."
I leave the PFY to worry while I duck up to the boardroom to 'tune-up' the boss's presentation. At the appointed time, the PFY and I are hanging out at network central when the boss calls.
"What's wrong with the test line in the boardroom?" he growls, according to plan.
"Don't know," I say, "We'll be up in a second to check it."
"There's no nee..."
Quick as a flash the PFY and I are in the boardroom.
"Wow," the PFY cries, delivering his lines perfectly. "New phones, exactly like the ones the opposition's just got."
All heads turn as the boss reluctantly takes delivery of 'The Shaft' - he knows the board would never copy the idea of a rival ...
"There's your problem," I say, looking up from my test-set. "It's just the RAL of this phone. I'll make a note."
I pull out a personal disorganiser that I liberated from a user early last year with a company logo recently glued to the cover.
"What's that?" one of the board asks.
"Oh, just a personal organiser. I just put the company logo on it to stop people stealing it at conferences."
"I could use one of those," he says. A few murmurs of assent follow.
The boss then realises that as far as 'The Shaft' is concerned this is a two-for-one sale.
As planned, two hours later the PFY and I are downing a couple of pints on our recently transferred 'research fund' while we discuss the new 'Corporate Personal Organiser'. It'd be a challenge if it weren't so easy.