Cold comfort

6 December 2011
Saint Homobonus, patron saint of procurement St Homobonus, the patron saint of shoemakers, tailors and purchasing, has a monthly column in SM... Cold comfort A prisoner has taken the jail’s governor to task over the procurement of blankets for convicts. He complained that inmates have been left with quilts that are too thin after officers removed thicker ones for fire safety reasons. The jailbird is reported to have moaned in an internal newsletter: “I asked the governor why, if our current bedding did not meet fire safety regulations, did he allow us to purchase them at considerable cost to us from his approved supplier?” Working for peanuts Trying to reduce headcount costs? There are options beyond redundancies or outsourcing to low-cost countries. Consider hiring a monkey instead and paying them beans. You heard right. A restaurant in Japan has two macaque monkeys – Yatchan and Fukuchan – that serve customers hot towels and drinks and are given soya beans as tips. And fear not, these primates are not slave labour, but family pets who have been allowed to help in the bar. Animal rights experts have visited the premises and given it the all clear. A lot of bottles Over in Nigeria, a nifty idea for recycling old plastic bottles – build a house. The country’s first house built from bottles filled with 
sand, laid on top of each other and bound together with mud is proving to be 
a tourist attraction. Apparently ‘bottle brick’ technology started nine 
years ago in India, South 
and Central America and 
it has been hailed as a cost-effective, environmentally friendly alternative to conventional building bricks. It has other advantages too. The strength of the compacted sand is said to make the buildings bullet proof and provide excellent insulation. But don’t forget the input costs. There’s fear demand for sand will push up prices and since most water in Nigeria is sold in plastic bags, the bottles, too, are highly sought-after. The science bit When vendors come to you making bold claims about their products and services, try asking them for proof. 
A national campaign by education charity Sense About Science wants people to ask companies and advertisers for evidence to support assertions. So, just because I say I’m the best saint around, you shouldn’t take me at my word (except you should). The effort is backed by professional British mind-boggler Derren Brown and tips for fact-finding can be found on the charity’s website. ‘Sick’ note Perhaps employers should start asking for empirical evidence from staff to support sick days. An article on CareerBuilder.com lists some of the most unusual excuses bosses have been given. Highlights include “LSD in my salad”, ‘“a tiger urinated in my ear and caused an infection” and “my dog was unwell so I tried his food and got sick”. So if you’re upset because your favourite American Idol contestant was voted off (an actual excuse apparently), you might want to check them out – after all, laughter is the best medicine. Don’t get stung A recent incident on a major road in Utah is a timely reminder of the importance of covering risk in your logistics contracts. The Interstate 15 was closed for hours after a flatbed lorry carrying 450 hives overturned near a construction site. More than 20 million bees escaped and local beekeepers worked through the night to gather the insects, which had been en route to California for almond pollination next spring. The truck driver and two police officers responding to the accident were stung, but the injuries were not 
life threatening. Mistake is klear And in news of other blunders, road markings outside a West Sussex fire station have been repainted after the word “clear” was misspelled. Motorists were advised to “keep klear” of the station entrance. A spokeswoman said: “The work was carried out by one of our contractors. They were made aware of the error and have corrected it. This serves as a reminder to all our staff to doublecheck their work.” And be able to spell, I’d suggest. Tweet of the month #NHS procurement – grrr! Recent ITT: 2nd worse I’ve ever seen – if my 14 yr old daughter had written it she’d be in remedial English by now. @Cloud2ltd
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