Simon Carr: The Kitchen Capitalist

I've learnt Zen qualities I'll never need again
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The Independent Online

The story so far: the author has sold his house to finance a manufacturing project in the hope of making a small fortune to finance his old age...

The prototype that was sent to China via the Royal Mail in the middle of November? The price of the postage was £7.50, you remember, against a private company's quote of 20 times that. What a vindication for those who champion our state-owned enterprises.

After two weeks, it was clear the package was lost. The Royal Mail required 25 working days to recognise the fact that it was lost. It might be found suddenly, after all. That took us up to Christmas. I sent the lost parcel form to the Royal Mail on 1 January (enclosing original receipt, invoice for original item and for replacement) and it took two weeks before I realised that they weren't going to reply. So I wrote again and got a reply. They said they needed the invoice to confirm the value of the item.

You have to pick your battles. Rather than mail them my bloody, severed head with its features contorted into a mask of hate, I sent them another copy of the invoice. They also said that their carriers had a statutory period within which to make their investigations (two months). That would make it five months from start to finish, the story of the lost prototype. Anyway, unbeknown to the Royal Mail, the prototype was sent back to the House of Commons with the "Unclaimed" box ticked. So, whatever the deficiencies of the public sector, the private sector strives to outdo them. Remember, too, this is the prototype that didn't work because the Chinese engineers capriciously decided to bung in a resistor to increase the volume (it blew the speaker). Now China needs it back because it can't make the working circuit board from the instructions sent by Wales and it needs something to copy from.

Wales repeats its doubts that China will ever be able to manufacture the item because it isn't technically capable. Wales says there are questions China should be - but isn't - asking about the circuit diagram. Wales doesn't volunteer what those questions are, or what the answers would be. That would be helpful, but that isn't the game.

Oh, and there are two components missing. Wales assumed China was buying them; China assumed Wales was supplying them. China was asking for "the two missing IC's" (sic) for a month, and was told by Wales for a month that it had "all the information necessary". This was true in the sense that politicians tell the truth (it was functionally untrue).

China tried to buy the components. After 10 weeks, it came back with a quote - an extra $25,000; it took me a few key-strokes to Google the same components and get a quote of half the price. It took 98 seconds (including swearing) to do it.

I'm learning Zen qualities. They're not very useful; I'll never need them in real life. I certainly ain't going through this again.