BOFH: Just because we've had record revenues doesn't mean you get a Xmas bonus

Are you sure you don't want to rethink that, though, Boss?

BOFH logo telephone with devil's hornsEpisode 23 NOW IS THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT!

Yes, it's Christmas Bonus time once again and the cupboard is most certainly bare – not because the company is doing appallingly, but because the directors of the company have decided that they want the bonus money to be given to the less-well-off in our society – via the trickle down method. In other words, they're keeping the money for themselves as a thank you for steering the company through the post-COVID years, after banking record revenues through the pandemic.

Ordinarily this sort of news is only reported at the company Christmas party – however, the board decided to soften the blow by telling us early. And cancelling the Christmas Party – to cut costs … which will no doubt result in a fractionally higher bonus.


The PFY is not impressed, as the company's done remarkably well in the last few years so he'd assumed bonuses would be back on the cards. 

The Boss is similarly gloomy.

I, on the other hand, am more pragmatic. If the money's there to be taken, the board will take it.

The PFY has a mathematical approach to this disappointment: fewer board members would result in a surplus of cash, which would then be available for bonuses.

"Ah, your carefree optimism!" I cry. "At the board level, this would just mean an increase in bonus for the remaining members."

"You're taking this rather well," the Boss opines.

"Yes, I think it was George Santayana who said 'Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to spend hours in a fake escape room in the basement with only a pencil, a bucket of partially drinkable water and a single sheet of toilet paper'."

"But … no toilet?" the PFY asks.

"Well there's that bucket."

"What, you're serious?" the Boss gasps.

"Oh yes. They went in 40 minutes ago."

"They wouldn't be stupid enough to do that."

"Sure they would – they got an email telling them that the bonus was being paid in cash to get around tiresome VAT rules and that we made it a 'competition' so they could declare it as winnings from a game of skill – if they declared it at all. They couldn't get here quick enough!"

"So you're holding them prisoner?"

"I'm not sure they're aware of that yet. One of them isolated the sprinkler supply to the building because he thought it was a key to opening the door."

"And what are they doing now?"

"I don't know, I turned the lights off about ten minutes ago and they've been using their phone LEDs for lighting. And apparently the mobile coverage in the plant room is appalling."

"Turn the lights on will you?" the Boss asks.

"Hello?" one of the crustier board members pleads into the void.

"Hello," I reply. "How are you doing?"

"We seem to be having problems finding the first … uh … clue."

"Ah yes!" I respond "The first clue. And you're sure you've looked?"

"Yes. I think perhaps this game is not really for us."

"I understand. You realize, however, that the form you signed earlier says you forfeit your bonus if you fail to win the game of skill?"

"Ah. Are there any hints you can give us?"

"Of course there are, and I'm only too pleased to help!"

"How many clues are there?"

"How many living people are in the room?"

"What?! Uhm, seven."

"Not eight?"

"No, Sir Nigel passed away last night."

"That's terrible news. No doubt you've cast lots for his bonus?"


"Nothing, just a semi-seasonal reference. So, as noted on the form you are each entitled to one clue."

"OK, can I have my clue?"

"Sure. You'll notice that the red fire evacuation notice to your left is held to the wall with a single screw, allowing you to swing the sign to one side."

From my display, the PFY, Boss and I listen to the discussion several floors below.

"It's a credit card reader! Is there anything written on it? Does it have a serial number that's a code of some sort? What happens if you push the buttons?"

"I think we'll need another clue," the board member groans, about five minutes of prodding and discussion later.

"But you haven't activated your first clue!" I blurt.

"How do we activate the first clue?"

"I'm so glad you asked. You see in front of you a credit card reader …"

"What, we have to pay?" he snaps back, offended.

"Not at all. I can assure you that you will exit this room in six hours whether you pay or not."

"Well we'll do that then."

"I can also assure you that the huge lump in the middle of the floor – known in the trade as a scour valve – will open 12 times in that period."

"What's a scour valve?"

"I'll give you a free clue. There's a really large sewer pipe connected to it, with the pressurized waste from the building passing through it."

"So we have to pay?"

"Yes, but I can assure you that you will be pleased you paid for this hint."

"How much is it?"

"The number will appear on the screen."

"A hundred and eighty pounds," he gasps.

"It'll be worth it!" I say.


"Alright, what's my clue?"

"Your clue is a three-parter. (1) You've just paid for one item for the company Christmas Party; (2) The items get more expensive with each clue; and (3) Your credit card was disabled after the transaction and cannot be reused for another transaction."

I let that sink in for a moment.

"Can I buy a clue?" one of the sharper member asks.

"Indeed you can!"

"Two hundred and forty five pounds!"

"That'll be the champagne."


"I'll buy a clue!" another member says, seeing where this is going.

"Three hundred and seventeen pounds."

"And that's the lagers," I comment.

… three transactions later …

"Two thousand, six hundred and eighty pounds!"

"The catering. I did warn you the items were increasingly expensive."

"I'm not paying! I don't care if you open that valve thing!"

"BONUS CLUES TIME!" I burble. "These are for everyone. Clue 1. As I noted earlier, the number of clues required is linked to the number of people alive in the room; Clue 2. Your Christmas Bonuses are, no doubt, only given to board members who are alive; and Clue 3. There are several bricks laying in the corner of the room."

"I'LL PAY!" our recalcitrant board member cries, microseconds later.


"CONGRATULATIONS!" I gasp happily. "You have successfully negotiated your way out of the escape room."

"The door's still closed."

"Well yes, like I told you, the door will open in six hours. The Christmas Party starts four hours from now."

"But you've sorted out the scour valve thingy?"

"Why would you think that?"

"But we paid!"

"Oh yes. For the party. But perhaps we should talk about staff bonuses."

"That's non-negotiable."

"No problems. I'm just going to vent the scour valve – just to clear any trapped gas. You can use that time to think about that bonus situation …"

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