Friday, October 30, 2009

Organization Fail: Housing Maintenance

Most of the KAUST campus houses had problems when students moved in on September 3rd. Some student problems were small: doors which did not close or phone connections which did not work. Others were more threatening: pipes bursting or sections of the ceiling collapsing.

These problems were made more frustrating by poor communication within the maintenance department. My sad story about a missing stove top is a tale of communication failure. It took two and a half months to fix.

I love to cook at home. When I moved into my apartment, I noticed my stove top (or cooking range) was missing the heating elements. I immediately called the maintenance hotline and asked for a quick repair.

About four days later, at 11:00 pm, a team of seven workers swarmed my apartment to change lighbulbs, check electrical fuses, and look for leaks. Before they left, I asked if they could install the heating elements for my stove top. They did not know where to find the elements, but they would leave a note with the supervisor in the morning.

A different team of three workers came three days later.

"We are here to fix your stove sir."

"Oh good," I thought to myself.

They barged through the door with a big bag of tools, pulled the stove out from the wall and gathered around. After a few seconds, one of them asked where I hid the heating elements.

"There are none," I replied.

They could not fix it without the elements, they said, but they would leave a note with their manager.

Weeks passed. I called the maintenance hotline, sent emails to various managers as they were fired and replaced (KAUST maintenance manager has to be one of the worst jobs in the world,) and complained to the workers themselved as they moved from house to house in the night. Almost every week I would get a visit from a different group of workers who came to "fix" my stove. Sometimes there were two, other times there were five. One of them always carried a big bag of tools, but each time the result was the same.

They swarmed into my kitchen, pulled out the stove, looked at it, and asked me where the heating elements were.

"I don't know; I don't have them; I was hoping you would bring some; who knows?" I would answer.

Each time their response was the same: "we will leave a note with our manager in the morning."

This happened eight times in two and a half months. Organization fail.

But then two weeks ago, two guys came to my front door. I recognized them - they were from the very first group of workers that visited more than two months ago. One of them had in his hand a bag of tools... and the other was carrying four heating elements! Success!!!

I can cook in my home! The fix came just in time, because we start paying for our food in the diner tomorrow.

Since the stove was fixed two weeks ago, I have recieved two more visits and three phone calls from the maintenance department. Each time they said, "we are here to fix your stove, sir."

I guess the manager finally got all of those notes.

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