Pagers (was: Re: Bonkers)

Ovid publiustemp-londonpm at
Tue May 8 15:54:47 BST 2007

--- Smylers <Smylers at> wrote:

> There've been a few messages here recently with people objecting to
> employers expectations of being able to call them out of hours; I've
> also witnessed resistence to it from other people I've worked with.
> Is it a big problem at many places?
> For some reason I've never been bothered by it.  Have I just been
> lucky?

You've been lucky.  Here's how bad it can get.

When I worked for Rentrak*, we had multi-million dollar contracts with
most major Hollywood movie studios.  We told them -- mostly in real
time -- how much money each movie was making.  We had a strong
infrastructure (code almost exclusively in Perl, of course),
coordinating the reporting of over 4,000 theaters across the US. 
They'd send information via email, call center, Web forms, FTP, SOAP,

Given the size of the contracts and how temperamental Hollywood execs
tend to be, we could never afford to screw up.  Ever.  This led to
programmers rotating pager duty every week.  The pager would go off at
least once a week, sometimes several times a week, often at 2 or 3 in
the morning.  Husbands sometimes slept on couches when they had pager
duty.  When you had pager duty, you *had* to be near a computer.  This
meant no dinners out, no trips to the cinema or pub crawls.  In short,
pager week meant that you had no social life and often no sleep.

For this, you were paid an extra $100 on the weeks when you had the
pager.  After fighting unsuccessfully for months to get this amount
increased, I went to the 'big boss' who promptly informed me that I had
no reason to complain because pager duty was voluntary.


After I left his office, the other programmers came up and asked if I
managed to get our pager pay increased.  I said no, but I found out
that this duty is voluntary.  Half an hour later, pager page was upped
to $200/week after every programmer immediately "unvolunteered" for
pager duty.


* Despite some minor issues, I do have to say that Rentrak was one of
the best companies I've worked for and I was terribly impressed with
the quality of programmers they retained.  They were fantastic.


Buy the book --
Perl and CGI --

More information about the mailing list