Shark Tank: No, this time it's NOT a vacuum cleaner

Everything seems fine after this pilot fish finishes installing a minicomputer for a company that manufactures bags.

"It was a fairly large system for accounting, a beautiful installation with a remodeled office as its home," fish says. "We started the install on a Friday and completed it before training was to commence on Monday morning."

And everything is fine for three days. Then, on Thursday, the system crashes -- and hard.

"The disk drive had upchucked and appeared to have died an uncertain death," says fish. "But no -- we tested it, and it was OK. We reloaded everything and began again.

"All went well again until the next Thursday. And yes: Crash City."

The drive still tests out clean, but this time fish takes no chances. He replaces the drive and puts techs to work looking for the power problem that must be causing the crashes.

"It just had to be a power problem," fish says. "The local power guys put in a recorder, and the next Thursday it died again. But, alas, the power recorder showed no spikes or lows."

This time fish replaces the entire system. And the following Thursday, it crashes, too.

The bag company wants its money back, and fish agrees to the refund. But he's not happy about it. "I thought, why me?" he says. "Why Thursday?"

As it happens, it's a Thursday when fish and his techs arrive to remove the computer. But before they get much work done, fish notices a humming noise coming from the other side of the office wall, in the plant area.

"I leaned toward the wall it was coming from, to give it a listen," says fish. "And my hair was drawn toward the wall as if a strong wind was passing from the room through the wall.

"And as I touched the wall, a bolt of static lightning popped from my ear to the wall."

Stop packing, he tells his techs -- I think we've found the culprit.

Out on the plant floor, fish asks the plant manager what's going on. "We're printing plastic bags for a local ice company," manager tells him. "We do it every Thursday."

Does this process generate a lot of static electricity? fish asks.

"It doesn't; we do," manager says.

You generate static? "Sure, we use a static generator to charge up the plastic before it passes through the print cycle," manager says. "Ink won't stick to plastic until it dries unless the plastic is charged with static."

It takes a little fast talking and a lot of begging, but fish persuades the company management to give him one more chance.

"We moved the computer to the other side of the office complex, as far away from the static generator as possible," fish says.

"And the computer worked from that day on -- even on Thursdays."

Copyright © 2003 IDG Communications, Inc.

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