Thanks for reminding me what to do when the elevator is out of order

Every few years, the building maintenance people have to perform tests on the elevators to ensure they meet safety regulations. And the real estate department sends out the usual notice informing the building occupants that the elevators in the building will be taken out of service at various times during the day. They were kind enough to include the following advice:

If an elevator is non-responsive and/or has out of order signage posted, please use another available elevator.

One of my colleagues sarcastically remarked, "Wow, thank goodness they sent that email. I'd have no idea what to do had I seen a non-responsive elevator with an 'out of order' sign posted on it."

Comments (27)
  1. acq says:

    Of course, the meaning of the message is in fact "please don't phone us to tell us that the elevator is non-responsive or 'out of order' and don't take some other action to inform us or complain, we know about it, we planned it, so please just use another one."

  2. pete.d says:

    What "acq" said.

    Today's article just seems like unnecessary snarkiness to me.  Granted, having to deal with us all the time and our snarkiness is bound to lead to a bit of it showing up in the blog too.

    But I think the email from facilities is about the best, most diplomatic way they could say it.  If anything, it's not the maintenance people who need making fun of, but rather the people who see an "out of order" sign posted by them and still consume customer-support cycles to report it.

  3. kog999 says:

    Never underestimate the helplessness of people, I'm sure Raymond and his colleague could fend for himself but there's always that one user.

  4. Martin says:

    Am I the only one who would assume an Out of Order sign implied that the problem didn't need reporting?

  5. David Walker says:

    I would have written the message like this:

     If an elevator doesn't work, or has an "Out of Order" sign on it, use another one.

    None of these "signage" and "non-responsive" 50-cent words.

  6. kog999 says:

    Maybe they can make this even more inclusive so they will have to send out less emails. “If something doesn't work or has an Out or Order sign and there is another one available use another one”. This could apply to a bathroom, a coffee maker, just about anything really.

  7. Bob says:

    Sometimes it is Facilities who is clueless. One place I worked, Facilities sent out an email telling everyone that the restrooms on each floor were sufficient and not to go to other floors in the building to use the restrooms. This was a 10+ story, multi-tenant building with some retail, so some of the restrooms were actually accessible to the customers of the retail tenants. I worked for the tenant that actually owned the building and on the floor I worked on, there were some retail tenants, including a cafe. A coworker looked up the actual OSHA regulations, did a quick cubical survey, and determined that before you add in the retail usage, the men's restrooms on the floor were NOT in compliance with the OSHA regs. Me, I just continued to go to another floor when the men's restroom on my floor was at capacity.

  8. Oh, and remember to wash your hands after you go to the bathroom.

  9. Lift 3 is non-responsive.

    Lift User is checking for solutions.

    Would you like to send an error report?

  10. Also serves the purpose of letting you know that nothing is broken and prevents people from going around speculating on whether somebody was injured or killed in a malfunction.

  11. The real problem, of course, is that they need to keep the failed elevator around long enough for Windows Elevator Reporting to perform full diagnostics before replacing it…

    It's handy to label them when it's either deliberately offline for maintenance, or has broken down and the failure has been reported – and to notify in advance, in case someone needs to move heavy equipment so they can reschedule. (My own floor is split between two slightly different levels, so one elevator can reach each level; both can reach the other 3 floors.) Of course, a more optimistic maintenance department might include the suggestion of using stairs instead when the elevator fails.

    My university building has bathrooms on each floor; my own floor has 'staff' and 'gents'. Being an engineering department, there are in fact no female staff on that particular floor now, but it still stuck in my mind how strange to have "staff" implicitly mean "male staff". (The recent refit changed this to 'male staff' – shortly after the last female staff member left that floor.)

    If 'out of order' is a problem, I wonder how they'd cope with the problem in the next building to mine, where dewars of liquid nitrogen have to ride alone. (Get stuck in the car with one due to a power failure or other problem, you might well run out of air before being rescued.)

  12. Gerd says:

    But what do I do if all elevators are non-responsive and/or out of order?

  13. dave says:

    It's the "and/or" that was unnecessary. "Or" would have been sufficient.  Honestly, don't they give these facilities people programming aptitude tests before they hire them?

    Elevator unresponsive? | Has out-of-order sign? | Need to use another elevator?


           no             |        no              |     no

           no             |        yes             |     yes

           yes            |        no              |     yes

           yes            |        yes             |     yes

  14. Chriso says:

    This leaves the question open, what to do if the elevator is going out of order while you are using it! (Or did I miss it?)

  15. voo says:

    @dave Except that the normal definition for "or" in English (and every other language I speak) is more "xor". Which just goes to show that programmers can be just as inapt at real life problems as everyone else.. just in a much more intricate manner, usually involving logic ;)

  16. kog999 says:

    Love to see there be two elevators out at the same time; people would get stuck in an infinite loop, elevator A is out I’ll try B, oops elevator B is out I’ll try A.

  17. Danny says:

    @above all sarcastic people regarding elevators

    Are you all fat programmers who can't use stairs anymore? Are stairs out of order?

    And don't reply to me with "what if I work at 100th floor?" sarcasm – I bet none of you is working in Taipei 101, or even Empire State Building – and the story is about Micro$oft building, not that tall after all.

  18. Larry Hosken says:

    As a professional technical writer, I am compelled to point out: as long as it's documented, it's a feature.

  19. cheong00 says:

    @Danny: I don't know the floor plans at Microsoft, but at one of the companies I worked with, the way to stairs are inside the Office. (The company owns the whole floor, and installed big glass doors to claim space from where used to be part of the corridor. Which means people walking out to lift lobby without staff card will stuck there if all lifts are out of order.)

    Btw, I don't think people will put "Out of order" sign on every floor. So if the lift maintenance starts within the office hour, it makes sense to send such email.

  20. kinokijuf says:

    Critical bug in Windows Upate. It offers Skype as "important update". I never had Skype on my computer.

  21. @voo

    I used an unnamed search engine to find it, and I can't, but…

    I made a comment a while back about wanting to give someone the third option when they answer "Would you like a tea or coffee?" with "Yes.", rather than a specific answer.

    I remember Maurits also commented on that. My search engine of choice seems to be full of fail, or the discussion was removed.

  22. Jon says:


    I used to work on the third floor of a 4 story building, and would have used stairs if I could. The doors in the stairwell only opened from in the offices, so they worked in emergencies but forced visitors to use the elevators and walk past the reception desk.

  23. Neil says:

    I would have hoped that the unavailable elevators would have been signed "Closed for maintenance" or some such, assuming it's not too arduous to attach the necessary signs to the outside on each floor.

  24. cheong00 says:

    The lift in the building I'm living has "Out of Order" light at the bottom of level indicators. If an engineer come to check the lift, he'd just need to turn on the light with the key, and everyone in the affected floors will know they have to use lift at alternate floor.

  25. Scoth says:

    I think people are overestimating the intelligence (or at least perceptivity) of many office workers. There's been times I've come up to my company's elevator and the door is stuck half open with the car half visible up the shaft with a worker down in the pit, and still people will be standing there waiting. Or walk up and push the button and stand there waiting.

  26. James says:

    I can just picture it now… The elevator plunging down 100 storeys… My life flashing before my eyes… Then Clippy turns up with a cheerful message, to wit:…/Clippy.jpg I hear someone scream (is it me?), as I desperately try to wake up…

Comments are closed.

Skip to main content