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  • FIRST POST
    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 10:37 AM
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    worried123
    health and safety issue?
    • #1
    • 16th Jul 17, 10:37 AM
    health and safety issue? 16th Jul 17 at 10:37 AM
    I have worked for a research company for very many years.
    I mainly do straight door knocking and we are given roads to work in - a job will run over one or two days.

    As a woman I keep my computer in a bag and i take it out at the doorstep when somebody will do an interview....I have done it this way for over 20 years.

    We have anther kind of work where the job runs for weeks or until finished where addresses are all over the place and you have to code an outcome at every address you call at as you have to make several visits and coding it up helps you see what times you have called and when is a good time to call back etc and make any computerised notes to help you - interviewers will often go back to their car to code up.

    I have been told that i must code an outcome at every address i call at whilst doing straight door to door on one or two day jobs.
    (firstly it is irrelevant. secondly its a device only to help us know on a second day where we can go back to - its time consuming and the computer doesnt always display addresses in sequence etc.....they want you to code in no contact and refusal and then when we achieve an interview we have to miss 3 doors and they actually want us to code into the next 3 addresses - miss three doors....)

    I have very bad neck and back problems from using their machines over the years and i cannot spend 6 hours coding outcomes which are time consuming and irrelevant whilst carrying the machine in a case over my shoulder- i have always taken my machine out of my bag when i get an interview and i even ask sometimes whether i can put the computer down whilst i interview

    Also it would mean standing on people`s drive fiddling around with the machine to put in a non contact and its too intrusive.....would you want somebody loitering on your drive putting in data as to whether your property is empty and at what time......i feel its not acceptable.....its like you are vetting the place....

    More importantly i am a woman and i have never walked around with my lap top on show our job already carries safety implications....they want you to visibly carry it around all the time bashing in data. We can work in dodgey parts of london as well and in the winter we also work in the dark. Also how do you hold an umbrella when its pouring with rain etc.....this type of work is volume - you have to get loads in a day and you cannot do that if you are spending the day coding in fiddling wth a machine that doesnt always do what you want it to do.......and its going to exacerbate my neck problems which has been caused by using the machine in the first place....we used to use really heavy machines.

    Other research companies do not bash in data outcome codes for straight door to door and i have never done it this way in over 20 years....its stressful and its going to impinge on my back and neck problems...i will not be able to carry an umbrella in the pouring rain so will get soaking wet. (will have to also carry a separate bag as we are required to collect things to send back to them.. I will be visibly coding data outside peoples homes (i spend most of my working life reassuring people about the data protection act etc and privacy which people are becoming more and more suspicious of.....discretion has to be used........and maybe they banged in data at the doorstep many years ago - these days its so unacceptable. I also think it puts me at risk as a woman walking around with a computer visibly on show.....and i feel the people who stipulate this needs to be done have never worked out in the field and have an idea of how incredibly stressful our work is.....we only get paid for what we do anyway - and you just knock and move on and try to get this done as quickly as possible....it would also take up too much time as you tap in an outcome code and then the computer opens up a different survey and you have stand there fiddling with the machine......

    Can they insist that i do this please - it may seem like a small thing but i think i would have to leave and go over to a company that does not record irrelevant data at every door on random location work.....this has made me feel so stressed out....also i believe they cannot make me walk around with a computer on show it isnt safe and when i was trained with the company before we went back to being the company that i used to work for i was trained by a female supervisor (we did not code data at every door) to carry the computer around hidden in a bag - a normal shoulder bag and take it out when i interviewed for safety.

    (i have found that DSE regulations suggests 10 minute screen breaks every hour and carrying a lap top also increases the risk of back injuries and the risk of attack and theft. All employers have a duty to ensure the health, safety and welfare oat work of their employees under health and safety at work act

    sorry for long ramble...thank you.
    Last edited by worried123; 18-07-2017 at 1:53 PM.
Page 1
    • jobbingmusician
    • By jobbingmusician 16th Jul 17, 11:34 AM
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    jobbingmusician
    • #2
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:34 AM
    • #2
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:34 AM
    What is the problem with carrying a small paper notebook in your pocket, noting down the outcome at each door in pen, and transferring all the non-interviews to your computer at the end of day?
    I'm the Board Guide on the Matched Betting; Referrers and Jobseeking & Training boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com (it's not part of my role to deal with this). Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.com.

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    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 11:45 AM
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    worried123
    • #3
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:45 AM
    • #3
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:45 AM
    Hi - thank you...
    I do carry a piece of paper with the addresses on - i.e numbers 1 to 88 whichever road......but i cannot code outcomes at the end of the day because the data input is timed....they know when you start work and when you finish and we have to do a certain amount of hours from a certain time.....I couldn't code them all in at 9.00 pm each day
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Jul 17, 11:54 AM
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    sangie595
    • #4
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:54 AM
    • #4
    • 16th Jul 17, 11:54 AM
    Can they insist that you do your job? Well yes. The fact that you don't think that something needs doing doesn't mean anything - they decide what the work processes and policies entail. not you. If you have a disability, then you could ask for reasonable adjustments, but otherwise, then your only option is to find another job as you suggested.

    The DSE regulations don't say what you think they say. They say that where someone is doing nothing but stare at a screen constantly, it is good practice to have at least ten minutes doing something that isn't staring at a screen. You are not staring at a screen constantly - you are looking up and at people that you interview, walking around the neighbourhoods etc. So you have activity breaks as suggested.

    You can ask the employer what risk assessment they have carried out on carrying the laptop - but just because you don't know about it doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

    To be honest, if you approach the employer with this list of "can't do's" then I doubt you will see much more work coming your way anyway.

    Which brings me to a final point - I am not sure your employer is actually your employer. You say that you are paid on a form of piecework rate - it is therefore entirely possible that you are classed as a form of contractor and therefore self-employed. I know of two of the companies who do this sort of work, and all their staff are self-employed, and simply paid by results. If the company isn't your employer, then you have none of the rights of an employee anyway, and health and safety would be your responsibility.
    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 12:00 PM
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    worried123
    • #5
    • 16th Jul 17, 12:00 PM
    • #5
    • 16th Jul 17, 12:00 PM
    Thank you

    I am freelance but not strictly self employed - they deduct tax and national insurance (have my pension with them and they pay me holiday pay) and i am sure that i am covered by health and safety rights as each `job` that i do for them is an individual contract of `employment`

    So it would seem that considering changing to a company that does not require me to put myself at risk is the way to go. Although it does state on a government website `you can refuse to do something that isn't safe without being threatened with dismissal`. I truly believe that making a woman walk around with a computer on show - clearly a computer as they want you to stand in the street inputting data is not safe....
    Last edited by worried123; 16-07-2017 at 12:55 PM.
    • jobbingmusician
    • By jobbingmusician 16th Jul 17, 12:52 PM
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    jobbingmusician
    • #6
    • 16th Jul 17, 12:52 PM
    • #6
    • 16th Jul 17, 12:52 PM
    Hi - thank you...
    I do carry a piece of paper with the addresses on - i.e numbers 1 to 88 whichever road......but i cannot code outcomes at the end of the day because the data input is timed....they know when you start work and when you finish and we have to do a certain amount of hours from a certain time.....I couldn't code them all in at 9.00 pm each day
    Originally posted by worried123
    OK. It might be worth discussing with them the mechanics of this. I totally take your point about using the laptop in the rain (whose laptop, BTW?) Can you (for example) do your houses 1-88 in a road and then enter all the 'non-response' type data (safe in the car, if you are using one) at the end of that unit of work? That way they still have tabs on the fact you are working, without you wasting time on each visit unpacking and repacking the computer, and without the computer being exposed unduly to weather conditions. Two factors which might appeal to them.
    I'm the Board Guide on the Matched Betting; Referrers and Jobseeking & Training boards. I'm a volunteer to help the boards run smoothly, and I can move and merge posts there. Board guides are not moderators and don't read every post. If you spot an illegal or inappropriate post then please report it to forumteam@moneysavingexpert.com (it's not part of my role to deal with this). Any views are mine and not the official line of MoneySavingExpert.com.

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    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 1:21 PM
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    worried123
    • #7
    • 16th Jul 17, 1:21 PM
    • #7
    • 16th Jul 17, 1:21 PM
    Thank you so much....I didnt think of that....mark on piece of paper door numbers with refusals/non contact etc and having done a road go back to car and input....I will just do this.....i have coded as they have asked and if i am pulled up on it i shall state why i have had to do this. Its their lap top by the way.

    thank you!!!!
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Jul 17, 2:02 PM
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    sangie595
    • #8
    • 16th Jul 17, 2:02 PM
    • #8
    • 16th Jul 17, 2:02 PM
    Thank you

    I am freelance but not strictly self employed - they deduct tax and national insurance (have my pension with them and they pay me holiday pay) and i am sure that i am covered by health and safety rights as each `job` that i do for them is an individual contract of `employment`

    So it would seem that considering changing to a company that does not require me to put myself at risk is the way to go. Although it does state on a government website `you can refuse to do something that isn't safe without being threatened with dismissal`. I truly believe that making a woman walk around with a computer on show - clearly a computer as they want you to stand in the street inputting data is not safe....
    Originally posted by worried123
    Sorry, but that won't wash. The job is to walk around the streets with a lap top. Arguing that the job per se puts you at risk is to argue that you shouldn't be doing the job - not that they should do something differently. What is meant by unsafe is something such as standing in the way of a car, or climbing an unsecured ladder - working on your own, as a woman, with a lap top needed to do the job isn't going to work. What you are in effect arguing is that women are unsafe on the streets carrying lap tops and therefore shouldn't be employed in such roles. Quite apart from the fact that this would be unlawful discrimination, what you are describing is the job, not a health and safety risk. By the standards you are applying, I am at risk every time I carry my very visible lap top and smart phone (mussing or theft), drive my car (I could be car-napped), and set foot outside my house (or, in fact, if I stay in as there are burglars). And, in fact, every single one of these things might happen, whether I am working or not. But it doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't do them.

    I don't want this to sound harsh, but if you feel at such risk walking around doing your job, maybe it is time to rethink your job. Whether or not you have your lap top visible, anyone can spot you have one, and you can hardly leave it in the car and interview people in the car. The casual thief that you are talking about has already spotted it and you long before it comes out of the bag. You are as much at risk every day of your life, carrying your handbag whilst shopping - and frankly, your handbag would be better gains than a lap top that would be nigh on worthless.

    I think you need to separate out issues here. If you are struggling with your neck and shoulders, that is one thing, and it's legitimate to say that you believe that the weight etc., is exacerbating a condition. I am, for example, not permitted to carry a lap top on my shoulder or back due to spinal problems, so my employer provides a case on wheels. But be cautious of claiming that these problems are their fault - you can't prove that, and, in fact, it is unlikely that this work is anything more than a possible contributing factor, as life in general makes the joints ache as you get older. Believe me, I know about that one!

    But the second issue is that you do not feel safe in the job, and there really is very little they can do about that, because this is the job. You would be no safer if you don't take the lap top out. You might be more comfortable - but, as pointed out by others, there are other ways of looking after your comfort without breaking procedures.

    As for the employment status ... interesting! Because employment does not work like that... if each assignment was a contract of employment then you would have permanent continuous service unless there was more than a week between each assignment. Workers are freelance, and still get holiday pay - and pension contributions don't make you an employee as they can offer any perk they like. So I think you are, in fact, self-employed. The company paying tax and NI for self-employed freelancers is not unusual in many similar employments - it's a mechanism that means that HMRC can manage to track your payments easier. I do some part-time lecturing from time to time and have the same arrangement with the university. But I am not their employee.
    • sleepymans
    • By sleepymans 16th Jul 17, 2:16 PM
    • 608 Posts
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    sleepymans
    • #9
    • 16th Jul 17, 2:16 PM
    • #9
    • 16th Jul 17, 2:16 PM
    Time to change job really, isn't it?
    Goddess
    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 2:33 PM
    • 293 Posts
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    worried123
    Sorry, but that won't wash. The job is to walk around the streets with a lap top. Arguing that the job per se puts you at risk is to argue that you shouldn't be doing the job - not that they should do something differently. What is meant by unsafe is something such as standing in the way of a car, or climbing an unsecured ladder - working on your own, as a woman, with a lap top needed to do the job isn't going to work. What you are in effect arguing is that women are unsafe on the streets carrying lap tops and therefore shouldn't be employed in such roles. Quite apart from the fact that this would be unlawful discrimination, what you are describing is the job, not a health and safety risk. By the standards you are applying, I am at risk every time I carry my very visible lap top and smart phone (mussing or theft), drive my car (I could be car-napped), and set foot outside my house (or, in fact, if I stay in as there are burglars). And, in fact, every single one of these things might happen, whether I am working or not. But it doesn't mean that I can't or shouldn't do them.

    I don't want this to sound harsh, but if you feel at such risk walking around doing your job, maybe it is time to rethink your job. Whether or not you have your lap top visible, anyone can spot you have one, and you can hardly leave it in the car and interview people in the car. The casual thief that you are talking about has already spotted it and you long before it comes out of the bag. You are as much at risk every day of your life, carrying your handbag whilst shopping - and frankly, your handbag would be better gains than a lap top that would be nigh on worthless.

    I think you need to separate out issues here. If you are struggling with your neck and shoulders, that is one thing, and it's legitimate to say that you believe that the weight etc., is exacerbating a condition. I am, for example, not permitted to carry a lap top on my shoulder or back due to spinal problems, so my employer provides a case on wheels. But be cautious of claiming that these problems are their fault - you can't prove that, and, in fact, it is unlikely that this work is anything more than a possible contributing factor, as life in general makes the joints ache as you get older. Believe me, I know about that one!

    But the second issue is that you do not feel safe in the job, and there really is very little they can do about that, because this is the job. You would be no safer if you don't take the lap top out. You might be more comfortable - but, as pointed out by others, there are other ways of looking after your comfort without breaking procedures.

    As for the employment status ... interesting! Because employment does not work like that... if each assignment was a contract of employment then you would have permanent continuous service unless there was more than a week between each assignment. Workers are freelance, and still get holiday pay - and pension contributions don't make you an employee as they can offer any perk they like. So I think you are, in fact, self-employed. The company paying tax and NI for self-employed freelancers is not unusual in many similar employments - it's a mechanism that means that HMRC can manage to track your payments easier. I do some part-time lecturing from time to time and have the same arrangement with the university. But I am not their employee.
    Originally posted by sangie595

    maybe you actually work for them. thanks for `helping`....i couldn't really care what my working `status ` is to be honest....any employer and they `are` my employer whilst i work for them has a duty of care in the work place. i have never worked with my computer on show and neither has some other women colleagues and i have worked a certain way that suits me and my safety for the past 20 odd years........and i dont want to put my safety at risk.
    jobbing musician has been really helpful in giving practical advice. My employer (for want of a better description) arent completely inhumane - i do believe they actually care and i am sure that what jobbingmusician has suggested will hopefully suffice)

    there is also the issue of being an interviewer and `what works for you`....all they want after all is interviews at the end of the day. it is not acceptable to be loitering on somebodies drive inputting data as to whether they are home or not. i have to work in `no cold calling areas` etc....the whole thing is uncomfortable and not acceptable.
    I used to work for my current company for years and about 10 years ago i left them and went to another company who were a revelation - i loved them...i was trained by a female supervisor to keep my lap top in shoulder bag and take it out on interviewing somebody.....this company then bought my old company and we have now turned back into the old company that i left. the issue `is` one of safety and also its about discretion in your job - i don`t think its acceptable to be looking as though you are vetting properties and inputting data out in the street. I can also see no relevance to the actual job and no other company input data on door to door at every address. (i was trying to code a non contact at somebodies door recently when the lady opened the door asking what i was doing and said that i must not send off data saying that nobody is home)...its not acceptable.....
    it will make my job far harder and more time consuming than it already is.
    i use a bag that is designed for bad backs...i get them the interviews they want ......and now after 20 years somebody somewhere has looked at it and said, she isn't coding outcomes.....
    coding outcomes at every door may seem like a small thing to you but its going to make my working day ten times more difficult and for what i ask. The data they want me to spend my entire day inputting is so vital and necessary for the type of job that no other company does it and they have not even noticed that I (and other colleagues) have not done it for the last 20 years. If it was `relevant to the job i would do it - i have to do it on other types of jobs but i go back to the car and code it as they are one off addresses.......anyway...it is what it is...
    Last edited by worried123; 18-07-2017 at 1:57 PM.
    • ohreally
    • By ohreally 16th Jul 17, 3:27 PM
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    ohreally
    ....i couldn't really care what my working `status ` is to be honest
    Originally posted by worried123
    Its relevant.

    The Lofstedt review states
    if you are self-employed and your work activity poses no potential risk to the health and safety of other workers or members of the public, then health and safety law will not apply to you.
    From this, the HSE estimate that H&S law will no longer apply to around 2 million individuals in the workplace.
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    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 3:51 PM
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    worried123
    Thanks - terrible isnt it.....

    I am employed by them...we have core workers...waged and those working freelance...its out of choice.....even HMRC consider them my employer. I am `employed`by them every time i work for them....i sign an electronc contract of employment before i start each job..
    Last edited by worried123; 16-07-2017 at 4:02 PM.
    • Savvy_Sue
    • By Savvy_Sue 16th Jul 17, 5:10 PM
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    Savvy_Sue
    An increasing number of deliveries arrive with someone armed with a tablet, smartphone or similar small device. Would you be happy using one of them?
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    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 6:19 PM
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    worried123
    These people are not carrying them coding in information at every single door for 6 hours - ours are laptop size as well...its too intrusive...they go to the door and back in their van and dont have to carry an umbrella when it rains as well....
    Last edited by worried123; 18-07-2017 at 1:57 PM.
    • jobbingmusician
    • By jobbingmusician 16th Jul 17, 6:38 PM
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    jobbingmusician
    Does it cheer you up at all to know that you have cheered me up? I am struggling with PRINCE2 project management ATM - the most boring course I have ever done. Your predicament made me think about breaking your task down into work packages..... perhaps this boring course is having a good effect after all!
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    • Geoff1963
    • By Geoff1963 16th Jul 17, 7:13 PM
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    Geoff1963
    I'd recommend thinking of process changes which would benefit the employer, which co-incidentally benefit you :-

    Is the laptop encrypted, or are you carrying around the personal data of hundreds of people which would be at risk if it were stolen ? Is the laptop IP rated, or is it exposed to risk of damage when keying in the information while standing in the street ? Is it rated to survive a drop from 1 metre onto concrete ?

    From the amount of data being processed, it seems to me that a modest smartphone would do the job :
    1) The data ( certainly the "no-one home" ) could be texted real-time to the employer's e-mail address
    2) Each text would tell the company where you are = H & S benefit - "lone worker" concerns
    3) Many can act as a tracking device / personal alarm ; including an "electronic fence" giving an alert if they go outside a patch.
    4) A 3G-connected device can be remotely wiped
    A small tablet would work, if the screen needs to be bigger.

    If the data entry is too complicated ; write it on a notepad, then send a photo to your account and a company e-mail address. That gives them a chance to follow up any findings, almost immediately.

    As a parallel, many delivery companies have a tablet for your signature.
    • mac.d
    • By mac.d 16th Jul 17, 7:55 PM
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    mac.d
    Can your company not consider using a tablet instead of a laptop, that'd be a little lighter and easier for you to use?

    Meter readers use small data capture devices (similar to what some delivery drivers and supermarkets use), much easier to handle for long periods than even a tablet, but perhaps you need to record too much information in interviews for these. But they routinely carry them about for hours on end in all weathers!
    • sangie595
    • By sangie595 16th Jul 17, 10:14 PM
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    sangie595
    Its relevant.

    The Lofstedt review states
    From this, the HSE estimate that H&S law will no longer apply to around 2 million individuals in the workplace.
    Originally posted by ohreally
    It's also relevant because if you aren't an employee with two years service you can be dismissed at the drop of a hat... for example, for doing something like telling your "employer" that you don't intend to follow their processes. To right to unfair dismissal, no redundancy... no nothing.

    The OP appears to confuse reality with what they want to hear. There was only one question in the OP - "Can they insist that i do this please". The answer is still yes, even if the OP doesn't like that answer.
    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 10:49 PM
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    worried123
    It's also relevant because if you aren't an employee with two years service you can be dismissed at the drop of a hat... for example, for doing something like telling your "employer" that you don't intend to follow their processes. To right to unfair dismissal, no redundancy... no nothing.

    The OP appears to confuse reality with what they want to hear. There was only one question in the OP - "Can they insist that i do this please". The answer is still yes, even if the OP doesn't like that answer.
    Originally posted by sangie595
    If you read my post you would see that i have been `employed` by them for over 20 years. They pay my national insurance and deduct tax and i have my pension with them. I also stated that i sign an electronic contract of employment with them before starting any job for them...they pay me statutory sick pay. My tax forms state they are my employer.....
    when i broke my wrist slipping on ice working for them they rang me regularly every week to ask about my treatment etc...THEY ARE MY EMPLOYER AND THEY ARE RESPONISBLE FOR MY HEALTH AND SAFETY WHILST WORKING FOR THEM.

    That is the REALITY that you talk about...however...this was never an issue ........was not part of my question and is not in dispute and certainly i didnt post on here to be subjected to having to defend everything i say to you.....

    i have been given some good advice on here that i will follow and i think that my company who unlike yourself who must work for the prison service or something will very likely accept...you are a bundle of help and joy.
    • worried123
    • By worried123 16th Jul 17, 10:53 PM
    • 293 Posts
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    worried123
    These people are not carrying them coding in information at every single door for 6 hours - ours are laptop size as well...its too intrusive...they go to the door and back in their van and dont have to carry an umbrella when it rains as well....

    you know what....forget about it
    Originally posted by worried123
    sorry savi sue....my reply was a bit defensive as i thought that perhaps you were in sangies camp...sorry - it was only a suggestion from you.....There are thousands of interviewers and we all have the same machines...work is downloaded and uploaded from the machine...it wouldn't be possible to use anything smaller
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