Office management


In this lesson we look at what happens in the offices of Bookmart Publishing Services. We see how people work together and how they deal with the problems that arise, both within the office and with their customers.


Terry Cabe is Personnel Manager at Bookmart.
Elsie Donnell is Dispatch Room Supervisor at Bookmart.
Jane works in the Dispatch Room at Bookmart.
Frank Penny works in the Dispatch Room at Bookmart.
Gemma Tripp is the Dispatch Room Manager at Bookmart.
Susan works in the Order Processing department at Bookmart.
Mr Field owns a bookshop in York.
Ben is the office junior in the Order Processing department at Bookmart.
George Harvey is Sales Manager at Bookmart.

All of these characters are British.


Vocabulary Office management and routine; scheduling holidays; customer complaints; orders and invoices.
Skills Managing people; arranging a holiday rota; dealing with a complaint; explaining to people.
Structures Suppose.
Documents A holiday chart; business letters; an order; an invoice.

Working with people

6.1 Listen and read

It's Thursday, 18 April 1991, at Bookmart Publishing Services. Terry Cabe, the Personnel Manager, is having his weekly meeting with Elsie Donnell, the Dispatch Room Supervisor. Listen to what they say. How do we know that Terry isn't really interested in the holiday arrangements?


Right, that the lot then? Подсказка I've got a selection board at ten. Подсказка


Just one more thing. It's to do with the holiday arrangements. Frank Penny - you know who I mean, don't you?


What's he done now?


He’s put himself down on the chart for the first two weeks of August. Подсказка He did exactly the same thing last year. He’s the only one in the office with no children. He can go on holiday any time...


Elsie, whatever you say to Frank, I'll back you up, but I'm late for the selection board already. I'm afraid I simply have to delegate this one to you. Подсказка Tell me tomorrow how you got on.


6.2 Listen and read

Elsie is looking for Frank Penny. She finds his colleague, Jane. Listen to what they say. What time should Frank start work? What time will he start today?


Jane, where's Frank? His phone’s not answering, Подсказка isn't he in today?


Mm. I don't think I've seen him today. I couldn't say where he is. Подсказка


I suppose I'll have to ring him at home.
[Phone rings]


170 3762. Подсказка


Frank, it's Elsie Donnell. Aren't you coming in today?


Of course I'm coming in. I am on flexitime now, remember. Подсказка


Frank, it's now 10.37. If you're on flexitime you're supposed to be here by ten o'clock at the latest. Подсказка


Well, be fair, Elsie. I was working till half past eight last night on the papers for the selection board this morning. Don’t worry. I'll be there by, oh, half eleven, OK? Подсказка


Well — I suppose so.


6.3 Structure practice: suppose

Elsie uses the word 'suppose' in three different ways:


I suppose I'll have to ring him at home.
[I have to do it, but I'm not very pleased about it.]


If you're on flexitime you're supposed to be here by ten o'clock at the latest.
[You should do it because that's the rule.]


Well - I suppose so.
[I agree, but unwillingly.]

Now look at the sentences below. All of them include the word 'suppose'. Decide for each one whether 'suppose' is used like a, b or c above:


Can I borrow £10? - I suppose so!


You're supposed to take your holidays in June!


You're not supposed to use the office telephone to make personal calls.


I suppose I'll have to change my holidays!


I don’t suppose we can afford a new car now? - I suppose not.


I suppose we'll have to wait and save up for it.


6.4 Listen and read

Elsie sees Frank when he comes to work. Listen to what they say. Why can't Frank change his holiday dates?

ELSIE Frank, can I have a word with you?
FRANK Look, if it's about me coming in late see the meaning, I said I'm sorry.
ELSIE That's not what I wanted to see you about. It's your holiday dates. You've put down for the first two weeks in August. Now, we discussed all this last year, remember? You know everyone wants the first two weeks in August, and everyone else has young children. I really can't let you have those two weeks, two years in a row. see the meaning Wouldn't you like to go in June instead?
FRANK No way. see the meaning I can't. We've already booked our holiday. We're going on a cruise. And Chrissy's arranged with her employer to get those two weeks. She didn't have any hassle. see the meaning
ELSIE Frank, I'm not hassling you. I just don't think it's fair, that's all.

6.5 Document study: a holiday chart

This is part of the Dispatch Room holiday chart. In the left-hand column are the names of the staff. Study this chart. You will need to refer to it for 6.6.

6.6 Speaking practice: sorting out the holidays

Gemma Tripp is Elsie's manager. She phones Elsie to discuss the holiday arrangements for the department. Read through the dialogue first, and write what you think Elsie says to Gemma (a-g). You will need to look at the holiday chart in 6.5. Then listen to the conversation. Don't worry if your answers are not exactly the same as the ones you hear. Listen again, and speak the part of Elsie.

GEMMA I ve got to go away for a fortnight from 29 July. You'll be standing in for me, as usual. You've got the holiday chart there, haven't you? Let's see if we can sort it out so it's fair to everyone. When were you planning to take your holiday?
GEMMA Hm. We overlap by a week. see the meaning Suppose you were to postpone your holiday till 12 August? How many people would be away from the office that week?
GEMMA And the following week, the week of the nineteenth? see the meaning
GEMMA Mm. If you were away then, who could deputise for you? see the meaning
GEMMA No, not Queenie, I think. Victor's too new, and so is Lola. That leaves Frank or Richard. How would you feel about Frank being in charge of the Dispatch Room?
GEMMA Yes, I thought you'd say that. I'll have a word with Richard Ogden. Why can't Frank take his fortnight off before the school holidays?
GEMMA Yes, but she hasn't got any children, has she? Go on, tell Frank to persuade her to go in June. Otherwise, I'm afraid you'll just have to change your dates.

Dealing with complaints

6.7 Speaking practice: a complaint

Other staff at Bookmart deal with customers and suppliers. Listen to this telephone conversation, then listen again and speak the part of Mr Field, the bookseller.

SUSAN Hello, Order Processing, can I help you?
FIELD Good morning. My name's Field, I have a bookshop in York.
SUSAN Yes. What can I do for you, Mr Field?
FIELD I'm calling about an order that I've been waiting for since the end of March.
SUSAN The end of March! Can you give me the order number, please?
FIELD Yes, the order number was one two two seven.
SUSAN I'll just call it up on the computer. One two double-seven, did you say?
FIELD No, one double-two seven. see the meaning
SUSAN Oh sorry, one double-two seven. Yes, I've got it. Well, it was dispatched see the meaning to you on the twelfth of this month, so it should arrive any time now. Can you give it another couple of days? see the meaning
FIELD Well, all right, as long as it has been sent. But if it doesn't arrive in the next forty-eight hours you'll be hearing from me again.
SUSAN Yes, do please contact me again if it hasn't arrived by then, Mr Field.
FIELD Who shall I ask for?
SUSAN Susan - I'm Susan. Thank you! Goodbye!
FIELD Goodbye.

6.8 Document study

Ben is the office junior. see the meaning He is opening the morning post. Listen to what he says. What problem does he find?

BEN Susan? There's a remittance here see the meaning, they've sent a cheque, but it's less than what it says on the statement. see the meaning
SUSAN Really? Any explanation?
BEN Oh yes! There's this letter.
SUSAN Ben, get me the customer file on this, will you? I'll be back in ten minutes. Can you leave it on my desk so I don't forget to deal with it?
Bookmart Publishing Services Ltd
Unit 8
Ironbridge Way
Shropshire TF89 4RD

15 April 1991

Dear Sirs

We enclose a cheque for £12,344.67 against your March statement (copy also enclosed). We are withholding payment on your invoice 8874503 for £1,340.03 because you have not yet given us a satisfactory reply to our letter of 22 January.

6.9 Document study

Susan is reading the file on Martinu Books. She finds a letter from Martinu. Read the letter and the handwritten comments from her manager, George Harvey, carefully. Should Martinu have the extra discount? Why/why not?

Bookmart Publishing Services Ltd
Unit 8
Ironbridge Way
Shropshire TF89 4RD

22 January 1991

Dear Sirs

Invoice no. 8874503 dated 17 December 1990

We have to draw your attention to an error in this invoice. You have deducted a trade discount of 35 per cent. see the meaning You will recall, however, that your sales representative agreed on 1 October that we should benefit under the terms of your 'Major Customer' plan. We are therefore deducting an additional 5 per cent from this invoice, and claim a similar deduction from invoices 8789820, 8791087 and 8849204.

We trust that you will find this in order, and remain

Yours faithfully

M J Martinu
General Manager

Cheek! George Harvey is suggesting that Martinu are deliberately misinterpreting the discount terms to avoid payment.
play this by ear wait and see what happens, and decide what to do then.


6.10 Listen and read: explaining discounts

Susan has explained about Martinu Books to George Harvey. He reads the file, and then telephones Susan. Listen to what he says, then do 6.11.

GEORGE Susan, thanks for sending me the details about Martinu. I'd like you to write to them. Point out that we don't understand why they've knocked off five per cent see the meaning, but say that we'll allow them a special discount see the meaning of two point five per cent on everything since the beginning of December, OK? It'll be deducted from their April statement. see the meaning No need to mention the invoice that they haven't paid; it'll just appear again on their next statement. Of course, see the meaning assuming they go on ordering five thousand plus every month see the meaning, they'll qualify for the full five per cent discount starting in August anyway. Is that OK?
SUSAN OK, Mr Harvey. Thanks.

6.11 Writing practice: a letter to Martinu Books

Susan now has to write to Martinu Books explaining how the discount works. Write the letter for her. The letter should be formal, but polite. The aim is to persuade Martinu to pay, not to force them. Remember, you don't want to lose a customer.
Nearly all the phrases you need are shown in the text, but you will have to think carefully before starting to write. The following points must be covered:

a Start by saying that we (you are writing on behalf of your company, not of yourself) have received their letter and cheque.
b Say that we do not understand why they have deducted 5% from the four invoices mentioned in their letter of 22 January.
c Remind them that our representative explained the 'Major Customer' plan to them. They do not yet qualify.
d Offer them instead what Mr Harvey suggested - 2.5%. If their orders continue to total £5000 or more each month, they will qualify for the full 5% discount from 1 August.


6.12 Speaking practice: an angry customer

Susan has another telephone call from an angry Mr Field. Listen to what they say. Why is he angry? Listen again, and speak the part of Mr Field. Remember - you're supposed to be angry!

SUSAN Hello, Order Processing, can I help you?
FIELD Hello, this is Field Booksellers, in York. I'm calling about my order, number one two two seven ...
SUSAN Oh, good morning, Mr Field. Did the books reach you all right?
FIELD They were finally delivered a few minutes ago.
SUSAN Oh good!
FIELD But most of them were damaged, and it's due to bad packaging.
SUSAN Oh dear! Was the packaging damaged in any way?
FIELD Yes. The boxes weren't banded see the meaning, so they just split open.
SUSAN I can't understand how that could've happened. Every parcel is supposed to be machine-banded before it leaves the warehouse. Look, can you return the books to us, carriage forward of course, see the meaning and if you could possibly fax us a list of what's damaged, we'll get replacements sent off as soon as we can, provided of course we still have the titles in stock.
FIELD And how long will that take?
SUSAN Well, if you can send us the fax by, say, three o'clock this afternoon, I'll get back to you before you close tonight.
FIELD Well if you could. You'll appreciate that I've got customers who've been waiting a long time for these books.
SUSAN Yes, we do appreciate the inconvenience to your customers, and I assure you we'll do everything we possibly can to help. Thank you, Mr Field. Goodbye.

6.13 Listen and read

Susan rings George Harvey to remind him about an order for packaging materials. Listen to what they say. Susan thinks that George had forgotten about the order. How do we know this?

SUSAN Mr Harvey, you remember we asked several office supply firms to quote us for bulk packaging materials. see the meaning
GEORGE Oh, when what's-his-name went out of business. see the meaning I remember. Have we had the quotations?
SUSAN Yes, and I think we should put in an order. The warehouse say they're starting to run low on most items see the meaning, and we need stock for the office as well.
GEORGE All right then. Perhaps I'd better have a look at the quotes. Meanwhile, if you'll make a list of what we want...

6.14 Document study

George Harvey decides that the order should go to Beloff Supplies. Susan makes out the order form below. Read through it carefully, and note how it is laid out. You will need to refer back to this order in 6.16.

Order No. 00983
From: Bookmart Publishing Services Ltd
Unit 8
Ironbridge Way
Shropshire TFB9 4RD
Date: 22 April 1991
To: Beloff Supplies Ltd
Oakengates Road
Shropshire TF13 8AE
Cat. no. see the meaning DESCRIPTION Qty. see the meaning Unit price see the meaning

Corrugated paper, 100 cm
Plastic cell-wrap, 180 cm
Parcel tape, brown
Clear adhesive tape, 2 cm
50 rolls
20 rolls
8 cartons see the meaning
2 cartons

When acknowledging order please notify us of any alteration to the prices shown above.


Deliver by: 30.04.91
to: as above

6.15 Listen and read

Susan is teaching Ben about order forms. Listen to what they say. What mistake does Ben make? What would the correct figure be?

SUSAN Now, Ben - remember what I told you? We've raised the order in four copies. see the meaning
BEN Top copy to the supplier. Pink to Warehouse. Blue to Accounts. Yellow, file copy. Right?
SUSAN Right. But get Mr Harvey to initial them first see the meaning, otherwise the order's not valid. see the meaning
BEN Oh, and there's something else you haven't done. You haven't put the total price. Let me see, it's, er, forty-two pounds thirty.
SUSAN Ben, those are unit prices. You've got to multiply them by the quantities. The total will be several hundred pounds.
BEN Then why don't you show it on the order form?
SUSAN Because the prices may have changed, or Beloff may not have all the goods in stock. They'll show the total on their invoice. It's their job, not ours.

6.16 Document study

A delivery arrives from Beloff. Ben signs for the goods, and takes out the delivery note and invoice. Check the invoice against the order in 6.14. Is everything correct?

INVOICE see the meaning

Bookmart Publishing Services Ltd Date and tax point: see the meaning
Unit 8 29 Apri1 1991
Ironbridge Way  
Shropshire TF89 4RD Invoice no. 59207

Order no. 00983

Cat. no. DESCRIPTION Qty. Total

Corrugated paper, 100 cm
Plastic cell-wrap, 180 cm
Parcel tape, brown
Clear adhesive tape, 2 cm
50 rolls
20 rolls
8 cartons
2 cartons
VAT at 17.5% see the meaning

E&OE see the meaning
Terms: see the meaning 30 days from date of invoice.
  2.5% discount allowed for payment within 7 days.


6.17 Listen and read

Ben unpacks the goods, and ticks off each item against the invoice. Listen to his conversation with Susan. What does Ben have to do now?

SUSAN Have you checked that everything's there?
BEN It’s all here. Only I think they've sent two and a half centimetre tape instead of two centimetre.
SUSAN Oh no! It'll have to go back. All our tape dispensers are two centimetres wide. Check it, will you, Ben? If it is the wrong stuff see the meaning, make out a returns slip see the meaning and ask them to replace the tape as soon as they can. And in the meantime we'll expect a credit note from them. see the meaning