“Yeah, we have too many customers!” That’s what the harried checkout clerk said.

This was back in the 1990s, in a big retail store in Texas. I don’t remember what city it was in, or what I was buying. But I do remember that the store was crowded. The checkout lines were long. There weren’t many lines open; there were a number of closed checkout stations.

When I finally got up to the front of the line, I made a casual remark to the checker: “Kinda busy here today…” The checker didn’t look at me; she was starting to ring me up. But she said, “Yeah, we have too many customers today!” She wasn’t smiling.

I was speechless. How do you respond to that? Was she essentially saying, “I wish you and a lot of other customers in my line would just go away”? Hmm.

Here’s what she didn’t choose to say:

“I know, I know! I’m hoping they open a few more registers here in a minute.”

Or, “Yes, and I apologize for the wait. Thanks for your patience.”

Or at least, “I know, it’s crazy! Happy Holidays!”

That was a time in the history of retailing when the universe was changing: Walmart was just beginning to take over the world.

Have you ever heard a “too many customers” line from a Walmart employee? Or a Target checker? Or anyone at The Home Depot? Me neither.

Now in all fairness to that checker on that day, the store management hadn’t done a good job of resourcing the checkout stations. Maybe that store’s checkers weren’t trained very well. At least some of that comment probably wasn’t her fault. And maybe she was just having a bad day and said the first thing that came to mind, like we all do sometimes.

Even so, my wife and I made that experience a code phrase for bad customer service. Ever since, whenever we have a bad employee interaction in a store, restaurant, airline counter, etc., nothing more need be said between us than “Too many customers”.

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Maybe you’ve found yourself in this situation:

* You use QuickBooks 2016 and your client uses QuickBooks 2017. They want to send you their file for review.

* You have an old computer with an old version of QuickBooks on it, and you want to open up your current QB file on that computer.

* Your computer crashes and dies. You buy a new computer. When you go to install QuickBooks, you can only find your install disk for an earlier version. You install it anyway. You restore the backup you made to the cloud (whew!), but it was made by a later version of QuickBooks.

In all of these cases, you are trying to use an old version of QuickBooks to open a new file.

It doesn’t work.

QuickBooks is backwards compatible — it can open and convert files made from earlier versions — but it is not forwards compatible. If you think about it, there’s no way it could be. The version of QuickBooks you have installed on your system today doesn’t know what future releases of QuickBooks will be like, including their revised data structures.

You see, most new releases of QuickBooks come with internal changes to the database. That’s why the size of your QuickBooks file changes when you upgrade to a newer version. It almost always grows. And that’s why, when you upgrade your file to a newer version, QuickBooks gives you a warning that that change to your file is irrevocable.

So the bottom line is that, unfortunately, you can never use an older version to open a newer file. You can never open a QuickBooks 2017 file with QuickBooks 2016, as one example.

The solution is simple, if not free: get a version of QuickBooks that is equal to or later than the version of the QuickBooks file you are trying to open.

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My family went car camping at Guanella Pass last weekend and here’s what I discovered: You should take your tent poles and not your Ford Mustang.

Well, I didn’t take a Mustang. Don’t have one. I took my truck. But someone from Georgia (I saw the plates) drove a late model green Mustang up the high-clearance road to the campsite next to us. It was one of the neo-retro Mustangs that sound awesome in the lane next to you at the stop light. I like those Mustangs a lot.

But it was not made for 4WD roads. I can only imagine what the big stumpy rocks and deep potholes did to the tender underside of that sweet ride. Did it make it back to Georgia without a detour to the Ford dealer along the way? I kinda doubt it.

Moral of the story #1: Don’t take the Mustang camping.

But do take your tent poles. You know, the things that make the tent stand up. The things that transform your tent from a fried egg into a cozy dome. THE THINGS I FORGOT.

Yup. So when we had our tent all laid out, we realized that the poles were back in the garage, or somewhere other than in the flippin’ bag with the rest of the tent. I was not pleased. Not pleased!

But my smart daughter noticed that there was a loop on the top of the tent and proposed a workaround. We used some truck-scrounged cord and comealong straps and two fir trees to lift the center of the tent up pretty well. Then my other smart daughter figured out that we could bungee the tent’s side seam loops to our center rope and get more of the tent up off the ground.

The tent then worked. It looked somehow like a tiny, flimsy buddhist temple set in the deep woods; its top layer hung just so. But it was a success in outdoor improvisation. And don’t you think that improvisation is close to the heart of camping anyway?

Moral of the story #2: Take your tent poles camping. And your daughters.

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