The legend of Steve Ballmer’s rental car, the most diligent employee in the world

Raymond Chen

Raymond

According to legend, Steve Ballmer’s rental car was the most diligent employee in the world.

When he was the head of the Systems Division, Steve Ballmer had to go visit various development partners on a regular basis.

At one of the partner companies, a long-time employee there was famous for being the first to arrive at work in the morning and last to leave in the evening. That employee noticed that when he came to work in the morning, there was this car already in the parking lot. And when he left work in the evening, that car was still there. He became curious as to the identity of this new hardworking employee.

Somehow, this story reached Steve at the next partner sync meeting, and that’s when he realized that he was the mysterious hardworking employee.

What happened is that during his previous visit, he ended up leaving his rental car in the parking lot. I don’t know how it happened, but you can use your imagination. Maybe he took a taxi to the airport directly from his last meeting. Or maybe everybody went out to dinner together, and after dinner, somebody gave him a ride directly to the airport. Whatever the circumstances, the car in the parking lot was his own forgotten rental car.

Raymond Chen
Raymond Chen

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4 comments

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    Simon Clarkstone

    Do you know how Steve was charged for the rental car? Was he forking out a minuscule few hundred dollars per day on a fancy car that just sat in the parking lot forgotten?

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    James Sutherland

    Whoops – fortunate someone noticed this and that word got back to him!

    No rental car involved, but I recall hearing that a journalist in the UK made a similar mistake while covering a political conference. At the end of a long evening in some sort of party, he called himself an Uber to get home … forgetting that “home” in this case was several hundred miles away, and he was staying in a nearby hotel for the duration of the conference. Whoops. (So, not only a large bill for the ride home, but another bill to get back there, finish his job and retrieve his belongings from the hotel…)

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    Alex Pavloff

    A similar rental car story from a company I used to work involved a harried executive driving the rental car to the airport and getting on the corporate jet. Not a big deal normally, rental car agencies can swing by the FBO and grab the car.

    However, the executive had a bad habit of flying away with the rental car keys in his pocket.

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    Petr Kadlec

    Reminded me of a story told by Frank Cottrell Boyce:

    Remember that time in 1973 when Uncle Billy went to watch the Reds beat Borussia Mönchengladbach 3–2 (on aggregate) in the final of the Uefa Cup? After the match, the Prussian police herded thousands of ecstatic scousers on to the waiting charter planes. It was only when he came down to earth with a bump at Liverpool airport that Billy remembered he’d gone to the match in his van. The van that was – he hoped – still neatly parked in the shade of the maples in the Bunter Garten a thousand miles away.