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Funny Stories From My Mansfield Days

Mike Broderick - "Between the two of us"

I heard this story about Mike Broderick, who, when I came to Mansfield, had just left IBM to start his own business. The story went that Mike came back from a meeting with this particular customer who was a notorious pain (I called on him for several years and know first hand). Mike had had a particularly frustrating meeting and when he came into the office, he announced, "Between Bill Xxxx and I, we know everything. He knows everything except that he's and axxhole, and I know that."

Of course this was a very funny story, but it also resonated with me because I was working with this particularly frustrating customer at the time.

Bob falling asleep in a meeting.

I was with Bob on a sales call once when he fell asleep while the customer was rattling on about something. Bob's eyes went shut for a long time. I was a rookie sales rep and sort of embarrassed and didn't know what to do. I don't even remember what happened. I know the customer seemed none the wiser, I guess because he was so engrossed in his own speech.

Three Beers for a Dollar

When Mike Shoemaker moved on to another job, Ed Peet became our manager. Ed had worked in the Columbus office and we all knew him but didn't know him very well. It was probably in the first or second week that we was the manager in Mansfield, we were all going out to lunch, and someone got the idea to take Ed to Fritz's Cafe. Fritz's was this hole-in-the-wall place over on the poor side of town. I don't think any of the tables matches or any two of the chairs matched. But they had good food. The had a spaghetti special on Wednesdays. The spaghetti was spicy and plentiful. They would get a pretty good crowd.

So we all loaded up in a couple of cars and headed to Fritz's. Before we left, Frank Scoles or Bob Guisinger made some comment about he hoped we'd be able to get a seat as you never knew when they might be having a wedding reception or bar-mitzfa. I think Ed suspected we were up to something but didn't say anything.

So we got to Fritz's and Ed never hesitated, he went right in and wanted to know what the special was and then ordered the spaghetti. The joke was on us. Ed felt right at home at Fritz's.

When we were all done eating and of course we'd been joking and having a good time, the cook whow was about a 70 year old woman, came out to the table and asked how are lunch was. Everyone said it was great and then Ed chimed in, "What's for desert?" The grandma cook replied without hesitation, "Three beers for a dollar." Ed just roared with laughter. We all had a great time going to Fritz's.

Paul Astounds All.

This was no doubt the most astounding sales call I've even been involved in. IBM had just been in the networking hardware business (NHD) for a year or two. Paul Southerly had been a NHD rep for that period. I had just become an NHD rep. We were meeting with two guys from Longaberger Baskets, one was an employee, the other was a consultant who was an ex-IBM employee who I knew when he was at IBM. Paul was convinced that the consultant was not at all in favor of IBM, and that these two guys were not seriously considering IBM, but rather simply using us as what we called cannon fodder. Paul was also convinced that our competitors told lies about us and our product all the time.

I didn't have a conference room reserved so we were meeting in a vacant office. We scrounged up some chairs to sit in and we were sitting in a circle, no table between us. Paul wound up on a stool, and so was half standing. The customers started describing what their interests were, and seemed pretty sincere to me. Paul continued to see them as completely biased and stood up and launched into a dissertation about how our competitors were all a bunch of liars and referring to them as f***ers. He had a habit of grabbing his crotch as if to adjust the location of his equipment (probably left over from his baseball playing days), and so was hoisting his crotch and berating our competition and telling these guys that our competitors were all a bunch of f***ers that were lying about us and that they (the customers) were f***ing with us. The customers and I sat there with our mouths open I'm sure. I figured that was the last we'd hear from them, and scratched that deal from having a chance.

Eventually the meeting ended, and the guys left. Later, when I talked with them, they expressed how astounded they were in Paul's behavior. I told them that I was shocked too and that he was pretty radical, but that he had obviously had some bad experiences with our competitors. It turned out to be a "good cop - bad cop" kind of deal, and they eventually bought our stuff. I was amazed.

Arnie's Faux pau

Arnie Witzoric & I were in Charleston, WV, calling on state government. We had met with the folks and were getting ready to leave. I went to the men's room and when I came out and was waiting around in the lobby for Arnie, all of a sudden he came around the corner and was looking strange and he walked up to me and said was half laughing and half crying.. he said he had just asked one of the receptionists when her baby was due and she said she wasn't pregnant. Probably the greatest social error that can be made. There is no recovery from it. If you say, "Oh, I"m sorry," then the implication is, "Oh I'm sorry your fat," or "Oh, I'm sorry you're not pregnant." There's just no way to recover. You just have to stand there and be a dummy.

The vast majority of funny things happened when I was working in the IBM office. Once I started working at home, funny things didn't seem to happen as often, or at least they didn't make an impression on me.