Business & Management Funny stories

Anecdotes – the Wales era 2

A continuation of the Anecdote series and another from my stint as GM in Wales, from the turn of the Century.

Names have been changed.

Do you know who I am?!”

Allow me to introduce Vernon. Vernon was the Sales Director, someone that might be described as detached from reality, where reality requires work and intelligence; not luck and flummery. Vernon was the kind of “guy” who would walk through the glass-sided entrance to the building in the morning wearing a mobile phone earpiece, tapping it as if he were in the CIA, when he was actually working for a small packaging business…on the side of a mountain… in Wales.

The irony was that no one ever called him…

Vernon spoke with a pejorative tone of self-appointed superiority, in a faux, plummy accent which in his mind, elevated him above the plebeians in the factory; it also, conveniently, discharged him of any responsibility toward effort or application. His trick, if I may call it that, was to appear busy, yet the only time anyone would really see him was at 09:20 and 16:55, on arrival and departure; most of the rest of the time he was secluded away in his office.

Vernon’s skiving was legendary, albeit without direct evidence, until one afternoon where began his deserved and rapid fate.

Vernon wasn’t the sharpest of tools and, in spite of his self-promoted image as a “techie”, had difficulty with the office microwave, let alone our state-of-the-art telephone communications system. On several occasions, he had mistaken the outside call button for the internal PA system and brought production to a bemused halt. Obviously, being Vernon, training or coaching was beneath him, particularly from one of the “girls in the office”, so he was left to work it out himself.

A Welsh mountainside

The valleys of Wales spawn a unique type of individual. Characteristics hewn over generations by the once predominant, heavy industries of coal and steel, have created tough, proud men and women whose philosophy is one of caution toward strangers and a healthy dislike of bullshit.

The admin/service department was wholly female and each possessed that adorable, valleys, signature sardonicism; none more so than one lady in particular, who went only by a letter – “H”. H had a sense of humour that would cut through any air of pomposity, the perfect foil for the miasma of grandiosity that hung around Vernon.

On this noteworthy afternoon, we discovered how Vernon spent his time, locked away in his office for 7 hours and 45 minutes a day. The phone in the admin office rang and H answered,

                “Good afternoon, Acme Packaging, how may I help you?” she said,

                “Ah yes, this is Vernon Drysdale. Take down this order. I need it delivered ASAP!” came Vernon’s commanding voice on the other end of the line, ignorant and aloof of the fact that he was calling his own office.

                “Certainly, Sir. Please allow me to put you on hold for one moment, I’ll be right back to you.” responded H, in her best version of Received Pronunciation.

At this point, H put Vernon on hold and told her colleagues that she had Vernon on the line trying to place an order. She returned to the call with the conversation on loudspeaker.

                “Sorry for the delay, Sir, may I take your order now?”, H’s fictitious apology having little effect on the response,

“Yes, well, I’m a very busy man, now take this down. I want 2 cases of the ’96 Cabernet, one case of the ’02 Merlot and a case of the Sparkles; for the wife, of course.” barked Vernon.

H, and by now the rest of the office, had listened agog at the vexed voice on the line but now it was H’s turn to respond and she didn’t disappoint,

“Oooo, I dunno, Sir,” she replied, in her sonorous, valleys accent – the polar opposite of the Queen’s English, “I can’t find any of that stuff you want but I’ve got a can of cider in my desk if that’s any good?” she continued.

The line went dead.

A few minutes later Vernon, full of bluster and urgency, came into the admin office and stated, loudly,

                “Listen up, everyone! I need to go out, an important client meeting. Could you get someone in to look at the damn phone system, I keep getting calls from the Sunday Times Wine club and it’s very annoying.” then he left for the day.

Vernon knew his priorities

Is there a moral to this story? Well, don’t be a pompous prat in Wales is one but that’s more of a lesson than a moral.

Vernon might have been born with a silver spoon but what does that matter?  It was his immoral and disrespectful attitude to others that dealt him a heavy dose of schadenfreude. Respect and humility cost nothing. Don’t be a Vernon.

© Andy Collinsson June 2020

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