Friday, September 24, 2010

Free Stuff

People love free stuff. There's really no denying it, but sometimes I am amazed at the power of free stuff. Now rest assured, I am not immune to this myself. I am that idiot at the make up counter who will buy $40 more worth of stuff I don't really need, to get tiny sample sizes of more things I don't need. The "free gift". Also have you ever noticed that most of the time the things in the free gift are horrible? Like a strange tote bag in an awkward size and lipstick colors not found in nature, that would not flatter anyone?

Anyway, I'm not one to knock free stuff, as my entire career is built on Starbucks gift cards. I am shocked by their power. Business owners who normally would not make eye contact with me will give me 30 minutes of their time for a $5 gift card. Now, five dollars will barely get you a latte at Starbucks these days, and that's if you don't get too fancy, yet somehow it works! Now, I'm sure if I offered people a five dollar bill, it would not have the same effect.

My company also has normal type stuff, "swag" as it's often called, to give out to our customers. Pens w/ our logos, stress balls, etc. It is crazy how people will fight over these things! People who I know make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year, all jockeying over the same twenty-nine cent pen.

Heaven help you if you don't bring enough for everyone. You will find yourself in a sea of dirty looks, then making crazy promises like "I will mail you 10 more next week". And then you have to do it. So you spend more on postage than these items are even worth so that everybody gets a pen that will stop working or run out of ink in probably 4 days.

One of my co-workers recently had a dilemma with a pack of playing cards. She had promised the guy she was meeting with, "Yes, I will bring you some 'insert company name here' playing cards when I come". Now, first of all, who needs playing cards? Do people (outside of my family, who will caught up in a 4 hour spades tournament from time to time) even play cards anymore?

Well, she goes to her meeting and she has lost the cards. She can't find them anywhere after a thorough search of the rental car. Then the guy gets miffed about it! Incredible. I'm sure she had to go buy some playing cards and send them to him, and then it wasn't "the same" because they did not have the company logo.

The power of free! Remember that next time you need to get someones attention. People say their time is priceless, I say, nope, it's the cash equivalent of one grande pumpkin spice latte!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Over Dressed

As is common knowledge, I struggle about what to wear fairly often. Most of the time, I probably am close enough to acceptable to only draw minimal comments, which is good. I have always erred on the side of being under dressed if there is doubt. I think a girl in jeans among trousers can fly under the radar much more easily than the girl in a sequin dress among girls in khakis.

Not everyone agrees with this, it is the worst fear of some to not be the best dressed in the room. One year at the pageant (the pageant is what I lovingly call the big annual meeting at my job), I saw someone way over dressed. Or actually, under dressed depending on how you look at it.

At the annual meeting, we have "formal" night, which is a big fancy dinner and awards, among other things. Now "formal" in business can mean lots of different things, and I always hate the men on this night. They get to put on a suit with a tie and they have instant appropriateness. For us ladies, it's a little different. Some go really fancy, others pretty casual, and in general it is prime people watching. I try to go very camouflage, like if someone actually looked at me they would think "well, that's fine", but hopefully what I'm wearing is not causing people to actually look at me.

It is pretty common on formal night to have before dinner cocktail parties, hosted by various managers. Since I dotted line report to multiple people, I generally try to make at least a brief appearance at multiple parties. One year I walked in, a little late, to one of my favorite manager's receptions. Now, unbeknown to him, he was being "honored" for a special award. Several people got up and spoke and it was very nice. Right in the middle of the honorees acceptance speech, in walks a woman. Now, she was not going camouflage. I will admit to you, I thought she was a "lady of the night".

Because I work with a bunch of inappropriate, practical joke playing people (myself included), I immediately assumed that they had hired a stripper for the poor man accepting the award. I was immediately furious. I walked over to them and hissed, "Are you crazy? This is actually nice, do you guys have to do this?? He is not going to be amused at all!".

Well, they were extremely confused because, dear reader, this was a fellow employee. She had apparently gone for the deadly mix of formal and inappropriate. A horrible combination. Thankfully she did not interrupt the touching ceremony. Or did she? I will say she stole the spotlight, but not in a good way.

I've reflected on it several times, and at the end of the day, who am I to judge? I've certainly caught my own reflection at times and been horrified. Maybe she has male room-mates, who assured her this was a great outfit. Maybe it just looked different in front of the full length mirror in her bedroom? I can't say, but I do fall back on this memory from time to time. Most of the time when I look in the mirror, my thought is "well, that's as good as it gets", but sometimes I think "well, you probably won't be mistaken for a hooker".

Friday, September 10, 2010

End of the Cope Rope

Have you ever just had it? Emotionally, physically? I had that experience on a plane once. I do seem to have problems with flying, but most of the time I can work my way out of it. Once on the way home from Chicago, I was not able to. It had been an extremely long work meeting and I think I'd had a glass of wine while waiting with co-workers in the airport.

I boarded my flight, feeling relatively okay. As soon as we took off, I knew I was in trouble. I suddenly starting feeling like maybe I might throw up or burst into tears. Now, when having this sort of mental/physical break down, your traveling companion is really important. I knew I was really in trouble when I glanced to my right (thankfully, I was at least on the aisle) and saw the worst traveling companion possible, the frequent flyer businessman.

Now, you know who I mean. That guy that will run you down like a dog to get in front of you. He has to be first on the plane, he has to get his over sized suitcase in the overhead first, he has to get his drink order taken first, etc. They are the worst, they really define rude.

So, he won't even make eye contact with me, he is for sure not chatting through this with me.

Okay, I tell myself, here comes the flight attendant with drinks. This is nothing a little gingerale won't cure. I get the gingerale, no better. Then the unthinkable happens, they park the drink cart right in front of me, blocking me in completely. Now, when you are on the verge of a panic attack, this is not good. I decided I must make them move it, but I must make up a good reason.

"Umm, I'm so sorry, but I have to go to the bathroom right now". I don't have to go at all. Plus I've got this gingerale. So, oddly, I go to the bathroom with my gingerale. I go sit in there for a minute, sadly realizing I have ruined my gingerale, because surely it has absorbed the germs that are the airplane bathroom. Being in that tiny room is not doing anything good, so back I go. Now all I have is un-drinkable gingerale.

I try to read. Not helping. I look at the businessman again, praying I've misjudged him and now he will become this super supportive guy. Nope.

Well, this is it. It's time for what I save for worst case scenario. The tiny air vent thing on the ceiling. Now, I try to save this for absolute last minute freak out. Like this whole time I'm thinking, "Okay, if the gingerale doesn't help, maybe I'll turn the air on", "If getting the drink cart out of the way doesn't work, then the air".

I decide it's time. I reach up, and twist the air vent. NOTHING! No air comes out. Here I am expecting this ambrosia-like whiff of air that will somehow revive me and nothing happens!!

I start crying. Not loud, just tears running down my face because I'm sure I won't make it. That's it, sorry uninvolved businessman, you're involved. I do not ask him, I do not look at him, I just hoist myself up on our shared arm rest (which OF COURSE he has hijacked with his jacket) and grab his air vent. I point it towards myself and turn it on.

It works. The air helps. This odd behavior does get at least a look, of course a look of annoyance, from mr. business. I narrow my eyes and give him my best "you don't want to start something with me right now", through tears, and it works. He does an indignant eye roll, but no comment.

"Go ahead", I say to him telepathically, "touch that air vent and see what happens".

Though I've been on a few transatlantic flights, that not more than an hour was the longest in my life.

The moral of this story, be compassionate with your flying companions. You just might save somebody from getting to the end of their cope rope!