paul smith's Snaps & Bytes e-home
April 1999: Everyone has their place.
The world has a function for everyone. Smart, witty people end up as independent computer retailers while dumb, dull ones work for local councils designing one way systems. People without charisma get to work for Post Office Counters Ltd and those without a soul become traffic wardens. Beautiful women become models, while ones with more ambition become Prime Minister. Tiny men become Jockeys. Everyone has his or her place and mine is behind a phone. You've seen the picture; I have the perfect face for telesales. This month though I've been out of the office quite a bit making a customer visit or two. In doing so my level of respect for Road Reps has gone up enormously. It's a battlefield out there! No wonder they all drive at 100mph in their Mondeo's, they're just trying to get as much horrendous traffic behind them as possible. The next time a rep arrives breathless and wild eyed at your door an hour after he was supposed to, don't ask him why he's made you wait for him, just put your arm around his shoulders and usher him to some sweet tea instead. He'll thank you for it. Continuing the 'Functional People' theme, here's some broader 'industry comment'. Picture the scene…
"Ah come in Mr….?"
Suppliers are bastards, aren't they? We buy a special line in for one particular trade customer that we have to source in the UK. I placed my order with a large, well known distie on Friday at 3pm, expecting delivery on the next Monday, which I was told wouldn't be a problem. I called my customer and confirmed I'd ship to him for a Tuesday delivery… Is this sounding like a familiar story? Well, when I called on Monday at 4pm to ask when the courier might call, my sales contact denied all knowledge of the order and then changed his story. "Your stock has definitely gone, I'll check where it is with the courier." I chased him again at 5 o'clock and he said the couriers hadn't got back to him but he'd call them again and definitely, definitely call me back before 5.30… Half past eleven on Tuesday morning he called to tell me my stuff had been miss-directed to Barnsley and I'd have it Wednesday, 10am sharp. I called my customer who, by this time, was getting a bit anxious. I explained the whole sorry story and he being a relaxed and reasonable chap agreed Thursday-to-him would have to do. Wednesday mid day I'd had enough and called my suppliers in a foul mood. Fortunately for him my usual contact was out, so I spoke to a helpful salesgirl instead. "Oh", she said, "It's still sat in our Warehouse. It's down as a customer collection. Isn't that what you wanted?" I turned Perqual Haream then Smoke On The Water. (A whiter shade of pale, then deep purple). "Is it bollox!?" I exclaimed. We sent one of our reps up with a van to collect the goods and deliver them direct to my customer too. The whole episode could have made me look like a 'furry-friend' in my customers eyes if he wasn't an understanding bloke who trusts me to give the best service to him that I can. I've written to the sales manager at my supplier to outline my treatment and why I've been seriously considering avoiding doing any business with them in future. I was tempted to include an invoice for 200 miles worth of Diesel too. But I know one bad apple does't spoil an entire orchard, so I'll still buy from them through a nice lady called Claire. I also E-Mailed my ex-account manager there with a Turettes Syndrome style note, expressing in the fullest flowing terms what I thought of his service and the quality of his oh-so-poor lies. After all, was it so unlikely I was going to find out the courier had never even seen the stuff? Bullshit is sticky stuff and should only be handled by an expert! The moral of this story is; cocking-up makes you human, covering-up makes you stupid and covering-up really badly makes you a spam* called Robert. You know who you are. Suppliers aren't bastards, but some of the people working for them are.
"Which is heavier, a ton of lead or a ton of feathers?" A simple enough question and one that's been around for so long you'd think everyone would know the answer. "It's a trick question," came the reply. I agreed, it was a trick question. "Then it's the feathers!" She chirped without irony. I put my head in my hands. Logically half this country's population is of below average intelligence. Worse than that, one in ten people must consequently be in the bottom 10%. That's 6 million people. It's those kinds of statistics that scared me out of retail and into the relative sanctuary of distribution in the first place. I exclusively deal with smart business people who've built themselves a niche in this hard world by selling complex IT products and services. They are sentient multi-cellular beings far above the primeval goo. However, they deal daily with mental amoebas that think nothing of deleting system files because they look 'messy'. People who can't read the manual, not just won't. (I'd like to point out I'm a big fan of adult literacy programs, although advertising them by saying: 'write to us at the following address…' is probably not the best idea). Customers who really need colour-coded ends on their cables. You know the type I mean. And yet you deal with them with consideration and patience. I really respect retailers for that. I congratulate you all. Particularly those of you who've never killed a customer in anger. Heaven knows the temptation must be there.
Paul Smith will be attending this years NASCR Event in April and looks forward to meeting his public on his stand, where he will be available to sign copies of the Indie Magazine. No flash photography please.
*SPAM. Noun. Any useless lump of offal meat, usually pink, which contains only a slight hint of brain.
Legal notice - This page, inc. graphics and multimedia features are the intellectual property of Paul Smith and are protected by copyright. Last updated 18/10/03.