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March 7, 2011


Welcome to Fantasy Island!

Fantasy Island

Me and my Shadow, were scheduled to meet up with  Eric, the company’s northeast regional sales manager; a truly kind, smart, hardworking guy from Boston for some planning and several retail grocery appointments.  The day before our retail meetings, my shadow thought it would be a good use of time for us to sit in the lobby of the hotel to work on sales projections for the new pizza  instead of  the  prudent practice of conducting store checks. Store checks are the practice of visiting as many stores in a retail chain as possible to familiarize yourself with the product mix, merchandising and other specifics of the retailer that you are going to call on the next day. In other words, be prepared to have an intelligent conversation with the retailer.

But  instead, we sat in the lobby for hours on end, while my shadow berated and lectured us on how many cases of the new pizza  we should sell in the northeast region.    My shadow had a number in mind that was not reality based. He and the rest of his inexperienced snack-cake slinging partners were spanky brand new to the frozen category. Worse yet, they thought they new more than weathered veterans like Eric and me, but also the food brokers and hell even the retail category managers themselves. He kept hammering Eric, telling him if he were worth his oats, he should  not only meet but surpass the magical number they had trumped up back in Kansas City.  When we had run the gamut of stores in the region, applied a  fact based common sense approach to the projections, we  still  came up  short of his big number.  Did you catch our mistake? I said we used a fact based common sense approach.

I was beginning to suspect that my shadow had a catheter bag attached to his leg.  I mean we had been sitting for hours sucking down coffee, mostly to cover up the awkward moments of silence as my shadow would try to enlighten us with his lackluster pearls of wisdom. We had both excused ourselves to the restroom a couple of times, alright sure, once just to escape, but even so.  Finally my shadow had to pee!   When my shadow faded away into the restroom, I leaned across our small table, looked over my glasses and in the best imitation of Ricardo Montalban I could muster said “Welcome to Fantasy Island!” Now that the regional and I were on the same page, we both just threw out some numbers, didn’t matter if they were fact based, logical, consistent, sound or plausible.  My shadow had conjured up a number around the cauldron with his equity partners, and by golly that was the number we were going use.  It really made it so much simpler to finish the projections once we got on board  the crazy train with him.  We were finished in no time.

The next morning we met up with our food brokers, one seasoned, and one novice, to plan our sales calls for the day.  After an impromptu game of musical cars, I lost and ended up riding shotgun with my shadow.  Now as anyone with half a brain knows, it is fairly common for appointments in the northeast to encompass locations in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island.  But driving along for the appointments, my shadow kept making phone calls telling whoever the poor sap was on the receiving end that he had just crossed a state border. He would boast that he had been in three states in two days.  Actually, it was pitiful.  You would have thought he were a contestant on the Amazing Race. I had to stare out the window to keep from laughing out loud.  He asked me what I was looking so intently for out the window as my whole upper body was twisted to the side.  I replied that I was on the lookout for moose.



We were scheduled for a retail appointment with a congenial category manager.  We were hopeful that our product would gain placement with minimal slotting fees.  Slotting fees are a lump sum of money paid by vendors to retailers to be granted space on the retail shelves.  In theory it is a way to keep companies from developing and bringing to market frivolous products, and also to help the retailer recover revenue if the new product tanks.  We were, at this point, still trying to claim that we were a certified woman owned company.  Never mind there was no certificate, or that our company did not meet the criteria… .da plane…da plane….


Fantasy Island

Remember we were  on Fantasy Island.

The meeting began, we shook hands, the usual exchange of pleasantries, how about those *insert name of local sports team *, and sat down, with way too many people in a small room.  Then my shadow began to preach, prattle, ramble, and digress about his own greatness.  How he and his partners had purchased the pizza manufacturing facility from a large consumer packaged goods company and that they were a force in which to be reckoned. Titans of the trade if you will!  The look on the older broker’s face was a mix of shock and contempt. I just stared at the table because eye contact with the category manager or Eric would have brought out the Irish in me and I would have started to laugh.  It was so bloody embarrassing.

At the end of his soliloquy, he followed with, but the company is really a small woman owned business with little or no slotting money to offer.  Joanne’s the owner.  It is her company.  What the hell?  After that whole showboat episode, he ends with but we are a small company with little or no resources.  The category manager gave me a look of compassion and I shot back my best I am sorry face.

As we walked out of the second worst meeting of my life (the first is coming later, and you will see why it ranked first), the category manager patted me on the back, said to follow up, looked at my shadow, then looked back at me smirking and shaking his head.

My shadow’s ignorance is so rampant that he thought it was a good meeting. He had the audacity to blame the poor novice broker for not closing the deal later during lunch..  The stunned young broker dropped her soup spoon right out of her hand upon hearing that he thought she was at fault for the meeting going south. Eric and I were momentarily speechless.

”So, I heard they are renovating the area around Plymouth Rock” I said to break the awkward silence.

“Plymouth, isn’t that an Indian tribe?” said my shadow.

The three of us burst out laughing in his face.

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