Stories I can't use - no 2.


… and another true story I can't use as a starting point for a PlayPenOffice story.

- - -

Here's another cautionary tale for managers called
Attention costs nothing but it does pay the bills.

Once upon a time in a far-away land called Texas, there was a small office selling big machinery through a network of agents. The Manager practised a complete hands-off style (or lack) of control, and didn't seem too concerned with what was going on in the company - so they only chased him for things if they had to, or did it themselves.
The Sales team were all mothered by a woman who kept their appointment books, arranged their hotels, collected their sales notices and used them to bill the agents they'd sold to, and worked out their commissions.
I'll call her Jean.

It was a tough industry, they were tough guys, and they all liked and respected her.
However, there came a time when Jean began to think of spending more time with grandbabies and wanting to go on longer vacations than just two weeks. She told the Manager she was going to retire at 60 - in six month's time. The Manager said yes, she should have a young girl to help her out who would then take over from her and look after the Sales team with the same skill and dedication she'd shown. He'd find one for her to train up, so she said OK and waited for the girl to appear.

She reminded the Manager she'd be retiring in five months time, and no girl had appeared. He said he'd call an agency they'd used before and arrange for a selection of girls so he could pick one he thought would be OK, and he'd do it right away.

She reminded the Manager she'd be retiring in four months time, and no girl had appeared. He said he'd call the agency and arrange for a selection of girls so he could pick one he thought would be OK, and he'd do it right away.

She reminded the Manager she'd be retiring in three months time, and no girl had appeared. He said he'd call the agency and arrange for a selection of girls so he could pick one he thought would be OK, and he'd do it right away.

She was about to remind the Manager she'd be retiring in two months time, but instead she called the agency herself and arranged for a selection of girls so the Manager could pick one he thought would be OK. He picked one and sent her down to Jean's office.
I'll call her Candy.

Jean thought Candy wasn't living in the same world as her, but accepted maybe she was just prejudiced against her because of her youth, good looks, long blonde hair and giggly nature. All the men in the offices liked her after all, and sometimes Jean would have to go find her when Candy had gone off on an errand and not got back because she was too busy talking in someone else's office.

Jean explained how the job worked (several times) and Candy wrote it all down, then Jean retired.
Everything went fine. The Sales team were happy with Candy, and the office staff were too. She was always happy and smiling, and still had plenty of time to stop and talk to people. Jean wondered how as she'd never had time to stop and talk as she was always too busy, but then mentally slapped herself for thinking unkind thoughts about Candy just because she was young and slim and popular.

About three months into her retirement, she went on a four week cruise vacation with her sister and brother-in-law, and when she came back one of the Sales team called by to see her. He looked so tired Jean asked how he was. He said fine, but he'd been having a few problems with some of the agents he'd been selling to as they'd suddenly developed an attitude problem. Jean soothed him down, told him the agents were probably just going through a bad season, and he went away happy.
Another guy from the Sales team called her up the following day to ask how her vacation had gone, and during the conversation mentioned that several of the agents he dealt with kept asking him if everything was OK with the business, and maybe they'd heard something he hadn't. Jean told him he was probably imagining things.
She thought about it a while, and then told herself she was just being stupid - of course everything was fine.

She realised then she missed work, and began to regret retiring.

A week later another one of the Sales team came around to see her. He asked how she was and about the vacation, and she asked him how everything was going. He said fine, fine - well, I didn't really want to tell you, but …

They had cash-flow problems.
The money just wasn't coming in quickly enough, and he was worried that the Manager was going to have to pink slip a couple people to keep afloat. The only problem with that was everyone was working flat out, so they couldn't really cope with losing anyone. Several people had been unwell too from stress and taken days off, and even Candy (the youngest there) was looking worried. She'd normally stop by everybody's office and talk to them, but lately she wasn't spending so much time chatting and was very quiet and withdrawn.

A week later Jean heard the Manager had called all the Sales team in for a meeting. She knew this meant preperation for layoffs, so she called up and invited them all to meet up at her house Friday evening so she could see them all (some of them for the last time) while they were in town. They all came out to see her, and had a good evening catching up on everything. During the evening Jean heard two of them discussing the latest problem - Candy's boyfriend had called up that day and told the Manager Candy was too stressed by the job, and wouldn't be coming in on Monday as she quit. Jean called up the Manager Monday morning and asked if that was true and when he said yes but they'd manage, she offered to go in for a couple days to help out until they got somebody to replace her.

She went in to work the next day, happy to be back. The office was neat and tidy, there was no paperwork left in the trays on the desk, and it looked as if Candy had conscientiously finished off everything before quitting. Jean took off her coat, sat down, turned on the PC and mentally slapped herself for her thoughts about Candy.

When she opened the desk drawer, she found some sales notices about items sold to agents that hadn't been filed away. She went over to the filing cabinets to put them away, but noticed as she opened the cabinet they hadn't been filed away because the agents hadn't been billed for the items yet. Several bundles of sales notices fell out and knocked the door wide.

More bundles of sales notices came tumbling out - drifts, snowstorms, blizzards, …avalanches of sales notices.

The billing of agents had stopped two weeks after Jean had left.
Several agents had written asking why were they not being billed any more.
Many more agents had just carried on buying.
Two had closed down - owing for several thousands of dollars of items they'd bought and not been billed for.
The Manager was horrified - he hadn't realised the bills weren't going out.

Candy had been talked through processing sales notes to bill the agent who'd bought the item every single day of the two months before Jean retired, but hated doing them as she always made mistakes and the agents would ring up to complain. She'd always leave them to the last and had taken several attempts to get them right, even with Jean sitting by her and patiently going through it again and again.

It seems Candy had left the sales notices to accumulate for a few days and then gotten scared by how many there were and how quickly the backlog had built up, so left them for a little bit longer - then a little bit longer still. Eventually there must have been so many she just couldn't face up to processing them or telling anyone there was a problem, and so she quit before anyone found out.

Jean went back to work full-time and finally got the billing all sorted out. Several of the agents had to pay off the bills piecemeal as they just couldn't pay that much in one hit. Many argued over the bills, and queried the prices or just denied they'd had the item, but eventually all the outstanding moneys were settled. The cash-flow problem gradually disappeared as the money the company was owed started trickling in.
The Manager said Jean didn't spend so much time talking to people as Candy had. Jean pointed out if Candy had so much time to stand around talking to people it was probably because she wasn't doing the work, and the Manager reluctantly agreed.

Jean picked her own replacement when she retired for the second time, at 72.

And the moral of the story is - Story ? I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were telling a story - could you repeat it, please?.

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   revised: 2001-07-14