My new job as Sales Manager had gotten off to a lousy start “I don’t want it! I would rather walk, it looks like a Geoff! ” I said to my Boss! (Reference Geoff Hurst, Hat Trick scorer in England’s 1966 World Cup Final) Geoff Hurst = Hearse = Funeral Car. This was the first conversation I was having with the General Manager in my new role as Sales Manager. I was referring to the Mercedes E 200 Estate that I had inherited which had been the previous Sales managers demonstrator, he was Married, he had Kids, he’d settled down and didn’t need a “Bait” car, this car had way too many seats, and way too much luggage space for my needs and liking. It was the kind of car that a Guy who has a pipe and slippers and is happy and content with his lot would drive, I wasn’t that guy!.
The previous Sales Manager seemed to have given up on life and settled for mediocrity, he slouched around the Showroom as if he couldn’t be bothered to lift his feet up. He was pretty miserable, and he always looked like he had the weight of the world on his shoulder.
I wasn’t sure what he was doing that made him so tired until one morning I saw the accounts girl getting out of his yawn a mile nondescript Silver with grey cloth E Class Estate, he was parked just up the road from work, if he had given her a lift why drop her there as if I couldn’t guess!
My suspicions were confirmed when she came into our morning Sales meeting with some paperwork and he acted like it was the first time he had seen her that day. “Have you had a nice weekend?” he said with a knowing smile. It wasn’t a good thing for me as up until that moment when I realised that they were having an affair I had always referred to her as “The Poison Dwarf” (the accounts department did their utmost to stop you selling a car, or when you did sell one they made it as difficult as possible to claim your commission).
The poison Dwarf was always ok with me and I had hidden my dislike quite well ( I only disliked her because she worked in accounts (Sales Prevention Department), if she hadn’t it could well have been me that would have been dropping her off half a mile from work in the rain), her demeanor towards me had changed a few weeks prior to this, it all made sense now and I realised it must have happened when the Sales Manager and her were sharing the afterglow, he’d probably run out of small talk, then came up with an idea to break the silence “Hey, you’ll never guess what Barrie calls you behind your back”
These days he appeared to be more and more stressed, his Wife had found out about the affair and kicked him out, the Poison Dwarfs Husband had kicked her out and they were shacked up in a pokey flat above a kebab shop in the centre of town, circumstances had taken their toll on him, he looked like he had aged 20 years in the last few weeks. We were also way behind on our targets which was unsurprising as we had a crap Sales Team, which consisted of me, I’d like to think I was ok, but I was fed up of getting conned out of commission and I had largely lost interest. We had a young lad (Tim nice but Dim) he was the son of one of our best customers, apart from the cars, his Dad bought he had hardly sold any, he was a nice lad but useless.
The other Sales Man Michael seemed to be incapable of getting off his chair without breaking wind, I put this down to an inbuilt defense mechanism, he was a kind of human skunk who seemed to be frightened of customers, like a skunks reaction to predators every time a customer approached him he let one slip, as you can imagine this didn’t help his closing ratio a whole lot either and he was on his final warning.
Prior to his promotion, the Sales Manager had been an OK Salesman but he was no good as a Sales Manager, the paperwork was killing him, he was under pressure at home and at work, and as it happens things weren’t as rosy as they could have been at his Love Nest either.
The Poison Dwarf was at a crossroads in her life too, she’d was fed up of all her clothes smelling like a Kebab and had been to see a Fortune Teller to see what the future held for her, sadly she didn’t like what she heard.
I hadn’t been to see a Fortune Teller but I didn’t like what my future held in store either as I had just been given the bad news that I wouldn’t be paid 71/2 % commission on my 5 years worth of SLK orders and instead, I would only get £50 per car which just wasn’t worth the hassle (see another blog. http://bccars.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/wolfs-in-charge-of-sheep.html ) I’d had enough and decided to pack in.
This SLK incident was the latest in a long line of commission reducing dirty tricks and it was the last straw. I felt sorry for the Sales Manager, so out of common decency I decided to give him the heads up that I would be leaving at the end of the month as soon as my wages hit the bank. I did ask him to keep it to himself, otherwise, if they knew I was going to leave, they wouldn’t pay me what I was owed (Standard Practice in the Motor Trade)
He didn’t reply, he just got up, walked out of the office and headed up to the General Managers’ office. I thought he’d gone to grass me up, but when he came back down he looked a different guy, he was smiling, there was a spring in his step and he looked like he’d got rid of the Worlds Weight, I recognised this look, it was the same look the others had had when they jacked in, and sure enough off he went leaving the Managers position vacant.
We did without the Sales Manager for a couple of days, then the Sales Team were called into a meeting and we were told that someone was coming for an interview, I knew the guy who was coming and I didn’t like him at all, so I made my feelings known and said that if he got the job, I was history. I had nothing to lose as I was planning to leave, but I had worked really hard up to that point and I didn’t want him taking over.
The Human skunk had a lot to lose, he never went to the Sales Manager and always came to me for valuations and for help doing deals so he knew that if I left he wouldn’t survive, so he suggested that I be promoted, I got Tim nice but Dim’s vote too.
I was promoted, the good thing was that I would be paid on a percentage of the Sales Departments profits and I would now get my richly deserved rewards for all the hours I had spent selling and speccing up SLK’s to WAG’s, the bad thing was that I inherited the “Geoff” from the old Sales Manager
The General Manager a past master at stating the blinking obvious, told me that I had to have it as the E Class was a management car and the C180 AMG Sport that I had when I was a Salesman was a C Class and therefore it was a “Salesman’s” car. My new role as Sales Manager seemed to be a step backward as far as desirable Transport went.
He did, however, tell me that as soon as I sold it, I could register a new Demo of my choice. I needed something to look forward to so that afternoon I sat down and put an order in for “The Stealth” as it would later be referred to by my colleagues.
It was an Obsidian Black E Class Avantgarde Automatic, with Light Grey leather Interior, Wood and Leather Steering Wheel, and AMG Alloy Wheels, it would look fantastic but it wouldn’t be here for 3 months. I hated the E Class Estate and when it wasn’t raining I used to commute on my Honda Fireblade rather than turn up in the Geoff.
3 Months went by in the blink of an eye and despite me putting unbelievable pressure on my Sales Team to sell the F###### thing, they hadn’t managed it yet, and the “Stealth” was sat in the compound in all its splendour just waiting to be registered.
Pressure wasn’t working on them so I resorted to bribery, I was still selling cars as well as doing my managerial job, but I didn’t get a commission for Sales so I saved them up and used them to keep anyone who’d fallen foul of the constantly changing commission structure happy, by dishing my sales out to deserving causes.
This time I used my sales to keep me happy, I announced that the Salesman who sold the “Geoff that I was being forced to use would be given 10 of my deals, this amounted to about a £1000 and worked like a charm.
The E class Estate sold within a few days of the introduction of my incentive scheme, but I was then left with another Dilemma, should I register the “Stealth” in July and miss out on the plate change in August or should I wait another 4 weeks for the latest plate, which really only amounted to snob value and bragging rights, so I waited.
August the 1st came and my car had been PDi’d, taxed and valeted, I’d had a MiniDisc Player and a steering wheel remote fitted, the sun was glinting off it as it was sat in the delivery bay outside our front door, waiting for close of business and me to jump in the driver’s seat at long last, but it wasn’t going to be the pleasant experience that I’d hoped for.
A customer walked in who was looking to buy an E class, I recognised him instantly, it was Brian Ferry (Not his real name) I hadn’t seen him since the 70’s when i worked as an apprentice Draughtsman at an Engineering firm after I left school.
I was in the drawing office and he was in the Machine shop, looking back it was quite funny as the advice given to me by the Manager of the Drawing office was not to mix with the “Rabble” out of the workshop.
I’ve never been good at taking advice and I took no notice of this either, there were 2 old guys and me in the Drawing Office and it wasn’t exactly a hive of activity. In the office at lunchtime, the main past time was having a snooze, it was left to me being the youngest to wake them up, but sometimes I couldn’t be bothered, and just left them. While i was checking to see if my colleagues were sleeping or they were dead, the lads in the Machine shop were playing football and cricket. It wasn’t long before I was eating pie and gravy in the rabble’s canteen and playing football with them at lunchtime.
I started work as an apprentice Draughtsman when I left school as my Mum and Dad wanted me to have a trade to fall back on when my career in the Motor trade didn’t work out. The rest of the White-collar workers frowned on me a little! for “fraternising with the lads from the workshop, but far from being rabble the other apprentices were a good bunch of lads, we all got on pretty well, but we played a lot of pranks on each other.
Brian was a year older than me and shared a car with his Mum, it was an absolutely immaculate Volkswagen Beetle with loads of highly polished chrome trim, it was a great car, he also had a really nice girlfriend, and he was lead singer in a Band, he was always singing Roxy Music songs, he was a cool guy, a likable lad, and a good laugh.
I, on the other hand, was too young to drive and had a racing bike, I couldn’t play a musical instrument or dance to save my life, things were bad, and they got worse when I bought a Lime Green Garelli Eureka moped, word of warning Lamborghinis in Lime Green are awesome, Mopeds not so much.
I had spent every last penny that I had on the moped and insurance so i could cast my net
further afield, and not be knackered and out of breath when I got there. I didn’t have enough money left to buy a helmet. “Not to worry said the Salesman, you can have the one the lady left when she part exchanged it. The helmet looked like a bowl on my head, it had been hand-painted orange and it had stickers of horses on that wouldn’t come off no matter how hard I tried, but it was either wear that helmet or use my racing bike till I got paid the next month.
Brian almost wet himself when he saw me turn up at work on my moped, I was ribbed mercilessly, one day while Brian was taking a toilet break/reading the sun, someone threw a bucket of water over the toilet door, now hand on heart it wasn’t me. I suspected that it was the fitter who Brian was meant to be helping, but instead of helping he kept skiving off to the toilets, no one else admitted to it throwing the water, and he didn’t believe it when I said it wasn’t me.
This started an intense rivalry between us, one day he had waited for me to come out of the toilets, fortunately, the fire hose that he was holding wouldn’t reach inside the toilets, I saw him and managed to sprint up the workshop and out of reach before the pressure built up in the hose. Our friendly feud continued until the day he left, Brian had decided he didn’t want to be tied down so he ditched his Girlfriend, and joined the Merchant Navy, he wanted to see the World. The last time I had seen Brian I’d had to run to escape his wrath and jump on my Yamaha FSIE Moped and a Full Face Bell Crash Helmet that I’d had to borrow money to buy as I couldn’t stand the ribbing I got riding round on my Garelli Eureka, Brian had been changing out of his overalls for the final time, all the lads were there to say goodbye but when he took off his Steel toe capped safety boots, reached up to the top of his locker to get his training shoes, he pulled over his upturned Hard Hat which I had filled with water and tied the laces of his shoes too. I’d had the last laugh, Brian was drenched, that was my going away present and he would have something to remember me by.
The Brian Ferry wannabe had remained a teenager in my memories, but the guy who was stood in front of me now, in our showroom had grey hair, he was married with 3 kids, and he was an insurance broker. I’d rather be dead, I couldn’t believe this was the same happy go lucky, love em and leave em guy that I had known all those years ago. He told me that he was looking for a new car, and I couldn’t help but ask “Why does your Mum want her car back now” if he had come a few weeks earlier he would have been an ideal victim for the yawn a mile Geoff.
He was looking for a new Company Car and was entitled to standard E class, I took the opportunity to get a bit of payback in for all the “Kermit the moped” jokes by telling him that my new demo was outside, it would be the same engine as the car he would be entitled to on his company car scheme, but he would only get a classic, not Avantgarde he wouldn’t get leather, big wheels, wood and leather steering wheel, etc, etc.
Brian asked if he could have a drive in it, not missing the chance to gloat I agreed, but then he went to his car and proceeded to get his 2 baby chairs and his 3 screaming kids, there was no way I was going out on a demonstration with him, so i tossed him the keys and went back to my office.
He came back after a short time, gave me my keys, we chatted for a while longer then he left. I was quite saddened by the fact that he had grown up and turned into a middle-aged family man. I sat in my office for a while and contemplated how quickly nearly 3 decades had passed, at the close of business I sauntered out to my new car still contemplating, I opened the door and sat in it. I knew I could smell something that clearly wasn’t the Mercedes Benz leather, I covered my mouth and nose with one hand and grabbed for the door handle with the other, I was wretching, and I fell sideways out of the car in my haste to get out. When I caught my breath I ran back into the showroom, there could be only one person responsible and I accused Michael the Human Skunk of sneaking out for a joyride in my new car, leaving it smelling like a Gas Chamber, he protested his innocence.
I didn’t dare open the door but through the window, I could just see the dirty nappy sticking out from under my driver’s seat. Brian had indeed turned into a middle-aged family man, but he definitely hadn’t grown up, and he still had a teenage sense of humour. He’d also got the last laugh!