Stories

Lies, Damned Lies And Salesmen.

Frauds and their Behaviour, Part 2

How many guys can you get an honest response from? Anywhere? In your company, in your family, amongst your friends even?

I’ll bet it isn’t many.  

Andrew is by the reception area in the atrium. He’s looking tired. “Andrew! Welcome back” he looks up a fear flashes across his face. He straightens up and shakes my hand firmly.

“It was, yeah, great” he says. His face looks a little wooden, his speech a little mechanical – almost as if he’s just saying this. Well, isn’t this what he’s always like? He’s always confident. “Yeah” he continues “met loads of guys, it was a real storm”. Is he ready to be questioned, he’s not had time to work out a story, has he?

“Do any deals”

“I got loads of leads that I’m going to follow up this week. They were really impressed”

“Impressed with us, or them?”

“Us, of course” there’s that slight pause, that slight falsetto in his voice. He’s bloody well lying to me again. Damn him. “We showed ’em, right?” he says with that broad fixed smile that says ‘I need to keep this job’. He turns to leave.

“So how much did they sell?” He looks at me with that flash of scared rabbit.

“You mean – he – sold? How do I know? That wasn’t what I went to find out, was it?”

“It wouldn’t have harmed, would it, Andrew”

“I suppose not, I’ll ask around” This time he turns his back and heads for his office. Is he really any good? Did he just sit there and chat with a few mates and eat pizzas? Sixteen hundred bucks though. We need that work and he isn’t moving it our way. Those Zandex guys

I just wish someone would tell me the bloody truth.

“Tracy” my PA looks up from her desk “Can you find me that letter from Zandex Integration? The one about the conference?”

A moment later there’s a knock on the door and she hands me it. “Thanks” I mumble. My eyes are already devouring its contents.

I dial a number “This is Jim Grainger, can I speak to Steven Coles, please?”

“I’m sorry, he’s not in the office right now” says the formal voice of their receptionist.

“I’m sure he’s not, can you put me through?”

“I’m really sorry, sir, he went out for a coffee ten minutes ago. He’ll be back real soon. He does that sort of thing when he gets stuck. He just ups and goes. Shall I get him to phone you sometime when he’s back in?”

“I suppose so” and she makes a note that he should phone my extension.

Bloody salesmen. Why do they always wrap you around their little finger like this. All lies lies lies. Bugger. A coffee sounds a great idea though. Shuffle a few papers, tidy the desk pop some papers into trays.

The phone rings.

“Jim Grainger” I say into the handset. A slow mid-western accent at the other end says it’s a Steven Coles.

Steven Coles, Steven *Coles*” he’s phoned??? “Hello – ah – thanks for phoning me back, it’s kinda unexpected”

“Unexpected?” he sounds puzzled “Mr Grainger, you’re our main competitor’s CEO and you’re not expecting me to phone back? You asked my receptionist to ask me to phone you. I’m phoning. It’s really that simple.” Light, breezy and confident for all his slow drawl “Now: what can I do for you?”

“How did it go?”

“You mean our little conference? Didn’t your Andrew tell you?” I note his tone change, his words are sharper now.

“What do you think?” I’m drawling now.

“My guess is that he didn’t tell you what you wanted to know, is that right? I mean, you wouldn’t be phoning up if he had, now would you?”

“Yes” I say as if being deflated. This isn’t going well. “So how did you do?”

“You think I’m going to tell you that?”

“No. Not really. It’d be nice to know, that’s all”

“Actually it went really well. I can’t say I’d expected it, these things just aren’t plannable like that. But seventy-five percent bought at least one copy”

“Copy? Copy of … what?”

“My book”

“Your book. I didn’t know about any books being sold.”.

“Sure, didn’t your Andrew tell you?”

“I think you can guess that one. All I knew was it cost sixteen hundred bucks to get in the door” I am warming to this guy’s candid manner. He’s so transparent. It’s as if – it’s as if he’s telling the truth. That’s not something I’m used to dealing with. I can’t knock him down anyhow. What a bastard! How can you trash an honest guy?

“I wrote this book about the electronic controls in the chemical industry, the sort of stuff we both sell. I mean most of the guys came with thick pads of paper and started scribbling. I said they could stop as I’d done all the hard work for them already and it was available for $15 at the back of the hall” What a stunt to pull! “And” he draws it out long “all the diagrams on my powerpoint come straight out of it. Saved loads a time. Most of them had it open on their knees for the session after the morning coffee break. I’d even post the page number for them to mark. Hey now, would – would you like me to like send you one?” I can see that bastard smiling right now, even if I can’t see him at the other end of my phone.

“er … sure, that’d be real nice of you”

Bloody hell. I put the phone down in its plastic cradle feeling disorientated.

The California sun is barely up and it’s roasting the pavement outside the office. I always open up. Saves time, and I get to know who’s early and who’s late. The canopy’s shade makes for that pleasant morning cool as I reach down to unlock the bottom of the door. I hear a van draw up on the gravel driveway. I turn to see a liveried delivery man approach with a clip-board.

“G’mornin’ sah!” he hands me the clipboard and indicates the place I should sign. “It’s before eight, it’s seven fifty-seven by me” I look at my watch, it’s not eight that’s for certain. I sign that the parcel has arrived before eight. He hands me a small parcel.

“Thanks. Have a nice day”

“You too, sir” he says with a big smile that flashes white teeth in that way only black guys seem to manage. A smile reaches across my face. It’s hard not to smile when someone’s like that. Genuine. It’s infectious.

I’m so full of that young man’s essential charm, the parcel seems almost an irrelevance. A printed address tells me its from Chicago. In the unlit cool of the atrium, tearing across the staples of the padded envelope. A dark blue book slides into my hand. Feedback Systems For Electronic Valve Control. The bastard! He sent it dawn delivery! I’ll wring his scrawny neck if ever I meet him. Damn the man, he’s even signed the front leaf.

Nine o’clock drags around. A knock and Andrew looks in. I look at him as he enters. He notices something and draws a sharp gasp of breath. What the hell is he looking at? He’s gone pale. I look down. It’s that bloody book. It’s on my desk.

” … how? … ”  is all he can stammer.

“Just get the fuck outta here and do what I pay you for”.

If ever I meet that Steven Coles. I’ll hit that bastard so hard. And I’ll bloody well enjoy hitting him. But then, I suppose he’s used to that. Frustrated businessmen who find someone who’ll actually stand up to them. Tell them the truth. They’re the guys who take the flack so the flunkies can keep their day jobs.

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