June 27, 2009

I’ve Got to Stop Advertising

By Paul Bieber

You see, I have this ad in US Glass that says I am a consultant. Some calls lead to valuable contracts, but many strange phone calls come as well. Some people ask weird questions and some companies want help with the next greatest invention in the world. The most interesting call in a while came this week. Here is how I remember this call.

Paul: Hello.

Phone: Hello, I am calling to speak with the glass consultant, Paul Bieber.

Paul: This is Paul, can I help you?

Phone: Yes. Can I be assured of your complete discretion on a very sensitive matter?

Paul: Yes, of course. If you are calling on a consulting program, we will sign a non-disclosure agreement and a confidentiality agreement.

Phone: OK. My name is Mark Sanford, the Governor of South Carolina. I ran into a little problem in the last couple of weeks and need your help.

(My mind was racing…this is the guy who visited his girlfriend in Argentina when he was supposed to be hiking!)

Paul: OK, Mark, what can I do for you?

Mark: Paul, I did my homework on you. You worked for George McGovern when you were a kid, so you know politics. And you know glass, so I need your help. Here is my problem. I want to build a glass house so people won’t throw stones at me. That is kind-of-a-metaphor. You see, I don’t want the press and my political enemies taking cheap shots at me, and you know, if I have a glass house, they won’t bother me.

Paul: Mark, I think you have this backwards. It goes: if you live in a glass house, you shouldn’t throw stones. Not that people shouldn’t throw at you.

Mark: I have been very confused lately. Well, I have a plan B. Can you help me change all the windows in the governor’s mansion to one-way glass so no one can see me and then my girlfriend can come here from Argentina and visit me?

Paul: Well, Mark, I can help you write a spec to get the right glass, but…you have to consider that at night, if you have the lights on, people and cameras can see in, but you can’t see out. Is this a problem for you?

Mark: Thanks for this tidbit. At night I plan to keep all the lights out anyway, maybe we’ll just use candlelight at night.

Paul: OK, Mark, do you want safety glass as well? Or energy-savings glass? Or maybe even cutting-edge photovoltaic glass?

Mark: No thanks, I am not interested in those things, I just want to preserve my privacy. I am an elected Governor, but I am entitled to have a private life.

Paul: But Mark, you have to set an example by using low e energy saving glass. This is the future for us in the glass industry. You should show South Carolina’s voters that energy savings is important to you. Low e doesn’t add much to an overall replacement plan, so let’s go ahead and spec that in.

Mark: OK, then let’s go with plan B.

Paul: Mark, I’ll get you the right glass, but you’ve got bigger problems than this glass installation. There isn’t a glass shop that would honor your purchase order right now…you might disappear again when they look to get paid!

Mark: That’s OK, I did my homework on glass people. They will beg to get a high-profile job like this. Maybe even some of them will pay me! If I do have to pay, no one will call for at least ninety days, and then I will create a punch list, and tell them that one window leaks, and it will be a year before I will have to pay. That’s when I’ll tell them about the retainage.

Paul: Don’t you think that will leave a poor impression of you with the glass shop?

Mark: I don’t care. I’ll hire a glass shop from North Carolina, where they can’t vote for me anyway!

I left the phone call with some slight apprehension. If he wasn’t going to pay the glass shop, I knew he wouldn’t be paying me. I sent him a note, thanking him and an invoice for payment in full, in advance. If I get a check mailed with an Argentinian stamp, I won’t be surprised.