Sorry, Brad

In the years before I started Mustang Marketing, I sold advertising in magazines. One of them was actually an annual catalog, The U.S. Industrial Directory (U.S.I.D.) — ironically owned by a British company — which competed with the old Thomas Register and has since gone out of business.

We had about 25 salesmen around the country, and one year our longest tenured salesman, Brad, was retiring. He was based out of Chicago and we all flew in for his going-away dinner. In addition to being the longest tenured salesman, he was by far our best.

In step with what usually happens at these events, speeches were given, gifts were bestowed and old war stories were retold for the thousandth time. At about the midpoint of the evening, a man only one of us knew (Brad, the retiree) walked over and quietly introduced himself to our publisher. He asked for permission to say a few words, telling her that he was an advertising executive at a Chicago manufacturing company and had known Brad for the entire time he’d worked at U.S.I.D. With no indication of what was to follow, she naturally said yes.

This man walked onto the stage and asked for our attention. I was looking at Brad to see which old friend this was, but his face looked more concerned than pleased.

The man reached into his coat pocket and took out a sheet of paper. We all recognized it as a call report, which, in the days before computers, were salesman’s typed-up reports of a meeting — one of which was kept for themselves and one of which was sent to a sales manager. He started…

“I think you all know what this is. About three years ago, Brad accidentally dropped this in my office on his way out. I was going to return it, until I read it, and then I decided to keep it just for this night.” With that, he began reading the report…

“Once again, I didn’t get anything from this guy. Still never have. I think the old bastard is going to have to get fired, or die, before I get any advertising out of this company.”

When he finished reading the report, he looked up at the audience and directly at Brad and said…

“Well, I’m the old bastard and I haven’t been fired and, as you can see, I haven’t died.”

And with that, he walked out the door. I don’t know if it’s true, because I left the company shortly after that, but I heard that he bought a large ad the following year from the new guy.