Last week on the plane to Orlando I had the children from hell in back of me. And to make matters worse, when I turned around to patiently remind them someone was sitting on the other side of their improvised percussion instrument, their grandmother told them to be careful not to anger the drunk man.
On an innocently short flight from Dallas this week, business folks filed in to make it to their Monday appointments in Indianapolis. All save the man in front of me, who couldn’t wait for the plane to take off to fully recline his seat into my reluctant knees. I have two weapons I use in those cases. I turn the air vent onto the perps head and if that fails I let fly an improvised wet sneeze. Over and over, until it yields the desired results. It rarely does, for the somnolent ones have long since lapsed into their personal Valhallas of snoredome.
Why am I reporting this? Simply because it illustrates that sometimes things don’t always proceed as we’d like them to. I have recently witnessed a ripple of emigration with some Italian wine importers from sales divisions of my colleagues around the country. And we have discussed the whys and wheretofores that led to these importers making the decisions they did.
In the case of one, I think they were simply bored with slow growth and wanted to get a bump in the market. How? A new distribution partner will promise to buy a load of product, thereby emptying storehouses in Italy and creating contrived progress. It will be good for the year-end bonuses for the sharks who pulled the trigger. But when the chickens come home to roost and the sharks have bailed out of the company with their platinum parachutes, the Italian wineries who got that false bump will then get crickets. There isn't always a pot of gold and the end of the rainbow.
The Italians are enthralled with the shell game. At Vinitaly one can find them at the edges of the fairgrounds. Someone always thinks they can spot the shell with the pea inside. But most of those unsuspecting folks are thinking the game is being played legitimately, while the hustler who is setting them up works from another perspective altogether. Just as right now, when some of my winery friends in Italy might have been set up. Momentum cannot be synthesized when the game has been rigged.
I took a long last look at said importer who I had been working with since the late 1980’s. Many of us took innumerable leaps of faith and worked with this importer, and while their success climbed and they got more fame and fortune I noticed the head guy seemed to be getting more and more miserable. While his accolades increased, so did his anger and disdain. It got to the point that one couldn’t say a word to the chap without him taking it the wrong way. Still, we dug in and helped build his brands and his net worth. He became a wealthy, many times over, and it only seemed to increase his wretchedness. When I saw him or his execs at a trade show I would be cordial and say hello. They would ignore me or lob a rude remark in my direction. His CEO grunted at me as I greeted him at Vinexpo. I unsuccessfully imagined what it was one could have done to incur such wrath and disdain.
When they announced they had found a new distributor, I heard it from one of my colleagues. And as I polled others around the company, more and more I got a sense of relief from my associates, as if this would be a better thing for us than for them. We had been released from their abuse of us and everyone in my camp was happy, not sad.
It was the same relief I felt last week in Orlando when we finally landed and I was able to get up and walk away from the bad children in the seat behind me in the plane.
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