The Spirit of Sales Excuses: Past, Present and Future

Dec 23, 2004
George Anderson

By George Anderson

The following is a treatment for a new holiday mini-series being pitched in heaven to St. Peter by a group of former retail executives currently trying to work their way up from purgatory.

The scene opens with a white, male chairman, chief executive and president of a very large retail chain, sleeping alone in bed on Christmas Eve. A noise outside his bedroom door startles him out of his sleep. It sounds like a thousand old-fashioned cash registers are being banged around.

Suddenly, the door flies open and before him stands Gilda Radner in her Roseanne Rosannadanna persona, only ghostly, from when she starred on Saturday Night Live. She drags behind her what appear to be thousands of antique cash registers. Sweat pours off her.

Roseanne: Jane, Jane, ooh, ooh, the pain. Jane, ooh the pain.

Retailer: Who’s Jane?

Roseanne: Don’t you remember me Jane? I was the chief executive of the very large retail chain when you were a young and stupid girl. Too young to even use the bailer.
What did we call you then? Oh yes, a peon.

Retailer: Look, I have no idea who this Jane is and don’t you mean associate?

Roseanne: No Jane. Weren’t you listening to my very ghostly and spooky voice? I said peon.

Retailer: Whatever. Listen, it’s late. It’s Christmas Eve. I need to get up early to look at the numbers that came in from the stores today and I’ve got to come up with
some rationale for the street why we’ve had to revise our numbers downward.

(The ghost starts to thrash about, heaving the cash registers back and forth.)

Roseanne: Jane, Jane, ooh, ooh, the pain. Jane, ooh the pain.

(She suddenly stills.)

Roseanne: Heed my warning. In my mortal life when I too was the chairman, chief executive and president of the very large retail chain, I gave all kinds of excuses for why
sales were off. The weather was too warm. It was too cold. People were ordering from our catalogue instead of going into the stores. Customers were waiting until the last minute
to do their Christmas shopping. If there was an excuse I had it. Little did I know that, with each story I told to explain away bad performance, I was adding another cash register
to my other worldly load and, let me tell ya, these things are heavy. I mean they’re the old National Cash Register models. I’m carrying around Waterbury and Signature models.
Do you know what these things are worth on the market today? But can I sell them? Noooooh. I just carry them around visiting lame retail executives on Christmas Eve.

Retailer: Okay, so you explained why sales were off. That was your job. You were supposed to do that. How long do you think you would have had the job if you came out and said
you screwed up? That you were late ordering product from China and it got stuck on the docks and that’s why your shelves are empty? Or that your women’s clothing buyer thought
this was the year to push orange overalls because he thought they would be all the rage with Martha Stewart going to jail? And so what if everybody including the chain that
advertises every day outrageously high prices undercut you on the most popular toys and electronic gadgets, which meant your stores were empty on Black Friday and there’s was

Roseanne: I never did any of those things.

Retailer: Well, er, I didn’t mean you. I just meant it could happen to anyone in charge of running a very large retail chain, couldn’t it?

Roseanne: Well, Jane, it just goes to show you. It’s always something. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Retailer: Oh, the pain.

(Scene ends)

Moderator’s Comment: Is personal responsibility in short supply in corporate America’s corner offices? What gift (some aspect of leadership) would you
like to give every retail manager this Christmas if you could?

George Anderson – Moderator

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