All five of us were exhausted. We had trudged the streets of Brussels for two weeks calling on businesses and agencies promoting the launch of our new airline service.
The concept was good in that we were to visit every travel prospect company in Brussels, gather contact information, asses their potential for using our new service and establish an initial awareness ready for the local sales team who would replace us. The reward these companies got for seeing us were a range of give-away goodies from tartan scarves, to cuff links, beach balls (very useful in Belgium) and desktop plastic tailfins displaying our company logo. The latter was to cause me enormous grief as I will explain
The welcome we received was mixed. It was mainly ‘who are these weird Anglais materialising out of the grey drizzle brandishing model airplanes and beach balls? Why did they not speak French? Why did they not make an appointment like normal people and why did they keep asking map directions?’ All very odd, and as welcome as a tepid Stella Artois. I got physically ejected twice and my two female colleagues got propositions that ranged from dinner to a quickie in the manager’s office. Oh the joy and sophistication of international sales.
Finally it was over so we sat in my hotel room and worked our way through the entire mini-bar from Armangac to Pernod. Then someone remembered we had one more dilemma. We hade two cases of give-away tail fin desk pennants and nobody was prepared to haul them back to base. The need for creative thinking was clear and, through a drunken haze the answer hit like a thunderbolt. They belonged across the road.
You see we were staying at the Metropole Hotel and on the other side of the street was the Brussels red light district, I set off with a large trolley bag full of mini tail fins, topically displaying a lion rampant on each side and disappeared into the red and welcoming glow of Brussels most diverse tourist attraction.
I tapped on the first window I came to and there sitting inside was a lady I can only describe as having the face of Margaret Thatcher, the body of Jordan and the clothes of Elton John. She looked keen so I spoke quickly of my mission
I told Nicole (her name) that there was a big convention in Brussels starting the next day and jaded businessmen from around the world would be arriving in their hundreds and looking for a good time. I explained that the convention logo was a golden lion and pulled a pennant out of my trolley bag. To benefit from this work opportunity I suggested she placed the pennant in her window to show she had been approved by the convention organisers and she willingly agreed to do so. She even offered to demonstrate what the lucky delegates would receive but I naturally made my excuses and left. I managed to offload the rest of the pennants in a similar way before tottering off to bed.
It had all gone terribly well until the following evening when our senior executives and their wives arrived for the inaugural celebration dinner. As the last guest left one of the wives said she was not sleepy and up for ‘a stroll. Swiftly they all agreed and one suggested it would add some spice if they took in the red light district across the road. I froze.
It took them no time at all to come to the first window. There was Nicole/Maggie/Jordan/Elton sitting on her chair, legs akimbo and a neckline below her navel. Next to her was her proudly displayed lion rampant pennant. There was an eerie pause and then my boss started pointing at it and spluttering. Immediately Nicole assumed he was an interested punter and went to great pains to explain she had been personally approved by me and that she would give him a staff discount.
All hell was unleashed. They walked from window to window seeing their precious logo on display It all became rather frantic as they stormed the windows, grabbed their pennants, made their excuses and left. Retribution was swift but fortunately for me, they ultimately saw the funny side of it and, after the roasting of the century I survived to sell another day!
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