Tuesday, September 25, 2012

East vs West: Salesmen

My first job was in Sales.  The big American company that hired me was in the process of replacing the old guard with fresh-faced young graduates like me.  I can understand the rationale behind it as us young ones were then expected to move up through the ranks and be managers and heads of department one day.  The old guard were wily, cunning and good at their job but as most of them could barely write a sentence in English, there was no way they would be making their way to the top there.  It was a shame though as very few of us ambitious young graduates had the street smarts of the old guard and I learnt a lot from them.

Anyway, one day angmoh Sales Director decided it would be a good idea to buy the motivational book "Who Moved My Cheese?" for the entire sales team.  The young ones flipped through the book enthusiastically while the old guard scratched their heads and wondered if they could get us to translate the whole book into Mandarin for them to read.

At the meeting where we would be given copies of the book, the Sales Director launched into a tale about a mouse and his ambitions.  Everything was lost on the old guard who nudged the young ones from time to time.  "Kong si mi lai?" (Hokkien:  What's he talking about?)  

Then came the moment where it would lead to the unveiling of the book.  It was The Moment the tale of the mouse had been leading up to.  It was The Moment where Sales Director asked the team, "And what do you use to tempt a mouse?"  Assistant Sales Director, a local Chinese guy, helpfully translated for the old guard.

Up shot an enthusiastic old guard sales. "SOTONG!!!!!!!!!!!"

The deflation of the Sales Director when his underlings explained it to him (after they'd stopped laughing) was priceless.  For how was he to know that Malaysians use dried sotong to bait the local mouse/rat traps and not cheese?


  1. That makes me smile! Very funny!

    1. It still makes me laugh after all those years.