I am standing at the head of a conference table. I am surrounded by my trainers and other sales reps. They are lined up to see me perform. See, I had just landed my first real job. I was the new sales rep for Coca-Cola. This was my training.
I start my pitch. It feels like total darkness until I get to the end.
They stare at me. I'm cold. They want something more.
My boss gives me a smile.
This is good right, they used my nickname.
—Stick, remember to offer the Performance Allowance. Offer the grocery manager $100 or $200 to get more space. At least a couple more shelves for Coke. Use that special check book we gave you.
—You mean I get to bribe them? I thought we went through all this training to show how much better Coke is than Pepsi.
—We don't call it a bribe. It's an allowance. But space sells, kid. And the Pepsi rep is coming next week and he may offer your man more. So don't be afraid to offer allowances.
—Seriously? The Pepsi guy will buy back the space that I just payed for?
—We are dead serious. That's why we need you out in the field as soon as possible. And, if you need to give him a little spiff directly, do it in an envelope. Just keep good records for your expense account.
The group nods their approval. My boss smiles again, pats me on the back.
—One more thing, Stick. Remember, try to meet your clients in their office. If you get there before them, look for competitor information and swipe it if you can. Sales sheets, special offers, that sort of thing, bring them to me. Remember we pay you bonuses for that.
—So If I steal something good, you pay me more.
—It's called competitive research.
I lay awake at night thinking, "Man, this is unethical".
I only worked for Coca-Cola for about a month. I had spent 3 months and 4 interviews getting this job. I had a couple months of training. So now I was married, with our first child on the way, out of work, and broke. But even if the most All-American of all companies did this I couldn't work there. Maybe the guys from FIFA worked here.
I work hard producing honest art. I blow it up. I will share any aspect of my work and my process. I will not pay for space or for people to see my work. I hope you will view and share my work as you think it is worthy. Not because I payed you.
Although when I offer you a beer at The Blast Factory, please don't consider it a bribe! I'm really just a nice guy.
Note: The practice of slotting and performance allowances is still practiced today by most large brands. There have been a few court cases on it from the FCC with mixed results. It currently represents about 6% of grocery store revenue. And yes, it keeps small new competitors off the prime shelves and Coke in your face.
Stick Vega is the American Gunpowder Artist and author of LESS KILLING. He creates explosive pop art and blogs from The Blast Factory in Madison, WI and Bucktown, Chicago, IL. Follow Stick on Facebook and/or Twitter.