Volume 37, Issue 6, June 2002
It’s on the Other Foot
What the Job’s Like on the Other Side
by Dez Farnady
What is on the other foot? The shoe, the shoe is what is on the other foot. Life changes things, but we seldom see the other guy’s point of view because it is difficult to put ourselves in the other man’s place. As I look at most of my friends and contemporaries in the glass business, they are basically still in the same position they have always been—with the same old shoe on the same old foot. Those who buy glass are still buying it. Those who sell glass have always sold glass one way or another, but not me. I sold glass for nearly 25 years but I am buying it now. I am sure there is probably at least one other guy out there who has changed like I have, but I don’t think I know him. So I will be the one who “tells it like it is.” Oh, yes, the gospel according to Dez.
It’s Like This, You See
In the old days, sometimes the phone would ring and it would be a guy to whom I promised the moon. I promised premium service, a bargain price and speedy delivery, and he blessed my name when I bailed him out with the promises. But, he was certain to curse me when the order was late and the back-ordered lite was due to be glazed up top, and the scaffold was coming down in the morning.
I started my career in the glass business at a tempering facility that I felt was hopelessly behind on schedules and painfully short of organization and systems. We had no idea where the orders were and how to find them. I was so new in the business I didn’t know cullet from a mullet. For those of you who still don’t know, a mullet is a red fish. I know cause I looked it up. Anyway, my first responsibility was to be the company apologist. I trained in the art of apologizing for lost orders, back orders and messed-up orders that I had never even seen or heard of. I had not even been there long enough to sell the stuff. I was just apologizing while begging for new orders. It was known at that time as on-the-job training.
Eventually the production guy figured out what he was doing and we actually produced and delivered product. Still, as the only face the customer saw was mine, I was always the one who took the rap for all the mistakes. These were good reasons for my skin to get as thick as a rhino’s hide. Even when I was told that after “my” previous disaster I would never get another order, I had to keep going back at least until the other temperer screwed up worse and they threw him out. Ah yes, we learned that life was never full of disappointments, only challenges and opportunities.
But now, the shoe is on the other foot. I am the one who screams like a wounded buffalo when we have a job to install and of 18 lites the two end lites are missing because they are on “back-order.” The supplier cries, “I think it broke in the furnace” or the famous “I will see what I can do.” And the next day comes and there is still no glass and I have to first plead, then threaten and even when I beg there is still no schedule. Then I give the orders to the other vendor until vendor number one either catches up or ends up with no orders at all. Then the sales rep comes to apologize and I feel like I am looking at myself in a weird time machine mirror of some sort. I know what he is going through and I feel for him, but I also need product.
So now the salesman is apologizing and promising better service, while I am holding the order that is going to the other guy, who is on schedule or has a better price. Truth be told, while now I am supposed to be in a better position, the shoe pinches. This isn’t fun either. And, don’t put your left shoe on your right foot because it does not feel any better.
Dez Farnady serves as general manager of Royalite Manufacturing Inc., a skylight manufacturer in San Carlos, Calif. His column appears monthly.
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