Back in the dim and distant past, when I used to sell trucks for a living, there used to be a thing Geoff my boss used to call: “Customer Relationship Maintenance.”
It basically entailed driving around the North West of England, visiting harassed men in too tight nylon trousers and shirts (them not me), sitting in leaky porta-cabins, drinking bad tea, and making worse small talk.
I knew they didn’t want to speak to me.
They knew I didn’t want to speak to them.
And we both knew we were wasting each other’s time.
Sadly, this is what Geoff told me to do, and if I wanted to keep my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS, (these things matter)) I had no choice.
One day, when I was sitting in one of those leaky porta-cabins, I had an epiphany. I turned to the customer and said:
“Listen, I come here every two months to take up your time, all because my boss Geoff tells me to.”
“Oh yes?” He replied, looking at his watch.
“He thinks you’ll buy a truck if I keep coming around and getting on your nerves. Is he right?”
“No not really, I’m actually busy, and I have to sit here for half an hour talking to you. To be honest, it does get on my nerves.”
“Well how about you call me when you need me, and we keep this our little secret?”
We shook hands, and I came up with a new method of “Customer Relationship Maintenance” which basically involved not getting on people’s tits.
I quickly spread this new model out across all of my customers. It worked well, until the day Geoff figured out I had strayed from what he believed to be right. He called me in the office, gave me a telling off, and threatened to take my Vauxhall Cavalier and replace it with an Austin Maestro.
Geoff reckoned he always knew best, and he was always pretty patronising about it too. That wasn’t the only reason I disliked Geoff though, the other reason was that Geoff was greedy.
He kept all the best customers for himself. He wined and dined them, he took them for “jolly” weekends away, he bought them presents, and in return, when they wanted trucks, they rang him, and not me.
He scratched their back, and they scratched his.
If a salesman dared to complain he was told:
“I’m the boss, like it or lump it.”
He would then hand them the keys to a second-hand skip wagon and tell them to go and earn forty quid commission on it.
Over time I became more and more uncooperative with Geoff. We wound each other up no end. Him by being Geoff, and me by hiding his car keys, not answering my phone, and leaving coffee cup rings on his desk diary all the time.
For all my efforts though, he didn't really care what I did. Even though there was always a high turnover of staff, he didn’t care he was about to lose another one. He was okay, his mates were okay, so what did it matter if I lost interest? He was still the boss, and the world would never be short of a salesman to take my place.
One day he called me into his office to give me some rubbish sales leads. Outside his office window sat five brand new trucks he’d just sold to one of my customers. He'd just ripped me off again, and I was angry and humiliated, so I resigned by chucking my car keys onto the table, spilling some more coffee on his diary, and then walking out the office.
What had happened between us was that I’d lost all respect for Geoff, because he didn't care if I lived or died. He was going to keep doing whatever he wanted, whether I liked it or not, and there was nothing I could do about it.
So even though it cost me my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), I was prepared to walk out, just to give me back some small sense of self worth, and integrity.
A few months later I found out the other salesmen had finally banded together and gone to senior management to complain about Geoff and his practices.
After this "Arab Spring" of an uprising, Geoff was wobbled, then finally, a few months later, toppled when all the sales staff decided to no longer cooperate with him in any way.
It was his turn to resign.
So why am I telling you this?
It’s because I think the average person on the street now think governments are a bunch of Geoff’s.
Governments in return, just like Geoff, have a sense of entitlement, and a general disdain, for the guy in the street because for all their complaining, there is always another guy in the street to take their place with a vote.
Be it cuts, corruption, tax shenanigans, war, expenses, scandals, lobbying, back door deals, ignoring public opinion, governments are acting just like Geoff (I'm not sure Geoff declared war on anyone, but I wouldn't have put it past him.)
In return, by voting for Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, or Brexit, all we want to do is wind them up, and show them that we still matter.
A friend of mine said the other day: “I’m voting Brexit not because I want to leave Europe, but because the Government want me to stay.”
In other words, due to their “we know best” attitude, he doesn’t care if he loses his Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), he just wants to be able to irritate the hell out of them.
So what could Geoff have done to make things better between us?
He could have stopped taking people for granted.
He could have stopped abusing his position.
He could have stopped patronising us.
He could have listened to us, and acted on our concerns and not in the interests of him, and a few of his mates.
He could have been honest and accepted that just maybe, he didn’t know best all of the time.
And he could have upgraded my car to the CDX with the thicker velour seats and sunroof, but in fairness this probably doesn’t apply to governments around the world.
So what is the lesson for those governments?
Well unless they do the above, there really isn’t much point in spending 9 million on a leaflet, wheeling out Peter Mandelson, or generating billions in donations from their mates, because all of that just makes us want to throw our Cavalier keys on the table and slam the door behind us after we've spilled their coffee.