Tag Archive for the corporate bohemian

Tales From The Road: Work Hard. Shenanigan Harder.

“Work hard, play hard.” There’s no more fitting place for this old mantra than the pleasure products industry. Fitting in some casual hang-time with your customers and fellow vendors isn’t just a post-trade show option; it’s practically a requirement! I have yet to attend a single event that didn’t involve an after-hours fancy dinner, cocktail party, or other sort of fun activity. Despite our under-eye bags and sore feet, everyone manages to zip downstairs to the hotel lobby to await the evening’s activities.

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Good eats and good times are how this industry gives back to its customers and brings them closer as friends. Quality time develops our relationships beyond sales numbers, which is just one of the perks of working in a tight-knit business that functions more like a community. There is rarely a dull moment in our laid-back atmosphere. Once we’ve shut down our event booths for the day, shenanigans are bound to happen somewhere!

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During my last trip to the Philadelphia area, our distributor customer took the entire collective of retailers and manufacturers to a local bowling alley. Though I had only planned on a quick pop-in with my co-worker, we were quickly whisked to an alley to play a round with some vendor friends. A fellow sales rep, disgusted by the thought of putting on those always-lovely, musty shoes, refused to lace up for her turn on the lane. My co-worker followed, repulsed by the 70′s color scheme and thousands of prior bowlers who had donned the shoes. In my tired, post-event state, I decided to rebel and follow my shoe-less bowling team’s lead. The staff were less than pleased. We spent the rest of the game trying to avoid the alley’s employee spies, which we called the “Shoe Sheriff,” the “Bowl Patrol,” and another, less savory name I won’t mention here. At one point, one of our team members even jokingly tried to bribe an alley staff member with $50 to turn a blind eye to our rebellious team. Instead of just playing a typical round, our bowling night turned into a hilarious game of “Dodge The Shoe Guys” as we roared with laughter every time another player got in trouble for wearing street shoes. The evening ended when one of the more humored staff members decided to allow me one last shot at the pins before he pulled the plug on our shenanigans.

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 As far as misbehaving on the job goes, refusing to wear bowling shoes is probably my worst offense yet, but at least I avoided having permanently-smelly feet at the trade show the following morning.

Tales From The Road: Adventures in Austin

Austin, Texas is one of my favorite places to visit. The neighborhood bars recall the feel of a college house party, albeit turned down a notch for the 30-something crowd. Tasty vegan restaurants, vintage shops, and artsy nooks promise friendly hipsters, tattoo collectors, and funky types with interesting back stories on how Austin became home. The abundance of food trucks and the nightly mass exodus of bats from the Congress Avenue Bridge round out this liberal bubble in the middle of America’s most red state. Far from being the first to write about the city, this Texas niche lives up to the travel blog hype and then some, depending on whatever festivities are happening during your visit.

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My visit to Austin was centered around training a local store chain that was new to Pipedream’s training program. The most rewarding part of my job is interacting with our customers, especially those whose shops haven’t yet been paid a visit by the Pipedream Fairy (read: me!). New trainees are my favorite. They’re hungry for the kind of behind-the-scenes insight that only a manufacturer can provide. (I’m sure the goody bags in tow in my rental car aren’t a hindrance, either.) The goal of visiting retailers is to make a real connection with the staff. It’s my job to change their vision of “Pipedream” from a faceless Los Angeles company into that of a friendly, enthusiastic bringer-of-knowledge-and-goody-bags. At the end of the day, everyone goes home happy with a Fetish Fantasy handcuff coffee mug and a better understanding of how to sell our pleasure products.

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Curious about the traffic commotion to which I arrived, I was directed to the SXSW (South By Southwest) festival by some of my staff trainees. Though familiar with the event, I had no clue it would coincide with my trip. I only had an hour to wander the crowded streets, but in that short time, I had to constantly remind myself that I wasn’t in New Orleans. Musicians played all genres of music on every corner while creatively-dressed bar hoppers danced in the blockaded streets. Unwilling to leave Austin without a food truck dinner, I grabbed a delicious, portable spinach pie and hoped that I made it back to my rental car ahead of the meter maid (and I did).

Before letting me leave, though, the city decided to throw me the most random occurrence of any business trip to date. Out of the thousands of artists and concert-goers I passed on my way out, one of them happened to be a former high school classmate that I hadn’t seen in TEN years. This wasn’t just someone from math class. He and I spent countless hours rehearsing for musicals, recitals, and choir concerts as part of our school’s music and drama program, and he dated one of my best girl friends during our time as fellow arts geeks. To make this exchange of smiles even more serendipitous, said best girl friend passed away in an accident only months earlier, giving me goosebumps as I imagined her planning this meeting from wherever she was watching. After wishing him the best of luck on his folk band’s SXSW debut, we parted ways as I reflected on the unplanned-yet-planned weirdness that a life on the road always brings. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

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