Tag Archive: Neville Chamberlain


“Hit the door,” said the irritated vice president of Human Resources.

Carefully closing the door, I braced for an unpleasant message from the leader of all-things personnel.

Holding up the company’s employee handbook, I was sternly reminded by Lou Mauerbruecke* about corporate rules expressly and clearly stating that one cannot solicit fellow employees in a business setting. Sigh.

No wonder everyone hates Human Resources. Right, Catbert?

Trembling, I had flashbacks of being called into the principal’s office back in high school for being less than precious. And I can still see the dusty trash-laden hillside that needed to be cleared during my hot Saturday morning detention.

This time my crime against humanity and the pursuit of the bottom line was much more egregious: I was busted for selling Girl Scout cookies at work. Yes, those evil-and-sinister Girl Scout cookies.

Anybody who remotely knows me would not drop me into the “rebel” demographic. I have no tattoos, weird-place piercings and occasionally I even take a peek at Bill O’Reilly on (gasp) Fox News. And yet I was the equivalent of Martin Luther going against Rome, pounding the Ninety-Five Theses on the church door and subsequently being ex-communicated by Pope Leo X.

As I reflect back to that awful day (I still have flash-back nightmares about this incident), I ask myself whether my sin was venial or mortal. Allow me attest that my transgression was meek and mild.

Is there any product on our sustainable planet that has a better brand image than Girl Scout cookies? What will it be for you? Do-Si-Dos™? How about Samoas®? Tagalongs®? Thin Mints? Trefoils? Come on…You know you want them all, and you want them now.

Apple at $87.1 billion in brand equity may have the most valuable-and-lucrative corporate moniker according to Forbes, but have Girl Scout cookies ever fallen from $705.07 to $419 on anyone’s personal stock exchange real or imagined? Apple always has to develop a 5G in the aftermath of 4G, and a 6G to follow the 5G, but Thin Mints will always be Thin Mints. Trefoils will always be Trefoils. Everyone likes it that way. Subsequent product generations are not necessary.

The point I made to Herr Mauerbruecke was that Girl Scout cookies literally sell themselves. Besides I was acting in a similar manner to so many other parents as I was helping my daughter. Lou didn’t seem to care.

As the head of corporate public relations, I took the risk of raising his blood pressure…alas his ticker led to his ultimate demise…and asked him whether it was smart public relations to bust someone for hawking Girl Scout cookies. Can you imagine being “walked” out the door for selling Do-Si-Dos, Samoas and Tagalongs? What if the media found out? I can see the headlines in my mind’s eye.

Yes I know exactly what the employee handbook says, but I was not trying to sell a Mercedes-Benz, a Silicon Valley townhouse or a Mexican time share at work…These are friggin’ wholesome legendary cookies made from sugar, dough and so many other wonderful artery-clogging substances. Might as well go six-feet under with a smile on your face.

Lou settled down and realized that I was right in being wrong. There are some rules that are not worth requiring someone to drown or burn at the stake. It was time for common sense in the name of good public relations.

How about if I simply placed the Girl Scout cookie sign-up form face up on the meeting table in my glorified director of corporate public relations cubicle? If someone from the chairman and chief executive officer down to the vice president of Legal wanted to sign up…how and why should I stop them?

Technically, I am not violating the sacred employee handbook if they are acting on their own free will in ordering Girl Scout cookies? This is a Democracy. Right?

We had the makings of a compromise. We could raise taxes and reform entitlements and everyone would be happy? Let’s forget that analogy. To quote the late Neville Chamberlain, it was “peace for our time” and we could all go back home and “sleep quietly in our beds.” “Jerry” promised to be good.

As a result of our compromises, the selling of Girl Scout cookies was quietly allowed once again in a corporate environment, and I could continue to put food on the Brett household table. Everything was just so Do-Si-Do.

* The actual name was changed to protect the memory of a friendly colleague. May he rest in peace.






Declaring Victory

Compromise is so easy, when you leave all the heavy lifting to the other side.

In reality, it doesn’t work that way … and it never will.

Unilateral good nature, masochism and altruistic virtues will not do the trick.

The answer always comes down to how can both sides can “declare victory” and pass the giggle test at the same time. Each must be able to make the sale to the majority of their followers on their side of the aisle.


Keep in mind: Your enemies will never change; your friends can run for the exits if you sell your soul.

Consider the oncoming 5 percent of national GDP “fiscal cliff.”

All the Republicans in the House of Representatives have to do is go against their ingrained philosophy, accept a tax hike for those making $400,000 or more annually (or possibly less) in exchange for no spending restraint by the federal government in the face of a record $16.4 trillion national debt. On top of that, they are expected to raise the debt limit, reportedly reached next Monday, to accommodate even more borrowing from China and more red ink (double entendre not intended).

Let’s say that House Speaker John Boehner can convince his reluctant caucus to go along with this “deal” to preclude the January 1 expiring George W. Bush tax cuts for middle-class taxpayers 1. You can count on the Washington Press Corps. and the Punditocracy on prime-time cable to declare the president and Democrats as the winners and the Republicans as the losers.

In historical terms, the Third Reich was deemed the winner at Munich in 1938 as it was given the permission to gobble up Czechoslovakia, while loser Neville Chamberlain came home with a worthless signature on a worthless piece of paper. After Mitt Romney’s defeat last November, do the Republicans want to be the Neville Chamberlain’s of December?


Even though Howard Schulz and Starbucks are getting into the act with DC baristas scribbling “Come Together” on the cups of upscale coffee, you can hardly expect the Republicans to be moved…or to move…without some real progress from the self-proclaimed progressives.

Can Social Security be indexed to inflation in the form of the Consumer Price Index? Can the age limit for Medicare eligibility be raised from 65-years-old to 67-years-old? More than 60 percent of federal spending is directed toward to the “entitlements” even before the full-impact of Obamacare is felt.

MoveOn.org is threatening primary challengers from the left for any Democrat that votes to reform the entitlements. The Republicans are demanding entitlement spending concessions in order to declare victory. To the Democrats, these demands are seen as leverage…and they are.

The recipe for both sides and their respective media spokespersons to declare victory require raising tax rates on high-income folks, including small businesses (Democrats claim victory), while at the same Social Security is indexed and the eligibility age for Medicare is increased (Republicans claim victory). It sounds simple, but it’s not.

One thing is certain: There will be no deal until the 11th hour on the 365th day of the calendar year. Legislators are akin to bats: They only come out at night.

And if there is no deal?

The sun came up in the Golden State on June 7, 1978, the day after Proposition 13 passed with 65 percent of the vote. Reportedly, the bees were still buzzing and the birds were still chirping.

There was a next-day after the Y2K “crisis” came and was quickly forgotten after January 1, 2000. Talk about much ado about nothing.

And if the leader of the Free World and Congress cannot make amends and allow both sides to declare victory, the ball will still drop in Times Square next Tuesday and the bowl games will still be played on Tuesday.

The nation’s credit rating may plunge yet again. The country may default. The next recession will be on the horizon. These (un)pleasantries may be upon us.

Or we can get down to figuring out how both sides can claim victory.  I saw this practice work in Sacramento in the 1980s. It can work in Washington DC in the teens of the 21st Century. Let “Victory” ring.





%d bloggers like this: