I sat in astonishment as I glanced over my shoulder to see a cloud of smoke surround a man in a brown uniform jerking a hand truck full of boxes up the steps to my place of business! What could be the cause of all that smoke? Was this person delivering dry ice? Or maybe this guy was moving so fast that the rubber wheels and metal frame of the hand truck scrapping along the concrete steps caused the wheels to catch fire. Or, on this particularly cold morning maybe the poor soul was working so hard it was only an “illusion” of smoke and it was simply was an incredibly large frost ball emanating from his heaving breath?
My company’s main conference meeting room is surrounded by glass windows that face the front of our building into the parking lot. The tinted glass provides an open view out into the tree lined parking area and point of entry into our building. It’s a rather pretty view especially with the leaves of the Maple and Hawthorn trees changing colors. So as I sat there in our staff meeting this cloud of smoke caught my eye and distracted to me to the point where I disrupted the meeting and said something like, “Look at that – that UPS driver is smoking.” Everyone looked over and sure enough there was “Big Brown” with a cigarette hanging down from his lips as the lugged the hand truck up our steps. This guy was a pro. Pro smoker that is. I could tell he was a pro by the way the ciggie dangled from his lips. It reminded me of your stereotypical Aunt Agnes from past generations with the blue hair, martini in hand, and cigarette bouncing up and down on her lips as she called you over for a kiss and called you sweetie at your 12-year-old birthday party.
I’ve got nothing against smokers. I don’t smoke myself but I find it perfectly acceptable to be around people smoking if I’m in a bar with a pool table, in Vegas sitting at a black jack table, or at hanging with Billy Bob, Bubba, and one-eyed Frankie at the Sturgis motorcycle rally in South Dakota. I do not however find it acceptable for my UPS guy to be smoking while he enters my place of business.
So we watched as Big Brown approached our front door and to Big’s credit he paused, rested the hand truck on it’s ledge, took one last drag and discarded the cigarette; on our stoop. He enters the building, drops off our boxes, and heads out of the building. As we watch we reluctantly give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he will pick up his expired butt and discard it in a more appropriate receptacle. As we watch (in my mind) I’m kind of rooting for the guy, “C’mon Big pick it up, pick it up”. Nope – not a chance. Big walks past the butt leaving a lasting impression of UPS that would, if he was sitting where I was, compell Scott Davis (UPS CEO) to forfeit a portion of his $9.5 million salary. So as Big headed to his truck I headed out of the building to give Big a second chance. “Pardon me”, I shouted. Big turns and sees me on the stoop. “Can you please come back to pick up your cigarette?”. Big grins and says, “oh, yeah…sure”.
So let me replay this brief exchange I had on the stoop with Big. What we were really saying was this. Me: “Pardon me”. Big: Cartoon bubble appears over his head with question mark. Me: “It’s probably too late at this point but do you want to come back and take a stab at protecting your brand. You know the brand of the company that issues you a paycheck each week because customers like me use your services? Come on you remember the slogan: What can brown do for you…? C’mon Big – stay with me buddy….” Big: What’s a brand?…”
I go back into the building without watching but I am pretty sure that Big tossed the butt into the planter box next to the stoop. In fact this morning as I got to work I actually looked around in the planter box to see if I could see it.
You’re right; I need to let this go. It was an isolated incident right? I have nothing to worry about, right? When I ship my company’s products to our customers via UPS I have no reason to worry that the driver and packages will smell like cigarette smoke right? Right? Yep, thought so…