Retired Drinkers

I generally don’t post jokes but I thought this one was worthy of wide distribution. Besides, it’s the one-year anniversary of this blog and I wanted to say thanks for reading by providing a smile. Stop me if you’ve heard it.

Four retired guys are walking down a street in Scottsdale, Arizona.

They turn a corner and see a sign that says, Old Timers Bar – All Drinks 10 cents. They look at each other and decide to go in, thinking this is too good to be true. Got to be a catch.

As they enter, the bartender, an older gentleman as well, says in a voice that carries across the room, “Come on in and let me pour you one! What’ll it be, Gents?”

The bar was well stocked and each of them ordered their favorite drink – a couple of martinis, a whiskey on the rocks and a gin and tonic. The bartender, using only top shelf brands, serves the drinks and says, “That’ll be 40 cents please.”

The four friends look at each other. They smile and can’t believe their good luck. They finish their drinks, there is no hassle, no scam, nothing but a fun time. They decide to order another round.

Again, four drinks are served and the bartender says, “That’s 40 cents, please.’”

They pay the 40 cents, but their curiosity is more than they can stand. Two rounds of drinks for less than a dollar. Finally one of the men says to the bartender, “We don’t get it…how can you afford a nice place like this and serve great drinks for only10 cents a drink.”

“Well,” says the bartender, “I’m a retired tailor from Phoenix and I always wanted to own a bar. Last year I hit the lottery for $125 million and decided to open this place. Every drink costs a dime — wine, liquor or beer – it’s all the same price. Best part is I get to meet and chat with interesting folks like you guys.”

“Wow,” they say to each other. “That’s quite a story,” one of them says to the bartender.

As they’re on the second round, they notice a group of seven people at the other end of the bar who don’t have drinks in front of them and hadn’t ordered anything the whole time they’ve been there.

One of the men in the group gestures at the seven at the end of the bar and asks the bartender, “What’s the story with those guys?

The bartender says, “Oh, those guys are all retired New York snowbirds who usually go to Florida for the winter… They’re waiting for Happy Hour when drinks are half price.”

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How to increase sales

As a group, spirits and wine distributors are among the smartest business people I know.

But there are exceptions.

Back when Metro New York had many distributors and wholesalers, there was one operation whose owner was – how should I put it? – the runt of the litter intellectually.

On one occasion, or so the story goes, a sales manager was having difficulty meeting the NYC plan for Chivas Regal. He paid a visit to this particular distributor and I imagine the conversation went like this.

Sales person: Listen XXXXX, we’re having problems making the numbers on Chivas and I need you to increase your inventory.

Distributor (in a slow whiny voice): But, YYYYY, I already have a warehouse full of Chivas. It’s moving slowly. How can I take more?

Sales person: I don’t care. We need to increase our shipments.

Distributor (in an even whinier voice): Well, what should I do with the cases I currently have.

Sales person (getting angry): Listen to me. I don’t give a damn what you do with the goods in the warehouse – sell it, give it away, spill it out, burn it, whatever….

Distributor (now very confused): Slow down, slowdown, I want to make sure I got it…you said sell it, burn it, what else?

Rumor has it that the distributor is now a supplier.

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The Bronfman Enigma

There have been lots of conversations among Seagram alumni since it was announced on Friday that Edgar Bronfman Jr. was convicted of insider trading in a French court.

The news reports I read raised a number of questions. According to Crain’s NY Business, “The conviction came even though the prosecutor had recommended acquittal…” That’s curious.

The report went on to say that “the prosecutor felt the executives did not have enough information themselves about the company’s health.” What? Are we talking Edgar Jr. here? Didn’t have enough information after having bet the heritage and fortune on a guy who referred to himself as Master of the Universe?

I wonder what the judge heard and saw that the prosecutor missed.

Edgar Jr. sometimes referred to the ease and depth with which people in Hollywood were capable of lying. He described studio executives as people who can swear on their mother’s life that it is raining outside when you and they know it’s a beautiful sunny day. Yet, he couldn’t wait to do business there.

Every year since the 1950’s, Seagram ran the Seagram Family Association (SFA) meeting, an annual session for senior managers and distributor principals. At what turned out to be the last SFA, while it wasn’t known at the time, the deal to sell the company was in the works. Rumors were widespread and felt to have more than the ring of truth. Every conversation, among distributors and management alike, dealt with the speculation. Junior was at the event but hardly visible. Stayed in his suite the entire time, and based on subsequent events, was probably cutting the deals.

He showed up at the last session where customarily the owner addressed the distributors to remind them that Seagram was a family in both the literal and figurative sense of the word and to provide remarks on the state of the business and the future.

When he walked into the back of the room, he stopped and asked what we thought he should touch on in his remarks. What was the tempo, what were the top issues, what’s on their minds?

The answer was candid. “What’s on everyone’s mind is — are we going to be sold?” “The concerns are palpable…they, we, all want to know what’s going on.”

He just looked at us and went on the stage. Immediately, he began to address the topic of a sale in no uncertain terms. He said emphatically and repeatedly that Seagram was not for sale. He didn’t say this — but it was almost as though he swore on his grandfather that would not happen. Less than a month later the announcement of a sale was made.

It was a sunny, beautiful day in southern California but inside the meeting room the rain was pouring down.

In a previous blog on the Bronfman’s I wrote about pity or scorn. This is another occasion for pity. Junior orchestrated the end of his family’s spirits and wine business in favor of the idea of integrating media, entertainment, information and communications in one hand held device. The Smartphone. The idea he had was ahead of its time and with the wrong people.

Quel dommage.

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