SAINTS PRESERVE US
Eavesdropping on the Best and the Brightest
SCENE: Mary is sitting alone in a plush, moodily lit and remote banquette in the Super Elite Platinum Premium First Class Exclusive Star Alliance Executive lounge in a major North American international airport. She is ensconced in a private reverie until her daydream of simpler, bucolic times is banished by the interruption of a suave, sharp-dressed man. meGeoff does not move in these dizzy, high flight circles. However, with a little help from our friends at CSEC and NSA, we were able to listen in because both parties left their iPhones on.
Deepak: Hi, my name’s Deepak. Mind if I join you? Can I buy you a drink?
Mary: Uh, sure, but everything’s free. My name’s Mary, by the way.
D: Free stuff. Love it. If you can’t give it away, overcharge, right? That’s my motto. Pleasure to meet you.
M: Likewise. You seem awfully cheery.
D: Living the dream on other people’s money.
M: So tell me, what do you do, Deepak?
D: I’m head of Canada Post Corporation.
M: Must be pretty neat to run a monopoly.
D: You’ve heard of me! It’s been brilliant, actually. I’ve raised prices by something like 30-per-cent and cut service. Soon, very soon I won’t have to deliver a single piece of mail to a single individual address in Canada. I’m going to have everything dropped at some inconvenient central point in various neighbourhoods or wherever and let the people fend for themselves. A master stroke if I myself may say so. Not to boast…
M: Indeed! How’d you spin it to the public?
D: I was quite forthright and transparent. I said rather frankly that all Canadians, especially the elderly and disabled, could use the exercise walking to these distant points of centrality. During the winter they could cross-country ski.
M: And there was no backlash?
D: That’s the beauty of heading up a crown corporation. Technically I’m accountable to Canadian taxpayers and some federal minister from some department or other but the reality is in fact the exact opposite. Shareholders can’t revolt. There are no activist investors to fend off. The minister’s thinking about next year’s election. Our business is whatever I want it to be. I mean, mail delivery is so old school. It’s been a pretty sweet deal, let me tell you.
M: Sounds like it. I’m dealing with some backlash issues myself these days.
D: Oh? Tell me more.
M: I’m CEO of General Motors, by the way. Washington just slapped us with a $35-million fine.
D: Ouch! Ain’t that a kick in the head.
M: It’s nothing really; we make that much if not more in a single day. But Congress, the Department of Justice and the Securities and Exchange Commission are all sniffing around. I mean, we just paid Washington back for bailing us out in 2008, which was before my time by the way, but c’mon, gimme a break here. And it’s no help that we’ve recalled over 15 million vehicles already this year. So far.
D: I did get an e-mail about my new Cadillac Escalade. Haven’t read it yet.
M: Whatever you do, do NOT sit in the passenger seat!
D: I’m the driver, Mary, always have been.
M: No issues with the ignition switch?
D: Erm, no. Why do you ask?
M: No reason.
D: Sounds like you’ve a lot on your plate. Another drink? How are you spinning this unseemly publicity to the little people - your customers, shareholders and the authorities – the powers that be?
M: Oh, the usual: middle management incompetence and that none of this technically happened on my watch, well, some of it did, just a teensy bit but I didn’t know. What’s troubling is that at least 13 road fatalities have been linked directly to GM products; that really hurts our brand image. Cars and trucks should be about dream fulfillment. That’s what we really make and sell. Dreams. Not the big sleep. So some of the parts don’t work properly, I mean, c’mon, let’s see you outsource fussy technical work to an impoverished Third World country. Just try it sometime. It’s hard to save a nickel.
D: Dead customers aren’t return customers, are they? Maybe you care too much about them, these so-called customers? I stopped worrying about them a long time ago. As for employees, well, the odd dog bite is nothing to fret about. The good thing is that, wait for it, no letter carrier’s gone postal lately!
M: Oh, Deepak, I haven’t laughed so hard in ages! And I could really use that second drink.
D: I like you, Mary. I like you a lot. It just occurred to me that maybe there are existing synergies between our two respective companies.
M: Umm, are you talking merger?
D: Think of it like this. My vision for Canada Post is parcel delivery. So much so that I’m prepared to compete against a courier company I already operate! Isn’t that ironic? But as far as I’m concerned, the bigger the parcel, the better. It’s not even June and you’ve recalled 15 million vehicles. What if Canada Post became your carrier of choice? Naturally we wouldn’t return any cars or what have you to dealerships or factories but to some point of convenient centrality for GM like Delaware or New Mexico – forgive me, I’m terrible with maps, routes, locations – I can’t even name all 16 Canadian provinces - hey, some people are bad with names.
M: I don’t know, Deepak. There could be a potential culture clash between our two firms. Sure we’ve siphoned public money just like you, but the reality is that we can take months, even years before deciding to issue a recall.
D: You want slow, Mary? It takes me five days or longer to deliver a simple envelope to nowhere. At an inflated price! Beat that. We’re on the same page. I’m talking a snail’s pace. Speaking of which… What time’s your flight? Shall we share a plate of escargot?
M: And a little wine, Deepak, a little wine. Red, of course.