Interesting Times
Chapter 03

Copyright© 2011 by Ernest Bywater. All rights reserved

Snack Snarl

Matt calls the number Monica gives him and he asks the telephonist, “May I speak to the sales representative for the Rivers Base Hospital account, please?” She puts him through to an extension.

It’s answered by a gruff man, “Roger Hadley, what do you want?”

Matt isn’t impressed with the man’s snarl, but he’s polite when he says, “Excuse me, I wish to speak with you about what food and drinks you have in the machines at the Base Hospital.”

The man’s curt reply is, “I don’t care what you want! We’ll decide what we sell!” This leaves Matt a little confused until he works out the man is jumping to a false assumption. He hung up, so Matt calls again.

Meanwhile, at Hardy Vending Services, Roger leaves his desk to pop his head into the office of the sales manager. “Peter, I just had some kid wanting his favourites in the Base Hospital machines. I was a bit short, so he may call you.” Peter March, the sales manager, nods to show he heard while he continues to read the paper. Roger returns to his desk.

Matt reaches the telephonist and ask,, “May I speak to the manager of sales, please?” She puts him through.

Peter is still concentrating on a sports article in the Sydney paper when he answers the phone, “Peter March, Sales, how may I help you?”

“Good morning, Mister March, my name’s Matthew Dyer. I’d like to talk to you about the behaviour of one of your staff and about your Rivers Base Hospital machines.”

“Look, kid, we’re not about to change our stocks to suit your tastes. So please don’t try to ask us again.” He hangs up. Peter stands and he walks through to the reception area. He tells the receptionist, “Robyn, there’s some kid trying to tell us what to put in our machines. Roger and I have given him the brush off but he may persist. Just don’t bother putting him through if he calls again.” She nods yes in reply.

Peter is still walking away from her desk when Robyn answers the phone to hear the same young male voice say, “I’d like to speak with the manager, please.”

She’s polite when she says, “I’m sorry, Sir, but Mister Hardy only deals with important company matters. Is there someone else who can help you?”

Matt says, “I need to speak with Mister March’s supervisor. I doubt there’s another level of management between the two in such a small local company.” He spends the next couple of minutes trying to get her to put him through. Monica walks in while he’s on the phone.

She listens to the conversation as can see he’s getting very angry, and that won’t help his recovery. She waves at him and asks him who he’s talking to because she heard him say it’s a local firm. He explains who he’s talking to and that he can’t get anyone there to listen to him.

Monica nods her understanding then she takes the phone off him to saying into it, “Robyn, Monica here. Put me through to George right now while you can still manage to keep your job.”

Robyn is surprised about the change in person on the phone, but she’s stuck in trying to keep the boy away from the company owner and she has trouble changing mental tracks. Monica hangs up and calls back. This time Robyn is in normal mode so she puts Monica through when she says, “Robyn, it’s Nurse Mills, I’d like to speak to George, please!”

George answers, to be greeted with, “George, Monica, I’m about to put a young patient on the line to speak with you. I strongly suggest you listen carefully to what he has to say because he’s had the run around from your staff for the last half hour and is now very pissed off with everyone there.”

George can tell his sister-in-law is also pissed off so he says, “OK, Monica, put him on.” When Matt gets on the phone he adds, “I don’t yet know what the problem is, but please give me your side of the issue and I’ll see what I can do for you. Is that OK for you so I can get this sorted out right?”

Matt smiles his thanks at Monica while he says, “Good morning, Mister Hardy, I’ve got a few issues with your staff about how they treat clients, and I’d like to speak to someone with a double digit IQ about doing business with you. Before we get down to business I’d like to go over today’s experience with your company.” He tells him about the phone calls, what he said, what was said to him, and adds, “It’s clear Roger jumped to a conclusion about what I wanted and he brushed me off. He then went on to give his version to Peter March who gave me another brush off without asking what I want, and he told the telephonist to do the same with future calls by me. Had Roger’s assumption been right he still should’ve been polite while he heard me out before giving me a polite brush off, not the terse one he did. The matter was made worse by Peter, the manager, who should’ve been more willing to listen. The telephonist was very polite, unlike the others, and was only carrying out the instructions she was told, so I’ve no issue with her.”

“Yes, they should listen to all of our customers, thank you for bringing this to my attention. When I bought the business they were already here, but I think I can dispense with their attitudes to do better business. Now, how can we help you?”

“Mister Hardy, I do need to have a serious business discussion with you about products and services here at the hospital, but it’s nothing to do with making any changes to your existing services here. It’s about a new service. I need to see lists of the food and drinks you carry, what’s currently provided at the hospital, and where it’s available. I also wish to see product sales quantities. A list of what else you can provide but don’t carry at the moment, and the information on the dispensers and fridges you have available. I understand you may be worried about talking to a teenager about this stuff but I suggest you run checks on Dyer Services and MDT Investments before you visit me this afternoon. I’m Matthew Dyer, the Board Chairperson of both companies.”

George makes notes while they talk, then he again apologises for his staff. After hanging up he thinks for a few minutes before he goes to speak to his senior clerk, Adelaide. Walking into the main office he says, “Adelaide, here’s a couple of companies I’d like the usual checks on right now. I’d also like to see a list of officers and the phone number of their CFO so I can talk to them,” as he hands over the paper with the names of the companies.


He waits for her nod before he goes to speak to Roger and Peter. On his way there he stops to have a word with the telephonist, “Robyn, if anyone calls and wants to speak to me you put them through to me. I don’t care what anyone else says about the caller, you do not block my calls unless I ask you to. Is that clear?” She gulps and nods yes. He walks to the sales area. When he goes by the room with the two sales field staff in it he motions for them to follow him as he goes into the office of the sales manager. Once all four of them are in the office he has them sit.

George looks around his small audience, catches the eye of each, and turns to Peter. None of the staff like the expression on George’s face when he starts to speak, “Peter, twice before I’ve warned you and Roger about your attitudes to clients and potential clients. I told you last month it was the last warning. I’ve now got another complaint about both of you so I’m here to give you both your notice. I don’t want you to work it out so you can both clear out your desks and cars of personal effects then catch a taxi or bus home right now. I’ll send on your cheques for the pay due plus the notice period.” Roger starts to stand so George turns toward him, “Go talk with the union if you want to. This is in accordance with the union rules as well. Three cases of being very rude to clients now, so you’re both gone.” He turns to the other sales representative, “Janice, will you please go with Roger while he cleans out his desk and car while I check Peter out of here.”

Peter is very angry he and his brother-in-law are being fired. Their jobs had been secured as part of the sale by his father. He asks, “Who complained?”

“Today a new client tried to get through to organise an account. You both gave him the brush off before he could explain what he wanted. He sounded young and he is young, but you jumped to conclusions. Worse than that, you were very rude to him. He has an independent witness to the conversations that I trust, so you’re gone.” Both their eyes go very wide on hearing the word of a youth is getting them fired.

Peter has a sour expression when he says, “You’ll take the word of a kid over mine. I’ll sue you for everything you’ve got.”

Adelaide walks in and hands George a slip of paper with the results of her initial enquiries. He looks up, and smiles while he says, “I don’t care how young he is. I’ll take the word of the Chairman of the Board of a successful service company that does a lot more business each year than we do over your word. Now pack up, you’re gone.” Both salesmen rush to pack their personal effects. Ten minutes later they’re getting in a taxi together after handing in the keys to the company cars.

When they drive off George asks, “Janice, I don’t think we really need a sales manager, but do we need more sales staff? I ask because you’ve a better feel for the market and clients at the moment.”

She turns to George, “What say you give me a ten percent pay rise and I’ll handle the whole sales area by giving the drivers commission on any new or increased business they bring in. That’ll give us a very good coverage of the existing customers while I concentrate on getting new business.”

“Sounds good to me. Let’s see how it goes for the rest of this quarter and the next one. You already have a company car so I can’t give you one. What do I do with these two?”

“Get a locksmith to change the locks. I know they both have spare keys at home. Also have the office locks changed, to be safe. Why not give the two senior office staff the cars to use? And I bet if you allow the drivers to take the trucks home each night they’ll work a lot harder.”

“The idea about the trucks is a good one. But the use of company cars causes tax hassles, especially if it’s office staff. However, neither of them has a car and they both use the bus to get to work. I’ll talk to them about having them take over the leases and I’ll go guarantor on the deals.” She nods in agreement. “OK, this afternoon I’ve got an appointment with a young man about a new account. Please get all this information together as we’ll both be going.” He hands her the list of information and figures Matt wants before he goes to call the locksmith to changes the locks.

George, Adelaide, and Janice are all very busy for the next hour or so. While having lunch they discuss what they’re getting together and who for. All three are amazed about the businesses Matt runs. Adelaide even rang Dorothy to confirm they’ve the right Matthew Dyer, and they do.

Guest Goodies

About a quarter after two that afternoon George Hardy and Janice Meyers arrive at Matt’s bedside armed with all the figures they think they’ll ever need. They include a product sale analysis for each machine in the hospital and each floor of the hospital, something they’d not done before. The results of it have already got them thinking and discussing possible changes in product mixes to improve sales. The idea about the detailed sales analysis would’ve made this visit worthwhile, but George feels getting the final complaint to get rid of the other two sales staff is a good result all on its own.

After Monica introduces them George hands over a typed copy of the first part of the phone conversation as he says, “Mister Dyer, please check this summary of our earlier conversation and sign this complaint form. I’d previously spoken to both those men about their attitude to customers and they were on their last chance. As a result of today’s complaint I fired them. I’m sure they’ve cost me a few customers over the three years I’ve had the business.” Matt reads the document and he agrees with the summary so he signs it with his left hand and he gets one of the other nurses to sign as witnessing his signature before giving it back.

Matt smiles at Mr Hardy as he asks, “I hope you brought along those sales figures I asked for! Before we get into studying them I’ll explain what I want. Due to my injuries I’m confined to this bed for several months, if not the rest of the year. As you can see, I’ve organised to make things easier for me. But I do like to talk with people. It’s hard for me to get out and go talk to the other kids in the main wards so I need to get them to come visit me. To that end I intend to put on a DVD film each afternoon after lunch. With the kids here the staff will have an easier time cleaning up after lunch. Mother always taught me to offer guests food and drinks. To do that I want some fridges in here loaded with a mix of soft drinks, juices, and flavoured milks. I want some snacks too. To simplify the account I’ll work on having the drivers delivering boxes to this room and I’ll pay for the whole box. If it won’t all go in the machine it can be left here for the next refill. The boxes of the snacks can be opened and left here because they don’t need to be loaded into machines to record the sales. That’ll make things a lot easier. The drink coolers don’t need to have working coin slots either.”

Janice smiles and says, “Well, that does make the deliveries and bills easy. Our driver just needs to assess the number of cartons then bring them up, and they’re all very good at doing that. He’ll load the drinks into the fridges for you too. Most have a small storage area to chill extras, so they’ll go in there. We won’t need to lock the fridges either. That way we can use some of the older units we’ve not yet put new coin slots in. Nor will we have to go through the process of counting the money. That’ll keep the fridge rental down. Now what do you estimate the usage will be, and what do you want in the way of product lines?”

“Usage will vary a great deal. My regular guests can go through about fifteen to twenty drinks per weekday, and more on weekends. With the number of the kids in the wards varying between fifteen to fifty; well, I can’t say. I’d guess two drinks and a snack per kid per show plus what my regular guests and I want. That will be between fifty to a hundred and fifty drinks, and around twenty-five to sixty snacks per day. So we’ll need daily deliveries to keep up. As to product lines, that’s why I asked for the sales information because I don’t want to affect your other sales too much. I know some of the kids won’t go and buy from the machines in the afternoons if I have them here, so you will lose a little there. But I do want to give them a different choice here so they’ll still be tempted to get their favourites from your machines so as to minimise the impact on your sales from the other machines.”

George grins, “Well, sales through you or the machines are still sales for us, so it’s not a big issue. We deliver six days a week. Until we can get a good handle on average sales I suggest we have a driver drop in at the start of the day and near the end of the day. Once we get a good idea of what’s needed we can go to deliveries early each morning and also mid-afternoon on Saturdays as the last delivery of the day. That’ll top you up for Sunday.” They spend the next twenty minutes talking about what products to carry here and to come up with some lists.

The new shift of nurses are in their start of shift mode when Matt asks, “Janice, please go talk to the kids in the main wards. Ask their opinions of the lists for snacks and drinks to provide on the floor and get their ideas of what to include.” She goes to do that. He turns to George, “Can you suggest a person to provide fresh fruit platters each day?”

George smiles, “I bet you haven’t asked Monica that question!” Matt shakes his head no. “Her family has a top quality organic fruit farm on the edge of the city and they supply fruit to many businesses as well as run a small catering service. They provide fresh fruit platters to a number of places each day. I’ll just give them a ring to ask them to drop in.” He gets out his mobile phone and he hits a speed dial number. When it’s answered he says, “Afternoon, how’s my best mother-in-law today?” He listens and laughs then, “You need to talk to Monica about how to dig up business for you as I’m sitting with a patient of hers who wants some fruit platters delivered each day so I thought to direct the work to you. He’ll be putting on a daily afternoon show for the kids’ wards and he wants some fruit snacks for them too.” He spots Matt waving his hand so he asks her to hold on for a moment and he looks at Matt.

“I want a small platter for me and guests to snack on during the morning and evening as well. I’ll take what’s available.”

George turns back to the phone, “He also wants a smaller platter for snacks of a morning and evening and he’ll settle for what you have fresh. I suggest you come to have a word with him about costs.” After a little more talk he hangs up. He turns to Matt, “Someone will be out to talk to you about sizes and rates.” He glances at his watch. “I bet Monica will get a call just as she reaches her car. She’ll have to grab some papers then come right back here.” Both smile at the picture that creates for them.

Janice returns and they discuss the product lines again. Matt adds, “If you’ve anything new you wish to try out with the kids talk to me. We should be able to put a carton out to see how it goes. Since I’ll pay for what’s delivered here you’ve no exposure on what I try in this room, but you may get some good feedback.” Both of them nod agreement. “Oh, do either of you know where I can get some nice pads or cushions for the kids to sit on while watching a film?”

Janice grins, “I know someone who can supply some nice foam pads with sturdy covers. Each is a square half a metre on a side and they’re one hundred millimetres deep. They’re very comfortable for sitting on the floor as we use them at the scout hall. The same people even supply a good steel storage frame just over a metre high. Heck, you can get some of those and put a bench across the top for the snacks to sit on.”

Matt smiles on having another matter resolved, “Thanks, can you have them contact me with the cost for sixty of the cushions with the right number of storage units. Ask them if they can integrate a secure bench across the top.”

“Sure thing. I’ll ask my neighbour tonight, because he makes them.”

“Don’t you love country towns! It would take me weeks to get that same sort of information in Sydney, if at all.” They all laugh.

George laughs again when Monica enters the room at a brisk walk while waving some papers. She says, “I’d just left the car park to go home when I get a call to come back here. I had to go around the block to get back in. Why didn’t you ask me about this earlier, Matt?”

“Because I only thought of it while talking to George!”

“OK. What’s on your mind?” Matt explains about fruit snacks for him and guests during the day and evening, plus some for his afternoon DVD show events. They soon work out what to supply for the day and evening plus Monica will adjust the afternoon platter size to suit the number of patients on hand each day. Matt gives both companies the details to send the weekly bills to Dorothy for payment.

Just when she’s about to leave Janice asks, “What are you doing about bins for the wrappers and drink containers?” Matt gives her a wide-eyed stare because he hadn’t thought about that. “Just as I thought. I know a group that’ll provide large bins and they’ll empty them each day as well, if you give them a nice donation. It’s a charity organisation that does this at events as a fund raiser.”

“Work out what’s needed, arrange it, and tell Dorothy an amount for a suitable monthly donation, please.” Janice smiles while she turns to leave. Her scout group will get quite a few cans for recycling and a nice donation toward operating and event expenses.

She’s almost at the door when Matt adds, “If you ask Dorothy who to talk to she can give you some leads for discounts on scout gear too.”

She turns to look at him, “You don’t miss much, do you?”

“I try not to.” All of the adults are smiling when they leave.


Matt lies there while he thinks about what he has left to organise. He’s got a bigger bed, a top television, and a computer all set up now while the drinks, snacks, and cushions are all organised. He needs some DVDs but he’s sure he can sort that out on-line or by asking Mary to go shopping. The computer already has his favourite games installed, though he can’t play them for many weeks due to his broken arm. The business is now set up to run itself for several years. He has to wait until his legal staff get back to him on the housing and court issues. He can’t think of anything else he needs to get organised right now so he relaxes. Well, as much as he can relax with his injuries.

A few minutes later one of the doctors comes by for the twice a day check of Matt and his inflatable splints. The doctor and nurse check the bruising, how it’s responding to the treatment and normal healing, then they adjust the splints to be secure. The doctors pop in two or three times a day to do this when they have the time between their other tasks. The process doesn’t interrupt any of Matt’s personal activities so he just carries on with what he’s doing while the doc and nurses do their work.

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