In Bad Company

, , , , , | Right | February 21, 2021

I work for a small start-up website used for producing yearbooks. As the main non-technical staff member, I’m almost always the one who answers the phone.

I answer a call from a man claiming to represent a company doing much the same as us, only in India. They apparently want to partner with us but want to get some more information about the business first.

I’m suspicious of his actual motives, since all my requests for information about the company he is calling from are met with vague and evasive answers. I send over some basic marketing materials — nothing proprietary or even un-Googleable –hoping that will satisfy him.

The next day, he calls back.

Caller: “I’m very upset with you! I wanted much more detailed information about the company! I wanted financial data! You not sending this is clear evidence that you aren’t taking this partnership seriously!”

Me: “We aren’t prepared to hand over any private information to anyone who refuses to tell us anything about who they were or what they want.”

The caller becomes extremely aggressive and rude.

Caller: “Who do you think you are to make that decision? You’re just an account manager! You’re not anybody of consequence in the business! Put me through to someone who has the power to decide things!”

While “account manager” is my somewhat official job title, the nature of the company means that my actual duties are many and varied, effectively covering anything non-technical or executive. The organisational structure of the company is very flat; there is the CEO and then there’s everyone else.

Me: “The only person who can decide on partnerships is, in fact, the CEO, and if I take the proposal to him without being able to even give the company’s name, he will not be interested. You’re asking for a lot of extremely sensitive information about our company, but since you are unwilling to even give the name of your company, there is very little incentive for me to trust you.”

By now, the whole room is staring at me.

Caller: “What would it take for you to trust me?”

Me: “At the very least, you could give me the name of the company and a contact number so that I can do my own research before getting back in touch if I want to.”

Caller: *Shouts* “FINE, I’LL EMAIL YOU!” *Click*

I recapped the exchange to the CEO, who said that while I’d handled it well enough, I’d been far too patient and polite, and that if the guy called back again, I had his full backing to tell him to “f*** off” or to pass the phone over so the CEO could say it himself.

I never did get the company name or hear from the man again. To this day, I’m not entirely sure what his goal was, other than being vaguely shady, but if his principal tactic is to berate and belittle the gatekeepers at a business, I don’t think he’s likely to achieve it.

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