A Tale Of Two Industries

A Tale Of Two Industries Banking and Technology

In July, they came for the candy.

The Fun Size Snickers bars. The mini peanut M&M packets. Those seductive, single-serving afternoon pick-me-ups in glass jars on every secretary’s desk. The bane of employee waist-lines everywhere and now, evidently, corporate’s bottom line as well.

In August, they came for the free checking.

The Fed was cracking down. The nettlesome Dodd-Frank regulations yet another nuisance. Banks couldn’t charge retailers 44 cents every time you swiped a debit card anymore. They had to make do with 21 cents.

And it’s not as though the bank could drill for more oil or code a sparkling new app. So the bank took it out on customers. Down came the glossy “free checking” posters. Up went the monthly service charges. The nickel and dime defense of a $100 billion dollar bank under siege. Across the street, Bank of America raked in $6.2 billion last quarter, but it would still like your $5 for the right—the privilege—to access your own money.

Bank of America Protests

In September, they came for the Wall Street Journal.

As part of the ongoing effort to reduce non-discretionary spending, the memo read, Wall Street Journal subscriptions could no longer be expensed to the bank. Besides, they whispered at the water coolers, gory headlines of the Dow’s swoon and Greece’s contagion were hurting company morale.

In October, I left before they came for me.

I headed West. Down I-70. Past faded Nostalgiaville posters of Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and the other comic book heroes of America’s glory yesteryears. Past weather-beaten Dairy Queens and flickering, neon Vacancy motel signs. Over rickety bridges, across over-grown railroad tracks, through creaking tunnels. The rusted, corrugated innards of an Empire hollowed out by endless wars abroad.

I drove until I reached—well, not quite the Promised Land—but Utah. Land of 3.2% beers, 2-3 wives a Mormon, and a marketing gig at a global tech company.

– – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

It’s different here.

Blue-jeaned, flip-flopped geeks call corner shots over pool tables and Mountain Dews. They debate Flash versus HTML for code. Rodgers versus Brady for fantasy football. All the while oblivious to the glum news on the flat-screen TVs. More bleak jobless claims on CNN. The red-inked alphabet soup sliding by on CNBC tickers.

There’s a fifty-foot projector for X-Box, PS3, Wii, or NFL Sunday Ticket. And simply, The Game Room. A vaulted, dimly-lit cavern rimmed with sleek Macs and crumpled Red Bulls for the World of Warcraft addicts.

The vending machines are stuck in the 1950s: Wrigley gum packs for a quarter. Potato chips for a dime more. Next to buckets of crisp apples and oranges delivered fresh every morning for the health-conscious. Next to endlessly stocked fridges of Coke, Dr. Pepper, and root beer for the rest.

The bank conference rooms are named after states. Starchy, windowless cells before blocky computers sputtering along on Internet Explorer 6. My cubicle bordered Virginia. We listened to the dismal Q3 report in Georgia. The $7 million drop in the marketing budget, in Florida.

Waterboy Movie Poster

The tech conference rooms are named after Adam Sandler movies. The pre-sell out ones, anyway: The Waterboy, Happy Gilmore, Billy Madison. For no reason, really. The founder just loved Adam Sandler. Then he sold out to the tech company for a cool $1.8 billion. He now cruises around town in a yellow Lamborghini and generally does whatever he pleases.

Corporate moved in. The office expanded. They ran out of Adam Sandler flicks so they moved on to Will Ferrell movies. The Thursday product marketing session gathers in Blades of Glory. Hooded coders slurp Mountain Dews in Old School. The all-hands meeting—the one where corporate told us 2012 target growth is 30%-50%—that was in Talladega Nights.

– – – – – – — – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

The bank issued stern memos. Do not incite the protestors outside. Do not speak to the press regarding Occupy Wall Street. That’s what the lawyers are for.

The tech company sends chiding emails. Motherly ones. Remember to turn off the 50-foot projector after the Rock Band benders. Don’t hoard the chocolate or it will be replaced with almonds. Tone down the Halloween party shenanigans.

Word has it, it got out of hand last year. Someone narc’d. The local fire warden had to be summoned. Twenty-seven hundred partiers, evacuated. Led by two-dozen blue-painted midgets hired for the day as Smurfs. Global headquarters back in California was not amused.

But corporate could not get mad. So long as the geeks kept stringing together billion dollar quarters, the board reasoned, they could do whatever they pleased.

There are rumors of a no-holds-barred indoor paintball tournament at the next one. Why not?, the coders snicker. The new campus will be ready by then. A sprawling $100 million, 230,000 square foot glass palace. With an indoor rock-climbing wall. Just because.

Adobes New Campus

The boss will shoot me in the face tomorrow.

I will drive to work dressed as a Zombie in an Apple shirt. Dave will don a Microsoft t-shirt. Nate, an Oracle one. We’ll stagger back and forth in the Anger Management conference room stiff-armed and groaning from 11-12. We’ll be pummeled by a firing squad of senior VP’s armed with Nerf guns. And they’ll chuckle, unload a few more volleys, before we all break for lunch.

We say lunch. We mean dessert. Truckload after truckload of raw sugar, corn syrup, phenylalanine, and artificial colors dropped off by the crate-full. A $10,000 cornucopia of Candy Corn, Reeses Pieces Peanut Butter Pumpkins, Almond Joys, and an emphasis on Paydays.

In October, they came with the candy.


From The PBH NetworkHot On The Web
Hot On The Web