Saturday, September 02, 2006

The hustle

We got off early on Friday for the labor day weekend, so our group got together and got our grub on at the Great Jones Cafe in tribute to New Orleans. Nothing says condolences then chowing down po boys, garlic mashed potatoes and catfish Mealtime discussion ranged from Tom Cruise getting booted from Paramount and how lame the VMAs were. Then the discussion got serious as we talked shop and the boss began to pick away at his jalopeno cornbread and told the tale of G

“When G was in college he made money doing market research for movies. He ran around with a small tv and vcr and showed movie trailers to people on the street and then made them fill out surveys. The job was hell because he had to seek particular demographics. The worst was children. One project he was working on was this movie about a seal, I think it was called Andre and the studio wanted see if the trailer clicked with children but he required parents permission who would go apes**t if you went near their kids.

He also got to work the test screenings, which were great because he got to see movies before anyone else did for free. But that was also a pain the as because a lot of the audience members didn’t fill out their surveys properly. This was a problem because the studios would go through surveys with a fine toothed comb.

G’s job was to collect the surveys and give them to his boss who was a chain smoking, sunburned victim of the Bahamas and was in dire need of a nose job. She was a nasty piece of work who would take the incomplete surveys and then the next day the surveys would be magically completed.

One drunken night G learned about the dark underbelly of market research, his boss had broken up with her Trinidadian boyfriend and needed a shoulder to cry on at the last minute which turned out to be G.

After consuming enough margaritas to kill Lindsay Lohan she confessed to G that her job was a joke. The only reason why her firm was hired was because studios had no idea what the hell they were doing so she was there to cover their ass. If a film failed at the box office, the suits could use the test results for the marketing to shield themselves from any blame. That is why surveys had to be filled out, no matter what, which is why if there were any surveys that were blank after the screenings the melanoma girl would fill them out herself.

The next day G quit but he never forgot what he learned there. Fast forward to the dot com boom. After a year working invest banking he jumped into the dot com and became an expert in web design. His only expertise was reading about it on the web and an introduction to anthropology course from college. Besides, people just assumed he was smart since went to Harvard. It made no difference that he almost failed out in his sophomore year. “

“Venture Capital money was being dumped on any thing that had a dot in it and G was getting drenched. But he wouldn’t stay wet for long. The crash went down and for awhile he was living in his loft in Chelsea while the dot com world fell apart. He ended taking the GMAT and getting accepted to Harvard then she called.

G nicknamed her Madam Wong even though she was polish but she had this annoying obsession for Feng Shui. She had like ten mirrors in her office. Her partner was a flamboyant homosexual armed with a Phd in behavioral science. They were latter day Will and Grace expect she was really fat and ugly and he had a receding hairline and was rumored to hire male prostitutes.

The firm specialized in working with the brick and mortar companies in user acceptance testing. Because of his reputation G’s role was business development with the clientele Will’s job was to conduct the surveys and Grace’s gig was to make sure the checks cleared.

It was a good arrangement for awhile until he discovered they were playing games with the companies. Focus groups or as he would call them f**k us groups were supposed to be drawn from a random pool of applicants. It turned out Will had a private stash of applicants that he used all the time and he would influence to do his bidding. When G approached Grace about it she dismissed him telling him it was simply a cost cutting measure to reuse the same applicants since it saved money and time.

G felt like he was back in college again but this was the big time. These were companies that had the money to nail you to a wall if they found out you were ripping them off. Things became tense around the office when Will started to give him the cold shoulder and they began bump G off of some of his projects and pass them on to Will. Then one day he found his computer locked and his stuff in a box. But G knew what was up awhile ago and had made backups of his data. With all the business he had brought in he was not going quietly.

He issued several demands one of them was a hefty severance and immunity from legal action. In return he would not blow the whistle on their operation. At first Will and Grace threatened to sue the pants off of him but then decided to take the deal when their attorney told them although they could get him on violating his confidentiality agreement but the damage from all the exposure would kill their business and leave them vulnerable to an army of ambulance chasers.

So G went off to Harvard B school but instead of focusing on a career at Bear Stearns, he was intrigued about data gathering.. Even though the whole focus group or as he called it F**kus group was flawed. It was a complete rip off because all the research groups were simply dipping into the same pool. He realized that industries needed real time, authentic demographic data. Stuff that hadn’t been tampered by researchers.

That is when he began to develop the idea of creating groups that would feed any particular industry from fashion to television.”

“What’s the deal with the names? Why is each group given these funky names,”

The group let out a collective laugh. Trainer jumped in.

“G is a real military buff, I think he has read Sun Tzu a 100 times. He has a huge hard on for special forces particularly the SEALS. One book he read was Rogue Warrior by the founder of SEAL TEAM 6. It was during the cold war so he called it 6 to confuse the commies to think there were 5 other seal teams which there weren’t.”

“Which why each group has a name that represents something from that industry.” Said the boss as he took a sip of his ice tea.

“Since we deal with sci fi geek s**t we are named Tiberius, which is named after which character in Stark Trek?”

“Kirk. Tiberius is his middle name” I say nonchalantly.

The whole group broke out in cheers.

“Wow. You’re just as pathetic as the rest of us.”

“You have no idea.”

The boss continued.

“G knows that Look-Look and other companies are constantly scouring for this type of data which is why he set these groups up so it would confuse his competitors.”

“So are we going to have jobs?”

Everyone looked at me with the look of “Shut the f**k up.”

My boss went back to picking his jalapeno cornbread.

“I guess we’ll find out after the labor day weekend.” He said then popped a piece in his mouth.


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