On my last day running the CitiPhone Unit in NY in May of 1988, the department threw me a going-away party.
About 2 1/2 years earlier, I threw this wild shin-ding for my boss, John Gang, who was moving over to CitiMortgage in St. Louis to assume responsibility for their Customer Service & Investigations areas.
We held it in right in our Customer Service area.
We had it catered, with two young ladies dressed as French maids walking around serving hors d’ oeuvres!
And there was a DJ, blasting his music.
(BTW, since we still handled calls from our ATMs (CBC/Citicard Banking Centers), we moved those 5 reps into our training classroom that was already outfitted with the appropriate equipment.)
And as our unit was ~90% women, and most of them under the age of 25, we had lots of people dancing on the work surfaces of the rep workstations.
We even hired a “stripper” (No, not all the way!) who played the role of a very irate & disgruntled job candidate who just got turned down for a job with us!
She “broke into” our unit, past Security downstairs & through our card-access-only door. She made a big racket, yelling & screaming & demanding to see “the guy in charge”.
She came up onto our raised-platform Control Desk where John was!
She pushed him down into a chair (he was in total shock!), took her boom box out of the bag she was carrying & started to dance seductively in front of him.
And she slowly removed her (outer) clothing!
The funniest part occurred when John actually recognized her…as one of his high school classmates!!!
We presented John with a number of gag gifts. Everyone was having a ball as we invited all the other departments in the building @ 100 Baylis Road in Melville to join us for John’s going-away (Investigations, Branch Operations, Dealer Finance, HR, Finance, Marketing, etc.).
The party was held in early January & so many people commented on how it was so much more fun than the Regional Holiday party held at the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury on Long Island!
Ever since that day, my people would tell me, “Just wait ‘til it’s your turn for a going-away party, Mike!”
I never really imagined leaving Customer Service as I loved my job & my people to such an incredible degree!
But then, Bob Cruz gave me that stupid, unjustified rating & I could never work for or near him again.
I still haven’t forgiven him, though he probably doesn’t even know I despise him.
(In fact, about 8 years later, when I was running the Control Desk for the consolidated National CitiPhone in San Antonio, he actually called me up, asking for a favor.
Apparently, he was running a small help desk function in NY, but had no staff scheduling support for his unit.
I assigned one of my best people to help him out. Within a day, we developed a full set of schedules for him, for every employee, for every day of the year. We laid out everyone’s arrival time, shift lengths, breaks, lunch, training, meetings, etc. after reviewing all his volume & talk time records.
Again, I did it for the sake of Citi, not him!)
Returning to our story…
My people rented a local VFW hall, along with a DJ & some “entertainment” for my going-away party
There was plenty of food and free-flowing liquid refreshments.
I didn’t hafta worry about driving as my buddy Freddie Fucaloro picked me up in the morning & they arranged for a limo for me to return home.
Actually, the limo was going to bring my wife, Laurie, to the party, then drive us both back home when it ended.
Well, things were going great when everyone started gathering to form this gigantic circle of people around the dance floor.
In the middle of the floor, there was a chair & behind it, a microphone on its stand.
I was asked to come & sit down.
And then, the entertainment phase began.
This beautiful women came out & started dancing around in a very, er, provocative manner.
She was singing to me as she’d rub her body all up & down me.
Everyone was dying!
This went on for a couple of songs as she started to get a little more “familiar” with me!
She came & sat on (laid across?) my lap & being the gentleman that I was, I made sure that she did didn’t fall or slide off, God forbid!
Only in the most chivalrous manner, of course.
Meanwhile, the people were howling & screaming…clearly going out of their minds.
I had become friends with this bottle of 100 proof Southern Comfort so I was feeling very little, if any, pain.
When the last song finished, she stepped behind me & started speaking into the microphone.
I was kinda expecting this sultry voice when all of a sudden…
…”she” blurted something out.
In a very deep & very masculine voice.
The “she” was really a “he”!
It took me a moment to fully comprehend what was happening, but it rapidly became very clear!
Apparently, everyone but me was in on the joke.
Oh, and poor Laurie!
When the limousine came to pick up at our home in Holbrook (probably a 20-minute ride to the VFW hall), he deliberately “got lost”!
It was all planned out so she would arrive AFTER my li’l surprise! They didn’t want her getting upset or anything!
The funny part is that they had the entire night videotaped.
One of my employees accompanied the cameraman around as he filmed the proceedings. They would interview different people & asked them to say a few words about me.
Later, after we were given the tape to watch for ourselves at home, it was really so wonderful to hear all the kind things they said. Truly brought a tear…several, in fact…to my eyes.
And, of course, he taped the entire charade thingie with the entertainer!
Laurie got so mad when she first viewed the tape!!!
“Look at you! Look at your hands! You’re grabbing her!”
“But, Laurie, that’s a “he”!”
“Screw you (or perhaps something a little stronger)! You didn’t know she was a he at that time! I coulda killed you! No wonder it took forever to get there!”
Sometimes, ya just not gonna win for trying!
We did, in fact, move to Staten Island that very weekend before I started my new job in NY. I got promoted to VP & it was truly a great experience for me.
We wound up changing the name from One Bank Practices to “Process Improvement & Development”.
Or PID, for short.
That’s why I could never hire someone named Stu for the unit!
*pause…waits for them to catch up…Stu… PID…duh*
As I said, it was an absolutely great experience for me.
Citi was actively consolidating various back-office functions in the National Operations Division in NY.
The business in the NY marketplace probably accounted for 70%-75% of all the volume from all our marketplaces combined…NY, California, Illinois, Florida, DC/Maryland, upstate NY…so it made perfect sense to consolidate all operations into NY.
In late ‘91, even as we were scouting out some locations in Long Island City in Queens (to build Court Square II right next to our existing 50-story tower) & Southern New Jersey to build a National Operations Center, down comes the news that Citi has already broken ground for that site in, of all places, San Antonio, TX!
There had been a “senior leadership merger” at the very top between the U.S. Retail Bank & U.S. Bankcards (Citibank Mastercard out of Sioux Falls, SD) and the Bankcards Head, Dick McCrossen, & Steve Price (Retail Bank) wrestle, er, shared full control of Operations across the country.
That’s how the USCC came to be (and why I told McCrossen, when he visited the USCC in early ‘94, how he made a big mistake on building a Retail Bank Operations site using mostly Bankcard leaders & new local hires.)
“You figured you’d just come down & sprinkle a few seeds in the ground, water them & voila! You got yourself a new Operations center!”
But I believe I already told you that story!
OK, that’s it for now.
As always, thank you so much for listening!