On my last day running the CitiPhone Unit in NY in May of 1988, my people threw me a going-away party at the end of the work day.
About 2 1/2 years earlier, I orchestrated 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 the celebration right there in our Customer Service area.
We had the event catered, with two young ladies we hired to dress up as French maids to walk around serving everyone hors d’ oeuvres!
And there was a DJ, BLASTING his music.
(BTW, since we still handled calls from our CBCs/Citicard Banking Centers during the off-hours, we moved those 5 reps into our training classroom that was already outfitted with the appropriate phone 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 stations.
Note: For all the, er, “more mature & well-preserved” members of our audience, it resembled the TV show, “Hullabaloo”! All others, pls Google to better understand the reference.
We even hired a “stripper” (No, not an “all the way” performer!) who played the role of a very irate, disgruntled job candidate who just got turned down after an interview with us!
She “broke into” our unit, apparently passed by Security downstairs without being noticed & charged through our card-access-only door! She made one helluva racket, yelling & screaming & demanding to see “the guy in charge”.
She ran right up onto our raised-platform Control Desk where John was, opening his gifts.
(I’ve been seriously contemplating…for a couple of years, now…whether or not I should actually reveal what one of the going-away presents was!
Ah, what the hell!
It was this rubber, double-headed (!!!), life-like “sex toy/implement” that fit very nicely into a special 3-foot long hot dog bun we got from the commercial bakery right down the road!
Oh, the visuals! (And I actually have a picture of John, replete with his royal robe & crown, proudly displaying it for all the see, but the photograph is currently somewhere in a moving box with a whole bunch of other pictures in storage for the past 3 decades.)
And that sucker (the thingie, not the bun!) cost me $45…over 35 years ago!!!
*sees several readers cringing & immediately unfriending me in Facebook as we speak*
BTW, John tried donating it to the Smithsonian Institute years later, but they refused it after several of their directors 💩 their 👖!
It’s currently on display in the Adam & Eve Adult Toys Museum & Bait Shop in Las Vegas. Pls don’t forget to visit it on your next excursion out there!
Our exotic dancer 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 they once were (Catholic, no less!) high school classmates back in Rockville Centre on Long Island!!!
We presented John with a number of other gag gifts.
BTW, there WAS alcohol being served that night, which may possibly have violated corporate guidelines, but helped contribute to the shenanigans!
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 party…Branch Operations, Dealer Finance, HR, Finance, Credit Ops, Marketing, etc..
The party was held in early January & so many people commented on how much more fun it was than the Regional Christmas party held just weeks earlier at the famed Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury!
Ever since that day, my people would tell me, “Just wait ‘til it’s your turn for a party when you leave, Mike!”
To tell the truth, I never really imagined myself ever leaving Customer Service as I absolutely loved my job & my people to the nth degree!
But then, Bob Cruz (John Gang’s replacement who took the positiom that I truly deserved & had earned) gave me that stupid, unjustified performance rating & I could never work for, or near, him again.
Flashback: In April of 1988, I FINALLY got my ’87 performance review & rating. Prior to that, I had always received “1” (Exceptional) ratings since being hired 10 years earlier.
I anticipated no issues whatsoever as our business had the absolutely best year…EVER.
In the history of modern business.
We led all Customer Service units across the board in every imaginable performance metric: timeliness…customer satisfaction…employee satisfaction…internally-measured quality…productivity…efficiency…NO employee attrition…~2% absenteeism.
I coordinated, and helped design, a special 2-day training program for 100+ Citicorp call center managers across the corporation, then a senior leadership conference for 10+ different Citi businesses with one of the country’s leading telephony experts. We personally trained most of our 96 branches on Citismart. We installed Customer Assistance booths/kiosks in almost every single branch & handled the incoming call volume from the autodialer phones.
OK, we didn’t actually walk on water, though we did wait for the river to freeze over so…
We were spectacular & while I’m certainly bragging about my people, I’m not exaggerating in the least!
Then this Bob Cruz Einstein goes & lowers my rating from a “1” (top 10%) to a “2” (next 15%)!
“But Mike, with a group of your size, it is ‘statistically impossible’ for you not to have anyone ‘on documentation’!”
*the sound you hear is the echo of my brain imploding in 1988*
“You’re lowering my rating because none of my people are in trouble??? Seriously now? That’s what you’re tellin’ me?”
“Yes. It’s statistically impossible!”
“You do realize that our numbers were the absolute best in history, right? No productivity issues, no quality problems. Our attendance is spectacular. Name me one employee who has any type of issue whatsoever that would warrant getting them into official trouble. Name one!”
“Mike, it is statistically impossible…!”
“You wanna know what’s statistically impossible, Bob? THAT’S ME WORKING FOR YOU!”
I still haven’t forgiven him, though he probably doesn’t even know I despise his guts.
(In fact, about 8 years later, when I was running the Control Desk for the consolidated USCC/U.S. Citibanking Center CitiPhone business in San Antonio, he actually called me up, asking for a favor.
Apparently, he was running a small systems help desk function somewhere in NY, but had no staff scheduling support for his unit.
I assigned one of my best people (Nancy Guajardo) 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, lunches, 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…
He “made me” leave the place that I ABSOLUTELY LOVED to work (as I refused to report to someone so unappreciative, so warped, so jealous that he would invent this “statistically impossible” 🐂 💩 as an excuse to lower my rating!
I’m probably the ONLY PERSON EVER that got “punished” for my business “performing too well”!!!!!!!!!!!!
He was unable to substantiate his stupid-ass claim with one single example…NOT one single employee with any type of attendance, quality, productivity or behavioral issue serious enough to give them a formal, written warning…but he kept maintaining this idiotic “statistically impossible” claim!
He should’ve thanked God that he had a business that performed so unbelievably well (a business, by the way, to which he contributed -0-, with writing reports, compiling charts/graphs & attending meetings as his only activities), instead of acting like a spoiled child because he, himself, received a “3” (Average) rating from his boss!
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 good buddy Freddie Fucaloro picked me up in the morning & my people 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 the festivities ended.
Well, things were going great when everyone started gathering to form this gigantic human circle around the dance floor.
In the middle, there was a chair & behind it, a microphone on its stand.
I was asked to come & sit down. My mind immediately flashed back to John Gang’s party several years earlier as I started to wonder what they had in store for me.
And then, the entertainment phase began.
This beautiful woman came out & started dancing around in a very, er, provocative, seductive manner.
She was singing to me as she’d rubbed herself all up & down me.
Everyone was dying!
This went on for a couple of songs as she started to get a little more, er, “familiar” with me!
She came & sat on (laid across?) my lap & being the gentleman that I always 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 just going crazy…clearly out of their minds!
BTW, I had become very close friends with this one particular 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 exactly was happening, but it rapidly became quite clear!
Apparently, everyone but me was in on the joke.
Oh, and poor Laurie!
When the limousine came to pick her up at our home in Holbrook (probably a 20-minute ride, at most, to the VFW hall), the limo driver deliberately “got lost”!
It was all planned out so she would arrive AFTER my li’l surprise dance thingie! They didn’t want her getting upset or anything!
The ironic (?) part is that they had the entire night videotaped.
One of my employees (Annie McLellan) accompanied the cameraman around as they filmed the proceedings. They interviewed 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, they filmed the entire “charade thingie” with the entertainer!
So, one Saturday afternoon, I’m watching the tape with Laurie…and she gets all mad & stuff at what she saw!
“Look at you! Look at your damned 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 that stupid driver 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 Brooklyn. I got promoted to VP as head of “One Bank Practices” & it wound up being a truly great experience for me.
Oh, we soon changed the name of my group to “Process Improvement & Development”.
Or PID, for short.
That’s why I could never hire anyone named Stu for the unit!
*pause…waits for them to catch up*
As I said, it turned out to be an absolutely great experience for me…though I missed my people, and Customer Service in general, waaaaay more than I ever possibly could’ve imagined.
Citi was actively consolidating various back-office functions from across the country into the National Operations Division in NY.
The business in the NY marketplace probably accounted for ~75% of all the volume from all our marketplaces combined…NY, California, Illinois, Florida, DC/Maryland, Maine, upstate NY…so it made perfect sense to consolidate the back-office operations into NY.
Then, in late ‘91, even as we were still scouting some locations in Long Island City in Queens (to erect 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 a consolidated operations site in, of all places, San Antonio, TX!
There had been a “senior leadership merger” at the very top level 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, as well as the branches & Systems, across the entire 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 such a huge mistake in building a Retail Bank Operations site using mostly Bankcard leaders & new local hires.)
“You figured you’d just come down to good ol’ Texas, sprinkle a few seeds in the ground, water them & voila!…you now got yourself a new Operations center!
“Big mistake! And now you’re upset over this place’s performance & you don’t know if you should put up a 2nd building here in San Antonio?
“You got it wrong from the very beginning! Retail banking is a million times more complicated than running a simple credit card business!”
Monster McCrossen, one of the biggest bullies Citi has ever seen, turned 50 shades of RED (trust me, there was no gray anywhere, neither physically nor figuratively!).
But I believe I already told you that story & all its gory, bloody details…#3 “A Citi Tale”!
Not my blood, though!
You’ll find the link to that essay here…
OK, that’s it for now.
As always, thank you so very much for listening!