Gobble, Gobble

Edition: November 2002 - Vol 10 Number 11
Article#: 1356
Author: Repertoire

In a world of turkey and eagles, we tend to count ourselves among the latter. Sure, we all stumble and commit a gaff from time to time. But, overall, we think of ourselves as eagles, soaring among – or above – our peers. “Most people consider themselves eagles, but their audiences rarely do,” notes one Repertoire reader.

With that in mind, Repertoire asked readers of the Dail-E News e-mail service to share their most embarrassing job-related moments of the year, that is, when they acted like real turkeys. Surprisingly, we actually got quite a few responses! Here are a few of them.

Gobble, gobble. Anyone up for some crow this Thanksgiving?


“While visiting one of my larger accounts, another vendor waiting to see the office manager thought he recognized me. We began discussing colleges we attended and places we had worked at, trying to jog our memories. As the office manager entered, the vendor blurted out, ‘You worked with me at Burger King!’”

“During a presentation, my cohort pressed a point too strongly about the customer’s deficiencies and how we could fix it – only to be told in no uncertain terms that his zipper had been down since we arrived.”

“I was in a rather new account last Halloween, and many of the ladies had dressed up. I asked the office manager why she hadn’t dressed up like the others and she looked at me strangely. Apparently she had done so – her hair was in kind of a foo foo – but, other than that, there was nothing too weird. I peddled into a ‘I was just kidding around,’ but I don’t know if that flew or not.”


“I fell asleep in a meeting while selecting a vendor for a $500,00/year contract.”

“Probably, the most embarrassing thing I did this year was to copy a customer on some internal ‘service issue’ e-mails. Not too smart for a sales rep to do. The customer wasn’t too impressed, either.”

“Knowing I was on the way out, I pressed a subordinate to tell me what she knew about my imminent termination. She was in the know, as she was very tight with the new management. She squirmed and dodged the question, but I kept pressing. After she got off the phone with me, she immediately sent the new manager an e-mail detailing our conversation and removing any doubt I had about her loyalty.”

“I’m in telephone sales. When my manager was sitting with me, I was wearing big, dangling earrings that got intertwined with the headset. I had to take off my earrings and headset to untangle them. Fortunately, he’s a great manager and maintained his professionalism.”

“I wore a mismatched pair of socks.”

“As a young rep, I was trained to use my eyes to notice different things while in a client’s office. Once, when calling on the director of a laboratory, I noticed a photo of an older gentleman and a young boy in the director’s office. I asked, ‘Is that a picture of your father and son?’ I assumed I would receive a glowing response, but the only thing glowing was my face from embarrassment. The man was not the director’s father, but her husband. This was a great learning experience, as it taught me the value of not making assumptions, but rather asking valid questions.”

“I spilled food on myself during lunch and didn’t have an extra shirt for the afternoon.”

“I shot too good a game of golf and drove the ball too far when playing business golf.”

“I wore two different colored shoes the day I was to speak at a program.”

“A trainee raised his hand during a product presentation and asked, ‘Excuse me, what exactly are we going to be held responsible to know once we are in the field?’ You can imagine my surprise, frustration and exasperation. Needless to say, my reply was not favorable. After I had a chance to cool off, I realized that regardless of the apathy or attitudes I might encounter, I was not only a manager, but an educator as well. What a turkey I had been! A difference of opinion or a lack of understanding is an opportunity to have a meeting of the minds.”

“The most embarrassing thing I did this year was at the IHC Annual Conference in Salt Lake City. I played their annual golf tournament. Usually I bring my clubs, not this time; I rented. The golf course wanted to hold my license until I returned the clubs. After the round, I left the clubs for an attendant to take care of and left. This was on a Wednesday. The next Friday, I had a 6:00 a.m. flight back to Chicago. On the way to the airport, I looked for my license but couldn’t find it. At the airport, they wouldn’t let me board the plane. I called the golf course, but it was only 5:00 a.m. and there was no answer. I missed the flight and returned to the hotel. One $80 cab ride later, I had my license and had to make the embarrassing call to the COO of my company and explain to a non-golfer why I wouldn’t be in the office. As you can imagine, I have been taking a ribbing for this for the last three months.”

“In describing how one of our products is used in the clinical setting, I mentioned the male anatomy in explaining where the product is affixed, rather than the female anatomy, which was the case.”

“I gave a very elaborate explanation of how a product worked, only to find out that what I said wasn’t true.”

“I gave the wrong price proposal to the wrong customer.”

“I introduced [the] marketing director of O&M to my co-worker as the marketing director of McKesson! Luckily, it was at an evening function, and everyone thought I was just having some fun. D’oh!”

“I slipped and fell flat on my rear while walking into an important meeting.”

“I forgot the name of one of my new employees – to his face!!”

“I brought samples of our products to one distributor meeting, labeled with another distributor’s logo and information. Some of the sales reps at the meeting were giving me quite a hard time!”

“During a committee presentation, the bracelet I was wearing flew off my arm and across the boardroom table. Not a professional move!!”

“I was trying to teach a rep whom I had never spoken with before. I was given his name, the company that he worked with, and the city in which he worked. I called the rep, but wound up calling the competition. When the person I was speaking with didn’t know whom I was trying to reach, I kept trying to make him think of his co-worker. Needless to say, he never figured out whom I was talking about and I just looked a little silly. Fortunately, I realized my mistake before taking it any further up the chain!”

Manufacturer’s Reps

"Many years ago on one of my first solo calls, I was trying to impress the CFO of a big account I was hoping to land. The company had just moved into a new building and I was getting the tour. I made the appropriate comments about how well organized the warehouse looked and asked the right questions. I felt confident that I was making a good impression. We ended the tour in the 'executive hallway' which was covered with abstract canvas paintings. I remembered hearing that the CFO thought of himself as a very good artist. I said to the CFO, 'I've heard you're a very talented artist. Did you paint those?' I smiled and waited for him to be flattered that I would notice. Instead, he tried not to laugh when he said, 'No, those are copies of Picasso.' That was 13 years ago and I STILL am reminded of that!"

“While working at local trade show in the Midwest, I met a woman who stopped by the booth. I detected an eastern U.S. accent and told her I recognized the accent as either Philadelphia or New York. I was surprised someone would come from that far away to this local show. She then informed me that she had been born with a problem with her tongue, and that the accent I was hearing was actually a speech impediment. No more guessing regional accents for this idiot!”

“I was volunteered at the AmeriNet Regional meeting to work with some jugglers who were tossing knives!”

“I was on my way to one of the most important customer meetings of my career when I noticed that I was low on gas and my car was filthy. I stopped at a gas station with a carwash. I rolled down my window, plugged in my code, and proceeded through the carwash. As the warm water came at me from my left side at full force, it was then I realized I had forgotten to roll up my window. Needless to say, I had to detour back to my house to change clothes.”

“I showed up for a demo without paper in the machine.”

“While performing a demonstration before a customer to illustrate the clinical superiority of my product, the competitor’s product actually performed better! I wanted to crawl under a rock and die. I did end up getting the business anyway.”

“During a managers meeting with a large IDN, I was completely prepared for my first presentation. I confidently set up my laptop and light box and knew exactly what I was going to show, since I had rehearsed the previous evening. Problem: I could not get the picture on the screen. After selecting the different buttons on the In Focus unit, one of the managers pointed out that I had not connected the cord to the laptop. The lesson I learned was to check out all connections and be able to laugh at myself.”


“I started a new job on December 31, 2001. I had been with my previous employer for 10 ½ years. I answered the phone twice this past year using my former employer’s name. Fortunately, one call was a former co-worker who just laughed, and the other call was from my husband! Thank goodness they just gave me a really hard time about it. But, I was embarrassed just the same!”


“I accidentally walked into the women’s locker room at a local hospital.”

“I imitated one of my VPs at a very large meeting, only to find out that this particular VP was at the meeting. Fortunately, this VP thought it was very funny, and there were no hard feelings.”

“I ran into an old friend and asked how she was doing. Then, based on her physical appearance, I asked how her pregnancy was going. You guessed it: She wasn’t pregnant.”

“I responded to a sensitive e-mail and accidentally hit “send to all,” rather than just the intended recipient. There were no horrible consequences – just lots of embarrassment to go around!”


“I had a demo for the OR one afternoon. On the way, I stopped and got a hoagie and told them, ‘No dressing.’ I ate the hoagie, and when I arrived at the hospital there was a big oil stain on the front of my trousers.”

“I checked my carry-on bag that held my presentation and clothes. I arrived on schedule, but my suitcase didn’t. I missed the presentation and lost the business.”

“I sent my cost prices to a customer when I thought I was sending list prices.”

“I nodded off during a client interview.”

“I introduced someone by the wrong name.”

“In a closing meeting with a customer, I said something to the effect that he should call us if we could do anything more for him, but that we didn’t want to get in his hair. I caught myself as I realized that he was about 90 percent bald. Luckily, he didn’t react and we just acted like nothing happened. The person I was with didn’t let me forget it, though.”

“Our purchasing department is in the same building as our day care center. On Halloween, it is customary that the children dress in their costumes and parade through the business departments. The staff is encouraged to dress up and hand out treats. I avoided making any appointments with reps that day, but it became necessary to do so with one rep. So, I carefully scheduled the appointment two hours after the parade time and had professional clothes available to change into. Well, the parade started two hours late. Not only did the rep show up just as the parade began, but he had his boss with him! Here I was, dressed in my witch outfit! The first thing we did was to watch the parade. Then we did our business. What a first impression!”

“As we age, the noises associated with our internal organs doing healthy things can entertain those around us and cause a suitable amount of embarrassment as well.”