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Open Features: David Cunningham's Expenses

A £35,000 overspend on the Mystery Trip to Greece for privileged customers. And now a £95.000 overspend on the San Diego Mystery Trip!

No wonder the company owner is annoyed. And he ain't seen the end of it!

Derek McQueen brings us another deliciously entertaining tale.

David Cunningham’s office was on the seventh floor of the Jacob Building
on the outskirts of Slough. Heavy rain lashed the windows overlooking the
M4 motorway. Not that DC, as he was known, was taking any interest in
the view.

The office was superbly furnished, reflecting his status as Marketing
Director of a £170 million turnover company. Jacobs were market leaders
in the surgical tools business and much of their success was down to DC’s
marketing skill.

Two inviting, brown leather, settees sat on deep pile Wilton carpet in blue
and gold and as a personal touch, Cunningham had selected signed,
limited edition screen-prints by Terry Frost, for the panelled walls. The
total effect was stunning and visitors were impressed and enchanted in
equal measure. DC certainly had superb, if expensive, tastes.

One of DC’s most successful marketing ploys was the Jacob Company,
annual Mystery Trip. The chosen five star mystery destination was kept
secret until two weeks before the departure date. Qualifying customers
were required to have placed orders for a minimum of half a million
pounds in the preceding 12 months. The sales promotion was a success
from the beginning and the Jacob market share of the surgical tools
business moved to a record high.

Joseph Jacob, the Company Chairman and Managing Director had shown
little enthusiasm for DC’s Mystery Trip campaigns. J J’s strength was
figures and the ‘bottom line’, that and being born a ‘Jacob’ of course.

Cunningham’s concept of taking customers abroad seemed to him to be
just another example of DC’s fanciful lifestyle and extravagant outlook.

At one of the early board meetings Joe was heard to mutter ‘What’s wrong
with bloody Blackpool’, when DC announced that the Mystery Trip had been
arranged at the five star, Fairmont Hamilton Princess Hotel, Bermuda.

There would be 47 of Jacobs' best customers in the party, travelling
business class with British Airways. Cunningham was disappointed that his
boss had declined to join the group. It would have been the perfect way for
the MD to meet many valuable customers in the space of a week.

The rain was torrential now, rivulets streaming down the windows of DC’s
office. He looked at his Rolex for the sixth time in ten minutes. It was half
past two and Joe Jacob, his boss, had asked him to be in his office at
three. What’s more Joe had said that the meeting was important and would
he, ‘please cancel any other engagements he might have’. Joe had not
revealed what the meeting was to be about. neither was he his usual smiley self.

David was uneasy. Adrian Fox, the Financial Director, had told
him that the projected year-end figures were looking decidedly ‘iffy’ for the
first time for many years and that Joe was looking critically at all sectors of the business in both manufacturing and marketing. ‘There was no question
of redundancies as far as I know’, Fox had said.Salaries were the major
proportion of Sales and Marketing expense, and David would need to look
elsewhere, to reduce his share of the budget.

It was one minute to three. DC slipped on his, navy, Savile Row jacket,
picked up his papers and briefcase and made his way to JJ’s office suite.

“Have a seat David. Glad you could make it. I won’t keep you long.”

J J paused, studying the spreadsheets in front of him. “Adrian and I have
been looking at year-end projections and they’re worrying to tell the truth.
We’re not used to that eh?”

Joe picked up the ‘phone and asked Margaret, his secretary, to bring fresh
coffee. After chatting about the miserable weather and making other small
talk for a few minutes the MD got down to business.

“I want to talk about the Mystery Trip costs and expenses David. As you
know I’ve let you run with the campaigns, despite having a few
reservations and there’s no doubt that, for the most part, they have been
successful. Because things are tight, I’ve looked again at the last two
years, that’s to say your trip to Greece and the one this year to Southern
California. San Diego was it?”

Joe Jacob reached for the box file, ready to hand, on the richly tooled,
leather inlaid, desk. David gazed vacantly at the cheap still life prints on J
Js walls, waiting for the interrogation to begin'

“Just take me through each of these two trips David. Can we look at the
Aegean cruise first? You had a budget for this of £148,000. At the time, I
thought that was generous. Even so, the bills came in at £183,000; that’s
to say, a £35,000 overspend. I thought you had this one really nailed down
David. We're talking 30 percent plus here. It was really disappointing to
say the least. What on earth happened?”

David Cunningham referred to his own files. “We would have been right on
track without the problems on Santorini Joe. The cruise was superb and the
customers just loved it. The cruise ship tenders ferried us to the island and
then everyone went up the cliffs on packhorses. Three hours later, as
scheduled, we made our checks for the return tender. Three people were
missing; I couldn’t believe it. After a further half hour, we had to make the
decision to get back to the ship ourselves; we had already delayed the fully
booked ship by 30 minutes. I just had no alternative – the three would
have to get back to civilisation under their own steam. The Cyclades
captain was furious at the delay, ordered ‘up anchor’ and set off for Rhodes
and our last two days of the cruise. As the ship began to shudder and
slowly move forward, we spotted three figures on the tiny harbour. They
were gesticulating with their arms and leaping up and down, in a frenzy, to
attract the ships attention. When they realised that we were moving away,
the three disappeared from view. That’s that, I thought, but no. A
high-speed launch powered its way towards us, came alongside and
miraculously we were able to hook them one by one onto the ship. There
was a £30,000 penalty for holding up the cruise ship and I picked up the
tab for the rescue launch. Remember these are half a million pound
customers Joe. What else could I do?”

J J stared moodily at the file, saying nothing. Eventually, after a prolonged
silence, he reached for a second sheaf of papers. David Cunningham
grimaced at what he was sure was coming next.

“This one, the San Diego trip, is really the last straw David,” Joe said. You
have an over-spend here of £95,000; that’s a total of £195,000. It’s getting
ridiculous David, don’t you think?”

He banged the file on his desk by way of extra emphasis and waited for a
response.

“I couldn’t agree with you more Joe and I’m very sorry that this has
happened. If you look carefully at the invoices, all the excess spend, plus
another £4,500, was due to the Mariachi Band incident. As you know, the
Intercontinental Hotel, in San Diego, is close to the Mexico border and the
hotel hire a Mariachi band to entertain in the reception areas and play for
guests relaxing by the pool. The ‘Delgado Cruz’ was a family band. Senor
Delgado, the father, in his late sixties, played violin, his two sons playing
guitars. To cut a long and sad story short Joe, one of our party, Alan
Priestley, of ‘Taylor Instruments’, fancied a photograph of himself with the
band, as a souvenir of the trip. As he approached the old guy, one of the
sons for some reason, thought he was going to attack him and made a
grab at Alan. There was the most horrendous free for all at the side of the
pool and seven people finished up in the water.

All three of the Mariachi band, three of our people and one bystander, the
hundred-year-old, Italian violin, both guitars, richly embroidered costumes
and hats plus Alan’s top of the shop Hasselblad camera that, unlike the
instruments, sank like a stone.

“That’s just horrendous David – absolutely unacceptable and horrendous.
Ninety-five thousand pounds, I ask you, ninety-five thousand pounds, my
God.” J J spun round in his chair in anger and frustration. His face was
puce.

David Cunningham slowly opened his Underwood Italian leather brief case.
Inside were two envelopes. The first contained his carefully worded letter
of resignation. The second, marked for his personal attention had arrived
by special delivery a few hours earlier. It was from the Eden Law Firm of
Santiago, California. It contained a writ for damages of three quarters of a
million dollars. It further advised that they were acting for the
Intercontinental Hotel together with the Delgado Cruz family.

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