Set-tripping and the Art of Parts Procurement

Mondays. I fucking hate Mondays. I am muttering this weekly mantra as I walk into a meeting with a problematic vendor yesterday morning. After greetings, bowing, and the compulsory 30 seconds of silence, I open with a blunt: “Your parts suck, Suzuki-san. One in every twenty are failing incoming testing. This is unacceptable.”
“But Yoshida-san, you asked for them to be made as cheaply as possible…” he offers, weakly.
It is time to unload with both barrels: “Never at the expense of quality. Never. Did we ask you to make shitty parts, or inexpensive parts? Because if the last ten years of recession has taught us anything, it is that these two qualities are not mutually exclusive. We have 50 million Chinese vendors knocking on the door, just begging to take over any work you can’t handle.”
“But Yoshida-san, any such parts could not be stamped MADE IN JAPAN,” he replies weakly. This is set-trip number one. He may still actually be under the illusion that sub-component origin makes any difference to anybody at all. Since the part he makes is at no point visible to the consumer this tactic is doubly weak. Plus, he obviously has not looked at his parts under a microscope like we have.
“You have raised another point we need to discuss, Suzuki-san. You are cold-stamping the MADE IN JAPAN on the parts after the molding process, which is causing hairline fractures in the underlying structure and possibly even resulting in part failure. This stamping, which we silently allowed but never gave initial approval for, must stop immediately.” It is Monday and I am tired of educating these spoiled sons of rich industrialists that have never truly been weaned from the bubble days of decades ago. I find that the local mom and pop operations, lean and hungry from scrounging for any jobs for years on end in a demanding marketplace, often work out better in the long run.
“Just who do you think you are? You just happen to be handling this account on a temporary basis! I’m not used to working with people like you, I work with top procurement officers at Sony, Matsushita, Canon…” Thus begins set-trip number two, and I’m in no mood. The “people like you” remark is a thinly-veiled insult. He’s calling me a dirty foreigner, the cultural equivalent of landing on Go To Jail in today’s business world. His sales partner, silent until now, immediately switches into damage control mode with deep bowing and apologies, trying to over-volume his boss, who’s still verbally recounting Major Corporations and Deals of Days Past. I am still in a kind of shock from the racial slap-in-the-face and find it hard to stay in the room. It is Monday, and I am within swinging distance of somebody I truly despise, close enough to smell his halitosis and watch beads of frothy spittle erupt from his lips as the bout of verbal diarrhea sputters to a violent, yet inevitable end.
If I were in a different type of organization, this is around where I would demand a finger. But this is mere fantasy. Instead, I walk out and go to Procurement, and ask the manager in charge of the account to go down and negotiate.
Later, the manager reports he was surprised to find the vendor agreeable to all of our requests. He asks what happened in the meeting before he went down, as Suzuki-san was atypically silent and his underling took control of the whole meeting. I explain what happened, including the gaijin insult. “Well,” he replies without missing a beat, “maybe you should try that more often. Sure makes my job easier!” He winks and punches me on the arm. Bastard.
I fucking hate Mondays.

5 thoughts on “Set-tripping and the Art of Parts Procurement”

  1. Back with a vengeance; I started writing this yesterday but had no time to post it. Collapsed on sofa when I got home and opened my eyes – poof! – a new day in all its sunshine glory, to be spent at the desk.
    Fuck Mondays and fuck civilization.

  2. Yeah, right on, Jus! “People like you” is my favorite racial/gender insult! I’ve had it hissed to me by whitey racists (park ranger at Hearst Castle, for instance) and yellow people alike. Yeah, power to the people!

  3. Yeah I hate that “People like you” insult. I’ve gotten it lots of places, hard to believe its still going around…

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