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Have you ever visited an SAP location? What was the first thing that you noticed, that is different from the place where you work? Was it the free lunch? The permanently crowded coffee-corners? The strange SAP-speak (every sentence contains at least one acronym, that you have never heard of before)? The bohemian style of Birkenstock-sandals and archeologically interesting “SAP TechEd 1964” T-Shirts, worn by SAP-veterans?

Let me guess: you were impressed by the sheer amount of higher-prized cars in the SAP parking lots? I know I am right.
If you should have the bad luck of getting cornered into a talk with a founder, board member or an SAP employee, you might think that SAP is in the transportation business. Fiercest discussions about the latest gimmicks of german car makers, newest constructions of sail boats or cream-of-the-cream tech-tools for private planes make SAP customers and partners drain the last remains of free memory out of their brains. As tech-savvy as SAP employees are, they can recall all details about car performance, engines and horse powers (no, not the J2E-engine – that’s more silicon power), sail boat specifications, AMG upgrade tunings for Mercedeses, tracking & logging devices for planes and latest tank-armor (for the consultants working at customer sites).
Even the ecologically minded german SAP colleagues, who evangelize biking, praise hiking and proudly display debris of insects between their teeth from high-speed chases in the Walldorf forest, cannot be trusted. Or do you know anything about light-weight carbon-frames for bikes, sixty-seven gear shifts or hyperhidrosis-absorbing and air-conditioned Birkenstock shoes?

You must know the following to understand: SAP employees in many locations are eligible to have a company car. Not just any car: they can select from a wide range of vehicles from different manufacturers up to a certain limit. And over the next five years they are basically paying of with pay check deductions the car. And then the selection starts again.

In an SAP-internal discussion forum for all german speaking employees, the so called “Infobörse” (“info exchange”), intensive, heated and lengthy discussions about the civil right of an SAP employee to have winter tires with higher speed limits than 190km/h, hifi-equipment and multimedia home theater sound-systems, lowrider equipment, horse and fuel powers, sport chassis versus family vans, car paintings, defense equipment, high-voltage electrical fences and mine fields against curious cats from neighbours and so on, regularly spice up the life between the code-coding and customer-calls.

When this sounds threatening enough to you, here are several rules, of how to avoid awkward situations in direct contact with SAP, should you happen to mistakenly mention the low-priced version of your own car.

Rule number one: Never ever mention any form of transportation within the range of one kilometer of an SAP employee. When you arrive at SAP and you’re being ask: “How was the travel?”, your alarm bells should ring, the whistles should start blowing, defense mode must come up. Excuse yourself with the sudden decease of your landlord, the cramp in your small left toe or the pregnancy of your great-grand mother and run for a safe place. The mistake of answering the questions is only a red herring to proceed with plane-type, the car you were driving to and from the airport, the pride about german Autobahns with no spead-limits and the latest adventures with the navigation system (Famous is the story of the colleague, who planned to drive to Madrid in Spain for vacation, and ended up in Helsinki, Finland, because he put the navigation CD upside down in the system, but that’s a completely different story).

Rule number two: Never ask from where the money for the cars comes from. That’s why you don’t have a company car. Or if you have, don’t mention the brand. It’s very hard to stand the pitiful looks of a room full of SAP employees. Even stronger men broke into shambles and started crying right on the spot. SAP employees even add cruelty to humility, by always offering paper handkerchiefs of another german company, of the kind that do not fall apart, when you look at them, like other non-german brands tend to do.

Rule number three: If you cannot use rule numbers 1 and 2, then first I wish you good luck, and second I recommend to mention an impressive vehicle and beat them with something unheard. But rehearse it before, so that it sounds believable and possible. No idea what I mean? Let me give you this example:

One SAP customer, a not-so-small Saudi Arabian oil company, had been invited to come to Walldorf, to visit the SAP headquarter and lead some discussions and negotiations with SAP. The customer asked prior to the scheduled date for the closest airport to SAP’s headquarter in Walldorf, as they planned to come with their company jet.

Walldorf of course, has an airport, but that’s just for the local aeronautics and parachuting club. The next larger town beside Heidelberg (with it’s military airport), is Mannheim, a city with 325,000 inhabitants. This is the airport which the SAP employee recommended to use.

On the day of the meeting, the booked meeting room was prepared, the SAP colleagues were ready for demos, when a sudden call reached them. The Saudi-Arabian customer apologized, but they would be two hours late. The reason was: Mannheim airport redirected their plane to Frankfurt, because their company jet, a Boeing 747, was more than just a little bit too large for Mannheim.

What’s the moral of this story? Space shuttles, submarines, horse-carts and broomsticks were not yet used to arrive at SAP in Walldorf. The surprise factor might help you showing off and have your peace from some questions…

More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.

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3 Comments

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  1. Dirk Herzog
    visit the SAP parking space during the formula one weekend in Hockenheim. If you know an expensive car you will surely find it there.

    One more Walldorf rumour:
    One day a manager came to the ISZ (International education center) and asked the receptionist to park his Porsche, he was a bit in a hurry. The receptionist was angry and told him it was not her job to park cars. There the manager replied: “I’m Hasso Plattner and if I tell you to parl my car this is your job.”
    I don’t know if the story is true, but if it isn’t it really might have been.

    Best regards
       Dirk

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