Those travels lead us often to places that not even the most accurate CIA-maps have covered. Customers, for whatever incomprehensible reason, seem to enjoy headquartering themselves at places like Orlando (no, not the actor), Paris (no, not the heiress) or Easter Islands. With other words: we have to endure long flights in business class, drive crappy German rental cars and choke on unfamiliar local so-called “food” like Hamburgers or Steaks.
Knowing this, it might be not a big surprise for you, that the only way to survive this is to add some kind of sportsmanship into the burdens of travel. Ian K. and some of his friends started an SAP internal competition that challenges them with finding a souvenir at each location they visit. But not just “a” souvenir, it must be the ugliest souvenir possible. The Iggy Pop of souvenirs, so to speak.
Not so difficult, you might say? Not so fast. Certain rules have to be abided.
The first one is a financial rule. With the battering costs of the free company cars, the free lunch and free coffee, not much money is left for the average SAP-Joe and -Jane. The limit that was set is US$ 35. Not one cent more, but much less, if possible.
The second rule has something to do with displaying and catching the attention. Each souvenir has to be displayed by the person who is awarded the souvenir at a visible place in the office for at least three months. You can imagine how embarrassing it is for the person in such an office, when the crowds of curious SAP-folks stand laughing their butts of in the door. Not only the noise but also the “cleanliness” of the environment suffers, when you consider the spit from laughing people and the coffee and tea stains covering the walls and floors of people, who lost their self-control in front of such a souvenir.
The third rule is more from a practical point of view, due to the second rule. Each souvenir must have an expiration limit of at least 3 months. We still remember the preserved swordfish that developed this particular odor of unwashed socks and bachelor’s cooking. For whatever reasons it went long time undiscovered, but when the fish started moving again, the thought occurred that the white stains on the fish were actually not scales, but maggots.
Whatever souvenir it started, some of them became legends. One simple one was the festoon paper palm, that spread up to the ceiling and was a souvenir from – yes – Hawaii. The documents do not unveil the name of the SAP customer in Hawaii, which someone has to concede, is at a very attractive location. But some consultants tried hard to get the customer name out of the souvenir competitors. In pretending to be the SAP gardeners they flocked close to the paper palm to overhear conversations, watered and trimmed the very palm and hence were discovered.
Much better for the mood of the awarded person was “The Rabbit”. An erected clay rabbit with blue surface paint and decorated with this tasteful golden glitter made first the donee break into tears of shame, but soon recovered, when he detected a stunning effect on human behavior, when being close to this rabbit. Every visitor felt the need to *touch* the rabbit. We are still not sure, if this was a sign of childhood neglect of SAP folks or the curiosity of sick minds, but afterwards their fingers were full of this glitter, without them noticing it. And the subsequent actions like arranging the hair, biting nails or picking in one’s nose spread the glitter all over the persons face and body.
I personally was only once witness of how a professional like Ian K. went through the aisles of a souvenir-shop in Orlando, while attending the SAPPHIRE. His professional taste and goal-orientedness was stunning. With a quick glance he spotted in the 5th aisle, second row a decorative ensemble of several shells with light blue paint, a cross, a kneeling praying child and a lamp-light for only 29.95 plus tax. My first proposal for the singing fish on the board was rejected, but I signed up as an attentive souvenir apprentice. And last time I was successful: from TechEd Vienna I came back with a photo of Shai Agassi and myself on it. Some people are now of the opinion that the ugly part of this souvenir actually is not Shai, but I am not listening to those voices
More anecdotes can be found in the Humour@SAP weblog series.