Jabes waved his hand in dismissal, “I’m impressed by this whole story, mind you, but I don’t see how this helps. We’re nearly out of time.” I assured him we’d meet the deadline and continued, “In that time on the shop floor I learned more about marketing and product lines than anyone in VISCA, especially the management, through observing both customers and my fellow employees. Twenty people were at my initial training, picked from over two thousand applicants. Of those twenty only four were still employed when I left the company ten years later. The rest made mistakes. Half of them couldn’t take the work load or the pressure and disrespected their shift leader. Or they just disappeared, didn’t show one day. One of them, a stock control assistant, was dismissed over a customer finding an out-of-date yam mash on the shelf. Two of them had spillage or breakage accidents within five yards of a customer, prompting two very expensive out-of-court settlements as part of the FoC Consumer Wellbeing, Comfort and Safety Guarantee act. The last one, though, did the worst thing he could have possibly done.”
I let that sit for a beat. Jabes blinked and fiddled with his mustache even more. “A customer was concerned about a watchdog report she’d read on VISCA vitamin tablets. She was concerned about the quality of the iron in their natal care line. This employee, unfortunately, also kept himself up to date on watchdog media. Frightened that he’d be nailed on that same CWCSG act for causing ‘potential harm or discomfort’ to a customer he admitted that competitor Remmy Pharma’s line of natal supplements was proven to have quality colloidal iron rather than oxides. And for that he not only lost his job, he lost his privilege of employment with VISCA’s entire list of subsidiaries. That’s over eighty different company fronts. And then the next day, I was on shift facing shelves to glance over at Health & Beauty to see that same concerned lady cheerfully purchasing a whole crate of VISCA-brand supplements.”
I paused again to see if Jabes would respond, raising my eyebrows. He simply shrugged. “You don’t see? Right, it’s fine. This is something you should know intimately, I can tell you have a lot of talent for this line of work, but there’s some things they don’t teach you in school: nobody pays to hear the truth. In fact people, especially consumers, pay a lot of money to avoid certain truths. VISCA vitamins have plenty of quality iron and they have studies to back it up. Watchdog media is virulently anti-business and all claims on their sites are considered unsubstantiated by VISCA, the FoC, and likely your own grandmother. This momentarily concerned mother became a lifetime customer of VISCA’s H&B product lines and her healthy baby boy’s fat little face became a fixture of that year’s ad campaign. So, when I tell you that sample #45 has this use instead of that use, I want you to trust me when I speak because I’m telling the truth. It’s the only way we’ll wrap this up in the fifteen minutes we’ve got left. Understand me? #45 will be a thickening agent and preservative. Note it and sign it.”
Like a fly trap Jabes’ mouth opened to speak, an apparent bad habit of his, before closing without a peep. I held the blue vial up to my eye like a monocle and peered at him through it as he tapped his fingers against the tablet.
"Peekaboo," I hummed with a smirk, then placed the EASYPRESS back in line on the table with its fellows.
(from my upcoming entry to the Broken Worlds competition)