To clean or not to clean a competitor's cooler? That was the question.
As I was drenched in sweat, cleaning the glass window of a newly installed
We had just installed a new cooler and filled it neatly with Coca-Cola beverages. As I sprayed and wiped down the cooler front, she asked me if I would clean our competitor’s cooler, which sat right next to our cooler while I was at it.
My initial thoughts were:
"Is she kidding?" She wasn't smiling.
"Do I just say no?" How would she react?
"Would it be kosher for me to say yes?"
Reading this you may be thinking, “Who was ‘she’, anyway”?
Well, let's back up.
I volunteered to do a “Merchandising Impact Team” (MIT for short), which is a coordinated team of Coca-Cola employees who work all-hands-on-deck in a given territory and timeframe to set up advertising, displays and equipment for
I landed in Guatemala City for the MIT on a Sunday, then traveled the nearly three-hour route to Zacapa, along which all buildings, bodegas and neighborhoods seemed to disappear after about an hour on the road, giving way to only mountains along either side of a curvy thoroughfare. Eventually, buildings and denser communities begin reappearing.
At dinner, I got to meet the local team I was assigned to work with, and I also picked up my backpack and booklet with our plans and supplies for the week, including planograms and diagrams for proper cooler setup. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I was surprised when I dumped out the tools in my backpack to find, among other things, an enormous hammer, a large stapler, masking tape and rags. Nevertheless, I was pumped up by the energy of the local team and ready to do my part, whatever it was.
That energy continued into the next morning, with a 5:30 am breakfast embellished with loud music, legendary Guatemalan coffee and the occasional sound of a snare drum branded with the
We ended up needing every ounce of it.
After breakfast each morning, we split into teams of four to visit numerous small “mom-and-pop” shops throughout Zacapa, navigating over what seemed like thousands of speed bumps en route. Soon, it became evident why we needed those tools in my backpack. We installed posters, point-of-sale promotions, racks and coolers, and cleaned up the shops at the end of every visit.
We also took a team selfie with the store owners at the conclusion of each visit, making sure to capture the new
Although it sounds cliché, after setting up stores and sweating in the 90-plus degree heat in Zacapa, I literally could not imagine a better or more refreshing sight in the world than an ice-cold bottle of
After about 40 selfies with the team representing nearly 40 outlets that we set up, I realized that I had learned what it truly means to be a
This all leads me back to my original question: To clean or not to clean a competitor's cooler?
“She” who asked me to do this was the store owner of a shop near Parque Central in Zacapa. She asked me to clean the competitor’s cooler after she saw me cleaning the glass window on her new
After all of those initial thoughts ran through my head, my answer became automatic. What I had learned in one day with the amazingly dedicated
While I did not touch any of the competitor’s products inside the cooler (which were not nearly as organized and thoughtfully laid out as ours were by the way), I did clean the glass window on the competitor’s machine. Although before doing it, I couldn’t help but share with the store owner, “Voy a limpiarla, pero me duele!”, which is to say I am going to clean it, but it hurts me!
Jamal Booker is manager of heritage communications at The Coca-Cola Company