A tale of self-perpetuating nastiness (with a marketing twist)

So this morning I’m on the 6-o’clock morning train to a workshop in Lahr.


It’s dark outside, and with a 1h train-journey ahead, I’m about to snooze off…

… when the ticket-inspector comes along.

I hand over my ticket without paying too much attention, give him a quick smile and a nod, and I’m ready to nod off again, when suddenly, …

… the biology-teacher in his mid 50s next to me decides he’s not happy with life, and needs to vent.

how about I only show you my ticket IF we get to Lahr on time?

he asks the ticket-inspector, whose (obvious) response is:

er, no, you show me your ticket now“.

This whole thing then quickly escalates into a mud-slinging match you’d expect from 8-year olds in the school-playground, not adults on a train. (where most of the mud-slinging was done by Mr Biology Teacher)

well, if I don’t show you my ticket, whadd’ya gonna do?

well, I’ll throw you off the train!

well, how you’re gonna do that?

well, I’ll call the police!

well, good luck with that, they won’t even come if people are fighting on this train..

and so on…

I was just about to step in, when fortunately we came to a stop, and the mud-slinging came to a natural stop.

(btw, the reason Mr B was so ticked off is the fact that this particular train has been late rather consistently every morning – which happens to be the case because there’s building work on the line, but the train-company hasn’t told anyone about it. Obviously, this is NOT the ticket-inspector’s fault, but hey, Mr B needed to vent)

Anyway, the interesting bit is what happened AFTERWARDS:

at this next stop, a couple of colleagues of Mr Biology teacher got on board, and sat down next to us.

And Mr Biology started to recount the tale in exquisit(ly boring) detail, …

… except, it was a VERY different story from the one I’d just experienced just sitting there with my eyes closed.

“I politely asked …” (er, no, you provoked him)

“and then the ticket inspector exploded” (er, no, he didn’t he was the calm one of the 2 parties involved)

“I pay over 1000 Euros a year for my train ticket, so I expect friendly customer service” (er, no, not if you fire an aggressive, unnecessary and totally irrelevant/untargeted open salvo (that guy has NOTHING to do with trains running on time)

and so on

Anyway, there are 2 lesson here:

a) You’re grumpy. So you shout at someone else. What do they do? Probably shout at someone else (just the other day I witnessed how a teenage girl was fined for being on the train without a valid ticket. Now, this is a school girl who gets a monthly train-ticket every month. She was able to produce all the previous months’ worth of tickets, plus the special school-certificate showing that she’s entitled to the special ticket. She just hadn’t bought it … on the first of the month. Ticket-inspector fined her. Why? Because, quite likely he’s had too many people give him stick for trains being late, so he doesn’t give a s**t anymore)

What does the girl do?

Quite possibly attend biology class, and disrupts that class because she’s really upset about having to pay a huge fine for being caught without a ticket.

That upsets the teacher, who’s then so p***ed off, he needs to vent…

and thus, that lovely cycle of love (not) keeps rolling around.

b) (this is the marketing bit, phew, finally;-)

What really matters is the story people tell themselves!

There’s no such thing as ‘reality’!

If you contradict their own story, they’ll never buy.

But, if you can figure out what story they’re telling themselves, they’ll eat out of your hands!



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  1. Just beautiful Veit.
    I couldn’t agree more. What is inside the package is not as important as the way it is presented. Paint the right picture, and you can sell ice cubes to people in Alaska. Used to sell Kirby vacs. Great machine, very over priced. The easiest sales were always to people with “Rug Rats”. The minute I started pulling up pad after pad of pure dirt I owned them. Had to quit because I actually felt bad about taking advantage of peoples weak points. The manager thought I was crazy, and would never make it as a salesman.
    I do think emotions are fair game in marketing, but I like to think I use more positive ones now…

  2. Gosh I’m not going to contradict you… ;)))

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