Friday, July 9, 2010

Lessons From 7-Up

Earlier this week, I saw the obituary on the left in the Asbury Park Press.  Joe Martuscelli worked at the old 7-Up plant (long since gone) at the Jersey Shore during the four college summers when I was employed there as a "Utility Man." 

It doesn't sound glamorous, but I was in a union (the Teamsters; don't make me break your head) and made more than twice the minimum hourly wage.  I did whatever the company needed, from delivering tanks of soda syrup to bars, restaurants and Monmouth Park Race Track, to dropping off and setting up soda vending machines at locations all around the Shore.  There were other tasks too, but they were too complicated to explain to a lay audience. 

Joe retired from 7-Up in 1985, not long after my last summer there, with 37 years of service to the company under his belt.  He was a good and honest man who worked hard.

I remember my first week on the job, in June of 1981, when Joe gave me a piece of advice about Corporate America that rings as true today as it did when he first said it. 

As I lifted a heavy pallet of soda cans, Joe interrupted with, "Whoa, whoa, easy, use your legs, lift with your legs, not your back.  If you get hurt, 7-Up won't give a shit about you."

He was right, of course; Corporate America really doesn't have much of a heart.  A number of large international companies who I would later go on to work for reinforced the wisdom of Joe's advice.  His words have come to mind occasionally throughout my career, and then again when I saw his obit.

I could probably write an entire book about the lessons that I learned during four summers at 7-Up, but I'll only share one more here (hey, gotta keep the readers coming back...)  

Early on in my tenure, I observed a repeated behavior which I nicknamed "The 7-Up Rule."  Many of my friends are aware of, and adhere to, The 7-Up Rule rule to this day.

Whenever two guys were on the truck together and would stop for a lunch break -- usually at a fast food place or pizzeria -- one guy would pay for both, but he always waited until the other guy had ordered before announcing that the tab was his. 

This prevented the first guy from running up the bill with a huge order, knowing that someone else was footing the bill.  It's still a sound practice -- never announce that you're going to buy a meal until after your guest has ordered. 

Every time you follow this rule, somewhere, from above, Joe will be smiling down on you.

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