Monday, November 19, 2012

Bone Us

The Christmas Bonus.

It's that time of year again, when none of us will get one.

Of course that wasn't always the case. I remember getting my first Xmas bonus. It was my first year in the corporate world. There I was, a lowly mailroom clerk, seated among some of the most highly regarded creative professionals in the ad industry. People responsible for making Los Angeles a legitimate advertising town.

We were at the Riviera Country, where, ironically enough, I would return 10 years later to get married. Agency Principal Gerry Rubin, decked out in a fancy suit and an even fancier cowboy hat strutted around the banquet room handing out envelopes. He approached me, shook my hand, thanked me for all the hard work I had put in that year, though I'm absolutely sure he did not even know my name. Nevertheless, he placed a #10 Navajo White envelope on my place setting.

The more seasoned folks simply placed the envelope in their coat pocket or their purse. I had none of that well-practiced Protestant restraint. I ripped it open before Gerry had moved on to the next table. Inside, I found (1) incredibly-crisp, never-been-folded hundred dollar bill.

Until that point in my life, I'd never held an actual C-note. I was giddy with excitement. And thought, naively I might add, this is just the beginning. This is going to get better and bigger with every passing year in the business.

It did not.

Apparently Southern California ad agencies -- and I've worked at all of them --  have been in a recession and in belt-tightening mode for the last 25 consecutive years. Monetary bonuses were soon replaced with trinkets. Umbrellas. Hoodies. Moleskin tablets. When that got too costly, agencies went to gestures.

"In lieu of a gift we have generously made a donation to the Don't Eat the Dolphins Fund in your name."

Never acknowledging that this charitable donation made for a healthy year tax write-off.
For the agency that is.

And soon the gestures became distant memories. Not only had the Christmas bonus vanished, the grumbling about not getting a year end or Xmas bonus had also disappeared. Now savvy staffers, who are lucky that they have a job, know to keep their mouths shut.

After all, happy shareholders are more important than happy employees.

I work for a very small company now. In fact, we only have one employee: Rich Siegel. And he's done a fantastic job this year. So he's going to get a bonus. And an expensive bottle of bourbon. And some new underwear. And we're going to make a donation to Red Cross in his name. And to top it all off, we're even going to let him write the charitable gift off his tax return.

Merry Christmas, Rich.

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