Saturday, May 5, 2007

Will Work for Free Vest

Long ago, at a company I used to work for, the head of Sales dropped by my cubicle one day, looking like he wanted a favor.

"Dan, I need a favor," he said.
"I need you to come with me to a client site and give a presentation."

I didn't work for sales, and it's not like I had nothing to do already, so I was hesitant. He detected this, and added:

"If you do it, I'll give you a free vest."

He then produced a sample vest. It was one of those blue, fleece things similar to something you'd find at REI or Lands End, except it had our company logo on it.

"It looks a little large," was my first response.
"We've got all sizes. What size do you want?"
"Medium," I said, assuming that, like most corporate clothing swag, the only available sizes were Large and Extra Large.
"No problem. So I'll tell Julie to set up your plane tickets," he said.

I then realized, to my annoyance, that my acceptance of the vest meant that I had agreed to do the favor. Those sales people are rather tricky.

Fortunately, the actual client in this case was Nintendo. More specifically, Nintendo's offices in the US, also known as Nintendo of America, which is currently located in Redmond, Seattle (but possibly moving in the near future).

I remember being somewhat disappointed with the actual Nintendo office building. It was a fairly non-descript white 4-or-so story building with the Nintendo logo. It was nestled in the middle of a business district in not-so-exciting Redmond. You could probably drive by it and not even realize it was Nintendo.

When we entered the building, I was not greeted by an underpaid teenager dressed in a Mario costume. Instead, I was greeted by a stark white entry room with a surly looking security guard behind what appeared to be bullet-proof glass. We went through the usual song-and-dance of signing papers indicating that we would never tell anyone about our visit, etc., given visitor badges, and then ushered in by a second security guard.

The Sales guy at this point decided to ditch me to hang out with more entertaining people, so I was instructed to follow the guard to the meeting room where I'd be doing the presentation. As I followed the guard, I noticed several things:

  1. The guard was actually armed with a large handgun
  2. The interior offices were just as non-descript as the exterior. Mostly beige cubicles, with the occasional Mario-themed decoration on a per-cubicle basis.
  3. At the intersections of pseudo-hallways between blocks of cubicles, there were these strange faux street signs. I looked closer and noticed that they displayed Nintendo-themed street names, like "Mario Way", or "Peach Alley". I'm making those up, by the way.

When we got to a certain point, I was handed off to another armed security guard. We clearly had passed through some sort of internal check point. I'm not sure if I remembered to save. We finally got to the meeting room, where I sat, laptop at the ready, for about 10 minutes until three (count-em!) Nintendo employees showed up. I gave my roughly one hour long presentation, was thanked, and then escorted back to the outside world by more armed escorts.

I've learned since this visit many years ago that the Nintendo offices actually have a separate "visitor" section which is a little more lively. You can read more about it here. Suffice to say, I did not get to see this section at all.

After we were done, I learned that I also needed to give a last-minute presentation at Digipen Institute (which was practically next door). The sales guy was lucky I was feeling generous that day. The Digipen presentation (fodder, perhaps, for another blog entry in the future) went well enough, but left me feeling rather drained as we drove back to the airport.

Back in the San Francisco bay area, when I got back to my desk the next morning, there was a blue vest on my chair. It was, of course, size Large. I gave it to my Dad, who tells me it's very comfortable.


Ken said...

This was before Reggie Fils-Aime's time, right? I don't know that I'd necessarily want to meet the guy (because crazy people scare me) but it'd be interesting just being in the same building. It'd be kind of like riding a rollercoaster--you're never in any real danger, but you do feel the thrill of risking your life.

Radio Allergy got delayed AGAIN, btw. WTF is going on?

Dan said...

This happened somewhere around 1999-2000, so I believe Reggie was not yet "in the house".