Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Beautification of Public Places - a fable

A meeting just wrapped up in a large, well-lit conference room to discuss an incident six months ago where some people trampled the flowers – namely, some pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias planted as summer bedding in a planter box.

A big cosmetics company had put on a special event –a fashion show, in a local shopping complex with an open air pedestrian courtyard. They’d built a runway out in the middle of the courtyard, and during the fashion show, some spectators had climbed on the planter boxes for a better view, and the plantings were crushed.

A $400 bill to replace the plantings had been sent by the property owner to the corporation, who refused to pay it, claiming they weren’t responsible for the damage to the summer bedding plants.

Follow up requests for payment were met with no response, and a lawyer-drafted letter threatening collections action was also met with no response.

That was six months ago.

More phone calls and emails, and a re-sending of the lawyer’s letter finally elicted a response. “We met with your organization, and nothing was said about this outstanding bill. Why are you bringing it up now?”

Meeting? What meeting? 

Turns out, the corporation met with the booster association that advocates for the merchants in the shopping complex, where they re-capped the success of the event. They assumed that the association and the property owner were the same organization. During that meeting, there was no mention of the pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias, leading the corporation to believe they were off the hook.

Everyone scrambled to check through their email archives. Had they been invited and declined? Who attended? Was it prior to the date the bill went out? All reviewed their messages to see if some important detail about the trampling of flowers had been overlooked.

So now here the group assembled in the conference room – the senior administrative staffer for the property owner’s leasing operation, plus the senior financial staffer for the facility maintenance team, plus the lead landscaping operations supervisor, an administrative assistant, and the lawyer. 

What was the chain of events that led to the flowers getting trampled? Had some important detail been omitted from the runway set-up? Was there a photographic record of the state of the pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias before and after they were trampled? Could it reasonably be supposed, the lawyer was asked, that a witness’s claim that the pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias had been fine before the show but damaged following it, that this was evidence? Were the flower-tramplers encouraged or enabled to climb on the planter by the corporation’s fashion show, or had they acted on their own without holding the corporation responsible? Could it be true that the property’s own security staff bore responsibility for allowing the trampling of the flowers, since - as the corporation claimed - they had been present and had not intervened to protect the pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias?

Why had a damage deposit not been secured against the trampling of flowers? The guidelines for requiring such a deposit was reviewed, and it was determined that the fashion show did not meet them. However, further perusing the files, a loophole was discovered that might possibly be interpreted to require a deposit. Should deposits henceforth be required, if these circumstances arose in future?

What was being done to prevent flowers from getting trampled in the future? The leasing staffer noted that cautionary language had been added to the agreement, and the landscape operations supervisor now met with potential event organizers, reviewing plans that might impact plantings. Were pre-and-post inspections being carried out, and documenting the conditions of the pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias?

Where had communications broken down between the property owner and the association that advocates for merchants? Why had the association not been made aware of the $400 in damages? Why had the association failed to include the owner in meetings with the corporation? Would it be necessary to implement a comprehensive post-event briefing, with all parties included, as standard procedure?

Strategies for collecting the outstanding payment reimbursing the property owner for replacing the flowers were the next topic of discussion. Perhaps the corporate contact was the wrong one – was there a financial officer that should be contacted instead? Perhaps a legal officer? Or would that be overkill? Should an invitation be extended to the corporation to sit down and discuss, or should a claim be filed immediately in Small Claims Court? If they agreed to meet, should the lawyer attend – no, only if their lawyer attended, came the consensus. Who should send the meeting invitation? The administrative assistant was tasked with a list of action items.

If the meeting failed to resolve the issue, what was the next step? The lawyer was asked if the property could legally refuse to do future business with the corporation. The lease agreement was examined for exact language defining how and under what conditions it could be revoked. If they still refused to pay, would the owner be willing to simply write off the loss?

The pelargoniums, zinnias and begonias in question, after all, had already been ripped out in early November and replaced for the winter season with cyclamen, primula and ornamental kale.


Suebob said...

Ah, modern life. Where no one is responsible, and everyone pays.

Weird Dave said...

1) The cost of all those executives in one place at one time was well north of $400.

2) By the time the meeting was held the point was moot.

Yep, these are my managers.

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Let's all sing along...