Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: The Word on the Street

Magazine article Management Today

The Sharp End: The Word on the Street

Article excerpt

With just a fistful of flyers, can Dave Waller turn City drones into golf addicts?

Looks like I've finally landed that City job. But instead of raking in the paper, I've been given the less appealing task of handing it out - distributing flyers to the commuters making their daily advance over London Bridge.

I fear I know the commuter routine too well, having been part of that throng on many a morning. After steering past a team assaulting you with freesheet papers, you come face-to-face with the charity mugger (or chugger), who performs a crazy dance designed to charm you into revealing your bank details, in a bid to end world poverty. At 8am After that onslaught, I assume, most will be too battle-weary to care about a poxy flyer.

My client is City Golf, a healthclub offering a free trial on its golf simulators. That's where I meet Michael Buck, boss of promotion company Alivestock, who explains that it's best to go easy with the sales pitch: just be bold and clear and hand the flyers to those interested. This is a relief. I once did a stint as a chugger for homeless charity Shelter, and was fired after three weeks. When people expressed reluctance to divulge their bank details, I'd respond by saying 'Fair enough, I wouldn't either'.

We head for the bridge. Michael lays a golf bag down as a prop. I sit a seven-iron on my shoulder and position myself in the centre of the pavement, a rock in the racing tide of business suits.

I start by shouting 'free trial', then 'City Golf'. I try switching it round, but words come out wrong. Baffled passers-by see a man waving a golf club, ranting about Sandy Lyle-free golf.

It'll take more to get a positive reaction from these troopers. Some passers-by employ impenetrable defences, iPods, sunglasses and the like; others gaze sternly into the middle distance. It's disheartening, yet the anonymity is liberating - I find myself strangely at ease standing in the street, shouting.

Most are empathetic, even if they don't give a stuff about City Golf. They give their head the slightest shake, raise the eyebrows and mouth 'no thanks'. Some responses are Pavlovian. I push out a flyer, prompting an immediate grab from a woman who has clearly never been to a gym nor, I guess, ever held a golf stick. I then make eye contact with a toned youth striding along in suit and trainers, and he doesn't bat an eyelid. …

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