Tag Archives: money

Salesmanship, when capitalism invades the heart

8 Jun A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

Wait, didn’t we have a sea day yesterday? Oh, right, we skipped one port!

Fine, what’s one more day of boredom at sea, among imagined friends?

Both Pancho and I start work after noon, and I still cannot sleep beyond nine, and can’t do anything in my cabin without waking him up. So I return once more to the crew bar, a place that is so beautifully sterile, and void of charm that it almost seems artistic. With three hours of spare time at hand I flip through my notes, where I come across the teachings of fleet manager Kosmos.

Crew Bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The Crew Bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff is the uninspiring place where I get most of my weriting done.

Three days ago, after a session with photo trainer Vito Kosmos introduced us to a program of sales techniques. That twenty-step program was supposedly developed by some wildly successful US business man, who retired, and now sells his marketing strategies for top dollars to capitalist companies like ABC Cruises.

Some of that guff is just everyday marketing blubber: sit down for the negotiations, look your victim in the eyes, always carry a pen, never give up, never surrender; that sort of thing. I am proud to say that I only snoozed off four times during Kosmos’ presentation, and nearly every time I was able to convince him that I was internalising the tremendous strategies that I just heard from that sleazy businessman in the digital tape recorder. Boy, the way I lied during that training session even made myself believe that I could become a salesman.

The snoozy peace was not meant to last, though. After some standard disclaimers and a demand to spend your spare time thinking up a hundred different reasons to close a deal, Mr. Business got into the more shameful sales techniques, and used an example so appalling that I damn near vomited over Kosmos’ uniform. I’m just gonna blurb it out, so you can form your own opinion.

A bar aboard the ABC RypMeOff

The various bars and coffee shops aboard the ABC RypMeOff are usually filled with bored people. Even if there is awesome landscape outside.

This is the creed of salesmanship: “treat the buyer as the buyer, until the buyer becomes the buyer.” What he says is markedly little – always treat every costumer as a buyer, not as a potential buyer. He is no browser, but rather a serious buyer, and it’s your pushy way that makes him so. The idea is simple enough, because it increases the conviction of the salesman. What is so baffling is Mr. Business’ example and application for everyday life.

Hold on to your butts; this is what Market Man actually said: “for years, even before we married I regularly convinced my wife that she loved me.” On the one side that is a genius way of employing psychology in matters of the heart. But if you employ any measure of compassion to this statement, you quickly gain the urge to regurgitate your last meal, and then some.

Apparently when they had just met his wife felt beyond loath for Mr. Business, her future husband. Probably because he stalked and annoyed the crap out of her, as he does with his costumers. But Market Man did not let a little spite and hatred get in his way, and he turned the literal tide by telling HER how much she loved HIM, despite obvious evidence to the contrary. In the end she married him, but not without him having to get up first every morning, and convincing her how much SHE wanted this relationship to work.

Globe Monument at the North Cape, Norway

Everything is a product, even this barren landscape.

If you have to spend a significant portion of your day convincing your partner that he or she wants you, there is something horribly wrong with you. And with your partner, I might add! Admittedly, my practical experience in that matter is comparatively small, but I can’t see myself living with a woman whose mind is so shallow that she can be talked into feeling affection towards a person that she has otherwise no interest in.

You are both living a lie, and one of you doesn’t even know it!

The rest of the lecture focused on believing in the closed deal, and making it your sole purpose in life, which is similarly degrading for a human being, but is easily overshadowed, drowned, and smashed into immeasurably tiny pieces by the fact that the wife of Market Man is treated as the car AND its buyer in one psychotic sweep of salesmanship.

However, back over in reality there are still a dozen photographers, sitting in a windowless class room aboard the ABC RypMeOff, listening to Übermanager Kosmos explaining why salesmanship is an integral aspect of cruise photography. “Create memories, and the sell them” is the actual motto of the department. On that day I decided that I won’t be complicit in this gruesome fabrication of fictitious memories.

CRUISE: Zeebrugge; internet access on cruise ships

4 May A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

It’s a quiet day in the Dutch port of Zeebrugge, so I decided to get myself some internet access. It ain’t easy, because you need money on your cruise account to purchase web time, and the system does not operate on credit. So I paid the crew purser with a 10-Euro note to get myself some starting capital.

When you see documentaries about cruise ships you are often overwhelmed by panoramic sceneries, luxurious buffets, and high tech equipment. None of that is real, at least not for the regular crew. We spend most of our time inside, where we feed on low-quality meals, and utilize sub-standard equipment. And the myth that crew members spend half their spare time video-chatting with their family overseas – also inaccurate.

Zeebrugge, Netherlands

Zeebrugge is a pretty dutch town. Complete with funy roofing.

Firstly, it took me a week to receive internet access, because one needs a differently verified ID for just about anything one does aboard this ship. Thus, you walk some serious miles before you get anything done. Second, there are over one thousand crew members and more than four thousand passengers on this ship, and they all want to access the internet. Thus, the cruise company has to manage access to the limited bandwidth of this ship, lest everyone be waiting ten minutes to download one e-mail. But you cannot blame the Italians for being original, as ABC found a rather conventional solution to the problem; they ask huge amounts of money for access keys.

As crew member I can chose between “Social Network Package” and “No Time Limit”. The Social Package grants access only to Facebook, Twitter, and a few other social networks; for $30 per month. That’s OK, I guess. If you don’t want to check e-mails, browse the web, or watch videos. By the way, passengers pay more than twice that much.

“No Time Limit” allows you to do all the interwebs; limited only by the amount of data you stream. The prepaid packs allow you to use 100 MB for $10, 400 MB for $30, 1.6 GB for $90, and so on. Since I need to write and receive electronic messages, this is the plan I chose. How long my prepaid 100 MB will last remains to be seen.

Obviously I have a cunning backup plan to stretch the duration of my internet usage. I will use Free WiFi in port cities. Turns out all other crew members had that plan before me. Thus, in every port you see ABC crew members huddling in packs along the walls of cafés and tourist information centers; silently browsing, like a herd of cows trying to dispel the breath of winter with community warmth. It is a lovely sight – service personnel from around the globe travelling the most beautiful ports of the North Sea, only to slump against the walls of public buildings, and scramble for WiFi access.

A submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

After less than two weeks aboard the initial magic of working as a cruise photographer has been sunk. Just like this submarine in the port of Zeebrugge, Netherlands

Here is another urban myth dispelled – cruise crew don’t spend two hours a day holding video chats with their extended family back home. We simply don’t have sufficient credits to spend that much time online. The situation has a positive side, I guess – the loss of free internet access gives me more time to focus on improving photography and sales tactics. Just what I always wanted!


PS.: I still went out to see Zeebrugge. Here are some pretty pictures.