Saturday, January 30, 2021

A tale of corporate bling

It's been really cold lately, so I dug into the back of our front closet to find my parka. I only wear it a few times a year, and it's so ugly, and so outdately branded, that it's almost fashionable again. Not that I know these things. I'm one of the least fashionable people I know. What I care about is that it's warm.

I've been told that because of the brand logo I could sell it on ebay for lots of money. But what are the odds of a guy named Keith wanting an Amoco branded parka? In the meantime I'll wear it a few times a year. I've worn it on some cold night photo shoots, but those reflective stripes complicate things if there are other photographers around.

There were also coveralls, which are filthy, and a summer jacket that I can't find. The hard hat is somewhere, and I wore it during some basement renovations when my head was all too close to some flooring nails coming through between the joists. I think there's a photo of it on the blog somewhere.

There's a joke related to this, but I don't think any of my blog readers will really get the bitterness involved. BP 'merged' with Amoco in 1998. Shortly after, this joke went around. How do you pronounce "BP Amoco"? Answer? BP, the Amoco is silent. And now, it's long gone. 20 some years later, it's still a warm parka. Yes, I wore it on the job.

It was almost a full time job keeping up with oil and gas related acquisitions and divestitures, as they were called in polite society. There were lots of morning coffee conversations about who was working where, or who was taking over who, and what that might mean in terms of people or jobs becoming available. In reality, there were mergers, hostile mergers, fire sales, and other forms of corporate warfare. I had one boss that worked through several major changes of ownership, (HBOG to Dome to Amoco to BP-Amoco to BP) with pension rights that went back to the very first one, where he had started almost on a whim. (As an aside I'd applied for a job at HBOG and came THAT close to getting a field pipeline job, but the 1981 Dome thing happened, and such re-orgs often put the kibosh on new hiring.) The pension people were glad to see him retire, and they could archive a lot of paper. 

One of the spin-offs from the oil and gas industry is branding, signs, and corporate bling. Every oil and gas property from the smallest gas well to the biggest plant has to have a sign at the gate, with the location expressed like 01-02-003-04W4 (which is a specific small plot of land down in the extreme SE of Alberta. I don't think there's an actual facility there.) the owner name, emergency contact info, and other required information. Every corporate change of ownership means changing every one of those signs. Even a re-org that changes a phone number means a sign change. There are people who have made a good living doing nothing but this.

Bling, swag, graft, goodies, call it what you will, there was a healthy interest in corporate bling givaways. If you could put a logo on it, some company would do that and give it away as advertising. I got some of it along the way, and wearing the parka the other day made me think about it. I went around the house looking for it.

It had to be from places I worked, and it had to be reasonably accessible for a photo. So here you go, in no particular order, with a story about each.

This is from Amoco. I'd convinced my boss not to buy a brutally flawed upgrade of their corrosion inspection database. Instead, I could work magic with the existing tables to get what he wanted. It took a bit of convincing for the IT department to let me have write access to those tables, but all involved loved the results. This crystal sculpture was the nicest thing in the swag shop. It's signed and numbered, but I can't read the signature. The sculpture sits on our fireplace mantle.

I was off to the South Caroline gas plant to make sense of the PSV data in my database. They wouldn't let the paperwork leave the office, so I had to go to the plant. It turned out that for every PSV servicing (the plant had about 100 PSV's) they had created a new PSV and service record, rather than just adding a service record to the existing PSV. Plus they were years behind on the data entry. It took me a week, sorting and sifting through a couple decades of fading paperwork. There was some travel mugs that went along with the thermos but they've disappeared. The thermos gets used every day to keep the coffee hot. There are a pair of blue coffee mugs that are the perfect size, from Pike's Pottery. The cutting board is from our last trip to Nova Scotia.

Two bowls. The one on the left is from the SCA in recognition for my service on their Board of Directors. The one on the right was a Christmas basket thingie from BP Amoco. There were lots of yummy goodies in it, and it makes a great fruit bowl on our kitchen counter. That corner is a bit of a junk drawer with some vita-mix attachments, an old food processor, the BBQ oil sprayer thingie, and some patio glasses that haven't been put away yet.

Two mugs from Skystone Engineering. There's also the green and copper small mugs in the dishware pattern from Pike's Pottery that we like. Plus the scale to measure the morning coffee. My one regret about leaving Skystone when I did, is that if I'd hung around a few months longer there'd have been a great leather jacket coming to me. But alas, opportunity was knocking.

The sunflower pattern mug from BP Amoco. There's a couple of them that came with the basket, but I don't know where the other mug is. There's also the stoneware pattern cups and saucers my family gave to us as a wedding present, which included the plates, bowls, and dessert plates. 36 years later, and some pieces of it are still in daily use.

And assortment of mugs. Left to right, a Haliburton rep was in giving a presentation to some people at NOVA, and left a case of mugs. So I guess it didn't come to me personally, but still. This was before I knew about Haliburton's reputation, but I liked the mug. 

The glass beer mug was one of the first things from Amoco. This was shortly after I joined, and there was a bit of a re-org going one, and they were clearing out old swag. I've probably spent half my so-called career working through re-orgs. 

MTL was an inspection company I worked closely with while at Amoco and BP. At one time there was discussion of embedding me in their shop and being contracted back to Amoco, but it didn't work out.

The Keith mug was the one I took to all my offices over the years. Some of the corporate mug selections grossed me out. It lived on my desk and never went in the corporate dishwasher. I'd take to meetings, coffee in the morning, and water or herbal tea during the rest of the day. It was a handy way of reminding people of my name when I was new at a place.

I never actually worked at SI systems, but they were my agency for several contracting jobs. You can see some of the other mugs in the background. I think the mugs breed in the dark. For the kitchen renovation we had to pull all the stuff out of the cupboards, and I think I counted 42 mugs. We gave many of them away to the women in need place. I would not be surprised if we have even more now.

Not sure this one counts, but we were teaching assistants at the U of C ballroom dance club for a number of years. One year they gave out these CD holders. CD's are an obsolete music delivery system. The ribbons just below it are the various race medals.

Down in the basement now, in crappy light. The satellite radio system was me left holding the bag during a secret santa thing at EOS Pipeline. I've never used it, no real idea even if satellite radio is even still a thing. If you want it, drop by and I'll give it to you, in a socially distant way, of course. 

The inukshuk was a BP safety award.

I'm also looking at a little Amoco Canada letter opener sitting on my hard drive. After the BP takeover they opened the swag shop to get rid of it all. 

There's been lots of consumables over the years. There's a pile of bags downstairs. Computer bags, gym bags, and such. I wasn't willing to move all the stuff to get at them, and sort out the ones I got from Linda's. She didn't get as much swag over the years, the City being cheap that way, but did end up with some stuff. I snagged a perfect gym bag, and it took swim gear to (Lindsay Park, Talisman) Repsol pool for many years. It will be used again when the pools reopen.

So it seems Amoco and BP were the big swag donors. Skystone gave great Christmas presents, for me they were typically good wine kits. Consumed of course, long since. I don't recall getting any swag from IMS. Our team leader at Talisman sprang for some really good bike jerseys in relation to a ride for cancer thing. I got a Maximo T shirt out of Penn West, as detritus from the great office purge of 2015. By the time I joined them, they were losing money left and right, and didn't have any left over for swag. Keyera gave me a nice welcome bag with consumables, but I was there for only a few months part time. 

Altagas pays me very well, which is the sincerest form of flattery, better than swag any day. 

Of the Day

The periscope plant, as I think of it.

1 comment:

  1. Stay tuned for a riff on a related idea. I like the perspective you chose for the dramatic periscope plant - it works well. Cheers, Sean


Looking forward to reading your comment!