I heard on ABC news Richard Pratt explaining how bad he felt at being accused of price fixing. I worked for his company, Visy, in the early seventies. On my CV, over the years, I described my position with Visy as Competitor Liaison Officer.Nobody ever, not once, asked me what that meant.
What it meant was, when a major client ordered cardboard cartons, the data was passed to me. Back in those days I worked in 16th, 32nd and 64th parts of inches on a huge desktop calculator covered in little buttons. And when I’d calculated the cost of the carton I’d ring a number which connected me to what we called The Association, give them the data, and wait.
Later that day I’d receive calls from Amcor, Carlton Box, and the many other packaging companies who were part of The Association, and my counterparts there would suggest another price.
None of us believed the pricing we were offered; You lie in your bath, was a frequent comment from one particular bloke. Well, I was young and innocent, and knew the price I’d fixed was fair. Fair enough, anyway.
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What I didn’t know, until shortly before I left Visy, was that my opposite numbers knew lots more than I.
Lucrative clients were indeed invoiced the price agreed upon by me and my colleagues. And then they were handed cash money as a sort of discount, in an office upstairs from mine, which I can identify by its extension number.
They threw a farewell party for me, all the other cardboard carton people, when I left. They and the Visy mob sat me on their knees and wished me well, and Visy’s art department made a marvellous card for me.
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