The Maritel bucket

This blog is dedicated to Peppercommers Deb Schleuter-Brown-Schleuter and Jackie Kolek.

Ever find yourself at the bottom of the Maritel bucket? I'll bet you have; you just use another  Old_bucket phrase to describe the experience.

We find ourselves at the bottom of the Maritel bucket every few years. It's just happened in fact. We were awarded a nice piece of business in December, finalized the plan over the holidays and were about to kick things off when, hold onto your hats, we were told we had to pitch the business all over again. It was a classic Maritel bucket scenario: You win an account only to be told a few minutes, days or weeks later that, no, in fact, you didn't win the account after all.
The Maritel bucket phrase originated in those hallowed, halcyon, shoot-from-the-hip dotcom days. A firm by the name of Maritel contacted us one morning, requested a meeting early that same afternoon and called to award us a sizable piece of business before 5 pm. They then called back to say someone had made a terrible mistake and, that Maritel had no interest whatsoever in public relations. The absurdity of the whole experience was so extreme that it became memorialized as the Maritel bucket.
 We've had other bucket experiences:
– A huge chemical company's SVP of human resources adored us and was in the process of handing us all of the corporation's internal communications and collateral work. The plans and budgets were approved and we were set to go. But, suddenly, 'John' stopped returning our calls. A week later, we called the main line to discover he'd been terminated. Bye-bye million dollar program.
– A technology company that provided software for Wall Street was poised to spend lots of money to overtake SunGuard, the market leader. And, the new marketing guru had chosen us. We got off to a strong start, attended several meetings and then, poof, our contact was gone. A day or two later, an executive called to say 'Randy' had had no authority to hire us, had  been terminated and oh, by the way, they'd like their money back. With a signed LOA, time sheets and status reports to prove we'd done the work, they backed off.

– The SVP of marketing for a Scient, Sapient, Razorfish wanna-be hired us to the tune of $35k per month. Their marketing goal: to do and say exactly what the front runners did so that they, too, could go the IPO route and retire as multimillionaires. They not only never paid us for our three months of work, but demanded their money returned with interest. They then went belly up.
I'd love to create some sort of industry-wide Maritel bucket hall of shame (and would welcome your case studies, BTW).
In fact, the Maritel bucket could become a catch-all phrase for a new category in all the PR industry awards programs (“And, this year's Maritel bucket winner for the worst abuse of a PR firm goes to …”).
Ask not for whom the Maritel bucket waits. It waits for thee.

9 thoughts on “The Maritel bucket

  1. Thanks Bomberpete. All valid points. But, allow me to correct your perception of the tough guy consulting firm. Ed didn’t win it. The CEO of our firm had a personal relationship with the CEO and brought in the business.

  2. Sorry to hear about that. It does happen.
    There are variations on this…like the times that we should see who win business with is going to shank us in the back anyway. My favorite goes back to when Ed Moed won a consulting firm client whose tough-guy mantra was squeeze vendors on price, get results, then fire them and use someone else. We got them great press and sales results. So what did they do? Exactly what the book said. It was hard to get outraged over being canned, though, as anyone could have seen this coming.

  3. Great question, Kenworks57. Ordinarily, I’d walk. But, we already work for other parts of the organization and wouldn’t want to undermine those relationships by declining to re-pitch. Make sense?

  4. Totally agree, Julie. So many organizations simply don’t know what they want. Senior management doesn’t set precise goals for corporate PR to act on, so the latter spins everyone’s wheels and ends up accomplishing nothing at all.

  5. It never ceases to amaze me just how SCREWED UP and mismanaged so many companies are that they would actually waste everyone’s time (including their own).

  6. Thanks Greg. Actually, this was a fun blog to write. These things happen. It may hurt in the heat of the moment but, afterwards, they make for great war stories.

  7. I’m so sorry to hear after all of the time and effort you put into developing new biz. Maybe you should hang a punching bag in the office and supply a pair of gloves so you can take turns at punching the heavy bag to take out your frustrations. Or maybe get a bucket and call it Maritel. But I would be afraid that someone would kick it out the window.
    Your experience is on a much grander scale than mine, but I was contacted by a local company in October after reaching out to this prospect four years ago. They now were in a position to do some project work. Well, I met with their marketing manager in October and then we met again in early January to finalize direction and course of action. The intent was to write a technical article for one of their new products and to get it published. I planned to meet with two of their engineers tomorrow to interview and called the marketing manager yesterday to plan the schedules. Wouldn’t you know she is no longer with the company. Apparently, Friday was her last day. So I left a message with the president (who knows me) to see where we stand. Hell, I’m not taking the chance of writing the article without his permission.
    Hang in there.