Stupidity – the only skill you need to succeed…

Yesterday a friend shared her local post office experience with me. Here’s what she said:

So I’m at the post office and my bill comes to $11.20. I don’t have a $10 note so I hand over $21.20. The guy stares at me for a second, then walks over to get a calculator to work out my change!!!! I’m standing there slightly bemused that he needs a calculator to work it out…then he hands me $7 change??????? I’m not sure what he typed in but… So I told him he needed to give me $10 change but he doesn’t believe me and calls over his supervisor. Oh dear. I don’t think this guy believed his parents when they told him he would need to use his school maths later in life!


I shared this with my bride, who told me she had a similar thing occur when buying a BBQ chook last week. The bill came to 12.20, so she gave the customer service person (the chook seller) $15 while she rifled around for an extra 20 cents. The chook seller entered $15 into the cash register just as my bride gave her the extra 20 cents. Stunned, the chook seller became confused and started to panic.

What’s that for” she asked? My bride said “well now you can just give me $3 change.” The chook seller became agitated, “but I’ve entered $15” and stared at her chook selling supervisor. The chook selling supervisor came over and asked the chook seller, not my bride, “what’s the problem?

My bride explained that 20 cents seemed to be the problem. The chook selling supervisor didn’t know what to do and the chook seller refused to accept the 20 cents. She demanded my bride take the $2.80 change and became quite flustered. She was probably working out how to apply for mental health leave from PTCSSD – that’s Post Traumatic Chook Selling Stress Disorder.

My bride started chatting with another customer whom she knew. The chook seller started shouting “number 71, number 71“. Eventually my bride asked if it was her order. The flustered chook seller, seeking her chance at revenge spat out “yes it’s your order, number 71“. My bride replied, “you didn’t give me a number because you were too confused over the 20 cents” grabbed her BBQ chook and departed.

Last week, while being served in a local restaurant and despite pointing and stating the number of the dish I wanted, the waitress had to get someone to assist her to take my order.

It seems that to succeed in today’s service industry you don’t need to be able to write or add up without a calculator. Stupidity rules! Maybe there’s a generation too influenced by that brilliant philosopher, Homer Simpson:

Homer simpson never-try

But stupidity is not restricted to the humble food industry. The marketing industry is the same. A colleague with almost 30 years experience in marketing, including 18 in digital channels applied for a senior digital role in an agency. She’d done the same job very successfully at other agencies.

The first thing the CEO said when he learned this person was applying was tell the recruiter “she’ll want my job“. How do these people get to the top? What kind of CEO is that paranoid and gutless they won’t hire someone with the experience to help grow their business, not to mention their own career.

Apparently the CEO wanted someone with only a little experience, who was on their way up – which means ‘on their way out in 18 months’. It’s one of the reasons there is so much marketing garbage being created online. Inexperienced marketers and agencies who don’t know what they don’t know, because they are so limited in their marketing knowledge.

Wanna buy some used customer engagement?

Another colleague has left the agency he was working with, as the agency was uncomfortable with his constant requests to create digital marketing messages for their client which had measurable objectives. The agency just wanted to create anything that made the agency money – management kept claiming “it’s about customer engagement” without ever measuring what the hell “customer engagement” meant. This conflicted with my colleague’s belief of doing what’s right for the client, so he is looking for a new job.

Now the client has lost an account handler that had their interest at heart and the agency has to find a replacement. I’m not sure who is more stupid – the agency or the client for buying what the agency is selling?

I think Forrest Gump explained it best when he said “Stupid is what stupid does”.

An intelligent person who does stupid things is still stupid. Just as a stupid person who does stupid things is still stupid. You are what you do.

Sadly, intelligent people and those who use common sense, seem to be few and far between these days.

forrest gump


  1. Hi Malcolm,
    This article reminds me of why I am now sitting up at Lake Macquarie and enjoying my life. I got sick to death of being told that I was overqualified for any position I went for over the last 12 months.
    I also came up against managers who were afraid that I would take their jobs, when all I wanted was to work and help them and their companies with the experience I had gathered over my working life.
    Looking back I now realise that they have done me a great service, fishings great.

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