Towering fear of unlucky 13
Sunday 28 September 1997
So what's the secret of its success? Shrewd investment strategies? Great marketing? Superlative customer service? Or is it because someone up there is looking after them?
From my vantage point next to the new HQ, I can reveal that there is indeed someone up there - 350 feet above the ground to be exact - though it's not Himself but the construction team.
As you can see from the picture below, the building workers are so concerned about warding off evil spirits that in inscribing floor numbers on the shell of Citibank's new building, they have filled the space between levels 12 and 14 not with "13" but "12+1".
While avoidance of the unlucky number is something of a custom among American companies, Citibank says it is only the builders who are superstitious; when the bank moves in, it will have a 13th floor and be proud of it. And, presumably, its staff will also be instructed to open their umbrellas indoors, walk under ladders and smash all the mirrors.
It is to be hoped, meanwhile, that the construction workers enjoy a better fate in placating the gods than that suffered by Bill Williams, who recently recalled his time working at Number 13 Grosvenor Crescent for PA Consulting in the mid-1970s.
Mr Williams had just been made a regional director at the firm and was waiting in his office for a prospective client who seemed on the point of delivering a lucrative set of assignments. So it should have been a good omen that superstition had persuaded someone to remove the offending number from the front door.
Unfortunately, it wasn't, because the client turned up 90 minutes late complaining that he hadn't been able to find Number 13, prompting the now irate Mr Williams to retort: "It's an intelligence test. The number lies between 12 and 14."
At which point the client uttered two inelegant but highly effective words and walked out, taking pounds 100,000 worth of business with him.
Posh mice - and vice
WANT to go somewhere after work that's got a bit of class? Then make sure to ask if there's a mouse in the house.
To explain, the Savoy is the place to be for the discerning drinker or gastronome: it was recently voted the best hotel in the world by business travellers, and the Savoy group has just reported an 84 per cent leap in half-year pre-tax profits. But was all this despite or because of the rampaging rodents who took the floor at the hotel's River Restaurant one night last month, causing the well-heeled clientele to stick the self- same heels in the air?
I think it was "because of" since there is now a trend among London's mice to be seen only in those venues that will confer a sense of social status. The latest outbreak of MWA (mice with attitude) occurred at the Soho House, a drinking den for aspirant media types, where a Bunhill spy noticed two of the rodents "cavorting on the floor". Luckily my mole knows a mouse when he sees one so he reported the incident to a member of staff, and in an ideal world the conversation would have gone as follows:
"Waiter, there's a mouse on the floor."
"Is there really, sir? Well don't worry - we'll soon have him back in his seat."
INFORMATION, information, information - we're bombarded with it all the time, from electronic mail and faxes to marketing pamphlets, catalogues and rolling news.
So here's an organisation I like the sound of: the National Association for Information Destruction.
Or at least I did like the sound of them until I discovered from their press release that instead of destroying stuff we'd rather not be bothered with, they want to help companies dispose of material we would like to be bothered with - commercially sensitive data, banking records and other rollicking good reads.
Therefore, in an act of wanton spite of which Oliver North would be proud, I'm taking Naid's release ... and putting it through the shredder.
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