Well if I had known the Quandt family was involved with Varta I would have definitely bypassed making a visit to this maker of automotive and portable batteries. The billionaire Quandt family owns controlling shares in BMW and Altana, two German companies which both gave me extremely lousy receptions. Unfortunately I don't find out about the Quandt's involvement until after the poor reception extended to me at Varta.

I cycle 10 miles north of Hannover's city center via bike trails, hiking trails and along train tracks to reach the four story headquarters of Varta. Why? Maps and everyone I ask in the city center seem to be clueless as to how one gets to Varta's offices without using the freeway. Revenues for this manufacturer of batteries totaled $1.2 billion last year and employ over 8,900 people.

The four-story building stands outside the gates of what looks to be a sprawling plant. I walk inside and end up standing at the reception counter for over five minutes while this man stands behind the counter smoking away on a cigarette. Though he can plainly see me -I'm completely ignored. Unbelievable! I finally say something and learn he speaks only German. I point to the name on my questionnaire, Dr. Georg Prilhofer-Co-Chairman, and this receptionist (?) points toward the plant. I then head over to the security guard manning the gated entry to the plant. The guard, who speaks very little English, points me back to the building I just came from. I return to the building and to the receptionist (?) who seems to be in his own little world. Evidently the guard at the gate called someone and in a few minutes I met by Sven Kremser from the company's press department. No one seems to know anything about my introductory letter sent a month earlier to Prilhofer. This results in Kremser agreeing to make, what turns out to be a lackluster effort to answers questions.

Guess what? It turns out I'm not even in the building housing the executives. The bigwigs are located in a three-story building inside the adjacent plant-which I'm not allowed to enter. It's a big plant with over 1,000 employees. Its REALLY frustrating asking questions about a building I can't see even from a distance.

Any employee perks at this 105-year-old company? Discounts on batteries. I leave very frustrated. Oh, and I found out about the Quandt family connection by perusing the company's annual report and finding Sonja Quandt-Wolf and Sven Quandt on the Board of Directors list. After their names were the titles: "Entrepreneurs".