World Trade Organization
As mentioned before I usually walk into companies wearing shorts.
This is done out of practicality not out of disrespect since
I'm on my bike. If possible I'll do a quick change in the restroom
and slip on a pair of respectable looking Polo pants over the
shorts. Usually though you can't have access to the restroom
facility until you pass muster with the receptionist. Over the
years I've written quite a few humorous and not so humorous stories
about how I'm treated by receptionists and security personnel.
With my casual appearance and holding a clipboard I've been many
times mistaken for a delivery guy.
In all my years of doing this I've only once been denied entry
into a building because of my appearance. That was when I attempted
to visit The Vatican. At the time I was sponsored by Bloomberg
Financial Markets, famous for the Bloomberg terminals, computers
that allow you access to all kinds of financial information.
Anyway, The Vatican, which you know is a separate country and
has a ton of money, had quite a few Bloomberg terminals. The
Swiss Guards wouldn't even let me on the grounds due to my wearing
shorts. Yep, you can't wear shorts in the country. I did put
on long pants but after several days of getting the runaround
from my contact person I gave up.
So, here I am near downtown Geneva going into the World Trade
Organization's five-story headquarters. Once inside you have
to walk up about a dozen steps before entering through another
door. However, at the top of these dozen steps sit two reception
personnel. They both stand up from behind their desks and check
me out. The woman says, "you can't come in here like that".
"Like what?", I ask. "No shorts", she says.
"No problem", I reply as I whip out my long pants from
my backpack and slip them on. Before going any farther you also
have to hand over a form of identification such as your passport.
They keep this until you exit the building. They must have got
this idea from France. Many of the companies I visited in France
require visitors to hand over their passports and were returned
only upon your leaving the building.
I had sent my letter of introduction a month earlier to Director
General Mike Moore. The receptionist connects me via the phone
to Moore's secretary. After explaining who I am and what I do,
the secretary says, "Mr. Moore is out of the country this
week but I can give you an autographed photo of him". Somewhat
dumbfounded, I was going to reply, "you think I came all
the way from California to get an autographed picture of the
WTO director?", but I luckily caught myself. We converse
some more and she finally says someone would be down to meet
This five-story edifice was built in 1920 and was originally
home to the International Labor Organization. Over the years
the Swiss government has allowed various agencies to call this
place home most recently the United Nation Refugee Commission.
So basically the WTO gets the place for free but the Swiss government
comes out ahead from having a prestigious organization based
here. Plus, not to mention the money brought in from all the
WTO personnel living here and the revenue generated from people
coming to town to conduct business with the WTO.
The building fronts Lake Geneva and the expansive grounds in
the rear of the building are very well kept. I meet with Aik
Hoe Lim, who says he's an assistant to Mr. Moore. Lim's business
card reads, "Counsellor, Office of the Director-General.
Lim's a real nice guy and we have a good chat. About 500 people
work here. There's a restaurant where you get waited on, smoking
is allowed and there's no formal dress code-though shorts are
Mr. Moore has a nice view of the lake from his office. I don't
see a computer, there's one real plant, a fireplace and he works
at a double-sided partners desk. The table in the boardroom is
elongated and seats 25.
When leaving I thank Lim for meeting with me and also say thanks
for the autographed picture of Mr. Moore