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 with me.

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 banned.

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