VPK Packaging Group NV

Cycling 25 miles northwest of Brussels brings me to Dendermonde, a community of maybe 20,000 to 30,000 inhabitants, and home to VPK Packaging Group. Publicly-traded VPK, with revenues of 350 million euros and 2,600 employees, operates factories in five countries and specializes in (surprise!) packaging products.

I have to head out of town and cycle another four miles past farmland to a large VPK factory site to find the head office. Leaving the main street one takes an access road running alongside railroad tracks to a rundown-looking building near the factory. You can't complain here of the company wasting money on fancy digs for the executives. The building must have been built in the 1960's and upon entering it certainly looks like it's still furnished with the same dated furnishings. The man behind the reception counter doesn't speak English so he makes a call and I'm handed the phone. I explain to the woman on the other end my mailing a letter of introduction a month earlier to CEO Pierre Macharis. The woman states that Macharis nor his secretary is in. I tell the woman I've just ridden here from Brussels and have to head back with this being my only opportunity to visit the company and ask if someone in public relations, investor relations or some other department have a few minutes for me. Everything falls on deaf ears as this woman couldn't care less. I ask for her name and she hangs up on me. Boy, what an unpleasant woman. Off to the side of the reception area is a small room and I spot two men inside. I peer in and ask if they speak English. They work in the shipping department and I'm in luck as they do. I explain who I am, what I do and how I've been given the brush-off by this unknown woman. I learn VPK executives don't even work here but have their offices in Gent, a good-size city about 10 miles way. Why didn't woman mention this? It's late in the day and I have to head back to Brussels.

That night I check VPK's website (www.vpk.be) as well as scrolling through their online annual report. I find zilch about an address in Gent with Dendermonde being listed as the registered office. A red flag automatically goes up when I find a company doesn't disclose the address they work out of. Was my letter of introduction forwarded to Gent? How difficult would it have been to send an email informing me the head office was is in Gent? VPK gets the two thumbs down.