Erupting Hot Sauce (Issue 990)

In which we are reminded to notice and respond to the subtle signs that a client relationship may be going bad.

I enjoy mild to medium heat peppers and I love avocado so, when a friend introduced me to a hot sauce that combined them, I went nuts.  It comes in a plastic bottle with a funnel top, capped with a little red cap; I squirt the sauce on pita chips, sourdough bread, and, frequently, I squirt some on a spoon and “eat it straight”. Big fan.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran out. On my next grocery run, I bought TWO bottles so I could run on the reserve while replenishing inventory. I was SO excited. I got home, I unpacked the groceries, I popped open a fresh bag of  pita chips, and turned my attention to the sauce.

I grabbed the bottle closest to me and unscrewed the top to remove the inner seal.  I noticed that the seal had popped up and partially detached from the bottle top.  “No matter,” I thought.  I attributed that to my over-eager, ham-handed removal of the bottle top.

Ensuring that the red cap covering the mouth of the funnel top was securely in place, I followed the directions on the side of the bottle: “SHAKE WELL BEFORE USING”.  I shook the bottle up and down four or five times and then…

…like a water jet spraying under high pressure from a narrow-gauge garden hose, hot pepper green avocado hot sauce erupted through the plastic funnel top.  In less than two seconds, the bottle discharged ¾ of its contents ten feet down the kitchen counter, under the kitchen cabinets and at eye level across their doors, all over the fruit and groceries on the counter, over and behind the toaster oven at the end of the counter, catching, on the way, about 1/3 of a white window curtain.  The red cap landed on the counter six feet away from me.

An hour later, I called the grocery store and spoke to the grocery manager, describing the eruption. Very apologetic, he said,  “I’ve never seen anything like that. Obviously, the product’s gone bad.  To produce that much gas ….? Wow…..”

As we were discussing the matter I said, “Hold on a second.” I reached for the second bottle and (no, I’m not THAT stupid), carefully unscrewed the bottle cap, and heard, very distinctly,


More putrefied product. Broken down. Spoiled. Corrupted. Deteriorated. Decayed.

Sometimes the signs of trouble in a product or a client relationship are subtle and we misinterpret them or shrug them off because we don’t expect them. We dismiss the signs, we don’t react,  because our expectation is that everything is fine, like, “the product is great, we’ve used it many times before”, or, “you know, we have a long relationship history here and,  maybe, the client team was just having a bad day or week.”

Possibly….. and, when we miss the signs, the cleanup can take a long time and leave stains.  It’s really good not to assume…

Nick Miller and Clarity train banks and bankers to attract and develop deeper relationships with small businesses. Many more Sales Thoughts like this and a host of other articles and resources at .

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