Research War Stories: 'This is a business expense!'
In the popular War Stories column, which has run sporadically in Quirk's since 1994, Art Shulman, president of Shulman Research in Van Nuys, Calif., presents humorous tales of life in the research trenches, based on his own experiences and those of researcher friends and colleagues. Each month in our e-newsletter we feature a few anecdotes from past War Stories columns.
Ellen Karp recalls working on a project concerning AIDS. In preparation for upcoming interviewing, she visited a pharmacy, which happened to be very busy at the time, to purchase a large number of condoms. In the aisle displaying the condoms, she merrily selected a wide variety of product, placing it in her basket as other shoppers either admired her with smiles or threw her disdainful looks.
Once she reached the checkout line, again the nearby shoppers noticed what was in her basket and either smiled or sneered, as Karp, thinking of her project, told them "Busy weekend coming up!"
At last, when her items had been scanned, she gave the cashier a personal credit card. Then, realizing that she was buying the condoms for a project, she took out a different credit card, one she used for business, and exclaimed "No, give me that card back. Use this one. This is a business expense!"
A hush descended over Karp's checkout line.
In the college class Art Shulman taught, he assigned a group project where students were asked to design a market research program for a product of the group's choosing. It is not unusual during this process for students to give out samples of the types of products they are dealing with. Usually this involves stuff like candy or chips. But one particular group presented their research on condoms.
At the end of the presentation one of the group members handed out condoms to those in the room, including Shulman. He placed the condoms in his briefcase and promptly forgot they were there. A couple of weeks later, at home, his wife asked if he knew where certain paperwork was - something related to taxes - and he told her to look in his briefcase.
Sure enough, moments later she approached him with his briefcase in one hand and a condom in the other hand, asking "And, uh, exactly why was this condom in your briefcase?"
"Because," he began, "one of the women in my class gave it to me. She was very attractive."
Fortunately he has a very understanding wife who believed him when he told the full story.
the full story.