The Millennial Who Asked for a Reference After Quitting With No Notice

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Every once in a while, Lulu would be contacted by her Turkish friends and acquaintances, who would inquire about our agency hiring their sons or daughters as interns. That is how Marissa Aslan joined our agency. It was the same for Don Caylak, an annoying and snotty Turkish-American millennial, who had recently graduated from a local university studying photojournalism.

When I first met Don, I actually thought he was still in high school. He said he was 24, but he didn’t look a day over 18. Don was thin with black hair and brown eyes and greeted any of my work requests with an obnoxious smirk. In fact, this was his constant expression. I guess you could say Don had a bad case of resting smirk face. So, he fit in well with the rest of the lame millennial crew at the Yilmaz Agency. Don only lost his smug, snotty expression when he had to deal with one of Lulu’s unreasonable demands.

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Don actually had no public relations experience and had taken no PR classes at school, but I didn’t hold that against him. I also had no PR education before I joined my first PR agency. It was his journalism experience that intrigued me. Don had worked at the school newspaper as I had while I was in college in Long Beach.

Unfortunately, our similarities ended there.

Don was not easy to manage, as he always thought he knew better, and didn’t seem much interested in learning anything from me. He displayed this snotty, smug attitude despite having weak writing skills and little desire to overcome his ignorance of basic public relations practices. Don honestly showed no enthusiasm in learning the public relations business at all. Don was only there because he was pressured by his parents to get experience in business following his graduation.

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So, there was only so much Don could help me with. Don could work on media lists and help me with some media pitching, but I had to drastically revise everything he attempted to write. His writing was fucking awful, and I wondered at times if I should have bothered to assign Don writing assignments and just done the work myself. I couldn’t help but lament again the quality of writing classes in college these days. Don had no grasp of the basics of writing, let alone public relations writing. Don didn’t seem to care, though, as he ignored my edits and continued to write poorly.

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Lulu also had Don work on research projects for her and it was no surprise she was unhappy with his shoddy work. However, Lulu didn’t do anything about Don’s incompetence, as she had basically forced the idiot on me. I didn’t have a chance to interview him for our intern position. Lulu just handed me his resume and said he would be helping me with no consideration of whether Don would be a good fit for our agency.

Don also would spend a lot of time during the workday texting his colleagues in the Chicago office or talking to them on the phone, including one noxious millennial named Pattie Kelleher. He had met Pattie when Don and I had made our first and only trip together to the Chicago office for Don’s training shortly after he joined our firm. He befriended Pattie and others, and later I can only assume Don started backstabbing me through texts during the workday. I had noticed that Pattie and others at the Chicago office had become more hostile toward me after Don came back from our Chicago trip.

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Also, during our Chicago trip, our creepy colleagues at the Yilmaz Agency didn’t even make an effort to entertain Don and me, and at least take us out to dinner or show us the town. We weren’t treated like valued colleagues, but like visiting idiots. I was offended by their unfriendly behavior, and it showed me just how diseased and crazy Lulu’s agency was. Maybe it was the general lack of manners I have seen with so many young people I have worked with in recent years. Or maybe they already hated us because the previous L.A. office managers before me hadn’t been popular with the Chicago office. At least, that is was Lulu told me. Who knows if it was true?

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So, I was stuck with having to entertain Don the night we were in Chicago, which was an awkward experience. After a long walk, we finally found an excellent Italian restaurant. Typically, our colleagues were no help, as no one in the Chicago office recommended a local place for us to eat. We were truly on our own.

During dinner, Don and I really didn’t have much to talk about except for how lame we thought our agency colleagues were. I now realize Don probably told our colleagues my displeasure with their lack of social manners and their lousy work performance.

Don also would mock things I would say or do right to my face. It was crazy. He would, in particular, accuse me of having a phobia about my iPhone running out of power, as I kept a charger with me to make sure I could keep my phone powered up. I had one of the older iPhones at the time with the earlier batteries that didn’t hold a charge for too long. I needed to keep my phone charged at all times for business, and also, I was in a strange city and knew no one there. I needed to be cautious and vigilant. In our modern times, a phone has become an important lifeline for us. Strangely, Don couldn’t understand that even though he spent most of his time at work, texting.

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I couldn’t wait to get back to my hotel room to be alone with my thoughts and lament how I could have taken such a shitty PR job that only seemed to get worse with each passing day. I also picked up some wine and a bag of chips to try to relieve my work sorrows. I felt better for a short time, but the next day I had to deal with our colleagues’ hostility, not to mention Lulu’s and Miriam’s demands, and endless meetings with the team before flying back home to California with the idiotic Don. I also remember overhearing Marissa talking with Don and her asking what we did the previous night. She wondered why we went to that particular Italian place, which was not one of the cooler places in the city. Marissa did this with a straight face while ignoring the fact that she and the rest of the team treated us like lepers and didn’t offer any dining suggestions, let alone consider joining us. Idiot.

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I was glad our stay at the Chicago office was short, only one day and night, for Don’s training, as I always felt depressed following a visit with my Chicago colleagues. It only reminded me that I needed to get a new job soon. In L.A., I had to deal with the Chicago office’s dysfunction from afar through email and the phone. Seeing it up close was far worse.

This time on the flight back I tried to ignore Don as much as possible. I just put on some earbuds and listened to music and he did the same.

Also, because of our idiotic HR person, Maurice Lemons, we didn’t have Wi-Fi on our flight, but this I didn’t mind as I had a brief respite from Lulu’s and Miriam’s constant demands and craziness.

As I had mentioned, things only got worse after that between Don and me. He began to blatantly fuck up on the easiest of assignments, and he truly didn’t seem to care. I knew I soon would have to talk with Lulu about replacing him and I wasn’t sure how she would take it. Fortunately, I didn’t have to.

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A month or so after we got back from our Chicago trip, Don asked me to give him a ride to the airport to pick up his parents at LAX. His parents were an odd couple, to say the least. His father, who was in his early sixties, dressed as an older Bohemian surfer with sandals. Don’s mother was in her late fifties with dark hair and a nervous look on her face. She kept worrying we were going to get into an accident, as I tried to navigate my way out of LAX traffic after another long and horrible workday at the Yilmaz Agency.

However, Don’s parents, unlike their son, actually had manners and thanked me profusely for giving their son an opportunity to work at our agency.

I told them it was nothing, and it was our pleasure. In fact, only the first part of my response was correct. Don’s deteriorating performance did absolutely nothing to help our agency.

I recall Don telling me that his father was waiting for a big lawsuit case award for a disability back payment he was owed in Turkey. He really didn’t go into the details, but for some reason, Don’s father couldn’t work. I only mention this, as about a month later, Don showed up at our L.A. office one morning declaring that he had to quit his internship to take a job at Home Depot because his father had lost his case and someone in the family had to make an income. I was sympathetic, but Don left that morning without giving us any notice. It really fucked things up, as me and the Chicago office were relying on Don to handle certain media monitoring tasks for our clients, in addition, to pitching the media.

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I was furious, but I wished Don luck. I told Lulu what had happened and she said she would be talking to his parents about Don’s abrupt departure.

I told Lulu that going forward I wanted to interview anyone first before they joined our agency and that I preferred people that had an interest in working in public relations to avoid another debacle as we had with Don. Lulu agreed and she put out an ad for a new intern instead of relying on her Turkish friends.

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Now that should have been the end of the story.

A couple of weeks later, I got a call from someone at Home Depot, asking for a job reference for Don. The lame fucker had the gall to ask for a reference even after leaving without giving us an appropriate notice, or really any notice at all. It was unprofessional behavior, and naturally, we didn’t give Don a reference beyond that he worked as an intern at our agency. It was a standard response when someone was fired or quit on bad terms. The job reference call was indicative of Don’s cluelessness when it came to business or probably anything else in life.

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Maybe things are changing and giving businesses a two-week notice is no longer considered necessary by younger workers, but I still feel it is a show of respect to your former employer. There was no faster way to burn a bridge in the business world than to quit without leaving notice, as Don discovered that day. It was something I had to learn the hard way in my own career, and I suspect many other millennials like Don will be learning this hard lesson in the years to come.

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Big Agency Fools

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Bigger is not always better.

And get your mind out of the gutter…as I am not talking about sex.

As a strategy to bring more professional respectability to her fledgling small PR agency, my boss Lulu would hire managers and executives from big public relations agencies through the years.

It really didn’t work as most of them proved sadly to be what I called “Big Agency Fools.”

They weren’t a good fit for the fast-paced, bootstrapping nature of small PR agency life where we had to do everything from putting together media lists, writing releases, pitching the media, putting together proposals, and handling client relations.

These big agency fools were used to having 20-30 person teams to throw at a PR campaign. We had small teams of 4-8 people at the most.

So, these fools right away would show deficiencies in their writing, creativity and media relations skills.

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Two “Big Agency Fools” come to mind to illustrate this.

Jason Spinelli joined our firm to run the Chicago office from a large global agency. He was fine with managing projects and could push the paper — my phrase for handling administrative, non-creative tasks. Not surprising he quickly became close friends with Molly Paulson, the queen of our agency’s paper pushers that ran our New York office.

But when it came to providing creativity or knowing anything about media relations, Jason was clueless.

I saw this when he tried to write a lame pitch for our airline client. His press releases were also slick, empty and uncreative, but that was already the norm at our agency.

Jason was also decades younger than me which proved embarrassing when he tried to advise me about public relations, but most specifically, media relations.

I was securing huge media placements in the New York Times, CNN and other top publications when he was in grade school.

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Jason soon after realized he made a mistake and couldn’t handle the small agency workload and stressful life, not to mention Lulu’s craziness. Jason left our firm and made an odd career pivot into advertising and moved out west to intern?!! for an advertising agency. He hardly showed any sign of being creative while at our agency so I wonder how that worked out.

Jason was basically a nice guy in over his head, but Dane Flynn, who replaced our VP of Panic, Miriam Letti, was the worst of the big agency fools to join Lulu’s company while I was there.

From the start, I despised this arrogant faker who hid his skills deficiency in bluster and rudeness. Dane was a rude motherfucker from our first encounter.

He attacked me in a meeting in his first week at our agency about being too truthful with a client about our media relations efforts.

Our lame client was an online video sharing company that was trying to rival YouTube. Good luck with that. There’s a business graveyard of small companies that have tried to do the same thing through the years.

On behalf of our lame client, I contacted a top writer at one of the entertainment trades about doing a story about their launch and plans for the future. The writer said it was too early for the company to receive a profile and that she wanted to wait a couple of years to see how they developed in the highly-competitive online video industry.

Seemed like a reasonable response to me, and our client was OK with it as they were happy for the frank feedback.

However, this creep Dane was pissed off that I told our client what the writer had said in a previous meeting. This happened in a client meeting before the fool actually joined our agency.

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“If I was your client, and you told me that, I would have been offended,” Dane sneered. “I would wonder if I wanted to work with you anymore. I wouldn’t trust you to share my story.”

Unlike this fool Dane, I believe in transparency in client relations.

“I am not going to lie to our clients,” I told him. “I believe in providing them with honest media feedback.”

Dane did not agree and he forbade me to talk to our client honestly again about our media relations efforts as he took over lame leadership of the account. Lulu, of course, stayed silent and didn’t object to this fool’s ignorance.

At that moment, I knew Dane was a fraud that knew nothing about media relations, let alone client relations.

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He wanted to me to deceive our clients. I knew then things had taken another dark turn at our agency. It was no surprise when we lost our dumb video client a couple of months later. They actually said they were frustrated because we weren’t being open and transparent!! with them regarding our media outreach.

Soon after, Dane tried to bring client hour restrictions and big agency budget controls to our small firm. Essentially, he implemented big agency budget hell at our firm. Now we had to account for every fucking hour we spent trying to make our clients happy.

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Due to his big agency background, Dane was completely clueless that our clients hired a small boutique agency to receive more service, not less.

Even worse, this big agency fool would force us to go to our clients and say we would cut them off once we reached our hours limit unless they paid more.

We also had to send Dane weekly hours reports and then have horrible, time-consuming meetings about it.

In another one of Dane’s cost-cutting measures, the idiot convinced Lulu to close down our agency’s L.A. office.

I loved working in our office that was located in a high rise in the L.A. area. It felt cool being part of the bustling business community located near our office. We had a great view of the ocean as well.

So, I had to return working remotely from my home, which is I wanted to avoid when joining Lulu’s firm. Trying to do conference calls from my home across many offices was just one of the many challenges I faced working from home for our lame agency.

Another low point involving Dane was during my last CES visit with Lulu’s agency.

I met Dane for the first time in person and found him even more of an arrogant creep in real life.

I hate CES anyway, but having to be there with this idiot only made it worse.

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He walked into the CES suite of our consumer electronics audio client from Canada and was very standoffish and rude.

“Are you happy?” he said bluntly to our client, a nice Asian woman named Clarice, who was one of my favorite clients. “Are you getting what you want?”

She said yes and praised our work, but that didn’t seem to matter to him. She paid us $4K a month and Dane considered her small client not worth his time and he treated as such.

I felt so embarrassed as we left after five minutes of visiting with her as I had promised we would stay for 30 minutes and talk about how the show was going and her company’s upcoming meetings with the media.

Dane said to me as we left that our client was “kind of a cold bitch.”

I didn’t know what to say as she was quiet but a very nice lady. Not a bitch at all.

But what do you expect as Dane was an asshole after all.

Later we had drinks and he confessed to me that he didn’t have much respect for Lulu and Lorne (we were in agreement there) and that his favorite employee at the Chicago office was a whiny Millennial named Marissa Aslan, a Turkish woman that started working at our firm as an intern and later was hired as an account executive. Marissa was annoying paper pusher who couldn’t write worth a shit. Her pitches and press releases were barely passable, but apparently, she knew how to kiss Dane’s ass. They did share negative attitudes, though, so I was not surprised they got along. Marissa later cost us a client with a stupid email blunder, but I’ll get into that more in a later blog.

Later during our CES trip things went from bad to worse. We had booked our difficult tech client from France, who was exhibiting a smart shoe, for an opportunity on the Today Show. The client was hard to work with and wouldn’t send the shoe, which was still in prototype form, to the show via mail. They insisted on taking the shoe to New York themselves so Today could include it in a tech roundup show. Naturally, it was a logistical nightmare, but I had it under control. At least, I thought so, but Dane began sending me worried emails about my handling of the Today show opportunity.

I emailed him back “No worries” and that everything was being handled appropriately.

He shot back a rude email writing: “I know that ‘no worries’ is just a phrase everyone uses, but frankly, I am worried. I am very concerned with how you are managing this big opportunity.”

I was beyond pissed off. I used “no worries” to tell him not to be concerned that I was doing my fucking job and he used it against me. Another new low.

By the way, our client’s smart shoe was eventually featured on the Today Show and they were thrilled. Dane looked like the asshole in the end, even though he probably privately took credit for it and said it was his ugly management style that forced me to do my job. Nothing could be further from the truth as I have booked numerous huge TV placements even before that idiot Dane was in the PR business.

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Another troubling development took place at the show when I was not invited to a CES dinner with Dane, Lulu, and Lorne. Lulu had always invited me to dinner while at CES to talk about the future, but now I realized I probably didn’t have one on her agency.

When I got back home from another successful CES where I had secured a lot of media for our smart shoe and audio clients, Dane called me. I thought I was going to be fired. In fact, I actually wished for it. Instead, Dane called to inform me that he was cutting my pay 50 percent so now I was making my lowest salary since the late 1990s. I was disgusted and shocked and determined to leave Lulu’s firm more than ever.

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I know it is not professional, but the pay cut was my breaking point. I didn’t quit but also didn’t give a fuck anymore. During the next six months, I started getting up late, missing meetings and worked my own hours. I no longer gave a fuck what Dane or Lulu thought. I dared them to fire me and put me out of my misery.

The way I looked at it if they were going to pay me a lot less, they were going to get a lot less of my work and dedication.

Yet I still took care of my client’s media relations needs and secured top media placements, but really that was for me as I launched an aggressive job search and wanted new media coverage for my updated portfolio. Unfortunately, I struggled to find a new job and was stuck at Lulu’s as they wouldn’t fire me. Essentially, I had become cost-effective and Lulu and Dane wanted my media expertise on staff in case we got new clients that needed top media coverage.

Early the following summer, Dane went on a long vacation. I was relieved as any day not dealing with his arrogant, stupid ass was a blessing. Apparently, the day he returned from his trip Dane got into an argument with Lulu and abruptly left our agency. The fucker didn’t even leave a two-week notice. Hardly professional considering all the fake professional BS he tried to shove down our throats during his time at our small agency. (I will have more on Dane’s ugly departure in a later blog).

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Although Dane was an unprofessional, insufferable asshole, he at least did one good thing. His quitting finally dissuaded Lulu to abandon her practice of hiring big agency fools and soon after she sold her company.

However, in a sad commentary about the PR business and business in general, after inflicting stress and damage at our agency, Dane landed on his feet and not long after was hired by a big agency again. So, the big agency fool had returned home.

Crazy. I can only imagine the ugly administrative fakery he is foisting on his new agency and colleagues.

 

 

 

The Business Magazine Cover Photoshoot Meltdown

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I will call this the business magazine cover photoshoot meltdown.

I had worked more than six months to arrange for a business cover story for Azra Yalman, one of the general managers based out of the Los Angeles office of our airline client.

Now, this was a big fucking deal for our agency as I soon discovered as Azra also happened to be close friends with my boss, Lulu Yilmaz.

Azra, who was a Turkish woman in her early forties with black hair and brown eyes, would put on this timid act and pretend that she was so nice. She always acted so apologetic when reaching out to us with some crazy and unreasonable demand. Actually, it was a façade to hide that Azra was a horrible prima donna and narcissist just like Lulu.

When I joined the agency, there was a lot of pressure on me to find a business story for Azra focusing on her impressive rise through the airlines’ executive ranks. For a while, I received no interest until one of my business contacts was intrigued with her story and we set up an interview and photoshoot.

Interesting background on this as well. When I developed the pitch, I had several Millennials, who thankfully left the agency soon after, and Lulu, attack my pitch I had developed about Azra. They thought it was too personal and would never work. They changed it into some boring bullshit, but I sent my original version to the business editor anyway.  Apparently, I wasn’t such a fucking idiot after all.

So much for having supportive and knowledgeable colleagues. What a joke.

Yet an early incident should have shown me what I was in for with Azra.

During my first couple of months at Lulu’s agency, I had to attend a travel trade show in San Diego to support Azra and our airline client.

I had set up several interviews at our client’s booth and Azra seemed pleased overall with my work.

However, during one of the interviews on the second day of the show, I accidentally introduced Azra to a travel writer as “Azra Asaroglu,” which was her married name and was listed on all of her emails. She got divorced apparently and Yalman was her maiden name. In my defense, I was not told that she hated her married name or even that she was divorced (or even married for that matter).

Azra became livid although she didn’t say anything at the time. She just gave me the cold shoulder and acted strangely and standoffish for the rest of the show. I knew something was wrong but I wasn’t sure.

When I got back to the office, Lulu told me that Azra was offended that I had used her married name when introducing her and wondered if she could work with me again.

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I was disgusted and shocked and it was a rude awakening to the kind of nightmare I was in for with Azra and our airline client in general.

However, in the ensuing months, Azra warmed up to me again as I continued to secure media for her and had set up the business interview and photoshoot.

Azra also had a freaky public relations manager named Pam McKibbon, who was a haggard Caucasian woman in her early fifties that appeared a lot older. She was always hostile toward Lulu and our agency and acted as if we were trying to steal her job or something. It was a classic case of the PR person who worked inside the company being threatened by a PR agency. It is something I have experienced more times than I can recount during my long PR career. So, naturally, Pam was also unfriendly to me and was little or no help during the photoshoot disaster. In a later chapter, I will discover just how much of act Pam was putting on while working at the airline, but there was no sign at this time that she was cool or interesting in any way.

The business magazine sent a photographer I had worked with in the past while at another agency named Sherry Jenkins. She was a talented and experienced photographer in her early forties, who had also shot my own headshot. I was relieved to see her when I arrived at the airline’s L.A. office where we had arranged the shoot to take place as I knew she would make things go smoothly and she delivered professional work. Little did she or I realize the nightmare we had in store for us.

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The first sign of trouble is when Azra showed up for the shoot three hours late. This more than concerned Sherry who worried if Azra had forgotten all about it. I assured her that was not the case, but I checked with Pam anyway, however; she wasn’t much help.

“I don’t know where she is,” Pam said.

When Azra finally arrived almost four hours late for her own photoshoot, she acted strange and reluctant to participate. Then she kept calling someone on her phone and speaking Turkish. Later I found out she was calling my boss Lulu to complain about the shoot she was three and almost now four hours late for. This was so fucking rude and embarrassing that I had to apologize to Sherry several times, who was becoming frantic and frustrated.

Finally, after more cajoling from Sherry and myself, Azra began to pose for photos. Unfortunately, she kept resisting Sherry’s suggestions and kept holding up the shoot. After Sherry finally got some shots done, Azra retreated to her office to call Lulu again and to even check her emails.

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Sherry was beside herself.

“What are we going to do, Jake?” Sherry said. “I’ve been here more than five hours and only have a few shots done.”

Then I got a call from Lulu.

“Jake…what’s going on over there?” Lulu said harshly. “I keep getting calls from Azra that she is unhappy with the shoot and photographer.”

Unfortunately, Sherry overheard Lulu’s comment (another embarrassment), so I quickly walked outside the office and assured Lulu everything was all right.

“I hope so, Jake. I am counting on you to manage the shoot. We could lose the client if this continues.”

“No worries, Lulu,” I said. “I am taking of it.”

We could lose the client?!

It was bad enough I had to deal with our prima donna, crazy client, but Lulu’s scare tactics only made things worse.

It took a lot more coaxing from me to get Azra to resume the shoot, but unfortunately, she continued to resist the photographer’s direction.

Then the whole photoshoot went south in a horrible way that still haunts me when I think about it.

Sherry tried to get some lifestyle shots of Azra interacting with her fellow employees. She suggested that Azra pose for a photo with one of her younger employees, a dark-haired man in his early twenties, and Azra went ballistic.

“No!… I will not take a picture with him! I hate him!,” Azra shouted and then she stormed back into her office and called Lulu again.

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Then of course came the inevitable call from Lulu who berated me again and repeated her warning that “we were going to lose the client!”

Pam came up to me and told me that Azra had canceled the photoshoot, but after I apologized to Azra profusely she reluctantly decided to finish it.

But she repeated several times that “I won’t take a picture with him! I hate him!”

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The even more shocking thing was Azra was general manager of the office and west coast region for the airline and she still melted down this way in front a member of the media. Even more baffling is I thought Azra was the boss and the person she hated worked for her! Yet she came across as a powerless, petulant, and immature child.

Sherry naturally was mortified and kept asking me if Azra was OK.

How were either of us to know that we would offend Azra simply by asking her to pose with one of her employees?

Finally, after Sherry did some quick and simple set up shots with Azra posing with airline props and standing in front of the airlines’ logo, the nightmare photoshoot was over 10 hours after it was supposed to start.

Azra apologized to Sherry profusely and thanked her. Sherry said it was no problem but she still appeared shook up as she quickly packed up her photography equipment and made a quick exit.

I was beyond embarrassed and didn’t know what to say except to thank Sherry for her patience.

Azra thanked me too, but she didn’t apologize. She then went back to her office and called Lulu again, but this time apparently everything was OK.

Lulu called me as I was leaving and thanked me for managing the photoshoot and she shared that Azra was happy that I was there and excited to see how photos came out.

WTF?!! Azra basically loses her shit and puts me and the photographer through hell and she can’t wait to see the photos!??

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As drove down the 405 Freeway toward our office after my call with Lulu, I seriously pondered quitting. It was beyond a demoralizing experience and made me question what I was doing with my career but also my life.

After the business cover finally came out four months later, Azra was ecstatic and praised Sherry for her photos and was very pleased with me for setting it up.

Yet when Azra tried to book Sherry for another photoshoot, she refused.

Sherry told me later that she was disturbed by Azra’s unprofessional behavior.

“She really seemed angry and disturbed during the photoshoot. I am uncomfortable going through something like that again,” Sherry said. “I have done thousands of photoshoots with top CEOs and business executives and I have never experienced a meltdown like that.”

Azra tried to smooth over things with me by sending me flowers and chocolates at our office, which I threw out in a dumpster after I left work.

There was no way I was going to be bought off like that.

A few months later, Azra even sent me a roundtrip airline ticket to Turkey, which I didn’t use to my regret — I was too busy, overworked and broke to actually take a vacation — but in retrospect maybe it was for the best.

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No amount of gifts could take away the ugliness of the way she treated me during her meltdown.  Nothing could make up for me having to deal with her crazy ass.

My job was hard enough, but this was a craziness I could do without.

I had heard of horror stories from celebrity PR people having to deal with meltdowns like this on a daily basis, (another reason I avoid entertainment PR), but until you actually go through it, you have no idea how horrible such a client tantrum can be.