Bickering Plummet, Inc. is a vast, multinational corporation based in Atlanta. Its business touches nearly every sector of the economy, manufacturing, distribution, consulting, and government contracting, and it has major offices on nearly every continent.
William Wordsworth Bickering, founder of Bickering Textiles, the parent of Bickering Plummet, was born 29 November 1840 in Springfield, Ohio. The oldest of five children born to Lemuel and Evangeline (Standard) Bickering, Wordsworth was named after the poet William Wordsworth, who his father mistakenly believed to be the author of his favorite poem, The Lady of Shallot, which was actually written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. A bright child, with an engaging personality and a good head for business, the young Bickering aspired to become a captain of industry, whereas his father had other plans.
Lemuel wanted a military career for his oldest son, and, got him a commission to be on the staff of William T. Sherman early in the War between the States. Lemuel wanted Wordsworth to have military experience, but not a very difficult assignment. The elder Bickering thought Sherman’s staff would be a safe place for Wordsworth, because Sherman’s reputation and recent mental difficulties following his time in Kentucky made it unlikely he would be given command of front line forces again. It was one of many serious miscalculations made by the elder Bickering. The unintended consequence of it, was that Wordsworth had the opportunity to visit Atlanta for the first time, where he would make his home and fortune after the conclusion of the war.
When the war ended, and as Reconstruction took hold in 1867, Wordsworth packed his carpet bag, and headed South to develop economic opportunities for the disenfranchised people, who Wordsworth had played a significant part in disenfranchising. Arriving in Atlanta, he started Bickering Textiles, and discovered legions of newly freed slaves who were anxious to work twelve hours a day, six days a week, for a weekly salary of ten dollars. He also acquired plenty of riverfront property along the Chattahoochee for pennies on the dollar and soon had a thriving manufacturing firm. When Reconstruction ended, and the White power structure reasserted itself, they began to take issue with Bickering’s hiring practices. It was at this time that Wordsworth discovered there were legions of poor Irish children willing to work fourteen hours a day, six and a half days a week for seven dollars and fifty cents a week. He quickly changed his business model to take advantage of this exciting new economic reality, becoming even more rich and successful in the process.
By the turn of the 20th Century, Wordsworth Bickering, now a husband, and father of nine children, had fully assimilated into his new home, and was often among the loudest voices to raise opposition to “Yankee encroachment” whenever a Northern firm wanted to set up shop in town. His only son, Alfred, Lord Bickering, named in honor of the poet Wordsworth’s father had misidentified, including the comma in his name, was stunned in later life, while investigating his father’s military history, to discover Wordsworth had actually fought for the Union, rather than the Confederacy. This fact is often overlooked in company literature to this day.
A Tradition of “Excellance”
The current president of Bickering Plummet is Clayton Plantagenet Bickering, the great-grandson of founder Wordsworth. He was given the office, despite having little hands-on managerial experience, after a contentious board meeting, where several factions arose and were pushing their own candidates to take over. Clayton was put forth as a compromise candidate, and was the only choice all parties could agree upon. Bickering had never held a position within the company proper, so he wasn’t affected by the internal politics, but he had managed the Bickering foundation for several years and most agreed he had not made a total mess of things, so he was considered harmless enough. As most of the responsibility for actually running the company is vested in the Chief Operating Officer, Martin Devore, it was believed Bickering could do little damage in what was largely a ceremonial post. Most of his duties involved showing up at official functions, shaking hands, and making speeches that had been carefully prepared for him by a committee of public relations experts. Unfortunately, he was usually left to his own devices with regards to morale and internal company practices, which meant that occasionally the employees had to deal with one of his rather odd company-wide promotions.
It was Mr. Bickering who was behind the ill-conceived “Bring your babies to work day” which the company trotted out one year. A bachelor with no children of his own, he was aware of the concept of bringing children into the workplace without actually understanding the reason, and thought that having babies around would foster a more “family” atmosphere. Since Bickering Plummet employs many younger workers at start-up wages, there were a lot of first-time parents on staff, who had little choice but to comply with the president’s directive to bring in their newborns. Unfortunately, the date coincided with a big client meeting with the federal government, so the customers arrived to be greeted by a chorus of what they at first believed to be the bleating of goats, before encountering wave upon wave of new mothers breast-feeding babies in their cubicles. The event was quietly phased out immediately afterward and the publicity chief, who had vehemently opposed the program, was instead blamed for the whole debacle, and sent packing.
Bickering Plummet’s corporate motto is “A Tradition of Excellance” with the word “excellence” misspelled. The reason for this is that Mr. Bickering created the motto and believed that was the correct spelling of the word. When contradicted by the marketing manager over this, Mr. Bickering simply insisted he was right and had the manager demoted, and replaced by someone more agreeable. Employees who are confronted by clients about the misspelling, simply state, “Here at Bickering Plummet we strive for a different type of excellence.”
Mr. Bickering has always insisted on strict formality and everyone, even his closest associates refer to him as “Mr. Bickering.” Whenever confronted by opposition to his policies, his usual threat is to have someone, “Busted back to a banana,” which usually makes absolutely no sense to the person being threatened. Before starting his lifelong career in non-critical positions within family-owned endeavors, his only real job in the private sector was working Rides at Six Flags over Georgia for one season when he was in high school. He was never entrusted with the actual operation of the rides, but typically worked crowd control or clean up. During his time there, new employees were designated with a yellow label on their name tags, which earned them the derogatory designation “banana tags,” along with a lot of less than good natured ribbing. Most new employees were savvy enough to rip the tape off after the first few days, and go to Operations, where it was replaced by a black tag, designating a seasoned employee. Clayton Bickering wasn’t very savvy, and wore his yellow tag for the entire duration of his training period, gaining numerous taunts, even from his fellow trainees who’d ditched their tags early. After his first and only job at a company not owned by someone to whom he was related, Clayton settled down into one cushy assignment after another where he could make a lot of noise, but with little actual authority or responsibilities, until the crisis on the board which brought him to the position of president. It was then everyone realized, he made an excellent figurehead.