Years ago my friend Larry, who owns a printing company in St. Louis, got a job application for a sales position by an applicant named Hittler, pronounced Hitler.
Larry liked the guy.During the job interview process he asked Hittler about his name.
Hittler told Larry that his family had been in the US since the 1800’s. While some cousins had changed their names,Hittler said he wanted the same name as his grandfather and father.
Larry replied, “Good answer!”
Larry eventually hired him but not before chatting with his Rabbi about his discomfort in hiring a guy named Hittler.
Larry didn’t want to discriminate simply because prior to Osama Bin Laden this guy had the most heinous and vilified name in the world. On the other hand, Larry was concerned how clients would react to a salesman named Hittler.
Hittler's desire to have the same name as his father and grandfather even though he has to spend his entire life answering questions whether or not he's related to the other Hitler is absolutely baffling to me.
I do not have any deep emotional ties to my patronymic name. I come from a family of serial name –changers. In my family we’re not even sure what the European spelling of our original name was. Maybe it was Zentaura Maybe it was Sentaura. Once my grandfather did the Ellis Island thing, the name was either changed to Sentaur or Century, and then later to Centor.
I’ve had names on the brain for the past week. It started with seeing the Galyan’s Trading Company signed switched to Dick’s Sporting Goods.
Despite the fact that the spokespeople for Dick’s Sporting Goods and Dick’s Drive-In Restaurants both told me that they simply ignore the fact that their name is now a “bad” word, it was hard for me to understand why they would insist on keeping the name.
Then I interviewed Amy Arias, owner of a company called Mosquito. Amy and I were chatting for an article I’m working on for Women’s Business Minnesota. About 45 minutes into the interview I asked the question,
“Okay, why Mosquito?”
Amy’s response, “It’s fun, sophisticated, and memorable.” Then Amy said something that made me think about all the businesses throughout the country that call themselves Dick’s, “Not everyone likes our name, but everyone remembers it,” she said laughing.
It was an aha! moment. For the past week I’ve been thinking about all the reasons a business would not want to call themselves Dick’s. What I failed to think about was all the reasons a business would want to call themselves Dick’s.
You may not like the name Dick’s, but you won’t forget it. As for our sales rep, Mr. Hittler, his name was a definite ice-breaker. That's a good thing when you’re in sales.
Rather than hurting my friend’s business, Mr. Hittler probably helped. After all, if you got a voice-mail from a sales rep named Hittler, wouldn’t you return the call?