Stories you can use to start conversation or to add interest to speeches or presentations

Resources for Speakers - Anecdotes About Work

Need more quotes? Extracts from Books on Work you can pretend to have read (click here)

"So what industry are you in? (hesitates) Oh, so you're in the porn biz?"

Work and Fighter Pilots

US no longer needs as many Top Gun pilots because (a) few countries can match US fighter technology (b) now have thousands of drones such as Predator, and the best controllers are video-gamed trained kids. One of the best 'pilots' is a cook in the 1st cavalry

Unusual Work

Wei Xinpeng, 55, a boatman in a village near industrial Lanzhou, China, collects bodies from the Yellow River (the murdered, the suicides, the accidental drowners), offering them back to grieving relatives for a price. Distraught visitors pay a small browsing fee to check his inventory and then, if they identify a loved one, up to the equivalent of $500 to take the corpse home. Said Wei, "I bring dignity to the dead"

Unusual Work

Professional patients now help train would-be doctors, especially in the most delicate and dreaded of exams (gynecological and prostate), where a becalming technique improves outcomes. One "teaching associate" of Eastern Virginia Medical School told the Washington Post in September that the helpers act as "enthusiastic surgical dummies" to 65 medical colleges, guiding rookie fingers through the trainer's own private parts. The prostate associate might helpfully caution, "No need for speed here," especially since he will be bending over for as many as nine probings a day.(Update: he has since been replaced by a machine )

Tough Job

Summer job for a Swedish student had him following cows around and catching their poop before it hits the ground (as researchers wanted 'pristine' dung free of grass and dirt). Collecting it was usually easy he said "but sometimes it just sprays in all directions".

My pay has to be higher than his

After a company in Seattle famously raised its lowest wage tier to $70,000, two people (who got paid more than most of the other workers) quit, because they felt it wasn't fair that people who weren't as productive as they were were going to get a raise. They quit a good job, a job they liked, because other people got a raise.

Finding Work

German website - employers post job vacancies and people 'bid' for the job, usually the 'winner' being the one who will work for the least money. (Germany has 12% unemployment rate)

What Job On Census

You can put down any occupation you like on the electoral roll (as long as not rude) so Jedi Masters abound, plus lion tamers, parasites and 'gaiety girls'

Degree or Apprenticeship?

Recruitment agent said give me 50 carpenters fresh out of apprenticeship and I cd find them jobs at $60K next day. Give me 50 uni grads and maybe 10 of them wd get jobs. And the other 40 wd still be waiting a year later, competing with next slew of grads.

Coin Washer

Rob Holsen is the official "coin washer" at San Francisco's Westin St. Francis Hotel. In 1935, general manager Dan London noticed that women attending weekly fashion shows at the hotel were soiling their white gloves on the change they used to pay for lunch, so he decided that all coins used at the St. Francis would be washed. "In recent years, when I was a cashier at the hotel, we were required to segregate 'dirty money' from clean," Holsen says. "Anyone who was observed giving dirty money to guests was admonished according to the St. Francis Clean Money Policy. The 'dirty money' was returned to the general cashier for washing and reissue." Although credit cards have replaced cash and cellphones have replaced pay phones, coins still circulate. "We continue the tradition of coin washing because it represents a tradition of elegance of times past," he says.

Uber and Lyft, Uber Eats and other food delivery services eating into tip income of hotel doormen and room service workers. Union meeting where they were moaning about the situation. Union rep goes "Everyone get your cellphone out. Right, now hands up if you have Uber or Lyft app on your phone." "See? This problem isn't going away, bc everyone wants it. You have to live with that now."

During the California Gold Rush, a Chinese laundry man named John-John washed enough gold dust out of pants, cuffs and shirttails of miners to set himself up for life.

Errant Thai police are required to wear big bright pink Hello Kitty armbands against their dull gray uniform as a form of punishment if they commit petty offenses such as showing up late, parking illegally, and getting in fights with other officers.

Unusual Jobs

Sweden has unemployment issues, like most countries, but, still, the Oliver & Eva sex shop was not prepared for the deluge when the nation's Employment Service website posted its opening to hire a "sex toy tester." Until the Service was forced to pull the announcement, applications were coming in at the rate of one every 20 seconds, with 14,000 e-mails greeting the employer the first morning. The sex shop emphasized that the tester must be "driven," "methodical," and "with patience" and a knowledge of Microsoft Excel.

The Couch Doctor

Guy in NY calls himself the Couch Doctor - specialises in taking couches apart and reassembling them inside apartments. Two conflicting trends - couches getting bigger, but apartments, especially hallways, are getting narrower. 15 years ago a couch was 7 feet long and less than 3 feet wide. Now 10 feet and 43 inches common, yet typical NY doorway is 28 inches wide. Common scenario of people buying a couch, failing to get it into apartment, then finding store will only buy it back at 50% of cost. (Guy takes couch apart with hand saw because clients find even small power saws too scary, then bolts everything back together again.)

Walking Work

A carpet company pays people $5 an hour to walk up and down long rows of carpet, an average of 14 miles a day - 20,000 steps, about 5 years of average wear on a carpet - the walkers get to lose weight and read books

The Army

The army has spent £10,167 on breast reductions for soldiers who could not fit into their body armour. It also paid £7,090 for three recruits to have their ears pinned back because their helmets did not fit properly. The figures were revealed after a freedom of information request by the Daily Mirror. It was not clear whether the soldiers were male or female.

But it's not a pay cut

Saudi Arabia switched to the 365-day Gregorian calendar on October 2nd, in part to reduce government expenses. Bureaucrats had been using the Islamic lunar Hijri (354-day) calendar but now must work a 3-percent longer year for the same salaries.


"[Our critics] are absolutely right. We are professional liars," said Everett Davis, founder of the Internet-based Reference Store, which supplies pumped-up, but false, resumes for job-seekers having trouble landing work. Davis and associates are, he told Houston's KRIV-TV in November, ex-investigators schooled in deception and therefore good at fooling human resources personnel who follow up on the bogus work claims. Davis admitted he would even disguise a customer's past criminal record--but not if the job is in public safety, health care, or schools.

If you have served in the military, regardless of the branch of service, regardless of where you were deployed, and regardless of whether you served during a time of peace or a time of war, you are at a 60% greater risk of dying from ALS (motor neuron disease) and nobody knows why.

Dilbert Work

Dilbert/Dogbert's suggestion for new job: "I will listen to your sad story $5" (client comes in with sad story, Dogbert laughs hysterically, hands client $5)

Intruder gets clean away

A woman returned home to find that an intruder had broken into the house, done some cleaning and left a bill - and her name and number - scrawled on a napkin. Sherry Bush popped out, leaving her daughter sleeping upstairs at their home in Westlake, Ohio. When she came back she found the rubbish had been taken out, the carpet had been vacuumed and coffee mugs had been washed up. Bush called the number on the napkin. 'I said: 'Did you get the wrong house?'. And she said: 'No, I do this all the time'. Police revealed that the cleaner was last month charged with criminal trespass after breaking into and cleaning a home.

Topless House Cleaners

Santa Fe topless house cleaners $85 an hour

Unusual Job Standards

The epicenter of California's January [1994] "Northridge" earthquake was five miles from the United States's then-largest egg farm, where hens had produced their usual one million eggs in the hours before the quake hit. The damage to the farm was a snapped water line, toppled empty egg pallets, and a total of one broken egg. Said manager Robert Wagner to his employees, "We had a 6.6 earthquake that broke less eggs than you guys do when we're working."

Downtown Abbey: Americans paying $2500 a day for small group to play downstairs servants. Can go as normal hotel guest, but about half choose the servant option.

Great Work

Henry VIII had a 'Groom of the Stool' whose job it was to wipe the royal bum clean.

Bad Start

Tyrone Harris, 26, reported for his first shift at Dunkin Donuts in Morristown, N.J., in January and received his name tag. Seven minutes later, according to police, he was on his way out the door with $2,100 from his supervisor's desk. (Apparently, the supervisor had opened his drawer a little too far when reaching for the name tag, giving Harris a glimpse of the cash.)


Cairo, Egypt has a community of Coptic Christains known as the Zabbaleen, many of whom make a living sorting the city's trash. The Egyptian government recently privatized garbage collection, giving the contract to foreign companies - which turned right around and outsourced the job to the Zabbaleen, who are getting less money than before.

Work Incentives

Incentive schemes (1) US home loan company top salesman each month gets to drive the firms black Merc convertible
Incentive schemes (2) real estate co - top sales team get treated to a gourmet dinner served on fine china - across from them sits the lowest ranked sales team, who get beans served on paper plates

Men Out of Work

This female empowerment is a global phenomenon; in America there are now more women than men in the workforce. The credit crunch over there has been called the Mancession: four out of every five jobs lost in the US over the past two years have been held by men. It is blue-collar jobs in manufacturing and construction that are haemorrhaging, while white-collar work in increasingly female-dominated fields, such as education and health, is holding steady or even growing.

Women and Work

Now if a woman stays home she's not unambitious or antifeminist; she is, in the acronym of mothering message boards, a WAHM, a work-at-home mom, the most treasured of all the mom options (stay at home = bored; work outside the home = exhausted). This is good news. With technology that allows the WAHM to be simultaneously inside and outside, at home and at work, public and private, she no longer has to forfeit the manly rewards of grasping careerism.

The jobs that will be taken by automation are primarily mens' jobs. But 'womens' jobs are increasing - US will need a million new nurses in next decade. But men will have to change their social attitudes as to what is 'real' work.

A Serbian doctor is to change sex because of a law, passed to make budget cuts, that forces her to retire earlier than male colleagues. Female public sector employees now have to retire at 60 years and six months, and men at 65, instead of both sexes being able to carry on past retirement age. Mirjana Stanojcic, 64, said: 'I decided to become a man and keep working.'

Outsourcing Work

New twist on outsourcing to India - Indian call centers hiring Europeans, but on Indian wages - happy to spend gap year soaking up the Indian experience, and they actually stay longer than native Indians, who if they have good English speaking skills, are unwilling to work at low status call center jobs

Police Work

Romeo Montillano, 40, who was being sought in the December robbery of a Kmart in Chula Vista, Calif., pleasantly surprised the cops when they learned that a "Romeo Montillano" had registered for the upcoming police officers' exam on February 25th. Indeed, he showed up, and he was arrested.

Moonlighting Firefighting Work

A Chicago judge ruled that former firefighter Jeffrey Boyle is entitled to his $50,000 annual pension even though he had pleaded guilty in 2006 to eight counts of arson (and allegedly confessed to 12 more). Boyle is known locally as "Matches" Boyle to distinguish him from his brother, John "Quarters" Boyle, who is now in federal prison for bribery following the theft of millions of dollars in state toll-gate coins. Judge LeRoy Martin Jr. concluded that Matches's arsons were wholly separate from his firefighting.

Not Wanting To Work

Sweden's Social Insurance Agency stopped Jessica Andersson's disability payments despite her lingering back pain from a work-related accident six years ago; a doctor found that Andersson's back pain would subside, enabling her to return to work, if only she underwent breast-reduction surgery.

Never Stop Working

British rubbish collector who goes on his annual holiday to Majorca, where for the last 11 years he's spent the time helping the local rubbish workers: "Rubbish is such a big part of my life that I don't feel the need to get away from it."

Boss Selection

A cultural shift – what psychologists or philosophers would call category mistakes. Employers are starting to equate physical fitness with corporate competence. It’s this idea that if you’re slim and running marathons, you’re going to be a fantastic CEO. From 2001 to 2011, the proportion of CEOs in the US who ran marathons doubled, and you can be sure those marathons are featuring on their CVs. Give employers a choice of two CEOs with exactly the same skills and they’ll almost always choose the slimmer one. Your hobby can no longer be the community garden or whatever you’ve been doing. You have to be running marathons.

Public Servants

The highest-paid state government employee in budget-strapped California in 2010 was among the least productive workers in the system, according to a Los Angeles Times investigation reported in July. Jeffrey Rohlfing is on the payroll as a surgeon in the state prison system (base pay: $235,740), but he has been barred from treating inmates for the last six years because supervisors believe him to be incompetent. Last year, Dr. Rohlfing earned an additional $541,000 in back pay after he successfully appealed his firing to the state's apparently-easily-persuaded Personnel Board. Currently, Dr. Rohlfing is assigned records-keeping duties.


A Mumbai, India, company, Aegis Communications, announced in May that it will hire about 10,000 new employees to work in its call centers fielding customer service problems for U.S.-based companies. However, those jobs are not in India. Aegis will outsource those jobs to Americans, at $12-$14 an hour, at nine call centers in the United States.

Female Executives

The countries with highest level of female execs - Philippines, Brazil - are ones with greatest social inequality. The women can hire cheap maids, nannies and chaffeurs.


Housework time has actually increased - although we have all the labour-saving appliances, our expectations of standards of cleanliness have increased even faster.

Danger Money

Riding a garbage truck is the most dangerous public service job in US - more dangerous in terms of both fatalities and injuries than police work or fire fighting.

Asking For a Raise

Now, here's your secret weapon: You'll soon be handing the boss a list of the 10 outstanding things you've done for the company. Make certain you print that list on heavy parchment paper. MIT, Harvard, and Yale psychologists have found that heavy, more tactile objects make job candidates seem more important. So whatever you're proposing will be taken more seriously on thick paper.

Looking For a Job

Here's how to nail the job interview: Pretend that the person interviewing you is the one applying for the position and that you're interviewing him or her for the job. If you do that, you can't help but be genuinely interested in what he or she is saying, ask interesting questions, and speak honestly - and glowingly - about the company, as if it's the grandest place to work in the whole world.

When asked "What is your greatest weakness" hand them a note saying "Sometimes I over-prepare".

Work He Didn't Do

An Illinois man has admitted banking more than $470,000 in paychecks from a New Jersey company he never worked for. Anthony Armatys, 35, of Palatine, Ill., pleaded guilty Monday in New Jersey Superior Court to one count of theft as part of a plea bargain. Prosecutors say Armatys accepted a job with Basking Ridge, N.J.-based telecommunications company Avaya Inc. in September 2002, then changed his mind. But the company's computer system never removed his name from the payroll. Paychecks were deposited into his bank account until February 2007, when Avaya auditors discovered the mistake.

Take Your Child to Work

"Take Your Daughter (Son) to Work" days are still popular at some companies, to introduce children to their parents' cultures. Inadvertently, even criminals mimic the phenomenon. Joseph Romano, two-year-old son in tow, was allegedly selling drugs when police picked him up in September in Tunkhannock Township, Pa., And Edward Chatman Jr, 32, who was arrested for raping a woman in Oak Ridge, Tenn., in August, had brought his six-month-old baby with him when he climbed through the woman's window (though, police said, he stashed the kid in another room during the assault).


Article in magazine about study of women claimed they got more satisfaction from doing housework than having sex. Following week guy wrote in to papaer's advice col "What can I do? My wife doesn't like either." "Suggest that shd buy her a high tech high design vacuum cleaner and ironing borad. If that doesn't work, get someone in to do it for you. Apparently this also works for your sex life. Let us know how you you got on."

Change of attitude to housework - a generation ago it was seen as a sign of female subjugation. Now people report feeling stressed or depressed if house untidy. Self-pressured into artificially high standards by TV shows like Desperate Housewives. More than half people who hired a cleaner tidied up before she arrived in case judged as lazy.

The work/life collision - bc long commutes, people away from home much longer, and no longer have a neighbourhood of friends. Instead, all your friends/acquaintances are at work. And bc tired, you're grumpy, and so is your spouse. So people prefer to be at work even when they've earned enough to to retire.

What Is A Servant For Anyway?

A Singaporean army draftee caused a public stir in March when he was photographed by a visitor as he underwent physical training in army fatigues but with his maid following behind him carrying his backpack on her shoulders. (Army officials told reporters the draftee had since been "counsel[ed]."

2 women cleaners got soaked in rain walking to work in evening cleaning offices, so took off clothes and hung them out to dry while worked. Wasn't until nearly finished that they noticed the security cameras.

English guy retired and devoted his life to building sandcastles. Found that he and his grandson, who joined him, cd make enough money from donations to fly to Sydney for the summer (and presumably do same thing there)

Sewage divers in mexico City, monitoring pumps and clear blockages. Wear impermeable dry suits designed for North Sea oil rigs, and a bell helmet connected by hose to surface. Work entirely by feel, in a dense dark liquid.

Butlers In The Buff - staff uniform is a bow tie, collar and apron and nothing else.

Les Concierges, a personal service co in US. Sit at home and wait for tradesmen to arrive, take dog to vet, etc. KPMG gives service to all its American execs, bc keeps them at work all day.

Canadian outfit tried (but failed to get approval) to open a men's hairdressers called A Cut Above The Breast - topless women barbers.

Americans running sheep shearing classes for wannabe amateurs. NZ and Aust shearers are a dying breed so they can make enough money at home. A shearer who can deal to a sheep every 3 minutes can earn $80 an hour.

Working For Bob Hope

Obit for Morton Lachman, one of comedian Bob Hope's gag writers "We had the perfect relationship. I only stayed for 27 years, during which he only fired me seven times."

Low Skill Work

It is still true, as was first said many years ago, that people are the only sophisticated computing devices that can be made at low cost by unskilled workers!

Porn shui - arranging your office so no-one can see what you're looking at on yr computer.


Some job interview responses:

"If I get an offer, how long do I have before I have to take the drug test?"
"What is your company's policy on Monday absences?
"When you do background checks on candidates, do things like public drunkenness arrests come up?
Tell of a time you made a mistake and how you dealt with it
"I stole some equipment from my old job, and I had to pay for its replacement."
Have you submitted your two weeks' notice to your current employer?
"What is two weeks' notice? I've never quit a job before, I've always been fired."
(During a telephone call to schedule the interview) "Can we meet next month? I am currently incarcerated."

Most unusual interview mistakes:

Candidate brought a "how to interview book" with him to the interview.
Candidate asked, "What company is this again?"
Candidate put the interviewer on hold during a phone interview. When she came back on the line, she told the interviewer that she had a date set up for Friday.
When a candidate interviewing for a security position wasn't hired on the spot, he painted graffiti on the building.
Candidate wore a Boy Scout uniform and never told interviewers why.
Candidate was arrested by federal authorities during the interview when the background check revealed the person had an outstanding warrant.
Candidate talked about promptness as one of her strengths after showing up ten minutes late.
On the way to the interview, the candidate passed, cut-off, and flipped his middle finger at the driver who happened to be the interviewer.
Candidate referred to himself in the third person.
Candidate took off his shoes during the interview.
Candidate asked for a sip of the interviewer's coffee.
Candidate told the interviewer she wasn't sure if the job offered was worth "starting the car for."

Lighter Conversation

"What do you do for a job?" (hesitation) "Oh so you're in porn, are you?"
A career is a job that went on too long
We invented a labour saving device: "Tomorrow"
Let's take a vote - all those opposed raise their hands and say "I resign"
I decided to recognize your work performance: I've named one of my pencils after you
Nobody ever drowned in sweat
If you can smile when things go wrong you must have a scapegoat in mind
The problem today is that the recipe for success is about the same as the recipe for a nervous breakdown
I wrote the book on procrastination - well I'm going to write it
Politicians are like nappies - they should be changed often and for the same reason
An accountant: someone who'd marry Elle MacPherson for her money
An extroverted accountant: he looks at your shoes while he's talking to you
Not a well-liked boss: his secretary's job description included food-tasting and car-starting
Resumes tend to be hard to read - white lies on white paper
When some selfish prick comes to work with the flu', give him some laxatives - then he'll be too damn scared to cough or sneeze
Unions are always at management's throats, if only because that keeps them away from the area management expects them to kiss
"We keep the sexual harassment forms in the bottom drawer of filing cabinet- that way when the secretary bends over to get them, you get a great view of her arse!"
When bosses talk about improving productivity they are never talking about themselves
I always give 100% to my working week - 40% on Monday, 20% on Tuesday ....

Boss to underling: "Have you been having sex with my secretary?"
"No boss"
"Are you sure?"
"Never, boss"
"OK then, you sack her"

Had a job at the circus, circumsizing elephants. Pay wasn't great but the tips were enormous.

Businessman tells mate he's looking for a new accountant. "I thought you just hired a new accountant?"
"Yeah that's the new accountant we're looking for."

He lost his job through illness and fatigue - his boss got sick and tired of him
A woman's place is in the home and she should go there as soon as she's finished work
I was a bank teller once - that was a good job - I was bringing home $400,000 a week
I used to work in an orange juice factory but I just couldn't concentrate
"Doing housework gives men sex appeal" headline which just goes to show how many women are running newspapers
Your job's secure, it's just you we can do without.
Good news is that I'm doubling your pay. Bad news is that means we can't afford you, so you're sacked.
We drug test, but it's multi-choice.