Sleazy sales guys at EMC? Say it ain’t so.

Big story on Page One of the Wall Street Journal today about EMC’s ex-jock salestards harassing women by making dirty jokes and taking clients to strip bars. See here. The piece is done in the prissy finger-wagging tut-tut scolding style that has become a Journal trademark. Locker-room antics? Sales representatives going to strip clubs? My goodness. Surely not the sort of establishments that an American businessman should frequent.

But there’s something weird about the story and that’s the timing. Why now? The lawsuit they’re mainly reporting on was filed in 2004, in Chicago. Yes, they try to make it seem timely by saying that there’s a hearing scheduled for Sept. 17. But come on. That’s just the Journal’s way of trying to put a “why now?” somewhere near the top of the story. (It’s in the fifth paragraph, before the jump.)

So let’s think about how this story ended up in the paper today. Somehow some intrepid reporter just happened to be combing through court records in Chicago and came across this lawsuit? Um, maybe.

Forgive me for being cynical, but let’s pursue a different possibility. Let’s say you’re the lawyer who’s representing some women who used to work at EMC and who think they weren’t paid enough. And you notice that EMC has really bounced back and is doing well these days, and by golly they just got even richer thanks to that VMware IPO. Maybe you figure they’ve got loads of money right now and the one thing they really don’t want would be some bad publicity with juicy embarrassing details about strip clubs and boy-boy sales guys telling raunchy jokes and behaving like glorified car salesmen — just the kind of image that EMC has been trying to shed in the past few years as they’ve (supposedly) moved away from twisting arms and slamming ever big hardware boxes into customer sites and into the touchy-feely business of consulting around “information lifecycle management.”

So maybe you press for a ridiculously large settlement and when EMC balks you race to the Wall Street Journal and feed them a big Page One story about the moronic, sexual harassing, former B.C. hockey players who now work as salestards at EMC and spend huge amounts of money taking clients to strip clubs and hiring strippers for parties where someone licked whip cream off some young lady’s boobs and oh my goodness can you believe a sales guy would behave like that?

Let me ask you something. Have you ever worked in a company? Have you ever known a sales guy? Are you shocked to find out that they tell dirty jokes and go to strip clubs? Do you think the guy who wrote this article for the Journal has ever met any of the guys who sells ads for the Journal? Do you think maybe newspaper ad sales reps ever partake of alcoholic beverages in the presence of scantily clad women? Ahem.

Okay. Enough. For what it’s worth, the story does contain some marvelous flackery by EMC’s pitbull spokesman, Mark Fredrickson, including, way down in the story, the following gem:

At a 2006 annual sales meeting at the Mirage Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, three scantily clothed showgirls came out on stage, turned around and bent over to show the initials EMC painted on their rear ends, says a former employee … Mr. Fredrickson says the initials EMC were on the showgirls’ thighs, not their derrières.

Glad he cleared that up.