While having dinner with a friend, a decades old memory made me smile.
“What’s so funny?” Bob asked.
“An idea for my blog just popped into my head… I was 17 and helping my father develop a line of ignition wire sets. You know, the wires that connect the distributor to the spark plugs in a car engine.”
Bob took a sip of wine and nodded.
“I read some technical manuals, calculated the lengths of wire needed for the largest 8 cylinder and 6 cylinder cars, figured out all the other parts, came up with a packaging idea, and presented it to my dad. He calculated the costs at 6 bucks for the eight package and 5 for the six. ‘What about attaching the ends?’ I asked. ‘The machinery’s too expensive, and the labor costs will kill us’, he said.
“You were just 17?” Bob said.
“I’d been working in auto accessory stores since I was 13; so I sort of knew my way around.”
Bob nodded. “So what happened?”
“I asked him, ‘Would people actually buy wire sets without the ends attached?’ He said, ‘I want you to spend a day with Harry. He knows what to do.’
So a few days later, it was summer and hot as hell, I drove up to New York from Philly. Harry was the kind of salesman who was always dressed in a suit and sported a cool, pencil-thin mustache. I rode shotgun in his big white Caddy, as we drove to an Auto Accessory store out on Long Island. ‘I’ll do all the talking,’ Harry said, as we walked in the front door.
That was fine with me, because I had no idea how he was going to sell a package that contained only a length of wire and a bunch of clips, while every other wire set manufacturer in the country had all the ends already attached and crimped.
‘Hey Harry, how they hangin’ ?’ Joe the owner asked.
‘Meet Art. I’m shown’ him the ropes.’
‘Be careful, Art. Harry can sell you a pair of his old Jockey’s if you don’t watch out. So waddaya got for me?’
Harry tossed him two packages.
‘What the hell’s this?’
‘One fits all eight cylinders, the other all sixes.’
‘Harry, with all respect, this is bullshit. It’s a roll of wire and a bunch of ends.’
‘Joe, that’s the beauty of it. You cut what you need and save the rest till you need more.’
Joe looked at Harry, then looked at me, and said, ‘Art, see what I mean? Harry you’re such an asshole. I’ll take a hundred this month and a hundred next month — fifty of each.’
Bob laughed. “Great story. But what does it have to do with psychiatry or selling your book?”
“Nothing… It’s just a good story. That’s the beauty of it.”
We both laughed and took a sip of wine.
Any thoughts about selling the old-fashioned way?
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