Ca ching ! Ca ching !

My father used to say “it’s the job I like, it’s the work I hate”. He was actually just teasing as he was wont to do because he generally enjoyed working though of course some days were better than others.  Some years were more plentiful than others.  Some customers, vendors, suppliers, creditors and employees were nicer to him than others.  Some ….. you get the idea.  Overall though his expectations of his snack food company growing as big as Frito-Lay or Wise Potato Chip Co. were not met, yet he supported us well and when he died he assembled a book called “The Last Roundup” which organized his estate plan into one place making it easy for his survivors to honor his wishes and provide for us.  I think of him often and especially today because he died fourteen years ago on April 13 at the age of 91. Kinehora!

I used to work at the factory some summers while in college, and also looked forward to going to the office on Saturdays with my dad when he went in for a few hours to catch up, organize and plan for the coming week.  I can still smell the oils and cheeses from the factory floor though the plant didn’t run on the weekends.  The snack mix, croutons. Soy Joys, pepitas and other assorted snacks were all around, some on pallets, some in bags, some packaged in jars and bags.

As the younger son of the founder/owner/president/chief chemist and bottle washer/head of sales and marketing and practically everything else of importance, I believe it was the sales and marketing, the merchandising that was his favorite job of all, and it became mine too when I entered the business world on my own.

Today I don’t miss not working for someone else in Boston and the congestion getting to and from.  But I definitely miss the thrill of sales and marketing.  When all the improbable things come together, and when the customer buys the product or says “yes” to your promotion, there is a joy in making the sale regardless of the dollar amount assigned to it.

When I sell through OfferUp, the online marketplace from the comforts of my home, the bell doesn’t ring like in the 1992 American drama film “Glengarry Glen Ross”, I don’t win the accolades of my office mates, nor do I go out for drinks to celebrate, it’s still a good feeling.

But there is one item that I have sold that I regret selling.  I wish I had not sold my dog-eared used copy of “The Whole Earth Catalog”, the black and white compendium an inch thick printed on newsprint. It features a picture of the earth on the front cover.  It was filled with articles and columns all things counterculture and self-sufficiency oriented.  How to plant seeds and grow a garden. How man can live in harmony with nature. The best wheelbarrow. Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome and views of the built environment.  With coronavirus taking over our lives, I feel a need to become more self sufficient.  Grow some of our own vegetables.  Be more adept at do-it-yourself repair.  Do more with less, and The Whole Earth Catalog would be the place to find solutions.  I sold it to a young man in Georgia for probably no more than $10 six months ago and I wish I had it back.  I think he was the same fellow who bought my $2 bill for eight dollars.   Nothing special about it; it was just a $2 bill.  I know a gold coin dealer who tips his waitresses with 1 dollar silver coins. They’re worth the same as 1 dollar bills, but have more sizzle.

I’ve sold all kinds of things: a twenty year old SONY color television set for $60 to a physician’s wife from the South Shore who met me at the Franklin Police Station parking lot one Sunday morning to make the cash settlement and exchange. I quizzed her to find out why she would pay for this TV when you can buy a flat screen for the same amount of money (I’ve been told).  Apparently she bought it for her autistic teenage son who was very upset ever since his SONY TV stopped working.  Autistic kids are like that.  They go bonkers dealing with unexpected change. (They’re much worse than I am when I’m thrown a curve.)  My buyer was thrilled to drive fifty miles and pick up the TV, rather than meet halfway which is the customary point to meet for the exchange in OfferUp World.

Last winter I also sold a plateful of thirty or forty metal coins of various denominations from Netherlands, Denmark, Israel and Cuba by photographing them in a beautiful clear cut glass bowl on a dark cherry wooden dining room table.  Before doing so and staging my display, I researched them and learned they were practically worthless.  This time a fellow from East Boston drove to Franklin because he didn’t want to meet halfway and said he couldn’t trust the US Mail. He bought the coins to teach his daughter geography.  I sold an old GE desk alarm clock, the kind you see in between two beds in an inexpensive motel room. Who needs or even wants an alarm clock today?  My guy did.  I’ve sold two bird feeders (Because we can’t have them in the grounds where I live) and the tires from my older model Prius, as well as an old futon to a Korean man who was moving into an apartment in Woonsocket.  Over half of the buyers have been minorities.  Branded merchandise sells well. Housewares and appliances are popular. A gorilla ladder with paint splattered all over it sold for $25 to a teacher in Framingham. Clothes, chairs, books and artwork have been a bust.  Live and learn.  Unlike eBay there is no listing fee and barely any rules or regulations. OfferUp must be working well for a lot of people. Crunchbase reports on March 26, it raised $120 million in new funding and acquired shopping app letgo it’s chief competitor.

I’m running out of merchandise to sell, so if you’ve got things unwanted, I’ll market it for you.  I’ll take just a modest per cent age as a fee, as long as I can stage the goods, write the copy and headline, and rotate the categories for display.  And then meet the customer, make the sale and ask him/her a question or two to find out more about needs, motivations and wants.  It’s all about getting to know the audience.   Ca ching ! Ca ching !

 

Published by Richard Halpern

Retired (but busy) after a lengthy career in business marketing, communications and research. Worked at four start-ups and one turnaround. Now volunteer doing prospect research for a climate activity and social advocacy non profit, amongst other things.

2 thoughts on “Ca ching ! Ca ching !

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