Reprinted from February 1995
One of the state jewelry conventions we attended once was held in a hotel that was simultaneously hosting a convention of morticians. During intermission R.B. wandered into the lobby for a cigarette. As he was puffing away, a neatly dressed gentleman approached him to inquire about the proper place to register.
“Pardon me, sir. I’m Wilbert T. Falkenstine and I’m here for the convention. Unfortunately, I seem to have arrived a bit late. Could you direct me to the registration desk?”
“Sure!” volunteered R.B., “I’m R.B. Williams fro El Paso. Is this your first convention?”
“Yes, it is. I’m from Allenville,” Wilbert said enthusiastically. “I have my own place and I’ve been in business for fifteen years. Since I feel ours is a proud profession, I thought I might broaden my ability by attending the convention; sort of date my methods a little.”
R.B. placed a protective arm around his shoulder. “Well, Wilbert, we’re going to be very pleased to have you attend the convention. I’m sure you will learn many valuable things to use back at the place.”
“Tell me, sir, how much of the convention have I missed? I’m really sorry to have arrived so late, but I had a last minute obligation I had to discharge.”
“Oh, sure!” agreed R.B. jovially, “in our business we have to keep the customers happy or they don’t come back,” Wilbert blinked. “Customers?”
R.B. winked. “They’re what keep us alive.”
“I see,” said Mr. Falkenstine, with a wrinkled brow. “I never refer to them as customers in, ah, my place.”
“Well, Wilbert, call them friends or prospects, anything you like, but just make sure they want to come back again and again!”
Wilbert adjusted his tie slightly and cleared his throat.
“Suddenly R.B. came to life again. “Say, Wilbert, how are rosaries moving for you?”
Wilbert shuffled nervously. “Well sir, we offer them, along with just about anything else that might be requested. We try to please the, ah, customers.”
“Huh? Well, they aren’t all moving at my place. I’ve got a lot of dead stock I’d like to move.”
“Don’t we all!” nodded Wilbert.
R.B. went on puffing away on his cigarette. “Wilbert, that’s what conventions are for, to put life back into things!”
Wilbert paled slightly and adjusted his tie again.
“This morning,” R.B. related, “there was a program devoted to attracting prospective customers. You have to let a prospective customer know you want him – make him feel important to your operation. He’ll come around sooner or later!”
Wilbert paled a bit more.
“Well…” he said softly, “I came here to learn some new ideas. I haven’t had any exposure to new ideas for quite some time.” He continued tugging nervously on his collar.
“You know, Wilbert, each of us shares the same type of problems. Convention time offers us a chance to compare problems and exchange ideas. I have some gripes of my own.
“Take, for instance, the old worn out models that come in. Folks expect me to make them look like new after all those years of use. I remember one last week you wouldn’t believe! The face was in terrible shape. I couldn’t do anything with it, so I replaced it with a new one.”
Wilbert’s mouth dropped open but R.B. continued right on.
“The hands were all distorted and dirty, so I yanked them off and put on new ones. That really helped. For all my efforts I doubt if the customer will know the difference.”
Wilbert’s eyes protruded slightly and his mouth dropped open.
“I gave ‘er a good cleaning up,” R.B. went on enthusiastically, “and slapped ‘er in the case and screwed ‘er down tight. Even if she is an old one, I don’t want her coming back because of a leaky case.”
Now Wilbert looked really distressed.
“Do you have much trouble, Wilbert, with customers coming into your place with dead batteries?”
“So do I,” agreed R.B. “But the ones who really cause problems are the ones with big mouths. I hate a big mouth customer more than anything, I guess.”
He glanced a Wilbert. “How do you feel about ‘big mouths’?”
“Well…” Wilbert stammered, “We try to treat them all the same.” Then somehow pulling himself together, he went on to inquire, “what’s on the program for the rest of the day? I must say I have never heard such a straight forward approach to the problems of the trade.”
R.B. glanced at the program guide. “At two-thirty, Wilbert there is a program about cleaning methods.”
“Cleaning methods?” quizzed Wilbert.
“Yes, a method where disassembly of parts isn’t necessary. You simply put the entire thing in a wire basket and put it in a machine…it cleans all the internal parts without disassembly…”
Wilbert made a quick dash for the door. “Thank you, sir, for the information, but I don’t think I’m ready to participate in trade conventions yet. Maybe in a few years.” He bowed slightly and backed out the door.
R.B. shrugged and crushed out his cigarette. “Poor stiff,” he mumbled. “Nervous as a cat. I’ll bet a guy like that has plenty of skeletons hiding in his closet!”