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Selling it short

Michael Greene, Donna Myers -- Home Textiles Today, May 28, 2001

Years ago it was real simple if you wanted to find out how things were doing anywhere, especially in business. All you had to do was step into your local tonsorial parlor...known as the barber shop...get a shave (not a haircut because you'll talk) and ask your favorite barber: "So what's cookin' John?"

From there on in all you had to do was keep your mouth shut and listen. Period. From that moment on you could get a briefing on anything from politics to business (no stocks, only J.P. Morgan had those) to musicals to newspapers. And all of it was certified because John really got to the throat of the matter. And unlike today, it was free. No subscriptions to magazines or newspapers, no cable, no newsletters, no Internet, just plain talk, right from the heart.

Today, it's really complicated. It's diluted. Everyone is a maven on the other guy's business and never "in" it. There are graphed charts, sine curves, lists of New York Exchange data plus a couple of miles of Nasdaq. It's a cumulative blood pressure of industry.

When it's up it's a string of "wows" and everyone is an industry expert, but when the "wows" turn into "oys" all the pundits and brothers-in-law start banging us over our heads with the "whys." But us itty bitty gals and guys know the "whys." It's simply because the front door isn't opening often enough.

But take care. "Oys" is a serious virus that feeds on itself and grows and grows in intensity. Did you say "take care," Michael? I sure did because if you start bemoaning them you end up behind the eight ball without enough energy to seek out the antidote and create new "wows."

Which, again, brings me to Charlie and his frankfurter cart. An ancient tale that is as fresh as tomorrow. Charlie, all his adult life, worked hard on the streets of Philadelphia selling classic, juicy frankfurters with fresh rolls, tongue tingling mustard and a zap of relish...from his neat pushcart. He worked long hours, smiled and never forgot a "thank you" or your first name. And every spring Charlie painted his wagon and bought new pennants to string from his pushcart to the telephone pole he was stationed at.

Charlie "done" good, prospered and sent his son, Tommy, to the University of Pennsylvania where he graduated with a Master's in Business Management. One night, at supper in Mama's kitchen, Tommy announced: "Pop, I found out this morning that there's going to be a business drop...a depression...so you'd better cut your food costs and overhead." Charlie's vest buttons burst with joy! A business expert of his own!

So come spring, he didn't paint his wagon, didn't buy new pennants but did buy less juicy franks and trimmings that didn't have that special zing! And sure enough, Charlie's business took a dive! But Charlie grinned through the financial disaster and proudly told his fewer customers: "You see, my Tommy, my MBA, was right. He said business was going to be bad and it sure is!"

An old, old story? It's as fresh as tomorrow's NY Stock Exchange trading numbers. \Thanks, again, for listening.

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