Retail Tales – Dennis Farina


Dennis Farina

Dennis Farina = Here is his Wikipedia page.


Jenny and I are in Florida attending a PMA show. We got lucky and were able to stay at an upscale hotel called the Peabody. Im thinking this is the early to mid 90s. We are coming down the stairs into the main lobby and Dennis is at the main desk leaning on the counter. We lock eyes just for a second. And then he immediately turns back to the counter and hides. He hunches over and kindof holds his hands up by his face. He effectively hides in his own cocoon. Im not sure if he felt that Jenny and I would be bothering him, asking for autographs and such. Just another distraction in his busy day, We just walked on by and out the doors to our own busy day. Of all the celebrities I’ve met over the years I’ve never asked for an autograph or anything. Either they were on my own turf in the stores, or we were just passing by and whatever was spoken was cordial and light. I feel bad for the Dennis Farinas who get ‘harrassed’ by certain fans. I would probably ‘cocoon’ up also. I was very sorry to hear he passed recently. I liked his acting.


Retail Tales – Dennis Rodman


It is around ’86 or ’87 and I am in Salt Lake City for business. At that time the basketball arena in SLC is called The Salt Palace and is located right downtown and has a shopping center attached to it. I am in a bookstore just browsing around and I look up and see Dennis Rodman also poking around. At this time Dennis was new to the NBA and hadn’t gotten around to all the tattoos, piercings and weird hair. He was just a ball player. And a good one too. Now if you know me, you know I played some ball in my younger days and Ive played with all sorts of ex-pro league players, NCAA players etc. So I know a player when I see one. Im looking at Dennis, and he just doesn’t seem that big to me. I’ve seen him on TV and of course you imagine all the players to be just these humongous specimens, Dennis was just a few inches taller than me and probably weighed the same. I’m thinking there has to be something else. Something I don’t know. Anyway, while I am checking out, Dennis is near me, and I say some nice things to him and hold my hand out. He says thank you and puts his hand around mine. And by around I mean totally engulfs it. His hands were huge! It was like I was a 5 year old holding my daddys hand. At that moment I knew how. With hands that huge, a wingspan that wide, and his leaping ability, I knew how he overachieved. He was always known for his rebounding skills, and he excelled at it, and now you know why too!

Retail Tales – Patagonia

Mid 80s and I am looking for another clothing line to spice up our outdoor lineup. Ive heard great things about a company called Patagonia. I give them a call and am connected to a salesperson. After a few minutes of ‘getting to know you’ talk, he asks about what other products we sell and what our store consists of. I start the list and eventually mention that we have a well stocked gun department. Silence. Crickets. Then “We don’t sell to stores that promote the killing of animals.” Now its my turn for some silence. We talk a few more minutes, but there is no argument I can make to change his mind.

On their behalf, they had a company policy, a belief that they guided their company with. I can respect that.

If you are looking for some Patagonia, head over to Dicks Sporting Goods. They have it. Stocked next to the gun department.Screen Shot 2013-02-26 at 1.27.47 PM

Retail Tales – Kodak Create-A-Print and Unintended Consequences

Create-A-Print ImageTo say the Create-A-Print (CAP) was important to us is an understatement. Our photo lab was going strong. Lots of happy customers and plenty of business. These were the late 80’s and early 90’s and film photography was very, very good. One particular day my favorite Kodak rep of all time, Roger Reed, Came to me with a proposal. “Sign an agreement that says you will only use Kodak Chemistry and Paper in your photo lab, and Kodak will give you a Create-A-Print free.”   Talk about a no-brainer! We were already using the Kodak brand and were very happy with it, and so were our customers. So it was installed!


July of 1993 we went live with the CAP. Pricing was debated. Since we had no lease payments on the machine our physical output costs were quite low. The CAP only used one size of paper, 11′ wide by 90′ long. So a 5×7 on the CAP came out of the dryer with 2′ of white on both ends that needed to be trimmed off. An 8×10 had about 1/2″ on each side. So with packaging our physical cost including a small bit for chemistry and electricity, etc. was about .80 cents each for an 8×10 size. We talked about where to fit the pricing on this. Do we figure it as a premium product, where the customer has complete control over the outcome and therefore would spend extra for that. Or do we price it lower as a more budget option for the customer. Gene Taylor finally made the decision for us. “Price it low so everyone can afford it and get them into the store to possibly buy other things.” So we did. A 5×7 sold for about $1.50 and an 8×10 for around $3.99. Unheard of low prices for the time. And we were swamped. Lines of people at the machine waiting for their turn. We had to post a sign on the CAP limiting people to a time limit so we wouldn’t have fistfights in the line. Even though the CAP was designed for customers to run it themselves, we found that a majority of them had questions on it, and needed our help. It was pulling our lab people out from their machines doing other lab work, so we hired a new employee just for the CAP. Mary came to us answering an ad. And was she good. A tall, good looking teenager standing by the machine ready to help you brought in even more customers! Mary was the ‘CAP Queen’. We talked about a tiara and a sash for her. (Instead she met and married another great employee and went on to even bigger things, like kids and their own business!) Mary was with us for years, one of my better decisions.

During one busy time there was the ever present line of customers. The young lady at the machine puts her negative strip in and up pops pictures of her while working. Everyones attention is drawn to the screen. I see the customers craning their necks, looking over each others shoulders to see the screen. Evidently our young lady was a stripper. She must of been updating her resume. Anyway Mary quickly intervened and discreetly took the lady aside.

My wife was helping at the CAP another day when a similar thing happened. A middle aged lady puts in her strip. She was talking about the great motorcycle trip she had just been on with her husband and all their friends. The picture pops up on the screen and it is all of them around a long table at lunch. 20, 25 people all looking to the camera at the end of the table. And all the ladies have their shirts lifted up showing us…well you know.

The CAP worked marvelously for many years. But near the end of 5 years, as it started to show its age from so much use, it started to get quite problematic. Lots of downtime while we waited for technicians or parts. Or both. I ended up giving it back to Kodak in August of 1997. We had a great 5 years with the CAP and it was almost singularly responsible for a huge growth cycle for the lab. And maybe for a marriage and 3 kids!

Managerial guidelines

I re-read these axioms occasionally. I’m not sure where I picked this up, but I have used these over the years. It’s a good guideline for all managers. There have been times when I so wanted to wave these in front of some of my managers!

-I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
-My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
-Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
-One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
-My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
-I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
-I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
-One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
-Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
-Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
-How I do things is as important as what I do.
-Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.

Retail Tales – The $32000 flash memory card

Once upon a time in the early days of digital I carried a huge selection of media cards. Compact flash, including the brand new IBM 1 gig hard drive. SD cards, and others. At the time the general retail price was about $1 per megabyte. That 1 gig card sold for about $900! I noticed on amazon today a 32 gig card for less then $20. Amazing how fast things change.


Retail Tales – Filters

I used to stock a serious amount of filters. Cokin, Tiffen, Schneider B+W, and Satter econo-line. I would guess that in the hey-day I probably stocked 200+ different filters of all styles and sizes.

Cokin-Filtersystem_02_08The more serious the photographer became in their craft the more specific the filter request. You could guess pretty closely to a photographers ability by their filter request.

tiffen2007whiteBut the most fun was when a customer would request the filter that most matched their sunglasses. Of course they would hand them to me to look through to check for the proper match. I even had a customer ask me to match a filter to the dark area at the top of his cars windshield! He liked how the sunset looked through it.

tiffen-52mm-neutral-density-0-3-filter-b00004zcb3-l_1_1Always a challenge at times, meeting customers expectations!