To demo or not to demo

Today I have a special guest blogger here with one of his stories that sounds like something I would have dealt with in my past, had I ran an office supply/print shop/copier store. I have 3 printers or ex-printers who have all shared similar stories with me, this one I convinced to type it out.  People, meet ‘Joe the Salesguy’.


Hello everyone, my name is Joe.  Or is it?  Regardless, I am glad to be posting this here.  I told this story to TPoP after reading one of his many posts and he encouraged me to write it down.  After much prodding, here it is.  First some background on me.  I am currently a sales guy for a copier manufacturer.  In my past I was also a printer and worked in my parent’s shop which was a combination office supply/ print shop/ copier sales office.  The little kind like you find in offices sometimes still today.  Here is my tale:

It’s the early 80’s and I am working the counter at my parent’s shop.  I get to meet all sorts of people and find it kind of interesting for a 16 year old kid to be doing.  My friend’s used to make fun of me but I DID get paid, so there is that. One of the customers we had who was a regular was a preacher from the church down the street.  He didn’t come in for us to make copies, however, he brought in several cases of paper already copied and wanted me to cut them down to various sizes or fold them.  Some were programs, some were prayer cards, and so on.  Every few months he would drag in several boxes for us to cut and fold, and I did just that.

One day in passing I asked him why he brought all these in at once and had us cut them.  It just seemed odd to me.  He then delights in telling me just what he was doing.  Back in those days, if you were thinking of buying an office copier, you could ask for a demo and the place would drop a machine off at your place for a week , along with a small bottle of toner, for you to try.  You would then have them pick it up after the week and decide to buy or not. By now you have all probably guessed just what this guy was doing.  He would call up Company A and request a trial copier.  Once he got it, he would purchase toner from SOMEWHERE and run that thing into the ground for a week.  Do 3 months of copies in one week.  Then he would just turn the machine in, only to start the process over again a few months later with someone else.  I am thinking that this is quite deceitful, especially for a ‘man of the cloth’.  I am pretty religious so this bothered me, but I didn’t say anything, I just kept doing the work he brought in.

One day I get a phone call.  On the other end it is this guy, the Father. “Hello copier sales place, I am interested in getting a copier for our office, would you have a loaner that we could demo?”.  “Father John ? (I just made that up)” I asked?  He said yes, that it was him and how did I know who he was.  I just replied that it was Joe, who cuts all of his copies every few months.  Now MOST people here would realize that they made a mistake, that he just called a guy who knew of his plans.  Not sure if he was oblivious or didn’t care, but he then asked “So Joe, can I get a demo machine to see if we are interested in purchasing it?”.  WTF!!!!  What do I say?  My first instinct is to be quite rude back to him, but he is a preacher, and it IS my parent’s business, not mine.  So I just tell him that we don’t do that but he is welcome to come in anytime and demo the machines we have here in our office. “So you don’t have a demo machine you can give me?” he asks again.  I politely say “No sir”, and then he HANGS UP!!!!

Now I have all sorts of internal conflict here.  This guy is stealing, but somehow is justifying it in his own mind.  I can’t just call him out, so what do I do?  Well, back in those days, I knew someone in all the competing places within about 100 miles.  Heck, a lot of them stopped in our store to get supplies like toner when they needed something in a hurry if we were closer.  So after some soul searching I sent an anonymous letter to each and every place within 100 miles letting them know that there is a person who will call them, if he hasn’t already, and ask for a loner machine.  Mind you this was before email.  I told them his first name was John and not to be fooled by his job, but to try and get some limits on any machine they sent out or they would regret it.  I couldn’t bring myself to confront him, so perhaps this would work.  Stealing is bad!

Well, it worked, mostly.  One place I talked to regularly told me about this letter they received about a deadbeat and asked it I got one also.  I lied and said I did.  They then told me how they actually had a guy come in, a pastor no less, an ask for a machine for a week.  They were thinking of the letter they got so they told him that they could do it but there would be a limit of 1000 copies allowed on the machine, and that excess copies would be charged at the going rate. “it had to be the guy because his face just got beet red and he stormed out of the store without saying a word!” he exclaimed.  We also stopped seeing him come into our store to cut and fold things.  Whether it was because he couldn’t get them anymore or didn’t want to come in to see me, I don’t know, but I hope he started doing the right thing and stopped stealing.

Thanks for reading my story, thanks TPoP for letting me vent it here and thanks TPoP for the entertainment I get reading your stuff.

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