The time was the mid 80’s, we were computerized, but not yet cybernized. Our Single and Double seat scooters were perking along, and with a still fairly limited budget, we grew gradually. Our 1986 Literature mailout included A 4 color Brochure, Order Form, a Palmergram and a sheet containing customers pictures, commendations and complaints.
The brochure was designed, as best I could, to resemble a photo album. It had old, small B & W pictures of our family and larger colored pictures of different views of the the electric scooters we made. Had you requested this catalog over the 40 years we’ve been in business, you would have seen the people in the large color photos becoming the age of the people in the old pictures. We just updated product views and used same folks also updated.
The Palmer Independence scooter in 1986, cost 2100 bucks. The Palmer Twoseater, 2500. There were 26 Optional Accessories one could purchase for them. Today’s costs: PI Independence $5000. PI Twosome $5500. Today’s Optional Accessories number 65. The Order Form listed 2 vehicles in 86, We now sell 23 motorized and non motorized.
The Palmergram was a small 4 page newsletter full of mostly “stuff” we woman like. It came out twice year, had hints and tricks for the one who piloted their scooter, about how to fix minor things, keep it waxed and how to take care of bat†eries if being gone 2 or 3 months. Also what you could purchase locally that would save you shipping cost from us. Each “gram” had a recipe from one of my family. Not me! Am a lousy cook and as Jack says, “Her timer is the smoke detector”. It also contained quotes that seemed to fit the times but offended no one.
At that time, most sales were made by sending literature out to inquiries that read our Ads. Brochures, and newsletter and pictures plus the postage to send them amounted to quite a bit. We stuffed them ourselves and finally got a postage meter that ka-chinged away our money in what seemed nano seconds to me. But it did save time. We answered every inquiry with a mailing and never sold or gave away an inquirers’ name, address or phone number as did many of our competitors. The computer has certainly changed the path of marketing. I know a guy that has never made anything that is useful to society, never went out to work a day in his life, yet makes more money than we ever will selling things on Ebay that he never sees, touches, or mails. He has item drop shipped from supplier to customer. And here’s what makes me the maddest, I can’t figure if I hate his ability to so easily make money or admire him for getting away with it. And what, if anything, is he guilty of? This thinking is very tiring.
Just learned of the Great Historical find of the Skull of Richard 111. I am so excited that England, and for that matter, all the world has found another piece of humanitie’s past. The world is so full of wonderful surprises. I won’t dwell on it but am feeling, Hot Diggity Dog, it’s Dickie!
Having spoken of a few of the competitors, I’ll speak of the business scenerio that occurred after we were computerized. Competition became stronger yet we were busy improving our scooters or outdoor wheelchairs or what ever you wished to call them depending on the use of it. Our first benefit of computers was to simplify the paperwork. It was so useful to keep track of owners of our products. Once we learned to operate it correctly, we put in the information we had on our Index Cards and it was a lot. We keep a profile on every product. Other than what and who purchased it, we are able to continuously update the vehicles record. We made our own little ” Vehiclefacts” before we ever heard of “CarFax”. Each scooter purchase date, location, configuration when new, added accessories, replaced parts, accidents, changed battery configuration, kind of use, new owner, new location, condition when told, if stolen, damaged or if we worked on it for any reason is in our computer records. So now in 2013, if someone buys a used one from a previous owner, we can tell, age, any parts or configurations changed and can with confidence send the correct part if needed. I think our computer has helped our products survive the test of time. Not too many people were on the earlier computers, so sales did not come through e-mails. Our customers are generally above 50 and it takes a long time for we older folks to adapt to new fangled things. Even using the computer early on I didn’t realize the potential it brings to communication. I hear snoring, so fare thee well till we meet again.
OH boy, Oh boy, this is our quieter time so I get to blog some more. As I said in last blog, we had many who jumped on our band wagon we were steering toward wealth. Competition is a two headed animal. It’s good because it keeps us on our toes and always trying to improve our products. It’s good to meet the honest competition at trade shows. You have a lot in common and can help each other in many ways. It’s nice to see same folks at the business gatherings away from home and hear their updates on what worked and what flopped this year. Unfortunately those were few in number. But there were a lot of Yahoos jumping on the band wagon. They were the other head of competition. Seldom did they introduce themselves as to who they were or their product. And if they did, it was usually to gain your confidence for some kind of benefit to them alone.
My first experience was with a fresh from college young man who came into our booth and made fun of our product, He brought a couple of young, rude dudes who agreed with his loud criticism. I was surprised at his attitude but age was on my side. A few months later, there was an exact copy of the derided product in his booth. The business was formed with Daddy’s money and the guy had purchased 10000 motors like we used. He later tried to sell us the motors that did not sell.
Then there was the Tricycle Manufacturer who had a contract with Sears. He bought some motors and sold them on his trikes. This was the Summer season and at the fall Show, there he was, in his usual booth, with his own motor kit on his trike and said, “I made a better one”. It looked very much the same as ours. He went out of the motor kit business the next year.
A couple had some good ideas, but strangely, having the best product doesn’t sell it. Remember VHS and Beta? No doubt about the best, but Beta didn’t have the marketing acumen so all bought VHS. And for myself, I’ve made many a “faux pas” like yelling at the kids to stop playing those stupid video games. They won’t benefit you in any way in life.
Last month, I learned some of the best players are now Pilots. Drone Pilots. Well, shut my mouth for now!
I just want to say hello and wish everyone a Healthy and Happy 2013. Also, thanks to all those who we work side by side with and those who supply Palmer Industries with quality products and services. Thanks for blessing us with your talents.
I’m back. It’s been a while and I missed writing, however I acquired some new things and lost some old. As for the new, I have a hole in my head and two Titanium screws. One is a bit lose and makes a small point on my noggin. Not on top but above left ear pointing towards whatever is to the left of me. For loss, surgery on brain seems to have cauterized a few memories. Since I can’t remember them, where is the loss? It’s good to back bangin the bits.
Now, to continue where I left off.
Simple computering was difficultized in our office by age and fear. The girls and I stumbled into cyberspace together. We were afraid to push keys that didn’t spell something.
JP had said the computer would cut down on paper work. Little did he realize we made instruction notes on every move we made the first six months. Which was the On button, how to open it, how long to wait before touching it again. Why the screen was still dark. Which button in back turned something on. Lisa’s small screen shrank with notes jutting at every angle and arrows pointing hither and thither. An open office window with a good breeze put us in jigsaw puzzle mode hastily trying to reattach all of our notes.
I felt the Apple Club hated to see me come in with my list of questions for Show and tell time. I had no idea of computerese and my thingamajigs and doohickies didn’t translate. When JP said we had to back up the computer, I shoved it to the back of the desk.
But his persistence paid off and although we could do nothing about our ages, the fear diminished as we delighted in the speed and accuracy of that tan machine with a colorful striped apple greeting us every morning.
It proved much more efficient for us as we missed no inquiry question since they were listed with a blank line to fill in. It also made our advertising better. Took quite a while and a great number of courses to learn the graphic aspects of designing advertisements, brochures and flyers. When the charge for a 2″ advertisement bites $6000.00 out of your Advertising budget, you better have just what you want. Mistakes were extremely costly.
The competition was also expanding. We had made the first electric attachable kit on the market for adult three wheelers. Many jumped on our little bandwagon.
Attempting to write a life line of the company is more emotional than expected. So exciting at times, so eyebrow raising at others. As for the Chronology, I am fortunate enough to work with a planner. And a planner keeps a small notebook with him/her as a to do list, appointment schedule, reminder of names, dates and promises. Thank the powers that be it’s too small to also include his ” to do”list for me. However it comes in handy that he’s kept most of those little yearly day by day calendar books. I dig them out of their storage box to remind me of the next happening.
As we began expanding our product line, we entered the computer age. The mention of it threw the office people into a tizzy. “We write the inquiries down on long lists of papers with the questions printed that we ask, we keep type written index cards on every customer that owns any of our products. We can’t answer a phone and type at the same time. I’ve heard,there are a zillion codes to memorize. Those computers like to crash.” Our complaints were in vain.
A Lisa showed up on the biggest wooden desk in the office. It boasted an enormous 128K of ram what ever that meant. JP thought the easiest and quickest way to learn computing on was an Apple. Maybe all our protests weren’t in vain.
He also liked the Lisa because of its graphic abilities. He had decided a on a Program that seemed compatible with what we needed in addition to what came with the Apple Computer. It was called 1st Base, a non relational data base programing language. To enhance our knowledege of the computer and what it could do for us, he and reluctantly I joined the local Apple Club. Over the years, the choice of an Apple Computer and the knowledge gleaned from the creative innovators in our club has proved invaluable to our business.
Time seemed to fly by during the years we built the transaxle drive vehicles. During this era, we were still selling our attachable electric kits for bikes and trikes. If that wasn’t enough, the guys designed a yardkart for the farmers who were suppose to be retired but just couldn’t stop farming even if their homestead is now a couple acres. They are the folks who live for the joy of, “tickle the earth with a hoe and she laughs with harvest”
The Yardkart has wider wheels on the rear, so it has more traction for pushing vehicle. The guys left the regular Moped wheel on front end as it makes it easier to steer. The vehicle is designed to run on softer surfaces and carry things on the platform behind the seat.
We also began selling pedal tricycles at this time. Seems they are not an available item in many parts of the country. Also, some people who preferred to use pedal or power on a trike wanted the whole “kit n kaboodle” in one delivery.
Of course it didn’t end there. Now we have a three wheel trike for people who like to ride outdoors but don’t have the balance they once did. What else could you want?
Lots, we learned. Interested people, unable to use their legs, said, ” Without much effort, you could rearrange the foot pedals to hand pedals.” I was opposed to this expansion. My thoughts were as a small company we just can’t have a smorgasbord of products to offer. Too many items to stock, too many parts to inventory, too much space to rent. Our brochure would look like a mini Sears catalog.
I thought we learned our lesson when we had three times the employees, sent a lot of the income out to another source of supplies, worked harder and didn’t make that much more money, just processed it. They rolled right over my list of negatives with, first an adult Handcycle, and then, had to have one for the kids.
As the project progressed. I heard, “Let’s build a trailer for our vehicles.” “Oh yes”, said the other engineer, “A folding one!”
Forgive me but, I’m getting too agitated to write more at this time
Whooee, do we have snow now. All spare moments spent shoveling to get in or out. As I shovel, memories swirl around like snow flakes inside my head. My brother and I on our single Flexible flyer sledding together down the long embankment behind our house. The kids and JP on our toboggan tumbling down Farmer’s Hill. Glorious use of snow,….. packing memories.
The Independence and the Twosome vehicles required many new parts to stock. We had to find a bigger place. We’d been renting a garage near IBM for manufacturing and were running out of space. It took quite a while as prices were exorbitant for a small company.
Endicott was noted for two things. The first was a shoe factory called, Endicott Johnson, named after the two men who formed the company. Our village became Endicott. The business grew in size over the years and provided most of the soldiers’ footwear during WWII. The old International Time Recorder Co. of Endicott was dubbed IBM in the 1920’s and became a familiar name all over the world for computers. E J was slowing down when we moved here, IBM was thriving. The computer company had many buildings and huge parking lots. We noticed they were quite empty on weekends so we took our new prototypes over and ran up and down their beautifully paved parking lots. Unhampered by traffic, we cruised many miles around IBM.
When a local reporter heard of our upstart company, he came out to interview us. Just the week before, one of IBM’s security guards ran out and told us to get the Hello out of their roads and parking lots. I thought the reporter was very creative when he wrote in his newspaper article, ” Small company running circles around IBM.” We understood the business reasoning behind IBM’s request for us to leave.
My point of this reference is to show the large company’s presence kept warehouse and real estate properties very high with so many small businesses serving the local giant, Big Blue as we all called it. We finally found some affordable space in a building and temporarily rented enough room for all our inventory and a place to build our products. Many things were changing at this time.
There was a subtle change in purchasers when we went to a transaxle drive. Took us a while to notice why. Because the vehicle had five gears forward and a reverse, it now had a shift lever. Yowee, many women remember learning to drive the older cars with a shift lever. Our vehicles were not like that. We think the women remembered the crucial – push in clutch pedal with left foot, grab shift lever with right hand, find and shift into first gear, let clutch pedal out slowly with left foot as you give it a little gas with right foot, while keeping you eyes on road and left hand on steering wheel. Now, do it again to get into second gear and so forth up to speed. It’s a wonder we learned to drive at all.
Our Palmer vehicles had no clutch to physically deal with. Just push lever down, once for first, again for second and again until you found speed you liked. For reverse, just pull all the way up. It was very easy, and one never had to use legs or feet. However, memory ruled with some females and our sales to the fairer gender slowed a bit.
Note: We guessed right. They picked up a few years later with elimination of shifter. Bless automation.
Way past my word limit for this Blog.
Happy 2011 to you, We wish you Health, Wealth and the best of circumstances in 2011.
Almost back to normal for me after going on the cruise from Hello. Being brief, two bad storms, left Endicott at 28 degrees to arrive in sunny Florida at 29 degrees. Never has one fool paid so much to get one degree warmer.
The boat rocked so much, we dancers slid from one end of dance floor in a group and then back again. Walking through narrow hallways was also a challenge. One lady died on ship, and a small ill child had to be helicoptered to closest hospital. We were given $100 back per room and all the motion sickness pills we wanted for free. Was with family so we made the best of it. I lost my glasses, caught one lousy cold and took 3 weeks at home to get over it.
As previously mentioned, the new vehicles were very tempting to people who were used to slower, smaller, indoor chairs. A few began using the Independence and Twosome as All Terrain Vehicles. They are not.
We had some strange complaints come in. “Whadda ya mean it won’t climb over a 6″ diameter log.” “Can you make it go about 25mph so I can keep up with my hunting buddies.” It was difficult to determine just how much to put into the literature to let people know it can’t do those things. It’s very negative to write copy saying what a product will not do. I began to study ads. I checked into a few of my favorite advertisements to see if there were any limitations. All my favorites seem to say exactly what the product does except for one. “Where’s the beef?” That ole gal stated unequivocally what a product did not do. They didn’t say what theirs did but that powerful assumation was there making it one of the best ads of all time.
For this novice, Advertising is like walking a very tight rope, and I have a few lumps to prove it. Luckily, I also have a couple of engineers in the business who edit everything before it goes to press. They gently state, “What the Sam Hill are you trying to say here?” Sam must be a dear friend to many engineers. They quote him often.
I decided the best approach was just give the facts about the vehicle. If the potential customer was interested, he , she or they would read from our literature, what the top speed is, what the clearance on bottom is and vehicles length of 72″. They don’t fold to fit in the trunk of a car.
If you recall, our first all electric outdoor Happy Wanderer had 2 motors friction driving the rear wheels. These new vehicles had one powerful motor driving the transaxle with a gear belt and pulley. Boy, it worked great. I was button poppin proud of our engineers. Still didn’t care for that metallic sound but the vehicles proved well beyond my petty complaint. We did, however, have a valid customer complaint.
A farmer in Michigan broke quite a few gear belts in the first couple of months. He discovered while driving out through his field of wheat, his Palmer Twosome was acting like a harvester and chopping the wheat from its stalk. Once it got too many stalks ahead in the belt, belt broke. Wow, we never tested for that. Solution, he quit taking short cuts through his field.
Mother nature always thumps me off my self proclaimed pedestal when I get a little too……. bumptious.
(I had to look up a word to fit my thought. Just learned this useful word, bumptious! I know a lot of bumptians.)
Here in Endicott our population is 12,306 unless Mary down the street had her babies this morning. Then it will increase by two. We have not had a snow covering yet but it’s apparently on it’s way for end of this week. Tonight is a special night for the famous “Christmas Story” Leg Lamp goes up in our picture window. A much noticed Holiday Decoration. We wish all of you Peaceful, Healthy, Happy Holidays this season.
As mentioned before, the temptation “to boldly go where no electric scooter has ever gone” proved too much for some of our new electric vehicle owners. We began to get unusual calls and strange parts requests. I’m stuck in 7″ of snow, what do I do?
I’ve drove across a ditch full of water and for some reason the cart stopped, what’s wrong with your machine? (How quickly it becomes “our ” machine when something is wrong.} My favorite complaint came in around this time: “I pushed the push button and nothing happened.” In general, the newly designed vehicles were welcomed by the public. Although we test the vehicles at our shop, the true test pilots are some of our customers. These are the pilots who use the vehicles daily. One, in particular, lives in Philadelphia. Since he had 12,000 miles of driving a Palmer vehicle everywhere he went, he was one of the test pilots of the new transaxle drive. Most of his miles are put on by going back and forth to work. Earl really puts our vehicles to the test. The weather where he lives is a good variety of hot, muggy ,cold, dry, wind, rain and sunshine. He doesn’t use a garage so it sits outside. It’s covered with a plastic cover and when we go to pick it up, it’s sometimes pitted, faded, shows some rust, some worn spots and reveals the areas needed for improvement. Mind you, that’s only the exterior. As soon as there is an electronic failure, or mechanical problem, he calls and we change material, fabric, or wiring scheme to solve problems. Sounds funny, but the more problems he encounters, the better the product becomes. He’s tough on the machine and requires dependability. Earl has been our top in-the-field engineer, and one of Palmer Industries’ greatest assets. Other customers also test the prototypes before they hit the market. Arizona, Florida, California, Alaska, Hawaii and Rhode Island have high mileage users testing our changes for errors. And they find them.
Most of our customers help us out with their suggestions and or complaints.
Although the vehicles were much improved in a very practical sense, there were a couple of things I did not like too much. First was rather arbitrary. JP and son JP11 liked the amount of power the transaxle drive gave the new machines. I wanted more speed. We really argued this one out for a while. I argued why not more power and speed. Both engineers stated power was more beneficial and for some engineering gobbilty goop we can’t offer both. I lost. But this had a bit to do with my second complaint. The Transaxle drive, although quieter than the 2 motors friction driving the rear wheels on the Happy Wanderer, it didn’t hum . It sorta metaled along if you know what I mean. It was a metallic. sound. It was a good safety feature as people heard it coming and going. Not offensive, but there, annoying me every time they had me drive one to idiot proof it.
On that note I think I exceeded my word count.