Sunday, May 31, 2009

Not Exactly Mom & Pop - But Better Than a Big Box

It's almost summer, so yard work and home repair are picking up. Some ceiling fans on the back porch needed new blades, sagging after too many humid summers spinning. So naturally, like a dumb American, I went to Lowe's and bought two sets of blades for $25 each, the red-vested salesman assuring me that they were "universal" and indeed the packaging indicated the same. "Only ones we have and they should work," he said. Get them home and they don't line up with the brackets that hold the blades. Take them back to Lowe's. Get a refund. Go to Home Depot across the street. (Lowe's and Home Depot always do this, just like Walgreen's and CVS like to set up new stores at opposite corners of a busy intersection.) This time I brought the bracket to avoid the same mistake. Fan department guy says, "No, don't have that size. But you can buy a set of brackets along with the blades, but by the time you do that, you may as well buy a whole new fan." Sensing my reluctance to do that, he said, "You know where you should go? Dan's Fans up the street." "Think he's open Sundays?" I asked. "He'd better be if he wants to make any money," said the orange-aproned man.

Dan's was open, spinning fans in the window announcing that fact before I ever saw the neon "Open" sign. The parking lot of the little strip mall was fairly bare, and upon entering, I now made up the entire clientele of the store.

Two hundred fans hung overhead, at least a third of them spinning, and yet there wasn't a sound from one of them. Blades in hundreds of styles hung from the walls and I knew the guy at Home Depot had sent me to fan heaven. I suspected the prices were going to be extravagant, noticing one beautiful model that had two heads that spun sideways like propellers marked at over $1,000.

The only other person in the store was a white-haired man who was on the phone behind a counter. He eventually approached me. I held out my dirty old bracket. "Need a couple sets of blades that'll fit this." He examined it and offered that while it was an unusual size and rightly guessed that it was from an outdoor fan, he could sell me some new blades that came from units that they'd sold but the buyers wanted different blades. "Not plastic like you should use for outdoor," he added, "But they'll last you five or six years." I noted to the gentleman that there wasn't a sound in the store, even with all these fans running. "Dan's fans aren't like other fans," he said, going on to give an explanation about dual motor bearings that I half-understood.

He disappeared into the back of the store and returned with two sets of the orphaned blades, still in their packaging.

Eight dollars per set. Paid with cash. Hand-written receipt. A Sunday afternoon time warp.

Long live Dan's Fan City.

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  • Good story that's nice to hear. Why not turn it into an ad for Dan's?

    You've got the skills. You've got the story.

    We'll even sell it for you on AdHack.

    What better advertising could they wish for?

    By Anonymous James, at June 1, 2009 at 6:40 PM  

  • You've found the formula JP. All you had to do was add a line at the end using your personal shopping experience as a metaphor for social media and you'd be the next Seth Godin.

    By Anonymous Oakhurst, at June 2, 2009 at 8:51 AM  

  • Nice idea, Josh - I should do that.

    By Blogger Jetpacks, at June 3, 2009 at 10:15 AM  

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