I smelled him before I saw him. Nome was out running errands and I was on my knees stocking a display when I was overwhelmed by the pungent blend of whiskey, tobacco, leather and sweat. “It’s been a while Jack, what brings you to town?” I asked without looking up. “Business” he said. “ I’m Gitten some refurbs over at Fry’s.”
“Cactus Jack” has a computer store at a dusty crossroad in the backcountry east of Rainbow. He calls it “Rainbow Computer Emporium”. I stood up to shake his hand. Cactus Jacks face is the color and texture of a catcher’s mitt. His sweat stained, misshapen Stetson was pulled low on his forehead, his pale blue eyes barely showed through the scowl he uses for a smile and his tobacco yellowed mustache drooped to his chin. “You haven’t changed a whisker in the last three years Jack” I said cheerfully.
“Cut the BS, course I’ve changed, everybody does. I’m a helluva lot richer than I was three years ago”. Jack shot a stream of tobacco juice into the foam coffee cup he was holding. “ Well I’m happy for you Jack” I ventured, “I heard you closed your store and went to law school”. Jack waved his hand like he was shooing a fly. “Naw, I only closed down for the two weeks it took me to get my law degree. Cost me $800 but it was worth every penny”. “So you have a law practice now,” I asked. Jack shook his head emphatically “Hell no, there’s not enough money in lawyerin to make it worth my time. I just hang my diploma up behind the cash register. It stops folks from suein me”.
Jack wheezed and scanned the store. “Looks like you folks are still runnin your business by tryin to please everybody” He shook his head sadly. “I can’t believe you greenhorns have made it this long.”
“Well what are you doing to make yourself so rich Jack?” I asked with a trace of irritation. Jack put his hand on my shoulder. “Look, I like you folks but like I’ve told ya before, you’ll never get rich tryin to make your customers happy. Ya gotta think about number one”. Ya gotta play like the game like the big boys do. That’s what I do. Learn what makes em rich and I do it ten times better”
Can you give me a couple of examples?” I asked. “Sure can. here’s one I learnt from Fry’s. Remember them $199 PCs they sold” I had to laugh. “I sure do, those thing were pure garbage”. Jack pointed his finger at me “But do you remember what brand name they used?” “Oh yeah” I snickered “they called them Great Quality. What did you learn from that?” “Plenty,” Jack continued. “I buy the cheapest stuff I can find and put my label “The Best There Is” on it. Stuff sells like hotcakes”.
“Impressive”, I said. Jack leaned close enough for me to smell the Jack Daniels on his breath. “That’s nothing compared to what I learnt from Dell?” “I’m all ears” I said. Jack took a deep breath. “It’s my technical support 900 hotline. I only charge 25 cents a minute”. “That’s pretty cheap” I said. “you can’t be making much on that” Jack winked “here’s the way it works.
“First I keep em on hold for 45 minutes. Then I route em to my telephone tech support boiler room in San Ysidro. I got a deal with the Immigrant Detention Center Work Release Program. They only give me non English-speaking Asians with a speech impediment. They can't even understand one another."
"And you got that idea from Dell’s Tech support hotline in India? I asked.
“That's right" said Jack
Just then Nome walked in. “Who's got that Escalade pickup truck with the cow horns that’s parked in front – oh its you.” She said icily. It’s no secret that Nome doesn’t share my admiration for Cactus Jack . Jack knows it but he just doesn’t care. “Hello darlin, my goodness but don’t you look nice all gussied up and all.” Nome brushed on past in her jeans and sweatshirt without a word.
“You know Jack, there is something that I always wondered about” I said.
“Ask me anything, I’ll be happy to help you with a little friendly advice.”
“It’s about the way you run your business. At least half the people that know you must think of you as an unethical, ornery, cheating, lying skunk.
"That sounds about right" nodded Jack. "What's yer question"
"How did you learn to keep that from bothering you"
Jack shrugged is shoulders and said "Same way as i learnt everything else. By watchin and learnin from the very best at it. Ever heard of a feller by the name of Bill Clinton?"