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Boy Scout motto, Be Prepared

After retiring from the fur business, I worked for Ace Hardware for seven years. Noticing dust on some shelves, I wondered why there was little turn-over of important merchandise.

Bill York

Applying a sales technique, I perfected during my career I began asking every customer if they had smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, a mosquito spray, and an ant killer.

I discovered a disturbing fact; few people are prepared for emergencies. My first customer was an elderly woman, needing a mouse trap. I sold her four traps explaining where and how to set them.

I asked if she had fire extinguishers.

She said. ”I don’t know; Jack took care of that.”

“It’s important. Will you ask Jack and call me?”

“My husband died two years ago.”

“I’m very sorry. But you do need fire extinguishers. Do you have any?”

“I think there is one in the basement?

“They are good for ten years. How old is the one?”

“He bought it in when we got our home?

“When was that?”


“That’s 20 years. You need some new extinguishers. You need one in your kitchen, one by the fireplace, one by the furnace and, really, one in your car. “

I wouldn’t know how to use it, she said.”

“Tell you what, when I get off work I’ll come to your house and install them and show you how to use them. She looked a little confused.

“Do you intend to buy what you honestly need, ma’am?


“You need three smoke alarms. Do you get ants in the house?”

Occasionally, during rainy spells.”

“You need Terro ant killer. I’ll explain how it works.”

“No one has ever told me what I needed. Thanks.”

“Customer service is my forté. I will be there right at 6 p.m. after the store closes, okay?”

She asked how much it would cost. She left the store smiling.

Instead of $20.00 for the mouse traps the lady bought about $225.00 worth of products she really needed.

That’s a salesman instead of a clerk.

I wouldn’t charge her for installing them. She’d likely mention great things about Ace Hardware to her friends. That’s how business is developed.

The store had been selling a few fire extinguishers and smoke detectors. I increased sales every week by asking customers if they had sufficient fire protection. Terro sales increased substantially. You must ask. I will bet many readers of this article haven’t checked the age of their fire extinguishers lately.

Bill is a 92-year old WW II Navy veteran and retired President of York Furs in Buckhead. You can contact him by email at