Excerpt: 'The Wisdom of Ginsu'

It seemed as though our only alternative was to use the post office. The problem with the post office was that it charged more than UPS for a 1-pound package and postal carriers couldn't accept cash on CODs. The package recipient would have to go get a money order and wait for the postman to show up a second time with his package. If the post office was at an inconvenient location or the person didn't have the time to go and get a money order, we would lose the sale.

Well, it seemed as if we didn't have any choice. We could hold off shipping for a week or two, but then we would have to use the good old U.S. government post office.

Now, in my research to find an alternative method of shipping our product, I understood that I absolutely needed to zig. After many meetings with the post office officials, I determined a number of things. One was that our product weighed 1 pound 3 ounces in its heavy cardboard sleeve. Two, if it weighed less than a pound and we could put together 100 units to the same zip codes, it would qualify for bulk rate shipping. The post office's normal rate was $1.09 per pound. We were paying 90 cents with UPS. If the product weighed 15.99 ounces, it would cost us only 18 cents to ship at the bulk mail rate. This was shaping up to be a good zig!

If there was any way to get our product down to 15.99 ounces, I was going to find it! I immediately called Mickey and Phil (the manufacturers) in England and told them we had to get rid of the sleeve on the product and find something lighter. Realizing that the phenomenal sales of their product could be coming to an end because of the strike, they jumped on a plane and flew over. They tried thinner cardboard. It didn't work! It was too heavy! So they tried even thinner cardboard. Didn't work! Too heavy! So they figured what the hell, let's try paper. Two problems: the paper ripped easily and everything fell out—also, too heavy! We were in serious trouble.

I don't know if it was Mickey, Phil, or me, but one of us suggested a plastic wrap. They went out and had the Miracle Painter wrapped in thick plastic. The next weigh-in was at 16.1 ounces. Was it possible to use even thinner plastic? We only needed an ounce. They went out, and a day later returned with it shrink-wrapped in ultra-thin flimsy plastic.

During this whole time I was constantly going over to my friend's business to weigh the Miracle Painter. My friend Bill was in the business of melting down precious jewelry and separating the contents into gold, silver, platinum, and so on. Bill had the most accurate scales I had ever seen, and he was kind enough to let me use his equipment. I brought to his office the Miracle Painter shrink-wrapped in ultrathin plastic and asked him to weigh it. He said, "Barry, you are a pain in the ass," but here it goes. "It's 15.98 ounces!" he yelled. I grabbed it, gave him a big hug, and ran out of there. Next stop was the post office, where I was hoping it would meet their packing approval. After banging it around a bit they weighed it on three different scales and then gave me a thumbs-up. Yes!

We now had a way to ship the product without UPS. Or so I thought. When I explained to post office personnel that I wanted to ship bulk mail COD they said there was no such thing. We could ship our prepaid orders bulk mail and save 72 cents on every order, but a COD was still a COD and we would have to use the regular system.

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