I'm Sold on Classified Advertising

By Weber, Elizabeth | The Christian Science Monitor, March 16, 2001 | Go to article overview

I'm Sold on Classified Advertising


Weber, Elizabeth, The Christian Science Monitor


My husband, Ken, so often tries to market his castoff hobby gear through the classified ads - camera, bicycle, old birding binoculars - that the selling can seem like a hobby itself.

Most recently, upon deciding to upgrade his amateur woodworking setup, he listed his table saw and disc sander in our local newspaper.

Disinterested as usual, I resolved to ignore his latest merchandising maneuver. Who would want to buy these squat, noisy, expensive machines anyway?

Lots of people, it turned out. For five days, the phone rang as like-minded jacks of all lumber-linked trades fairly crawled out of the woodwork.

Because Ken was typically out when calls came, it fell to me to pick up. To my surprise, I didn't mind. We'd been getting frequent computer-dialed telephone solicitations lately, so these engaging voices instantly on the line - hoping to buy, not sell - were a welcome novelty.

As prospective buyers asked questions in matter-of-fact tones, I felt flattered that they thought I might actually know something about the table saw's 13-amp induction motor, its precision-milled railworks, or its rack-and-pinion fence. As it was, I could barely remember where Ken had purchased it, or when. Mostly I took names and numbers; he called them back.

On two occasions, I placed the caller on hold and summoned Ken from his garage-turned-woodshop. This required an up-close-and- personal tug on the suspenders of his Carharts, for when woodworking, Ken wears goggles, a bi-snouted breathing mask, and ear protectors, all of which shield him from avocational hazards but render him incommunicado.

At dinnertime, he'd recount the day's interactions. Apparently, our part of Iowa was a hotbed of hobbyist woodworking: fine art, cabinetry, furniture, kayaks, toys. Ken was enjoying these calls, and I could fathom why: Without exception, these woodworkers sounded amiable, earnest, and polite.

By Day 3, I decided to enhance, if not embrace, my role in brokering this exchange. Becoming nominally conversant about carbide blades, die-cast aluminum hand wheels, and contoured housings would save everyone time. So I asked Ken to jot me a cheat sheet.

Thereafter I noted how many callers declared, after discussing specs and such, "I need to talk with my wife; I'll probably call back." Some did; some didn't.

"Where are you located?" they asked without fail - one question I could answer with genuine authority.

I named our town, and the caller did likewise. The closer we were, the happier his voice.

On the fourth evening, after a half-dozen shoppers had dallied indecisively, Ken put the saw on layaway for an eager buyer in exchange for a deposit and a promise to return in two weeks with the balance. …

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