THE PHONE BOOTH STORY

Lee_Broom

reprint from April 17 2013

Yesterday I had lunch here in my home/studio which I call the bleuglas vestibule, with a friend and extended family member, David Campbell (he is the father of two adult children who married two of the children of my oldest daughter, Dixie). David is a professional photographer who spends most of his time in the field and whose purpose was to appraise and advise me about some lenses and photographic paraphernalia I had recently been given.

We made sandwiches and talked first about careers, then family, then photography and then family again. David examined the equipment which also included a couple of cameras, advised me (Thank you David) and other subjects evolved in conversation, one of them being about a place in another city that I remember as The Phone Booth and about Hot Dr. Pepper. As the story goes……

I was helping a friend set up a new place of business established as a meeting place for single people, which offered a menu of Burgers and Beer with the convenience of telephones installed at each booth. My own company was handling the advertising and I wanted to make sure that everything went according to plan.

The phones could reach the other tables as well as any local phone number. A great idea but one which came with a number of inconvenient surprises on opening night, the details of which are foggy but with the gist of the story planted firmly in my memory.

We arrived at the restaurant before sunrise on opening day to prepare for the opening which was scheduled for 3:00 PM. Things began to go wrong almost immediately; a bad report by a city inspector, another by a department of health inspector demanding changes, beer taps which wouldn’t work and we had no gas for cooking. Somehow, I inherited the temporary position of Trouble Shooter and Chief Problem Solver. We couldn’t cook burgers but we did have cheese. I bought fifty lbs of cold cuts and discovered that the fridge had plenty of tomatoes, lettuce and for whatever reason, the larder was stocked with an abundant supply of Doctor Pepper. Unfortunately, the soda was not refrigerated and was not discovered until nearly three o clock. There was no time to refrigerate and only enough ice to last for an hour or so.

“What the heck is this contraption” I asked of the owner. I was looking at a fairly large box with a glass door. It sat on a table by itself, it had a sort of futuristic look about it and was plugged into a nearby electric wall socket.

“That’s a microwave something or other.”

“What’s it do?”

“Dunno.”

I grabbed a can of Dr. Pepper, poured some of it into a coffee mug and put it into the microwave something or other and waited until the contents of the coffee mug exploded, scattering drops of Hot Dr. Pepper onto every square inch of the interior of this contraption.

I cleaned up the mess and tried it again, this time with better results. I took a sip and scalded my tongue, put my head under the cold water tap and put the fire out in my mouth, waited a minute or so and tasted again.

“Here, take a sip.”

We agreed that it tasted great so I added a slice of lemon to make it look as wonderful as it tasted and opened the front door to a long line of customers. As people entered I told them about the phone and let them know that everyone would be treated to one baloney sandwich, a slice of hot, homemade apple pie and ice cream and all the Hot Dr Pepper that they wanted.

Noticing that there were more people in line than we had seats, I stationed a waitress at the front door and called Kmart to order twenty card tables and eighty chairs for immediate delivery. An hour later this overflow furniture was set up in the parking lot which fortunately was ten times the size of the restaurant.  Every seat was filled within minutes. I called a friend at a private employment agency and asked him to send ten waitresses. Again the request was filled within the hour. The line got longer. The huge parking lot now had cars parked in the driveway blocking other cars. Another call to my employment agency pal and soon we had a valet service.

The owner had ordered these phones primarily so that young men and women could call each other and meet over the phone. The local service had not been thought out. There were so many outbound calls from customers telling their friends about it that we had to hire a security service that evening. The police visited us and were treated like royalty; all the food they could eat while relaxing in the best seats in the house. It was they who helped us solve the security problem.

Now, if you think that this is a story worth the telling, then this would seem to be the ideal time to tell you that what I have just described is only the lead-in to the real story which is about Hot Dr. Pepper. Bear with me please; this part of the story takes only a few words. And since most of you are younger than I, you are not likely to remember…………..

It turns out that one of our guests while calling from his booth had mentioned to a friend of his at a national marketing firm ,the hot drink that he was sipping. The next day we were visited by this marketing man and a reporter from the local newspaper. Within a week, the story was tested locally in a variety of media. In less than a month a national advertising blitz was telling the world as I then knew it that hot Doctor Pepper was better than any other hot drink. MMM MMM. It is still my favorite drink

MARKETING MEMOIRS OPPORTUNITY   awareness, Hot Doctor Pepper, marketing, Photographer, David Campbell, photography, target market

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