How Bailey Boilers Went Belly-Up
Bailey was the president of BaileyBoilers. He was getting his brains kicked in by a dozen competitors,two unions, a nagging wife, three ungrateful kids, and this stinkingprinter. The only one he thought he might be able to get back at wasthe printer. He initialed the invoice for the 5,000installation-and-operation manuals and tossed it in theHold-for-as-long-as-possible bin. His bookkeeper would now pay thatinvoice when the printer's lawyers showed up with a warrant forBailey's arrest, but not a day sooner. "Gosh, I'm so sorry for thedelay," Bailey would tell the printer when that day arrived. "It's thatEl Niño, you know? It really slows things down at this time of theyear. We sell fewer boilers because it doesn't get that cold anymore.What can you do?" Bailey would shrug his shoulders and lookexasperated.
The thing that got to Bailey most about theprinting bills was that he was starting to believe that no contractorhad ever read the expensive installation-and-operation manual heincluded with each boiler. He suspected that contractors used themanuals to prop open basement windows and light gas pilots. Hesuspected this because the engineer he had hired to write the thingwrote in Martian. Bailey himself couldn't understand what the heck theguy was saying most of the time. And to make matters worse, when theengineer had finished writing that manual a few years back he hadpassed it on to the Legal Department. Those people spoke the languageof the planet Uranus. Bailey was positive that theinstallation-and-operation manual was both technically and legallycorrect, but it was also incomprehensible. And it was thick – 542pages! There was even a clause in there stating that if any contractorshould trip over the manual and get hurt, Bailey Boilers could not beheld responsible.
"You think we have to keep publishing this thing?" Bailey asked Schtunk, his marketing manager.
"Ofcourse we do!" Schtunk exclaimed. "That's ourinstallation-and-operation manual. You can't sell a boiler without aninstallation-and-operation manual." Schtunk chuckled, as if Bailey'squestion had been the joke of the day.
"But I don't thinkany of our customers has ever read this thing." Bailey hefted thevolume and dropped it with a Whomp! onto the top of his desk. "Do youseriously think anybody reads that thing? I can't understand it and Iown the company. Can you understand it?"
Schtunk looked atthe tome and shook his head. "No. I'm Marketing, not Technical. I'venever even tried to read it. Marketing people don't have to betechnical. I have no idea if our customers read it. But we do have tohave one. I know that for sure."
"But isn't it a function of Marketing to learn what our customers want?" Bailey persisted.
"No,"Schtunk said. "That would be Research. And we outsource that sort ofwork. I can have that done, if that's what you'd like, Mr. Bailey."
Baileytook off his glasses and rubbed his eyes. "No," he sighed, "the lastthing I need right now is more expense." He looked down at the volumeand nudged it with his index finger. It barely moved. "Why are weprinting this?" Bailey asked rhetorically. "Do you have any idea whatit costs to print this stuff nowadays?"
Schtunk shook his head. "That's Advertising," he said.
"You really think we need to print it if no one reads it?" Bailey asked again.
"Absolutely!" Schtunk said emphatically.
"Why?" Bailey asked, yearning to know.
Schtunkopened his eyes wide, as if he was about to reveal one of the GreatTruths. "Because our competitors print them," he said.
"Are theirs any better than ours?" Bailey asked. "Does anyone read theirs?"
"Again,"Schtunk said, "that would be Technical and/or Research. Would you likeme to look into it?" Schtunk gave Bailey one of those flashy, MarketingGuy smiles. Bailey shook his head, rubbed his eyes, and sighed.
Itwas later that same day that Bailey came up with the idea for his GreatExperiment. He took a ride down to Sir Speedy, which was the cheapestand quickest printer he could find, and had the guy behind the countermake up 50 index cards containing the following message: If you find this card, please call this toll-free number and ask for Mr. Bailey. You will receive a prize.He figured he’d go out onto the factory floor and slip these 50 cardsinto the next 50 installation-and-operation manuals that went out withthe next 50 Bailey Boilers. If anyone opened the manual, the card wouldfall out. When they called Bailey for the prize, he would send them aballpoint pen with the company's logo. That would be his way of sayingthanks for their participation in his Great Experiment. It would alsolet him know if anyone ever peeked inside the massive and expensivemanuals.
Several weeks passed but no one called for aballpoint pen. Bailey began to suspect the worst. He wandered byTechnical Support one afternoon. The five Tech Support people were busyon the phones, answering hundreds of contractor questions. Bailey knewthat everything the contractors needed to know was contained in themanual, but the contractors called nevertheless. "They don't read,"Bailey mumbled to himself. "I just know it!"
He walkedback to his office. His bookkeeper handed him a message from theanxious printer. "He's still looking for payment," she said. "Do youwant him to stay in the When Pigs Fly bin?"
"Tell himthere's an unexpected cold front on the way with possiblethunderstorms. Highly unusual for this time of the year, but with ElNiño you can never tell. We can't possibly pay bills when there's athunderstorm in the area." Bailey shrugged his shoulders. "Tell himit's quite warm in the Pacific right now. He'll understand."
Bailey took another ride down to Sir Speedy at lunchtime. "Print me up another 50 index cards," he said.
"You want the same message as the last time?" the guy behind the counter asked.
"No.This time have it read this way." Bailey handed the guy a piece ofpaper. Later that day he picked up the cards. This was the message hehad chosen: If you call this special toll-free number I will give you $50 and a case of cold beer."This ought to do it," Bailey said to himself as he slipped the cardsinto the manuals. "No contractor can refuse money and beer."
Two weeks later, Bailey had Schtunk back in his office. "No one's reading our manuals," Bailey declared.
"How can you tell?" Schtunk asked.
"I'vebeen doing some looking into it on my own," Bailey said, and then hetold Schtunk about his Great Experiment. Schtunk squirmed in his seatbecause he thought the Great Experiment came uncomfortably close toMarketing, which is what Schtunk was supposed to be doing. Sure, itmight be considered Research in some circles, but when you start givingaway beer and money, well, that’s Marketing. Schtunk was worried thathe was going to get downsized if he didn't do something – and fast.
"I can look into this a big deeper if you'd like," Schtunk said. "Just to be positive."
"I sure wish you would," Bailey said. "I think that's part of what you're supposed to be doing."
"I'll take care of it, Mr. Bailey," Schtunk said, leaping from the leather chair and scurrying out of the office.
At lunchtime, Schtunk went to Kinkos and had 5,000, 8-1/2" × 11", neon-red handbills made up. The copy read: GREATNEWS! IF YOU CALL THIS TOLL-FREE NUMBER, WE WILL GIVE YOU $5,000 CASH,12 TICKETS TO THE SUPER BOWL (ALL EXPENSES PAID!), YOUR VERY OWN BEERDISTRIBUTORSHIP, AND A HOT DATE WITH MISS JULY! THERE IS NO LIMIT TOTHE NUMBER OF CONTRACTORS WHO CAN PARTICIPATE IN THIS GREAT EXPERIMENT,AND THERE IS NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. GET TO THE PHONE NOW!
"Thiswill prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that no one in the world readsour installation-and-operation manuals," Schtunk said to the Kinkosguy. "Mr. Bailey is going to be so proud of me!"
Threeweeks later, Benny Steinberg of Brooklyn, New York dropped a BaileyBoiler off the tines of his forklift truck at the wholesale house wherehe had worked for 22 years. "Oops!" he said.
The boilercrashed down into the loading bay and split into pieces. A thick bookflew from the rubble and a neon-red handbill fluttered onto the greasypavement.
A few minutes later, Benny Steinberg walkedinto the counter area where there were no less than a dozen, burley,New York City contractors waiting for supplies. "Fellas," BennySteinberg said, "I am about to make you all very, very happy."
Thirty-six hours later, Bailey Boilers went belly-up.