K5LAD - 50+ Years of Ham Radio Memories

Volume XXXI

The Story of Old Bill

Search keywords: Old Bill, Derrick Electronics, wrinkled money

This story could probably best be described as a study in human nature or, perhaps, a study in human interaction.  Although not a particularly ham-related activity, the following story did take place in my ham store back in the 70s so I think it fits well enough.

This incident happened quite by accident one afternoon at the store.  A customer had made a purchase for something using cash and one of the one dollar bills tendered was one of those we occasionally see that really looks used........ perhaps well overused.  Things like this are sometimes referred to as, "it looks like it was rode hard and put up wet."  Of course, when a bill like that eventually finds its way back to a bank they will pull it from circulation and send it back to the U.S. Treasury facility for destruction and replacement.

This bill, however, was far past the typical point of replacement.   It was obvious that it had led a hard life.   It was wrinkled worse than the old fellow who lives down your street and gripes about the kids who walk on his lawn on their way home from school.  The white areas of the bill were now with mostly a grubby brownish tinge showing that it had seen a great deal of hand-to-hand travels.  When I first received that bill, I readily accepted it as partial payment for whatever item had been bought but I found it even difficult to place neatly into the proper place in my cash register.  No longer crisp, flat, and straight like it had been in its early days; it now more closely resembled a piece of cloth with its extreme flexibility.  I thought, "I'll just get rid of that one as soon as I can so I don't have to deal with the awkwardness in the register."  The next time I needed to make small change, I made sure that this "old timer" was part of the change amount.

I don't know how many times it had changed hands but I began to notice something strange and actually quite interesting.  Any time I gave that bill as change, the receiving customer would take a look at it, then look around and buy something else, just to give it back or actually, to get rid of it.  The rack holding books and current issues of ham magazines was just to the left of the customer at the counter and could provide an item that was fairly inexpensive and easily within an arm's reach so often one of these was grabbed.  Also, as I recall, I had a box of small plastic tubes of rosin core solder in front of the cash register and that was often the secondary purchase item. The solder tubes were 98 cents and also easily within the customer’s reach.  They were also just the right purchase to get rid of that wrinkled old bill.

After this had happened numerous times, I began to use it as an experiment.  Every time I deliberately gave that old wrinkled dollar bill as change, my customer would buy something else, just to not have to carry it with their 'nicer' bills.  What I did was perfectly legal and I don't believe anyone could fault me for doing this, especially after 25 or 30 years (is there a statute of limitations for experimenting on customers)?   I've waited a long time before admitting to this human nature experiment and perhaps someone who reads this will have been among the 'experimentees'.

It seems like this experiment covered a period of the better part of the afternoon but finally someone received that wrinkled old bill in change and shoved it into their pocket without paying close attention to its 'life beyond expiration' condition so to speak.  The wrinkled and dirty old bill walked out the front door and I didn’t see it any more.

It would be interesting for someone these days to try a similar experiment and see if people had changed or if they would get the same reaction I did.   Perhaps this might be the way to stimulate the economy with the expert help of "Old Bill."

 Training Is So Important

Search keywords: HoJo, Howard Johnson, turnpike resteurant

NOTE:  The Transmitter reference below is for the TARC (Tulsa Amateur Radio Club) Newsletter where this story first appeared in print.

I hope the Transmitter readers will allow me this one non-ham story,   It’s one of my favorite stories and the best part about it is, it’s absolutely true.  This is not to say that all of my other “literary offerings” have not also been true but every time I think about this particular event, although it happened many years ago, I still laugh to myself.

It took place around the mid to late 70s and I had taken some time off from working at my ham store, Derrick Electronics.  Our family had taken a short vacation trip of several days and we were returning home on the Muskogee Turnpike.  This was back in the days when turnpikes were locked-in to the franchise with the food services of the Howard Johnson Company, also known as “HoJo.”  Talk about a “captive audience,” that was certainly a prime example.  If you wanted something to graze on while you were traveling the pikes, you chose Howard Johnson or you did not graze.  Historians in centuries to come will refer to this as the U.S. pre-McDonalds Turnpike Age.

We knew we were going to be back home in Tulsa in not too much longer and with two hungry small boys and a limited supply of groceries awaiting us at the house, we thought it best to stop at the HoJo site to get something to eat.  This was not a particularly happy or anticipated stop since the Howard Johnson’s restaurants were not noted for providing good service and pleasant surroundings, but rather, it was usually quite the contrary.   We were, however, not overwhelmed by choices at that point.  The choices on turnpikes were,  HoJo or no go.

The service we received, on this particular visit, was totally unlike anything we had previously experienced at any of these facilities.  We were very pleased with what we saw and received.  The waitress was a very pleasant lady in her forties.

When the waitress brought our selections, she was very nice and everything we had ordered was there and provided just as we had requested.  Once all the plates had been distributed to their proper places I looked at her and said, “I probably shouldn’t say this but I’ve eaten in quite a few Howard Johnson restaurants over the years and without exception, the waitresses have been slow, usually rude, and totally uncaring.  You, on the other hand, have be very pleasant, prompt, and attentive to our needs.  I don’t understand, what is the difference?”

She smiled and looked back at us and not realizing exactly what she was saying she replied, “Oh, I just started here last week.”

I still laugh when I realize what she was unknowingly telling us was – “I haven’t been through the company’s training program yet.”

Written October 26, 2010 - published TARC Newsletter November 2, 2010

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