Friday, May 08, 2009

Karl the Curmudgeon Has a Business Idea

Karl the Curmudgeon Has a Business Idea

Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk Syndicate
Copyright 2009

"I've got a great idea for a business. I think you're going to want a piece of this action," said my friend Karl, my literary curmudgeon and occasional drinking buddy.

We had been hanging out quite a bit over the last few months, partly because he's always lonely at this time of year, but mostly because he offered to buy the beer this time.

What's that? I said.

"Well, you know how cell phone companies will give you a free phone if you sign a two-year contract?"

You're not going to sell me a cell phone, are you? I asked. We were sitting at Herbert Hebert's, a French bar we occasionally visited. We were watching the French national cricket championships on satellite TV.

"No, now quit interrupting, Kid," Karl plonked his beer on the table. He calls me Kid even though I'm 41. "Here it is: What if a veterinarian were to give away free puppies, and the new owner had to take the dog to the vet for two years of care and medication?"

I paused for a moment. That seems, well, kind of. . .

"Spit out out, Kid."

Cynical. Greedy. Capitalistic.

"I can see how you might—"

Money-grubbing. Exploitative. Perverse.

"Okay, okay. I get it."

Don't you think so?

"Not at all. I think it's a great idea. Regardless of where you get it, a puppy needs all its shots, has to be spayed or neutered, the works. People always use the same vet already, so why shouldn't they do something to help bring in some more customers?"

I drained my beer and watched some of the cricket action on TV. Armagnac-Bigorre was seriously drubbing Ch√Ęteau de Thoiry, 14 - 7, with 6 wickets remaining.

I don't know, I finally said, plonking my empty glass on the table.

"What's not to know? This is a great plan. It puts a free puppy in a good home, it builds business for the vet. Everyone wins."

It just seems like you're putting a price on love.

"People already put a price on love, Kid. Whether it's their car, their gadgets, or their trophy wife

You have a trophy wife?


So you're stuck with your first wife then?

"You'd better not let your own wife hear you say 'stuck.'"

Good point.

"Don't change the subject, Kid."

Fine. So why can't I just get a free puppy somewhere else? Why do I have to get it from a vet?

"You can't get free puppies anymore these days. Dog breeders, pet stores, even the animal shelters are charging a couple hundred bucks for a dog nowadays."

But they have overhead and administrative costs.

"So do vets."

Their job is to sell pets.

"And a vet's job is to treat them. So why not save a family the middle man AND help puppies find good homes?"

Karl ordered a couple more beers, and even paid for them. Wow, this must be serious, I said, because I'm usually the one who pays for the next rounds.

"You know what your problem is, Kid? You're not looking at the big picture. This is a great way for vets to provide an additional service to families and guarantee some revenue for themselves."

I pondered this for a minute while I took a drink of my beer.

So why can't we just apply this model to other businesses? Why can't printer companies give away free printers so we'll buy the ink refills?

"Some of them do. When you buy a new computer, you can usually get a free printer. The refills cost 200 bucks though."

Not at my house. We usually get rid of the printer and buy a new one for $150 instead. It comes with the ink already, and ends up costing a lot less than the refills of the old printer.

"But your cheapness notwithstanding, this idea works the same way. Get a puppy from a vet, someone you trust about their health to begin with, and then in exchange, you get services from the vet whenever it needs them. You need vet services even if you buy a shelter puppy for $200."

All right, I'll agree that this is a good idea. Now what?

"Well, I just need a small investment of $2,000, and we can get this ball rolling."

$2,000? I could get a whole new curmudgeon for $50.

"That's cold. Now you're just making this friendship about money."

Hmm, that sounds familiar.

"Shut up, Kid."

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