Strange Re-Tales: A Strange Cast Of Characters

Cue the stock photography business people!

I just realized that it’s been over a year since I regaled rAVe readers with bizarre tales from my time working in retail electronics. Time to fix that!

I don’t miss much about working in retail.

One thing that I sort-of miss, that I don’t get to experience working on the distribution side, dealing with business owners and managers, is unique and odd characters: customers who are…different.

My old store had its collection of regular customers.

Many of them were unremarkable; average people who did average things.

But some were a little more off-beat.

For one things, there were the Private Eyes.

private eye

Disclaimer: none of my customers wore the hat.

Well, there were only two of them, but they each did such a steady business with us that they had a Net-30 account with us.

On a monthly basis I sold them boxes and boxes of 8mm videocassettes, as well as new camcorders a couple of times a year, and a fair number of camcorder accessories, as well as micro-cassette audio recorders and microphones of all sizes and applications.

My favorite odd customers were probably the skydivers.


It’s a misconception that you need a parachute to skydive. You don’t. You only need one if you want to skydive again.

They too bought a large quantity cases of 8mm and Hi8 videocassettes, as well as camcorders.

What I found interesting about them were the modifications they made.

In those days, long before GoPro, if you wanted to mount a camera to your helmet for extreme sports, you had to do it yourself.

Aside from the fact that I was genuinely interested in the modifications they made to their video equipment to be able to record their jumps with their helmet cameras, showing an interest in their passion solidified our business relationship.

The fact that the modifications they made to their camcorders totally voided the warranty, so that when they broke down they needed to buy new ones was entirely immaterial.

My work relationships with both the private eyes and the skydivers underscore a crucial maxim that I carry with me to to this day: express and interest in who your customer are, and what they do, and encourage them to tell you about what’s important to them.

Not only do people decide they like you when you get them to talk about themselves, but you learn more about their needs as a client, and can better help them find the right products to help them accomplish what they need to.