The Lady and the Amp

As indicated, I worked at Heathkit for almost ten years. In my early years there (and for many years before that), we were a source for very high quality audio and video components, and were selling amplifiers with 200 honest to goodness watts per channel in the days when 15W per channel was considered "pretty good", and long before 10%THD was considered acceptable at any rated power level.

Now, a big amplifier has to have a big transformer (actually, that's not so much true anymore with the advent of high frequency transformers, but this was many years ago), and the transformer for a 200W amp was almost the size of a bowling ball and being made out of iron and copper, weighs more. These provided quite a shipping challenge in our kits -- if you put a transformer that big loose in a box, the first time it is tossed on a shelf in shipping, everything else in the box is crushed. Heathkit solved this problem by shipping the transformer in a separate box, and in fact, if it had to be shipped for service, they advised removing the transformer from the completed amp and shipping it separately.

Ok, now you have the background... One of our regular customers came in one day and ordered one of these monster amplifiers. Not being the kind of thing we keep in stock, we ordered it up, and called him when it came in a few days later.

He sent in his wife to pay for the amp and pick it up. She came in, identified herself, so I went in back to grab the boxes. First, I grabbed the big box with everything but the transformer, and bring it out, then I grabbed the small box with the transformer -- and immediately see a small problem that would appear as I helped her carry it out to the car.

I explained to her that the transformer was in the second box, and was quite heavy. I rang it up for her, all the while hoping to figure out a solution to this minor problem...

Now, came the time to help her carry it out to the car -- and that minor problem: Do I carry the big box, or do I carry the heavy box? Well, the answer was obvious, as I am the salesperson and she is my customer, I carry the heavy box. But...I know how this is going to look.

Now you must imagine the scene: We are going out to her car, me, a big, fairly strong guy, carrying this small box with both hands, and obviously working at it, and her, a fairly small woman with this huge box, tucked under one arm, keys to her car in the other hand, and carrying it with no effort whatsoever. I'm hoping no one else is watching this...

When I got back to the store, the manager let me know, I was seen. "You know how stupid you looked?"
     I protested, "What was I supposed to do?"
     "Oh, you handled it fine, that was what you were supposed to do, but you still looked stupid. That's why I let you handle the transaction", as he laughed, almost as hard as he did the day I built my tie into a computer.

My manager was quite a guy -- spent a lot of years with the company, and his father was with the company for many years before that. He knew the product very well.


Copyright 2003, Nick Holland
Return to War Stories
Return to Nick Holland's Home Page