Friday, August 1, 2008

What do you do?

LAP here. As a CPA, I can’t say that there are many “fun facts” about my realm of employment, particularly with the 5-10 hours a week I work these days. Of course, there are plenty of stories about my former coworkers that make The Office seem more plausible than some might think. Perhaps I will devote a future post to outlining quirky folks such as my colleague in public accounting who organized his undershirt and sock drawers using a “FIFO” method (first-in, first-out…accounting lingo for those of you bored already). He explained that by doing so, all his clothing staples experienced equal wear and tear. Not only did this make me chuckle, but it also resulted in making me feel like the most easygoing and laid back person ever (by contrast of course) which was refreshing.

Let me return to my original point in writing this: I am fascinated by what other people do for a living. This is particularly true when a person deals with tangible products directed at the consumer. I find myself asking people the same types of questions, all which feed my craving of useless, yet easily digestible tidbits of information. A few examples:

1. My neighbor fills vending machines for a living. I’m not sure how all the logistics work. I know he has a conversion van filled with coolers for his delivery runs. I know he refreezes his ice packs each night to prep for the next day’s run. It’s not uncommon to see him tinkering with a coke vending machine in his garage, though I don’t believe he owns all the machines he services.
My hard-hitting question for him: What are your best sellers?
His responses:
1. Snickers (said without hesitation)
2. Peanut M&M’s (my husband and I suspect people are looking for that salty/sweet combo)
3. Tie between the classic Reese Cup and 3 Musketeer. He noted that the latter has made a surge of late. He believes the dieting ladies in some of the offices he services have embraced it as a low-cal candy bar choice

Coke outsells Pepsi by a ratio of 3:1. Diet Coke is his best seller overall, passing Coke in recent years.

2. Wall-building neighbor M is a pharmacist who works at a mail-in center. I asked him the most popular drugs he refills and he responded (in the translated layman’s terms) that medication for high blood pressure and medication for depression seem to be the most common.

3. A friend of my father’s owns several “drive-thrus” here in Ohio. I’ve found that this is sometimes a difficult concept for outsiders to comprehend, as such businesses are illegal in some states. However, it’s simply a convenience store that you can drive your car through. You can purchase items such as milk, eggs, etc. but these aren’t the most popular go-to items in such a store. To be gentle, let me say that 75% of the drive-thrus owned by this particular man are not located in family friendly parts of town. I never worked at them but some family members have through the years. Can you guess what two buttons worn to the core on the register? Marlboros and Mountain Dew. Classy. This is the kind of data I find interesting.

4. Finally, my friend’s family owns a Dairy Queen in a small town in Indiana. She spent her teen years working there. I asked the most popular item on the menu and she promptly responded with “Blizzards.” When pressed for a most popular flavor, she settled on Oreo. However, she mentioned that the power of suggestion is alive and well. She found it humorous that whatever item was advertised on the DQ sign out front (“Come in for a Brownie Blizzard!” “Have you had a Banana Split lately?” “Try our Dipped Cones!”) was a top seller for that time period. Keep in mind that said item was never on sale, it was simply recommended. I also enjoyed that during her time as a trainee of new employees, she had to teach the technique of getting the signature DQ curly tip on the ice cream just right. She noted that time and again, the girls picked up this skill much faster than the boys.

So, do you do anything that would provide me with equally earth shattering consumer information? I’d love to know all about it.


Anonymous said...

I do not have a job that I think would provide such interest but a little tidbit I find interesting is that the Titliest ProV1 cost the stores and clubs $37. and they sell them for $45. In the retail world that is not a very big profit margin. Another tidbit that I find interesting is that gas stations make a max of 7 to 8 cents a gallon before money is taken out for credit card companies. Who doesn't buy gas with a credit card? That's all I got. m

MEP said...

I've mentioned this tidbit in a post before, but I once worked with a girl whose dad was the "international troubleshooter for the Always maxi pad." Makes you wonder about feminine products though. Who needs wings? Who doesn't? What about those pantiliners for thongs? How much of a market is there for an item like that? Or, I've always been afraid to purchase store brand feminine products (though I don't bat an eye at store brand foodstuffs) but they are probably fine?

At the checkout at my Jewel, there is an Extreme Value that they always ask if you are interested in (I think they get in trouble if they don't ask). I would say I cave on the Extreme Value only 1/10 trips, but I'd be interested to know how often others say yes and if certain checkers get more EV's sold than others and, if so, how they do it.

T-Baby said...

Here is a retail tidbit that burns me up - Chicago now has the highest sales tax in the country at 10.25%. This is outrageous. Thank you Democrats!

MEP said...

T-Baby, we always appreciate comments here at NTB, but remember "Politics is not our bag, here at Not to brag . . . "

Actchy said...

I enjoyed LAP's post immensely, but am drawing a blank as to an interesting (and related) tidbit to share. My only retail-oriented job was when I worked at a farmer's market 15 years ago, and I don't necessarily remember any purchasing trends, other than the fact that when the "Pole lima beans" came into season, it would cause a frenzy, the likes of which you wouldn't believe. At the time, I remember thinking that all the hubbub over something like a lima bean was insane. Of course, turnabout being fair play in life, I myself would probably camp out for something like the Pole lima nowadays, as evidenced by the fact that I found myself face to face with honest-to-John South Jersey peaches and tomatoes at the farmer’s market in my neighborhood today (oddly a rarity in New York, a mere 3 hour drive from the S. Jersey farms) and nearly swooned in my excitement.

Note to T-Baby: you are welcome? (Sorry MEP!)

WPA said...

PAL, I happened to visit NTB today and enjoyed your post. It inspired me to do some Goodyear research to add to the discussion. The biggest selling service is the oil change. There is a best selling tire size as well, but as the tire name and # mean little to me, I thought the oil change would be most relevent. WPA

LAP said...

All interesting information. Never would have guessed the Pole lima beans were such a hit. My husband chimed in that atomite is the best selling form of calcium carbonate...uh, yeah, good to know. The only tidbit I find interesting about the products he sells (no offsense BB) is that calcium carbonate is the white stuff used to line football fields. That's a morsel I can grab onto. I also asked the teenager working the shaved ice hut I like to frequent what the best selling flavor is. "Polar Punch" she says. Now, I wouldn't have expected my usual order of half strawberry/half wedding cake to be a best seller, but who even knows what polar punch tastes like? You can bet I will try it next time though.

LL said...

This is my first time blogging..Working at Goodyear the one thing almost everyone buys when the come in is an Oil change. WPA got it right.

I did go to the local ice cream shop last night (The Dip) and was told that the ice cream "dipped" in chocolate was not the biggest seller. The biggest seller is a cone with sprinkles.

Actchy said...

Not to verge into the gross, but..."international" troubleshooter for the Always maxi pad? Query whether the troubles that arise for the product vary according to whether one uses it in the US or abroad?

Anonymous said...

I can contribute Wildtree facts: our best seller for the blends: Scampi blend. In the last 6 months, we have sold over 10,500 gallons of grapeseed oil.

-Love the int'l vs domestic troubleshooter for Maxi pads. too funny. Love the blog MEP, check it every couple days; I'm so hooked.

CaraBee said...

The best I can do is that I worked for years in restaurants and it constantly surprised me that the vast majority of questions that people ask are printed in bold letters on the menu. Not even the small type stuff off to the side or on the back.

My husband has a FIFO policy on underwear, socks and t-shirts. I didn't realize this out until we were married. I have to admit, it makes sense, but it's still a bit kooky.

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