Somewhere between 1999 and 2001, I remember a trip with my mom and dad to the local Wal-Mart SuperCenter in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Trips like this would typically go as follows: My mom and dad would start making the rounds in the grocery aisles picking up Great Value commodities, while I would make a dash to the electronics section to marvel at the latest television technology and play whatever video game was queued up in the PS2 display. I would find my way back to my ‘rents right about the time they were passing through the chips and soda aisle, and we’d be well on our way.
Occasionally though, the McCollums, like most American families, needed to re-up on items like toothpaste, shaving cream, and other items of the sort that were on the opposite end of Wal-Mart as the groceries. Me, on the precipice of puberty and already caking on Old Spice Pure Sport deodorant under my arms every morning, enjoyed these detours. These were opportunities for me to up my bathroom game, very important for pre-teen social status in suburban South Carolina. Polo Sport cologne: check. Aforementioned Old Spice: check. Globby hair gel that made your hair resemble a metamorphic rock: most definitely a check. But you (read: I) always wanted more. Maybe some premium P&G mouthwash? How about a non-drying acne scrub? Baby’s first Gillette razor? Us cul-de-sac kids considered these things acquirable luxuries. When friends would come over to spend the night, you were being judged, knowingly or unknowingly, on your sink-side stash (no ‘staches to judge just yet). So yeah, I was always in a good mood walking down these aisles. Plus, you got to walk by the condom rack when you were in the pharmaceuticals section. That was pretty cool as a kid, no doubt.
As a young pitchman, my ability to obtain these sink-side items was usually a dead end street. “Costs too much.” “I bet the store brand is exactly the same.” “You a’int got nothing to shave.” These were just a few of the near-rehearsed responses I would receive from Herb and Marsha. I felt like Ralphie trying to make a case for the Red Ryder in A Christmas Story, only without his Christmas morning miracle.
One occasion, though, I had a breakthrough in my pitch strategy that yielded amazing results – the results that bring me to writing this post.
To pitch effectively as a middle school kid in a middle class family, you needed to play up the long-term cost effectiveness, not just the short-term perceived gain. How is this going to help me, and how is this going to help you (parents). The razors, premium mouthwash, and better acne cream were a wash on these grounds, but for one item, it was gold: a humble, entry-level $10-$15 Norelco hair trimmer.
For me, a way to keep my sideburns in check in the halls of Myrtle Beach Middle School. For my parents, a way to go an extra couple weeks before dishing out the money for another hair cut. And money aside, a clean-cut me directly benefitted my parents socially too, as a well-groomed me in God’s house made my parents look like they were raising me right (They were…love you, mom & dad).
Sales strategies and childhood nostalgia aside, this love letter is intended for the people at Norelco, makers of the hair optimization device I’ve had for roughly 15 years now. This trimmer has been with me through puberty, dorm life, college transfer(s), and career moves. It has effectively eradicated hair on my sideburns, my cheeks, my neck, my shoulders, and my lower back – even my you know and what-have-you’s on occasion. In Johnny Cash terms, it’s been to Myrtle Beach, Conway, Columbia, Athens, Oxford, Atlanta, Austin, and New York – it’s been everywhere with me for well over a decade, and it still works. Sure, it’s got a short in the cord somewhere and I know I can’t hold it at a certain angle without it shutting off on me, but at this point, none of that matters.
IT STILL WORKS.
This trimmer, bought on a shelf at Wal-Mart for well under $20, should’ve broken down long ago. Surely there are some best practices on cleaning/maintaining this trimmer which I have yet to adhere to. Surely Norelco didn’t expect this trimmer to outlive most dog breeds (The University of Georgia was on Uga VI when I started using the Norelco. We’re now on Uga X – RIP, Ugas). And surely this trimmer isn’t good for Norelco’s bottom line because I still don’t need a replacement.
But that’s the way it is, and for that, I’m thankful. Thanks mom and dad for the gift, and thank you Norelco for the badass product. I’ll be back to buy 1-3 more of these before I die.