Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Remco Years

So, it's the late 70's. I didn't own a car. I'm driving a cab in Raytown and actually living at the taxi stand. Sleeping on a couch in the dispatchers office and taking most of my meals on the go in the taxi.

Every few nights, I would take some of my earnings and get a room at the sleazy Frontier Motel on 50 Hwy so I could sleep in a real bed and get a shower. The patchouli oil would carry me over to the next motel night.

It was right next door to Jerry's Steak House, so I had that working for me.

It kinda sucked, but that's what it took to be out on my own and not living with my mom, so I was willing to endure the indignation. I was a young man, in my early 20's and I had too much pride to still be depending on my mom to put a roof over my head. Plus, I was a horn dog looking to get laid and much to my surprise, reeking of ass and patchouli and being essentially homeless was more attractive to women than living with your mother.

One night I picked up a couple of well dressed drunks from a Raytown bar. They're amiable salesmen-type guys. We strike up a conversation. They ask me if I know my way around the city and if I might be interested in a job.

Sure, sez I.

The younger one gives me his card and tells me to give him a call. He's looking for a delivery guy. Pays $1000.00 a month.

Holy Fuck! $1000.00 a month?!? $12,000.00 a year?!? I'd never earned that much in my life! Best fucking job offer ever!

So I called him and took him up on his offer and became the newest rep for Remco TV Rental.

In those days, the office was in the strip mall between a Price Chopper and Sherwin Williams at 63rd and I-435. Ya know, next to Funky Town. That's the picture at the top.

But it wasn't long before we moved to brand new digs at 23rd & Noland.

It was one of the earliest "rent-to-own" outfits. The business model was this. Rent a TV or stereo to some poor destitute fuck who couldn't get credit anywhere. After they've rented it for 24 months, they own it!

But here's the catch. The rent payments were more than the comparable credit installment payments would be, so you were paying WAY MORE for the product than you would if you had credit. About twice as much, on average.

But here's the kicker. Rent it for 22 months and miss that 23rd months rent? I'm on your door step taking that TV back to the office where we rehabilitate it and rent it to another sucker for 24 months.

It's the sleaziest, most predatory job I've aver had.

At the time, it was also the best fucking job I'd ever had!

The Manager was Dan O'L. A former Naval Aviator and helicopter pilot of Irish descent.

He taught me many important life lessons.


The first was, "You aren't getting paid by the hour. You're on salary. Your first priority is to manage you're own time. If you can get your job done working 4 hours a day, 3 days a week, good for you! I could give a fuck. But if it takes you 14 hours a day 7 days a week, then that's what we expect of you. I could give a fuck. We pay you to get your job done. How hard or easy you make it is up to you."


The second lesson was The Management Test. Keep in mind, this was at least 30 fucking years ago.

Here is the test.

You are are promoted to CEO. You inherit three female Executive Assistants. You can only afford to keep one.

You give each EA $1000.00.

The first EA banks the money in a Certificate of Deposit for her kid's college fund.

The second EA Blows the $1000.00 on a night on the town with her girl friends.

The third EA spends the money on professional clothes hoping for a future promotion.

The test is, which EA do you keep?

The answer, of course is, you keep the one with the biggest tits.


The third lesson he taught me was the lesson of expediency.

We used to tear up the bar scene together, especially in Westport. He wasn't above just yelling out "Hey lady, ya wanna fuck?"

His theory was, if she said yes, you just saved a whole lot of time and money.

And if she said no, you also saved a whole lot of time and money.

A sort of "winnowing the wheat from the chaff" approach, if you will. Mind you, I never saw that approach actually work, but his logic was impeccable.


The TV and stereo rental business itself was very interesting. I was hired to replace Danny K. Here he is training me on how to lift a 25" console TV and carry it into a house by yourself.

You had to know how to get the rental property into and out of the property by yourself.

Because although the renter will rush out and eagerly help you carry the TV in, they won't lift a fucking finger to help you take it away from them when they miss a payment! It was important let the renter know that if you can get it into the house by yourself, you can damned well take it out by yourself.

They taught us other tricks too. Such as never conducting business on the porch. We had these imposing, metal bound receipt books. We were taught to walk into the house, set the receipt book on top of the TV or stereo, and conduct business from there. It sent the message that the equipment didn't belong to them, it belonged to you. Until that final, exhorbitant reant payment was made, it was your TV and you were in charge.

There were just two of us. Me and Eric. I was white, Eric was black

My territory was everything east of Jackson St. in Kansas City going all the way out to Blue Springs, as far north as Liberty and Kearney and as far south as Grandview.

He had everything west of Jackson, including KCK and all of The Dotte.

Here is Eric and Danny using Dan O'L to teach me how to get the rent payments out of the customers.

This was the first job I ever had where I actually operated out of an office.

Oh yeah! Just look at this fucker.

That face just oozes trustworthiness!

Jesus H. Christ in a Chicken Basket! What a fucking sleaze ball!

I'll try to post more Remco stories later.

In the meantime, I have to rest up for tomorrow's dental appointment.


Donna said...

Very interesting! I can't wait to read more Remco stories.

m.v. said...

this is the best story I read here,nice to see you with hair before you pissed it off

The DLC said...

I love this post. You should try "Hey, you wanna fuck?" next time you're at Tootsie's.

Poodles said...

I remember Remcos. Barely.

Nice, um...Tie? The 70's were such a style nightmare.

Lee said...

One word: Awesome. If I had any money I'd option the screenplay.

Spyder said...

Love that smile!

Anonymous said...

Just happened across this page. I worked at REMCO in Smyrna Ga right out of high school. Hired as a delivery person and promoted to sales the day I started. Sales guy quit and I was handy. Loved the business. Our store ran about 1600 BOR.

Dennis Whitt said...

Hey My dad ran that store for a long time. Phil Whitt was his name.He passed a few years ago.We moved to Oklahoma City and I ran accounts.We stayed under 3.2 close on Saturdays in a 2600 bor store !! Chuck Sims owned the whole thing back then.Haha what a riot !

Xavier Onassis said...

Dennis Whitt - Oh, I remember Chuck Sims! I devoted a blog post to him. You can read about him here:


I'd be interested to hear your perspective on the Col. Kurtz of Remco.

Fast Eddie said...

I worked at Remco in Houston from 1980 - 1986. Everything that you say is true.
It made for great stories. Collecting on TVs in the barrio at night. What the hell was I thinking?
I had guns presented, knives.
One I particularly remember was a young healthy woman came in with her sugar daddy and he rented her a stereo. It was my birthday. I said to the boss "Are you sure? I'm going to have to collect on this."
Sure enough she missed the first payment. I stalked her at her job (topless) and finally tricked her into giving me back the stereo. She actually threw the turntable at my head.

Anonymous said...

Worked for Remco in Houston from 1980 - 1986.
Met Chuck Sims a few times.
What an insane job that was. Here I was, skinny white kid from the north, collecting on TVs and stereos in the wards and barrios.
It did make for wild stories. Was shown knives and guns. One day, it was actually my birthday, an exotic dancer came in with her sugar daddy to rent a stereo. I said to the boss, "Roscoe, are you sure? I'm going to have to collect on this."
Sure enough, she missed the first payment. I spent weeks trying to find where that stereo was. Had to get her address by following her home from the titty bar.
Eventually repo'd the stereo but not before she fired the turntable at my head.

Anonymous said...

Also worked Houston Remco, worked Maxey Rd for Harrington and Hooper. Man that stroe mad emoney!! I remember the chinese overtime, everything over 40 hours was 1/2 time, what a ripoff. Ran credit everywhere, I always thought 3rd ward was the worst but the Astodome area was no picnic either. Lucky to be alive!

Anonymous said...

LOL! I worked at Remco in Lawrenceville, Ga in the early
80's. My first job was working for Joe Piano. What a great Guy. Still remember many a lessons from him.

mike D said...

I still am in the business...started with Remco in 1979...worked with all the originals Dave Buck, Wayne Hopper, Jim Knighton..etc..Remco was a leader back then despite the hazards of the business...made alot of money running a 2500 BOR store. I still remember all the great managers meetings had some great fun and made friends that I still have. Try it before you buy it!! lol...nice to see all the interest!