Volume 35, Number 3, March 2000



Smiley Faces—Part One

could this gimmick be the glass industry’s salvation?

by Lyle Hill

During their childhood years, they lived a privileged existence, enjoying the finer things in life. His father was an electronics wizard. Co-workers called him “Edison”…as in Thomas Edison, the prolific inventor of a prior generation. His mother was a well-known Chicago socialite. They lived in an exclusive neighborhood and traveled extensively.

After graduation from high school, James, four years older than his sister, Karen, was sent to a pricey, private college. Karen, the more self-assured of the two, chose a more adventurous path and ultimately developed a career working undercover with the government in the ATF bureau.

While young James had the intellectual abilities to succeed in college, he lacked the maturity needed to handle the pressures of being away from home. He quickly fell in with the wrong crowd and was soon caught up in activities “not becoming” to a person of his pedigree. And at a small Citgo gas station, less than 200 yards off campus, young James soon found out he could make a fair amount of money and achieve a certain degree of popularity by perfecting a hobby to which he had always been drawn. For indeed, James had a unique talent for making explosive devices. From non-traceable, hand-held mini bazookas to deadly pipe bombs, he made the best. And to make matters better, or worse depending on your point of view, the timing was perfect. It was the 60’s and explosive devices were in demand. Ultimately, one of his devices was traced back to him, and because he received a timely tip from an old friend, he escaped just minutes ahead of a team of FBI agents, dispatched to apprehend him. To this day, only James knows who provided him with the tip that spared him, and he has been living under an assumed identity ever since.

In his youth he was referred to as “Jungle Jim.” Whenever I refer to him I add the fictitious last name of “Bruney,” which for obvious reasons is not the name he uses in real life.

“Yo, Hill! Long time no talk,” he said.

“Hey, Jungle Jim,” I replied, instantly recognizing his voice. “It’s been awhile. What can I do you for?”

“Well, I’ve come up with a great idea and I wanted you to be the first in the glass business to take advantage of it. Your phone line is clean, right?”

“I think so,” I replied, “but where are you calling from?”

“That’s not important. Are you ready for my idea or not?”

“Sure, Jungle Jim. Go for it.”

“OK, I’ve been watching you clowns in the glass business for years and I think you’re all a bunch of stiffs. You all take yourselves so seriously and you’re all so self-righteous, as if fixing a piece of glass somehow makes the world a better place. Gimme a break. You guys gotta lighten up.”

“I can’t argue with you there, J.J.,” I replied. “What have you got in mind?”

“So here’s my idea,” he continued. “I think you should start using smiley faces on all your stuff. You should put ‘em on your trucks, your letterhead, your hardhats ... and all your people should wear smiley face buttons while they are on the clock.”

“Even the ironworkers?” I asked.

“Especially the ironworkers,” he fired back.

“Listen Jungle Jim, I think you’ve really lost it this time. Those things are obnoxious. And I’m not alone on this. I think everybody hates those stupid little things.”

“Not so fast my corporate crony,” he responded. “I’ll have you know that a recent study performed by one of those prestigious universities discovered that waitresses who put smiley face stickers on bills got tips that ran 20 percent higher than those who didn’t. Clerks wearing them recorded 33 percent higher sales ... teachers using them on their student’s papers got better effort and higher grades ... and here’s the kicker, invoices mailed out with the little faces got paid up to nine days faster than those without them ... and heaven knows your industry could use a few smiles these days.”

“I don’t know, Jungle Jim. It just all seems so corny.”

“Listen,” he went on, “You’ve got nothing to lose.”

“People will think I’ve gone goofy.”

“Like I said, Hill, you’ve got nothing to lose.”

“OK, Jungle Jim,” I finally replied. “I’ll go for it!”

To be continued ...

wpe6.jpg (4635 bytes)Lyle Hill is president of MTH Industries-Glass America of Chicago, IL.




Copyright 2000 Key Communications Inc. All rights reserved. No reproduction of any type without expressed written permission.