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‘Quote of the Week’ in Pallet Profile Becomes Fan Favorite;
Quips from Pallet People Are a Big Hit in Weekly Pallet Industry Newsletter
By Jeff McBee
Date Posted: 12/1/2001
I laugh all day long. People often stop on their way past my office to tell me that I’m having way too much fun. I like to laugh but who doesn’t? The people I talk to on a daily basis make it easy to laugh. I recognized that during my first week on the job.
When the market report was given a facelift in September of 1992, we changed the look and the name. (Until then the name of the report was Wooden Pallet Index.) As many of you may recall, September of 1992 was the beginning of an extreme lumber crunch. Some of the observations about the conditions were hilarious. So a few weeks after the change, I suggested adding a "Quote of the Week" feature, which Ed felt was a good idea. One of the potential drawbacks that we discussed was not having enough good quotes. We must have underestimated the characters amongst the sawmills and pallet companies.
The lumber shortage brought higher raw material costs, which forced pallet prices higher, which resulted in customer resistance. One of our contacts observed "They’re going to pay for ‘em or not buy ‘em."
That became the first Quote of the Week on October 9, 1992. Since then, the Quote of the Week is frequently mentioned by readers as a fan favorite.
The Quote of the Week has featured observations about all aspects of the pallet business from pallet pricing to business philosophy. The government, labor problems, customer demands and competitors doing the unexplainable have been favorite targets of the Quote of the Week. Other frequent targets include lumber supplies (good or bad), pallet demand (good or bad) and other aspects the pallet industry.
The quote can often reflect the pallet industry’s take on current events. Comments have covered a diverse topic range including the attacks of September 11, the presidential election recount and even Y2K. The Wall Street Journal’s pallet article drew the ire of a contact which became a Quote of the Week. Problems in rail shipments were a hot news topic that fell victim to the Quote of the Week, but then so was Tonya Harding. Talking to the people of this industry is almost too much fun. Don’t take my word for it. I have evidence. The following are some of the more humorous anecdotes from the Quote of the Week archives.
Did I say that?
Sometimes someone will say something perfect for a quote. As soon as I hear it I say "that sounds like a Quote of the Week."
Sometimes this results in the person on the other end of the phone beginning to plead their way out of it. They immediately say something like "Oh no! You can’t do that!"
We don’t identify the contact, just the state that they are from. Sometimes even that is too much, so the origin of the quote is withheld to protect the innocent or guilty, whichever the case may be. These can often be the best.
"I told my Dad I wouldn't put my kids in the pallet business...I think more of them than that." (withheld to protect the guilty: 5/30/97)
"I got a call from a nail supplier telling me about a fall special. I told them they had fallen on their head. This whole industry is so competitive that association meetings will soon be held in the county parks. It's the only place we'll be able to afford...and the nail suppliers will be there, too."(Location withheld to protect the innocent: 12/4/98)
"I was 20 minutes late for the meeting because the purchasing agent got lost in his own factory. I may be ‘just' a pallet builder, but I don't get lost in my own factory." (Location withheld to protect the innocent: 9/24/99)
"Hunting season is almost here. That will tighten the supply. These guys are going deer hunting. If baby needs new shoes . . . that's too bad. They're gonna go deer hunting if it hair lips the governor. " (Hunting Territory: 10/12/01)
I was on the phone one day to a fellow in Alabama. He said something like "I love this week’s quote. That must have been the wizard."
"The wizard?" I said.
"Yeah. Lee Killingsworth over at Acme Skid in Silsbee, Texas."
He was right. I never figured out how Lee’s knack for quips had stretched out over a four-state region. I would be remiss if I were to write an article about the Quote of the Week without mentioning Lee. After all, he now gets blamed for any Quote of the Week from Texas. Here are a few of "the wizard’s" best.
"Our raw material supply is like a hard fight with a short stick" (Texas: 4/9/95)
"Doing nothing wears you out 'cause you can't stop to rest." (Texas: 10/13/95)
"One million feet won't last as long as a paper shirt in a bear fight. It'll be gone before you can say, 'No. Don't do it.' There's no doubt in anybody's mind we're all getting ready to run out of wood."(Texas: 12/20/96)
"Pallet prices held too long, but are finally going up. It's like hitting yourself in the head with a hammer...it feels so good when you stop."(Texas: 5/2/97)
"Labor is awful. There is only so much automating you can do. Every once in a while you have to take your hands out of your pockets and do something." (Texas: 6/5/98)
Take My Lumber — Please!
When the lumber market is moving, so are attitudes. When there is too much wood, the buyers have a much better sense of humor.
"I'm cutting mills off as I catch them, but I think some of them are bringing wood in here at night." (Arkansas: 7/19/94)
"Selling lumber in today's market is simply a matter of finding the foot for the EEE shoe."
"I just bought a load of lumber and got a free toaster oven. Boy, are things ugly out there."
Where Is All the Wood?
The idea of the Quote of the Week originated with amusing responses to questions we would ask about lumber availability. These quotes are evidence that pallet people have a sense of humor in tough times too.
"If we're really separating the men from the boys, I feel about 10 years old right now." (Kentucky: 11/6/92)
"A customer asked for a ballpark price. I told him I didn't know where the game was being played." (Kentucky: 12/18/92)
"Our inventory is stable. We've had none all summer, and we have none now." (Missouri: 11/19/93)
"For the amount of business we do not have, we have ample inventory." (Washington: 12/17/93)
It is no secret that the pallet industry operates on a thin margin but sometimes prices from competitors leave even savvy veterans of price wars scratching their heads.
"Same ol' story. Some guy comes into your backyard and cuts you by $.50-You're not going to give up the customer, so you drive a VW instead of a Mercedes. " (South Carolina: 1/12/96)
"Unit numbers are up. Dollar numbers are down. It's a real reward draggin' my carcass in here in the morning." (Pacific Northwest: 9/12/97)
"How would you like to be on the space shuttle, which is literally a 2 million pound bomb, and know it was built by the lowest priced supplier?" (Washington: 9/3/99)
"I'm lean and mean and selling pallets for fun and profit – make that selling pallets for fun. " (California: 3/10/00)
"Fuel prices are up; pallet prices are down. Who's the rocket scientist? " (New York: 3/17/00)
To Be Perfectly Honest
There’s an old adage that states that "honesty is the best policy." Whoever coined that phrase wasn’t thinking about the pallet industry . . . or maybe they were. Here are a few takes from the pallet industry on telling (or not telling) the truth.
"The lies are so deep, the first liar doesn't stand a chance." (Texas: 8/1/97)
"Don't tell my mother I'm a pallet salesman. She thinks I'm a piano player in a brothel in New Orleans." (Ohio: 10/3/97)
"When the phone rings, I get up and walk around the desk before answering so sawmills think I have something else to do." (South Carolina: 6/18/99)
"They say that truth is stranger than fiction...That's because it's so rare around here." (Texas: 6/25/99)
"I've got a plunger in one hand and a phone in the other, and I'm ready for anything that might happen." (Oregon: 5/5/00)
"When two plus two doesn't equal four and the stories don't jive, I'm at least as smart as an old cow. I know to eat the hay and leave the sticks." (Virginia: 3/23/01)
"Very few people leave Vegas with more money than they came in with, but they all leave with a smile. That's because gamblers are bigger liars than fishermen." (Nevada: 4/13/01)
You Want Them When?
One of the largest challenges facing the pallet industry these days is last minute orders. Dealing with last minute orders has always been a problem in the pallet industry. Changes in business philosophies in recent years have turned last minute orders into the standard. Here are some humorous takes on crisis management orders.
"When you have a holiday and deer season together, people can't plan for that. I tell my customers it's coming and they should plan. They look at me like I'm talking Swahili." (Wholesaler: 12/9/94)
"Industrial accounts give you four hour lead-times. But what are you gonna do? They say 'We're gonna be late for church and you run and jump in the car.'" (Southern California: 7/26/96)
"Need pallets tomorrow morning? Why wait 'till tomorrow, when you can have 'em today." (Southern California: 11/1/96)
"It's 9:30 in the morning and I've already had three calls from customers wanting pallets today. Would you like some fries with that? Thanks for your order — please drive thru!!" (Michigan: 5/19/00)
What could be worse for the forest products industry than Al Gore as president? Gore has never endeared himself to the forest products industry, so when he changed his mind about conceding the election, our readers had plenty to say. Here is your take on the election that wouldn’t go away.
"You just caught me. I just got back from Florida...I had to vote again. " (California: 11/10/00)
"Whupp him, GW. Whupp his sorree milk toast, sandwich eatin', biscuit pinchin', double crossin', hotel-raised, finger-pointin', ain't never had a real job, crooked, chest pokin', tree huggin', gun grabbin', flip floppin', internet inventin', Clinton brownie, spoiled whining, empty suited, pin-headed butt. And all the sane said AMEN!" (Withheld: 11/17/00)
"We could pull out of the Union. Hanging chad, my (eye). We're out of here." (Withheld to protect the innocent: 12/15/00)
Sawmills — A Necessary Evil
The relationship between sawmills and pallet manufacturers is often a good one. There are times however when both sides’ patience are tested. In some areas it has to be a love/hate relationship — cause that’s the way daddy did it!
"It's a mean market. Old lumbermen used to raise kids and trees; with these new guys, it's Piranha and Dobermans. Folks aren't as nice as they used to be." (Oregon: 4/15/94)
"It amazes me that the sawmill/lumber buyer relationship hasn't progressed beyond I kick you, you kick me." (Tennessee: 2/23/96)
"Sawmillers around here are strange. You try to get them to do something different and they'll smile and nod their head and go back to doing it the way they always have." (Tennessee: 3/1/96)
You Just Can’t Find Good Help Anymore
Labor has always presented problems for the pallet industry. Regardless of how automated your facility is, you’re going to need workers. Unfortunately for the pallet industry, these positions are not considered glamour jobs by the general public. Go figure.
"We used to have skilled workers. Now you say look out for wane, and the reply is, 'Wayne who?’" (Pacific Northwest: 9/27/96)
"The labor situation is awful. Our background check consists of asking if they have committed a felony in the last week." (Pacific Northwest: 8/21/98)
"I'm hiring two guys a day. The first day they say ‘I'm going to lunch', and you never see them again." (Pennsylvania: 9/22/00)
"I have had it with employee excuses. I'm adding three wings to my business -- a medical facility, a service station and a justice of the peace!" (New York: 3/9/01)
Who Is Paying for All This Red Tape?
If you want to get a small business owner started, talk about government bureaucracy. You don’t need that much prompting in the forest products industry. The softwood lumber agreement was at the top of the list of hated government screw ups. It was a long list though. Here are a few of the reasons why the industry is mad at the government.
"Landfill costs make me want to go buy a hole somewhere." (Georgia: 5/31/95)
"The two governments couldn't find a problem so they made one up. Then they solved it, and now everybody is left scratching their head." (Canadian Prairie contact on the softwood quota: 6/14/96)
"They're monitoring the softwood better than they do the cocaine!" (California: 12/10/99)
"It’s been inspection week here. OSHA came by, then the fire inspector, who sent the building inspector to check us out. California Highway Patrol was by to check driver and maintenance logs. County Hazardous Waste is due any minute. They all give you a list of things to do. All this problem solving takes away from my surf time." (California: 6/22/01)
It’s Bigger — It Must Be Better
Remember PRANA? How about PalletPallet? The most recent roll out in the consolidation mania of the pallet industry is PalletOne. You know — Ridge, Fraser and Interstate became PalEx. PalEx merged with IFCO to form IFCO Systems, who sold its pallet manufacturing facilities to a new group that formed PalletOne. I am an optimist and believe that consolidation can work. Others are a little more jaded. Here are a few humorous takes, both pro and con.
"There are some people who believe that if we just increase production it would bring world peace. " (North Carolina: 12/22/00)
"I can't imagine anyone buying 17 pallet operations. This industry is so fragmented. It's like a bunch of hogs on ice. Everyone's going in a different direction." (Texas: 6/15/01)
"We're pallet-heads. They tried to convert us to the dark side, but we're happy to be back to just being pallet-heads" (Florida: 9/21/01)
Tales From the Crypt a.k.a. Those Evil Purchasing Agents
I get calls from purchasing agents on a regular basis. Purchasing agents are people and people are — well, people. Some are good. Some are bad. Then there’s mean vs. nice, smart and not so smart. You get the picture. Pallet companies end up dealing with all of them. We rarely hear about the good ones, but boy, do we hear abut the bad ones. They’re not satan incarnate but . . .
"Purchasing agents call in the morning and ask ‘Are you busy today?' but they still want you to sell cheaper than everyone else." (New England: 8/15/97)
"I'm dealing with a new purchasing agent. It's a long story... Imagine the worst, and then there's this lady." (Minnesota: 6/26/98)
Business is So Slow
How slow is it? Pallet manufacturers don’t lose their sense of humor when they lose a few orders. Here are a few of the colorful ways pallet guys say things are slow.
"If this slow pace keeps up we will be exchanging glances at Christmas instead of gifts." (Alberta, Canada: 12/1/95)
"This is where the engine has stopped, and you sense the caboose doesn't have far to go." (British Columbia: 7/23/99)
Once a month the Pallet Profile Weekly publishes a report geared to the pallet recycling industry. There is no shortage of quotes from these guys either.
"You've got #1A and #1B and now you've got the S**'s Club Pallet that's new and only been driven around the warehouse once by a little old lady." (Georgia: 7/18/97)
"We're too close to the border to charge for pallet removal. If you leave pallets out on the street today, they're somebody's house tomorrow." (California: 3/5/99)
Mysteries of the Universe Revealed
Well, not really, but in the course of our market research calls the conversation can drift. What? You think I talk about pallets ALL day? When the conversation does get away from pallets, it’s even more comical. Here’s a dose of philosophy — pallet style.
"I'm trying to figure out if I'm digging or covering up." (Alabama: 5/17/96)
"General Motors' workers get paid $72 per hour for holiday pay. I've seen hookers work for less money." (Ontario: 6/19/98)
"If you sit down at a poker game for 30 minutes and you haven't figured out who the sucker is, you're in trouble because it's probably you!" (North Carolina: 11/12/99)
"That's the bad thing about a desk... you can only hide under it for so long." (Nevada: 11/19/99)
"When you’re dumb, you gotta be tough!" (Virginia: 12/3/99)
"There are two theories to arguing with a woman . . . Neither one works. " (Virginia: 7/20/01)
"It's all fun and games till someone puts their eye out -- then it's fun and games with one eye! " (Washington: 6/23/00)
How Do I Become a Victim
You may be wondering why you haven’t been quoted in the Pallet Profile Weekly. It may be that we haven’t called you. If you are interested in being part of our information network, simply call (800) 805-0263 and ask for Jeff. I’ll be happy to add you to my call list. Maybe . . . just maybe you’ll have as much fun as I do.
I Don’t Want to Miss the Quote of the Week Ever Again!
The Quote of the Week is just one of many features of the Pallet Profile Weekly. Each week, for example, we track 27 regions in the hardwood pallet industry, bringing you information about prices for cants, boards, and average prices for new and used modified GMA pallets. This is the kind of information that our subscribers use to stay abreast of the business climate in their region. The Pallet Profile Weekly is an unbiased source of information that they share with purchasing agents and other buyers to justify pallet prices.
The Pallet Profile Weekly is also dedicated to the West Coast and Canadian pallet industry - providing similar information on raw materials, lumber and pallet prices. Each week, we chart average prices for hardwood cants and Western Douglas fir and SPF softwoods, giving you a visual snapshot of price trends for the past 12 months.
All in all, the Pallet Profile Weekly gives our subscribers the information edge they need to do business and be profitable. Each week, we help them improve their bottom line.
Many readers frequently tell us that the Pallet Profile Weekly is "the most important publication in the pallet industry." The Pallet Profile Weekly has become a "must read" for pallet manufacturers and recyclers. Why? Quite simply, the Pallet Profile Weekly goes to work for you and helps you sell pallets. Our industry faces challenging times ahead; together we can face the challenges, adjust and profit.
Call today for a special offer! Dial (800) 805-0263 and ask for Jeff.