Okay, This Is About Me…
But, If You Love Pinball (and Pat Lawlor Games), You’ll Want to Read It!
by Jack Guarnieri, Jersey Jack Pinball & PinballSales.com
I hate to write about myself, but I want to tell you about bringing an industry icon back to the world of pinball.
As a street operator for many years, I ran my fair share of pinball machines. Doing so, I quickly learned which games made more money, sometimes just by virtue of the designer behind the game. One of these amazing pinball creators is Pat Lawlor. He brought us Banzai Run, Earthshaker, Funhouse, Whirlwind, Safecracker, Twilight Zone, No Good Golfers, Red and Ted’s Road Show and, of course, Addams Family (a pingame that is still knocking down great earnings today; more than 20,000 units were built of that classic).
Back in the day, I’d buy new games, pop them open on location and watch as the players would marvel at the latest gadgets and innovations Pat Lawlor put into his games. The stunning artwork by John Youssi would draw attention to the game and as the players would study it in wonderment, they’d be pulled in.
These games made money for operators faithfully for many years and they were the core of a street operator’s bread-and-butter earnings. They were reliable soldiers that performed every week. It was games like that that I set out to bring to operators and players through Jersey Jack Pinball.
While Pat retired almost ten years ago, I rented a building from him for JJP in Harvard, Ill., in 2011. As Pat saw the pinball innovations we brought with our first game, The Wizard of Oz, Pat grew more excited, thinking that one day he might return to pinball design.
When I hired Pat in late 2013, it was a pivotal decision looking forward to the future of JJP and what we could create. I wanted him to design an unlicensed, original game, something directly from his imagination. I felt that I’d hired Michelangelo so I wasn’t going to tell him how to paint the Sistine Chapel! After all why did I need a license when to me, Pat Lawlor and his team were the license?
Leaving it in their capable hands, I just have to tell you that the result is amazing. We’ve built a game with new technology that has never been done in pinball before. We’ve also built one that continues to fulfill the vision I had for Jersey Jack Pinball: to always innovate, improve and make fun, full featured games that players will love and cherish for many years. The operator and technician in me wanted to create games that would work well on location and make a great ROI and also have good resale value. We have done this.
Pat told me that he realized at a young age that it was more fun to make his own toys than have his parents buy them for him. I’m proud to say that today, Pat makes toys for the company I founded, Jersey Jack Pinball. I never would have imagined that! Please visit us in booth 1506 at IAAPA and see for yourself what he’s come up with now!
I have used this quote from Gene, now long gone, many times. Back then, it took me a moment to understand what he meant. He didn’t mean to shake them upside down and take their money as fast as you can! What he meant was: How can I keep these people here longer, playing more, eating more, riding more and having a good time for a while longer?
I got it and I think of it when I walk the Jersey Shore or visit FECs or street locations. How can I make my customers feel better, appreciate the loyalty and experience good customer service? These are the challenges in how you do business. If you try to cheat players out of a prize or squeeze more out of tired equipment (or old, faded merchandise), your players will know and they won’t stay and play. Your players are way too sophisticated and tech-savvy to be ripped off for too long before they walk.
Perceived value is important. All of us are sensitive to the question we ask ourselves, “Is this worth it?” before we buy something. Think about what you are selling and how. Put yourself in your player’s shoes and ask: Does it make sense to you as a customer seeing or playing it for the first time?
Give the customer what the customer wants at a fair price and they will come back again and again. The best advice I can give you is to simply treat them as you would like your own family to be treated. If you do that, you’ll do fine!
Jack Guarnieri started servicing electro-mechanical pinball machines in 1975 and has been involved in every phase of the amusement game business since then. He was an operator in NYC, then began a distributorship in 1999, PinballSales.com, selling coin-op to the consumer market. In January of 2011 he founded Jersey Jack Pinball (named after his RePlay Magazine pen name), which builds award-winning, full-featured, coin-op pinball machines. Email Jack at jack@ jerseyjackpinball.com.