As far back as my managing editor days at Cash Box Magazine (which was a trade paper for the record business), I preferred to listen to the news station on the radio when going or coming from work rather than the Top 40 music station. That habit followed me when I relocated to Los Angeles and started RePlay. This was in 1975 and I still listen to the news in the car most of the time.
A couple of weeks ago, during a particularly broiling, hot day here in Los Angeles, the radio announcer was breathlessly reporting how busy the air conditioner repair guys were, concluding with words like: “Even the owners at some of these companies are out there fixing machines, it’s been that busy!”
That announcer’s perception of what “an owner” does…or doesn’t do…is probably shared by a lot of people who work a 9-to-5 job, grab a paycheck at the end of the week and head home. Okay, I know there are some small business owners who just sort of sit around the office or shop and watch the staff do all the lifting. I once worked at a place where the owner’s sole activity on any given day was to read pocket books.
But I’ve learned during all these years covering the coin machine business that many route operators and arcade owners are often more of the hands-on type than that pocket book reader. These include people who started their businesses from scratch by scouring the territory to scoop up locations and now regularly get on the phone or in the truck to put out those “fires” when a location wants to switch operators, wants an expensive new machine or needs to chew somebody out because the route guy somehow insulted him.
Ever since I got into this business, I’ve had a huge respect for machine operators. I’ve been asked many times if I have any machines out on the street and if not, why not. I told them I’d be terrified of trying to fix the stuff when it broke down. Also, while I don’t mind hard work, I’m definitely not a big fan of moving heavy and often delicate machinery on a floor dolly. Years ago, Cinematronics gave me a Space Wars upright video and when I decided to move it to a different part of the house, I found out it weighed more than the M-88 tank I drove back in the Army! That made an impression!
Operating is a combination of brains and sweat. More than requiring muscle, it needs patience when a bar owner tells you he’s going with another guy after years of your loyal service. Or when you have to put down your dinner fork, get in the car and go fix a jukebox on Saturday night. We have a feature on operator Bob Burnham inside this issue. During one of our chats, he said he’d be a little late sending the photos because he had to attend to an arcade break-in first. All part of the game.