Sales 101

I’m sadder than I would have expected at the news JC Penney has filed for bankruptcy.
It’s not like I shopped there. I’ll bet it’s been ten years since I last set foot in the store at Wyoming Valley Mall. I guess that makes me part of the problem.
But I once shopped at Penney’s. I have fond memories of walking into the store on Main Street, Pittston, holding my mother’s hand and being fascinated at the little devices that shot from sales desks to God-knows-where through these clear tubes. I hadn’t a clue this was how the sales girls (that’s what they called them then, and yes, they were all girls) sent payments to the business office upstairs. Back-to-school always meant a trip to Penney’s, even when it was back-to-college and I shopped for myself. The first credit card I ever carried was from JC Penney.
Just the mention of JC Penney conjures up a tale often told by the late Richard B. Cosgrove, advertising manager of the Sunday Dispatch when I worked there. Dick, as he was known, actually met Mr. J. C. Penney. The initials J. C. , by the way, are for James Cash.
Paul Riffle, manager of the Pittston Penney’s, called Dick to tell him J. C. Penney would be visiting the store and invited him to stop by to meet the retail legend. Dick waited patiently while Mr. Penney took a tour of the store. Finally, Mr. Riffle waved Dick over for an introduction.
“Mr. Penney,” Riffle said, “I’d like you to meet Mr. Cosgrove, advertising manager of the local newspaper.”
J. C. Penney shook Dick Cosgrove’s hand and then immediately turned to Paul Riffle and said, “Well, did you sell him a suit of clothes?”
The lesson, I guess, is that J. C. Penney did not become a millionaire by not selling suits of clothes, and countless other items, to everyone he met.

Ed Ackerman