From 1979 through 1982, I was the General Manager and Operating Partner of Walker Chrysler Dodge, in Laurel, Mississippi. If you read that fast and forget about the dates, it does sound rather impressive. However, if you read it slowly and think about Lee Iacocca going to the government for bailout help for Chrysler, then you begin to get an idea that maybe being the GM of Walker Chrysler Dodge in those days wasn’t a lot of fun, and you’d be right.
To say that I had limited operating capital would be like saying John Grisham has been fairly successful as a writer or Jeff Bezos has a nice little online business. In spite of having no money for advertising, I found some. A car dealer cannot survive without advertising. I bought off-hour package deals on our local radio stations and did the same at our local TV station.
I couldn’t afford slick, ad agency produced, spots, like my two arch competitors, Chris Posey Chevrolet and Swartzfager Ford. So I did my own radio and TV commercials. I wasn’t Cal Worthington or his dog, Spot, but the ads generated traffic, and my sales force turned the traffic into sales. They did so well, more often than not, we were the sales leader in the New Orleans division.
A couple of years into the operation, I left the dealership late one night. I walked across the street to the supermarket before heading home. I was waiting in the checkout line when a young girl, whom I judged to be a high school junior or senior, turned, glanced at me, took a deep breath, and exclaimed, “I know you. I know you! Wait, don’t tell me. I know who you are.”
I was a bit surprised, and I probably blushed. I opened my mouth to say my name, and she grabbed my arm, exclaiming, “No, don’t tell me. I know who you are.” She paused, studied my face for a moment, then her eyes lit up and she shouted, “You’re Chris Posey.”
She saw on my face that wasn’t the right answer, but before I could correct her, her eyes lit up again and she shouted, “No. You’re the Chrysler Jeep, guy. Right?”
I smiled, and said, “That’s right. It’s good to know those ads are working.”
That happened in 1981 or ’82. And now thirty years later, I’m back in the same position. I’m selling something and no one knows who I am. I’m not selling cars this time – I’m selling books. Great books, but I’m not selling too many right now because no one knows who I am or what the books are about.
That’s OK – I’m going to change that, and one day I’ll walk in the supermarket and that girl’s grandson will see me and say, “I know you, you’re Bert Carson, you wrote Fourth and Forever, that book about a 44 year-old retired Army pilot who became a college football quarterback. I love that book.”
Or her husband will see me in Home Depot and shout, “You’re Bert Carson. I just finished Another Place Another Time, and I loved it. I sure hope you write more books about dogs and time travel.
Or her brother will spot me in Starbucks, come over to my table and say, “Southern Investigation is the best private investigation book I’ve ever read. I’m really looking forward to the next one in the series.”
Or best of all, she will come up to me, somewhere, sometime, and smile shyly, then say, “I know who you are this time. You’re Bert Carson and you wrote Maddog and Miss Kitty, my very favorite love story of all time.”
Yep, that’s going to happen.