Monday, June 27, 2011

Thirty Years Of Jobbers - Chapter 1.8

This particular jobber had one rather large account that accounted for over a million gallons a month in fuel sales. Fuel was being sold at one-quarter of a cent per gallon over the rack price, and I discovered when the price of fuel was dropping, they experienced substantial losses; but the supplier offered an attractive rebate that came about when a certain number of gallons were reached during the month. So, that made up for at least some of that loss.

They also had a fair amount of oil and grease sales, but they made a lot of their money as David did, running their funds through money-market accounts like Merrill-Lynch. In addition, they had six convenience stores in which one had a deli operation. The deli was showing a 45% profit after expenses, so there was interests in expanding more into that area. They also had a large transport business.

I continued my schedule of starting late in the morning and working until 4-5 AM the next day. This gave me opportunities to visit with the tanker drivers, where I came of the opinion that you had to be more than a little bit crazy to haul gasoline. Earlier, in the era of citizen band radios (CBs) I had traveled a great deal for an advertising company I worked for, and I can remember many a late night in the ‘rocking chair’ with fuel carriers having handles like ‘Fireball’ at the front door, and ‘Gas Man’, bringing up the rear.

On those cold winter mornings, the drivers would start filtering into the office to get a cup of fresh-brewed coffee I always had prepared by around 4 AM, and occasionally a donut or two from a box I’d purchased the night before; their diesels warming up in the parking lot, waiting to venture out onto the ice-covered Texas Panhandle highways.

Hank, was a WWII Navy veteran and the most interesting of the bunch. He would mesmerize us with tales of great naval battles in the Pacific. He related one incident occurring in 1945, that remains chiseled in my memory. It was during the Battle of Okinawa when a Kamikaze slammed into a gun turret he occupied and how he dove to the deck to avoid dislodged rivets that became deadly projectiles ricocheting around the walls.  

As the year rolled over into 1982, I updated David's system with all the changes I had made, and sold yet another system to a company in Arkansas who had twenty convenience stores. They too, were a paper and pencil operation ran by an intelligent woman that became one of my dearest friends. The owner had migrated into the oil business from his job as an oil salesman for a major supplier in the seventies, and became involved with some partners who financed him into the venture. He later bought them out and became the sole owner of the business.

One thing I discovered, common in oil jobber operations, was a real problem with inter-office communications, and there were no exceptions there. The day I arrived to install the computer, the lady who ran the accounting department went on vacation. I was left to work it out with an overworked assistant that I quickly reduced to tears within the first four days. I was asked to leave. With only two exceptions, every customer I had over the next twenty years forgot that in addition to putting 100% effort into getting the computer system up and running, their employees were already giving 100% effort in managing their day-to-day responsibilities with antiquated, paper bookkeeping system. That alone would try the patience of almost any employee.

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