A couple of years after I got started in the mall cart business,
I had a meeting with my favorite local leasing manager.
In our meeting, she told me about a new product she had
just heard about. It was a 'demo' product, and she knew
I liked demo products.
(She was my favorite mall leasing manager because she
was one of the few that would pass on stuff like this.)
'If you do it, be sure to do it in my mall!', she said.
When I got home that day, I called to find out more about
the product. It was a new children's product, a toy.
The company had only a few carts open at the time. And the
sales numbers they quoted were phenomenal.
I had a conversation with a new product supplier a couple
of weeks ago.
In my excitement, I called my then current product supplier to
get his opinion.
When I told him about this product and asked him what
he thought about it, there was a moment of silence... I'm sure he was sizing up how to handle the situation.
Intuitively he got that if he discouraged me too much, I'd
probably pursue it anyway, but just wouldn't talk with
him about it.
He didn't certainly didn't want to encourage me too much,
as I was his top distributor, and he didn't want to chance
The suggestion he did give me was a gem, and I wanted to
pass it on.
He said that before committing to any new product, it's a
good idea to talk with current operators selling the product,
and ask about their experience.
They're the ones actually out in the field selling the product.
They're also usually pretty frank about sharing how well the
product is selling, sharing any problems they've faced, and
sharing what it's like to work with the supplier... and so on.
He suggested that I ask the supplier for references for a few
of their top cart operators. Then call those operators and pick
So that's what I did.
Before I proceed further, Here are some things I've learned
about getting references:
* It's good to ask for a list of four or five operators. That's
enough so that you should be able to get in touch one or two
(Invariably there will be a couple on the list that are hard
to get in touch with.)
* Be sure to get a phone number and email address if possible.
Sometimes it's easier to set up a time to talk via email.
* Ask for contact info for the most successful operators possible.
They usually 'get it' better than folks that do mediocre, and will be
able to offer more insights.
* If a supplier won't provide references, it's a real 'red flag'.
It has to make you wonder what they don't want you to know.
When you're considering making a significant commitment of
time and money with a new business, it's reasonable to get
references, and speak with them.
After I got off the line with my existing supplier, I called that
new supplier right away, and asked for the references.
But they wouldn't provide any references.
Hmmmm.... Why not?
In our previous conversation, he had mentioned the name of
a mall they were open at.
I'm pretty resourceful. So I just called the mall directly and got
the contact information for the operator at that mall myself.
I remember two distinct things from that conversation:
1) They were doing sales numbers that were solid enough that I might want to proceed forward with that product; and
2) The sales numbers were not nearly as high as the product
supplier quoted. For some reason, he had inflated them.
Maybe he didn't really know the sales numbers, and just
extrapolated them from orders. Perhaps he was exaggerating.
I don't know.
Either way, I didn't feel like I could really trust them.
The crazy thing to me was that the real sales numbers
were solid enough to interest me. He didn't need to inflate
Whenever you are considering a new cart or kiosk concept,
it's a good idea to ask for references from at least four or five
Then get on the phone and speak with them.
It's an important step to take to feel comfortable with
a new concept.
You'll get a clearer picture of the potential of that concept,
and what it takes to succeed. And you'll be more likely to
make the right decision for you.
P.S. Turned out this new supplier knocked off the
concept from someone else. We found the original
manufacturer and bought from them. (Much more