It was Garrett’s “career day” activity this week, and though a lot of what we do on the job is fascinating at some level, right now, at this juncture in time it would be deadly dull for the lad. So I called up a good friend of mine, John Frazier, who has worked for the THINKGEEK corporation for a long time now. He was more than happy to host Gar for a while, to show him the ropes of the techno-gadget industry. Our thanks to the great people at ThinkGeek for being about as friendly as you can be to a couple of strangers stalking their halls out of the blue like this.
The outside was fairly non-descript, in an undisclosed office park somewhere in Northern Virginia.
We took a quick tour around the floor to see where all the magic happens.
There’s two things that jump out about life in the gadget flogging world of ThinkGeek almost immediately. Make it fun and make it dim. There’s not a lot of ambient light at ThinkGeek. I’m not sure why. When John proudly displayed the “Wall of Cease and Desist Letters” I had to use light amplification to take pictures.
Another thing that impresses the oblivious visitor is the amount of production work done in the HQ itself. All those cool catalog pictures and web videos? Mostly done here. So there’s tons of costume parts, masks, props and cultural reference artifacts all over the floor.
John F. introduced us around and gave Gar a thumbnail sketch of what Thinkgeek does and how they earn their living. Some interesting observations– a substantial amount of empty desks. The call center is now in Florida to save money (but NOT IN ASIA, thank you!). Thinkgeek is moving towards their own branding on a lot of what they are selling now, and may soon have their own goods in boutique stores as well as catalogs and websites.
We got a chance to see the folks at TG set up for an advertisement shot, for StayPuft, the marshmallow from GhostBusters. Naturally, an employee on the premises had a Ghostbusters costume AND the niftiest Ghost catching trap ever.
Fun as all this jocularity is, John had an idea about how to demonstrate to Garrett a significant portion of his daily job, which is as a merchandiser type. Garrett got to scan through manufacturer’s catalogs, locate things that might or might not fit with ThinkGeek’s vision, and then add it to a spreadsheet.
Garrett took the job seriously and plowed through the catalogs, working a spreadsheet like a pro, which surprised me at least.
Then he had a meeting with John to discuss his choices. John went through the factors that apply towards making a merchandising decision.. mostly the backend stuff.. how to promote it, what the demand would be like, how the season of the year might effect it, etc. It was, frankly, fascinating stuff to listen too, and much of it we just take for granted.
That kept us busy until about 6PM. We thanked everyone (especially John) at Think Geek and headed home. Gar was ecstatic. He asked.. “Could I volunteer there over the Summer? I’d gladly do the catalog job again, for free!” I grinned, enjoying the spectacle of a nascent work ethic.
So that’s our visit to ThinkGeek HQ, and a fun half day it was!