The No-No Pen

 

Like any other company,Sanfordhad a public address system. Anytime it was necessary to locate someone and they were not answering their phone, they could be summoned over the P A system. If there was a general announcement to be made, this is how it was done. If for some reason a special meeting were to be called, the P A system was used. The company receptionist, who for all the years I worked there was a lady named Helen Margetic, would announce over the system that designated people were to report to the conference room. If sales people were summoned, everyone in the factory know that Charlie had something he wanted to discuss with his sales staff. If Production managers were called, then there was a need to be addressed in the production area. And so forth.

 

Charlie made it a routine to visit every part of the company on a regular basis. Since the laboratory was on the second floor, and there was a single entrance that everyone normally used to access the second level, everyone coming and going were known to me because my desk had a full view of that door. People would enter through that door and then proceed to whatever portion of the lab was their destination, or they would simply pass through the lab to another door that entered into the area where large ink batches were made. But all comers and goers were known to me, and I always took note when someone entered because that someone might be Charlie. It wasn’t often, but every now and then the door would open, and Charlie would take a single step into the room. And that was all the further he went until he allowed the door to close behind him.

 

I suppose he waited until he was in the laboratory to decide who he would accost first. I can think of no other explanation. He would just stand there until everyone knew he was there, and then make a slow deliberate walk to the worker whom he decided to target. I dreaded those experiences. One never knew on what subject he would be drilled. One only knew that he, indeed, would be drilled. Charlie made similar visits to every corner of the plant and to every department in the plant. And he always knew what was going on.

 

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From a technical viewpoint, the concept of the Sharpie could be altered to fill different writing and marking needs. After the Sharpie was well established, both Sanford and their competitors recognized that a disposable writing pen was the next logical product to produce. Fountain pens had ink supplies that needed refilling. Ball point pens, a product thatSanfordnever produced, also had ink supplies that needed to be replaced. But the felt tip marker and the Sharpie Marker that followed it were disposable. You bought it, you used it until the ink was exhausted, and then you threw it away and bought another one. The next logical step after the Sharpie was well established was to use the Sharpie parts and fill them with fountain pen ink to make a cursive writing pen that, like the permanent markers, was disposed of rather than refilled.

 

Pens of this type began showing up everywhere, and competition would be stiff, but it was a market that was at the core of theSanfordproduct line, soSanforddecided to have a product of their own for their customers. Of course, the Penit Fountain Pen inks would not work all that well in a disposable writing device. Customized formulations would be needed for optimal performance. The other parts of a disposable marking / writing device also had to be specific to the need. A different plastic was needed to contain the reservoir and its ink. A tip that delivered a fine point was required. In the lab, we worked all of these things out while Sales and Marketing were responsible for naming the new product. The name they come up with was 20 / 20.

 

I liked that name. It indicated sharpness and precision. It said that everything was just as it should be. I could see myself whipping out my 20 / 20 pen and signing a check or putting my name on a contract. I liked the name then and I still like it now. Apparently Charlie liked it also until something happened to change his mind.

 

Everything was in place to introduce the 20 / 20 pen. Samples were prepared, tested and approved. Performance was documented and reports made available to the sales department that compared the newSanfordproduct to known competition and documenting a superior performance. Customers had received demonstration samples and were placing orders. Quality assurance was ready to monitor the production of the new pen and make sure everything performed as designed. Components were procured and initial ink batches produced. Everything was in place and then production was started. We had a new product, new income for the company, new jobs for the factory workers, a new success story for the laboratory – oh, it was a grand occasion.

 

The only thing left to complete this launching of a new product was the Charlie Lofgren walk around. That, of course, was not a scheduled event. It wouldn’t be a Charlie Lofgren Walk Around if it took place on a published schedule. It would just happen, sometime, when he was ready, and when the event would do the most good.

 

Happen it did. The factory was busy with workers manning the different production lines. Things were as normal as they could be when Charlie made an unannounced visit to the production area see whether normal was what he wanted normal to be. As he casually he strolled past the new 20 / 20 production line he not only watched but he listened. He saw everything running just as it should and was ready to walk away when one of the assembly line workers said something to a fellow worker about the No-No pen.

 

Charlie stopped on a dime. He froze in his tracks. Then he went directly to the person making the comment, and asked, “What do you mean the No-No Pen”?

 

The factory wage worker simply picked up a pen barrel on which the name of the product was printed in a fancy decorative script and said with a smile, “See? It looks as much like No-No as it does 20 / 20”!

 

Charlie made an immediate exit toward the front office, and I can still recall the way the P A system took off like it was announcing the home stretch at a horse race. “Francis Gilbert (executive Vice President) , come to the conference room. Bob Bergdall, Frank Moore (Sales and marketing), Come to the Conference Room, Jack Cannon, Ed Dahmer (Production) Come to the Conference Room, Bill Green (Laboratory), Come to the Conference Room, Lee Smith (Comptroller), Come to the Conference Room”, and so forth.

 

The 20 / 20 pen never saw the light of day. Nor did the No-No pen. In fact, when that meeting was over, the whole program was put on hold. Lots of new decisions were made very quickly. TheSanfordcursive writing product needed to have a design of its own. To use the Sharpie design was a bad thing, not a good thing for such a product. The pen’s tip needed to be available in broad, medium and fine. The pen should have a metal clip and not be molded as part of the cap. The laboratory should submit several shades of black ink. Some people prefer a reddish black, some a bluish black,   Different people see “jet black” differently. This needed to be studied. And of course, the pen needed a new name.

 

In our discussion about a name it was pointed out that Papermate had given their product the perfect name. Flare.   It was one syllable. And it expressed the way the cursive writing pen gave a feeling of expression when writing with it. Every one at that largest impromptu meeting inSanford’s history was given the challenge of submitting within one week their suggestion for a one syllable name for the new product that did forSanfordwhat “Flare” did for Papermate. So what was the same selected for theSanfordcursive writing pen?

 

Expresso.

 

I know, I know. That name is three syllables. But if a 600 pound Gorilla wants to change his mind, he changes his mind.

 

I still like the name 20 / 20. If I ever see a pen for sale named 20 / 20, I think I will buy it.