It’s time for another message from On High (aka the Department of Offense at Balls Out Entertainment). This year has been quite busy so I’m sure I will be forgiven for my tardy posting. A few weeks ago I spent a few days at the University of New Mexico, my alma mater, showing the game to students walking the hallways in the student union building. I stood behind a table for seven or eight hours, mostly being ignored by students. A few stopped to chat or look at the game, and a very few stopped to actually buy the game. A big part of the problem was of course that students are generally trying to go to and from classes; they are not necessarily hanging around with either disposable income or extra time on their hands.
In fact, one of the days I was there I sold three games, yet walked away without a cent. I had a few people tell me they really loved the idea of the game, and really wanted to buy one, but they didn’t have any money on them. Anyone who has ever stood somewhere trying to sell something is familiar with this phrase, and it usually means they aren’t interested but don’t want to offend the seller by saying so. It’s code for, “thanks but no thanks.” So I decided to take one woman up on her claim.
“You don’t have $30 on you, eh?” I said. (I took $10 off the price, for starving UNM students).
She shook her head.
“Tell you what: I’ll take an I.O.U.”
She looked up at me with a crooked smile.
“I’m serious,” I said. “If you want the game, I’ll give it to you right now, just write me an IOU on a piece of paper and send me the money when you have it.”
She crossed her arms skeptically. “Why would you do that?” she asked. “You don’t know me.”
“No, I don’t,” I said. “But I trust you. You want the game, and I want you to have it.”
So that’s what we did; she wrote her name and address and phone number on a piece of paper, and I wrote my address on another piece of paper and gave it to her.
The same thing happened two more times that day, another $70 in scribbles and pieces of torn paper instead of greenbacks. Overall, since the table cost me $50, between time and parking and gas, I about broke even– if you don’t count seven hours of my day spent standing behind a table.
When a friend of mine asked me how my day went, and I told her I’d gotten three IOUs, she kind of rolled her eyes. “You took three IOUs from poor college kids? Wow. Good luck with that,” she said. Actually, so far I have gotten two checks in the mail; the latest one came with a nice card from a woman named Rolinda: “Dear Ben- As promised, $50 enclosed for your board game of divine domination! Thanks for your trust, (signed) Rolinda”
Maybe this isn’t the best business savvy. Maybe taking IOUs from college kids in the basement halls at UNM is not terribly smart or glamorous, and maybe I’ll never hear from some of them again. I’m sure real businessmen (and businesswomen) would laugh at my amateur trust. There’s probably not another businessman in Albuqueque who would take IOUs for $30 or $50 from strangers. The next store or business you visit, ask them if they will take a signed IOU, and savor the stares.
But that is the kind of business I want to run. I’m not Donald Trump, Playing Gods isn’t Monopoly, and Balls Out isn’t Parker Brothers. I created this game and this company on my own terms, and done things my own way (sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse). A bumper sticker I once saw had a Gandhi quote, “Be the change you want to see.” I normally hate bumper sticker slogans, but that makes sense to me. I want to live in a world where people don’t judge each other by what church they go to, or what god they believe in– if any. I want to live in a world where strangers trust each other.
And I will continue to take IOUs from strangers.