...So anyway, as we were saying before being so rudely interrupted...yes, Marketplace is back-after somewhat of a self-imposed hiatus. During that time we got our tires rotated, teeth cleaned (or was it teeth rotated and tires cleaned?) and a new air freshener strategically installed in our jalopy. Now we're ready to rumble. Read on...
Compactor, she wrote
It was a mystery of epic proportions, considering the bulk of the subject.
Back on Sept. 17, Michelin North America Inc.'s Travel Publications unit held an event at the Poinsett Hotel, a local establishment in the tire maker's Greenville, S.C., hometown. The company's famed mascot, Bibendum-known to his friends and acquaintances simply as ``Big Bib''-was to be one of the honored guests.
Now you must realize that Bibendum is like Santa in the sense that, just like that jolly old man in the red suit, jolly, clean-shaven Bib has lots of ``helpers'' who sometimes represent him.
Here, we'll let Nancy Banks, Michelin's director of public relations, pick up the tale. She told Marketplace that since Bib was to have a helper for this event, the company sent a ``Bibendum Suit'' for the helper to wear. ``But when the appointed hour arrived, the suit was nowhere to be found,'' she said. Considering it was post-Sept. 11, ``Michelin waited a few days for a possible delayed arrival-with all the heightened security in shipping and air freight, it was possibly just an unavoidable delay. But when the suit still didn't arrive, Michelin put a tracer on the shipment.''
Word of the possible whodunit leaked out, prompting a call to Ms. Banks from a local TV reporter who quoted her saying: ``He's playful. He's fun. He exhibits the thrill and joy of travel.'' She called Bib's disappearance ``most unlike him'' since ``he's a most reliable fellow.''
Well, to make a twisted tale even more strange, the hotel discovered the suit had arrived Sept. 15 and had been signed for by a hotel employee. So a police report was filed and an investigation begun.
A few days later the hotel indicated to Ms. Banks that apparently the Bib suit had been mistakenly placed in a trash compactor. What was left of the poor fella's clothes was subsequently buried under several tons of trash at a local landfill. (This is starting to sound like the Jimmy Hoffa saga.)
With tongue firmly planted in cheek, Nan reports that ``the moral of this story'' is:
* Don't be casual with your Bibendum.
* One man's trash is another man's Bib.
* A Bibendum in the hand is worth way more than one in a landfill-more than $8,000 to be exact.
* This kind of thing would never happen with a blimp!
A recent ``Ziggy'' cartoon panel by Tom Wilson would have produced a laugh track if it wasn't so screechingly close to the truth.
Our hapless cartoon character is poised behind the wheel of a new car as a smiling salesman standing under a sign for ``Al's Auto Sales'' advises: ``Oh, yeah!... Better let me have your phone number for when we recall it!!''
That's not a reference to the old Michael J. Fox TV sitcom. You've got to pay real close attention to this item in order to follow the twists and turns:
Jiro Yanase, 85, is founder and head of Japan's biggest auto importer, Yanase & Co. Since he had no sons and simply couldn't stand the thought of his name not being carried on after he's gone, he chose what could only be described as a unique solution.
He has adopted his grandson-who is the son of his daughter and son-in-law Takahide Inayama-as his own son and set him up as Yanase & Co.'s president-in-waiting. That makes the adopted son, 34-year-old Yasutaka, the brother-in-law of his father and brother of his mother (you still with us?).
Son-in-law Inayama had been the president but, with the company doing poorly, has stepped aside to the position of vice chairman. And the firm's new president, Takahiro Inoue, 65, is just keeping the seat warm for a few years until little Yasutaka can take over.
Now...if he were to have children, would they be his adopted dad's grandchildren or great-grandchildren? No matter what, we can only guess they'd be confused as we are.
Ho-hum, another day at the store
Mar-Bar Tire Service in Hanover, Pa., which primarily handles Kelly tires, is truly a family affair.
All five daughters of owners Markel and Barbara Martin help out ``every chance they can,'' according to their mom. Recently, while hard at work in her parents' shop, 21/2-year-old Michelle Martin became too pooped to bust yet another tire and decided to catch a few z-z-z's. What better place (photo at right) than in a Kelly Safari SJR light truck tire.
We've heard that things have been a little slow lately in a number of dealerships across the country, but we're hoping Michelle's nap was induced by hard work-not boredom. (Postscript: Not just Michelin tires make good hula-hoops for children.)
This `n that
Quick stats-In his Quick Bites newsletter, motivational speaker, training and business expert Sam Geist noted ``surveys are the latest advertising and promotional craze.'' He provided some stats ``you never knew you needed to know,'' including:
* Arm & Hammer says 31 percent of people believe that home and auto repair stains are the grimiest (not smoking stains on dentures like they say on TV?);
* Creative Group, a staffing agency, claims that advertising and marketing executives attend an average of 11 meetings per week; and
* The Comedy Channel released a study that 64 percent of people planned to play a practical joke on April Fool's Day.
Meanwhile, back on the couch-``Psychiatry enables us to correct our faults by confessing our parents' shortcomings,'' said Laurence J. Peter.
Revolt-``You say you want a revolution...,'' John Lennon sang back on the Fab Four's ``White Album.'' Well, Goodyear's finally paid heed.
Akron-based Big Blue recently renamed its slick Working Tires farm magazine. It's now called somewhat more of a mouthful: Revolutions-The Goodyear AgTire & Tracks Authority. The book's publisher is still Brad Pett (sorry ladies, that's not a typo).
Hand me the remote, honey-David Frost put it quite nicely: ``Television is an invention that permits you to be entertained in your living room by people you wouldn't have in your home.''
Edited by Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk