How To Get Into Business Without Really Trying

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About three months ago I was lamenting the lack of credible cooling solutions for Socket 7 chips. What was available was pathetically under-powered for the Socket 7/370 chips that were available. John Bogush’s site was probably the first one to get a hold of an Alpha heatsink, the P125. I linked into Alpha’s site and found the PFH6035 Socket 7 cooler and was intrigued. After trying to get one for a while, Alpha finally opened up a West Coast Office and I was able to buy some to test out.

When the package showed up and I opened it, I was blown away – those of you who have one of these know that it is one of the best looking heatsinks around. It just said “Hello, I am well engineered and will cool the hell out of your chip, big boy.” Of course I had to put it together. Naturally the instructions were in Japanese. So I looked at the parts and figured how to put it together. It turned out that it was not exactly right, but when I tested it, it was so far ahead of everything else that it worked fine.

Impulsively, I decided to order a bunch (25) and offer them to others who were looking for something better. My “plan” was simple – buy some, make a few of dollars on each one and get some money to help pay for the site. Simple. Now the fun begins.

I call up Alpha and tell them I want to order 25 of the PFH’s and, OK, throw in some P125s too. They say “What is your resale number?” I say “Huh? Why not just sell them to me.” Silly boy. A long dialogue ensues with references to the State of California, the home office in Japan, and the “Accountant’s Rules.” I know I am not going to get far without a Resale Certificate, so Alpha accepts that I am applying for it and sends me the goods.

Meanwhile I fill out the form, send the money ($30) to get one in Connecticut and send it in – probably get it in three weeks. Next I go to the Bank and want to open a checking account, figuring I should keep things separate. I want to open it in Overclocker’s name. Ok, they say, is this a registered name. Huh? Well, it turns out that if you want to open an “business” account, you need a registered name. OK, down to Town Hall to register the name – $20. Lucky me – after registering the name, my junk mail doubles with solicitations from accountants, the Chamber of Commerce, etc.

Now Alpha at this time did not include fans with the heatsinks. OK, browse the web and find a decent fan – Sunon 60 mm, 22 cfm. I call Sunon – they give me distributors to call. Luckily there is one close by and I call them to place an order. “Sure, what is your resale number?” Another dialogue and when I get it, they will refund back the tax they must charge me until I get the certificate. I give them the Sunon part number, tell them I need the 3 wire version with connectors for the motherboard.

“How many? Well, what’s the cost?” Turns out if you buy less than 100, you get a price that is about 50% higher than the 100 price/fan. I figure I can always use these (HA!) and go for 100. “OK – be here in 3 days.” All this over the phone – amazing what a VISA card can do.

I log onto and check my emails…LOTS of emails. In one day I get about 150 emails – “WE WANT ALPHAS!” What have I done? So this is how Pandora felt. Now I figure at the price I’m selling these, I am not going to stock them – can’t afford to eat them if they don’t sell. So I respond to these emails saying “Send Money Orders – when I get them, I will order the Alpha for you and send it to you.”

Many more emails – I have to set up a queue. Now remember this is all with emails – no on-line ordering system. Now I need a Post Office box…down to the PO, get a box. How do I ship these? I blithely go to a Mailbox store and they tell me “$25 each.” Right. FedEx is out, so I return to the PO – how best to ship these? Priority Mail – $3.20. OK, so I price them to include shipping. I like to see the full price, so that’s how I did it.

Now I need boxes. Back to Mailbox store – $3 for a 6 inch box. Right. I look in the Yellow Pages and find a Box Seller not 10 minutes from the house. I hop in the car, find the place (not the best area) and walk in to buy some boxes. “Sure, what’s your resale number?” Sigh. More dialogue, then “How many? Ten thousand?” Sigh. “Look, I only need 50 to start.” Finally works out to about 50 cents/box. OK, I can live with that – what choice do I have anyway? “By the way, what about packing material?” Oh yeah, give me some of that – smallest amount you have. He brings out 9 cubic feet of foam peanuts – the bag is bigger than me by about 50%. I stuff it into the car – “Please God, don’t let this bag break!”

Get home, unload the stuff and proceed to make boxes. The boxes are just flat pieces of cardboard with cuts – you fold and tape them to make a box. Tape? Down to the hardware store, buy a big roll of tape, and start to make boxes…in the living room…My wife comes home, gasps, and proceeds to ask me if I have lost my mind. I tell her the resale certificate is coming soon.

“Gee honey, this is something we can do together.” Right. So now I’m making boxes, tallying the emails, putting names into a spreadsheet and waiting for the mail. Meanwhile Alpha is shipping me goods and the fans are on their way. Down to the PO and pick up mail…a lot of mail. Some folks send checks – talk to the bank about how long it takes to clear – basically 7 working days. So now I have to distinguish who gets their order right away, who gets it in 7 days. Getting complicated. Then the international guys start emailing – what about us?

Down to the PO – what about international shipping. They give me a rate schedule and it’s all over the place…UK this much, Australia this much, etc. I blend the rates and post it on the site, figuring it will even out. HA! Let’s just say really gave significant amounts of foreign aid.

Now stuff starts to show up. The UPS guy lugs a bunch of heavy boxes up the steps and rings the bell. It’s about 30 steps – he is really nice but I know he can’t be happy about this. So I have a bunch of Alphas, money, boxes, foam peanuts floating all over the place and addresses to send – all I need is fans. Meanwhile, emails coming in – “Where are they? Is this a scam?” Make sure they are in fact coming in and receive assurances etc. Email back – “Fans coming in Tuesday – Ship Wednesday.” Post same on site. Call the distributor Tuesday…no fans. “Well, usually it take 3 days and they shipped them out three days ago, can’t imagine why they are not here.” OK, post a message on the site – Shipping Thursday.

Call the distributor Wednesday – “The fans are here.” Yes! Meanwhile I have pre-packed boxes to ship out, labels all made out – all set to go. Just put the fans in and ship. I arrive at the distributor, see a box of fans, pay, am about to leave and I think to myself “I should open the box to make sure they are OK.” Open the box, see fans and BARE WIRES – NO CONNECTORS. Turn white…head rush…”Are you all right?” queries my salesperson. I gasp “I think I have to sit down.” Worried, she gives me a Coke. I stare into space muttering “But there are no connectors.”

I impress upon everyone within earshot that there are 50 people waiting for these fans all over the world. I say this in a daze probably five times. Hurried telephone calls to SUNON – what happened? Seems there was a communications lapse between the distributor and SUNON – never happened before. Well, just FedEx 100 fans with connectors. It turns out fans with connectors are not stock items – “Sure – you’ll get them in three weeks.” Turn whiter. God bless the distributor and SUNON – they figure they can send the connectors overnight and the distributor can put them on. It takes about three minutes to do each one – you have to crimp on these minuscule little pins and then shove them into the small connector by hand – in the right sequence, of course (these are 3 wire fans).

Post another message about fan delays on the site…can’t sleep at all. The distributor calls about 2 PM next day – fans are ready. Hop in the car, pick them up, go home to pack them. Pack, pack, pack. Down to the PO to get them in the mail at 4:50 – the PO closes at 5:00. Now I show up with about 50 boxes…can you guess what kind of looks I get? Not from the PO clerks – great group of people – from people in line behind me. One lady: “Can’t you do your business someplace else?” I tell her the resale certificate is coming. Weigh, stamp, weigh, stamp, weigh, stamp. Oh, to Finland? Weigh, stamp, $15.00. Folks, if you’re an ounce over it costs you plenty.

Well, over the next two weeks things smoothed out – you can buy Priority Mail stamps, the PO gives you labels, just dump them on the counter – no waiting on line. The “system” worked OK and people got what they ordered, although sometimes it took a reshipment to straighten things out.

This was one incredible experience and even though I could have made more working at McDonalds, it was worth it. We all got better cooling solutions, thanks to Alpha’s pioneering heatsinks, and that was worth the effort. And thanks to my wife for a lot of patience while I used the living room as a shipping dock, and to those of you who bought Alphas and put up with my idiosyncratic business methods.


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