It took 30 years for me to develop partial immunity to carnival barkers, Bass-O-Matic commercials and those predatory “Mr. Haney” salesmen.
My first Mr. Haney contact was in ’72, when he drove up in an old truck and began fast-talking Dad about adherent viscosity motor oil effects upon engine longevity. It sounded reasonable and Dad was an easy target due to his employment situation: Norm was forced to serve as a Supt/Pro/GM with only an unreliable idiot son as his crew.
with only an unreliable idiot son as his crew.
Haney produced two bowls of oil, a set of manually operated egg-beaters and in his carnival voice, said “This first bowl is my competitor, ReallyBigOil–notice how thin and putrid their product is–just watch this!”
Mr. Haney vigorously cranked the egg-beaters, blades whirring, oil flying all about, splattering my top hat and Dad’s orange golf pro pants. (Dad had the complete orange outfit 40 years before Rickie.)
“Just imagine that puny oil in your greensmower engines!” Haney’s eyes gleamed with enthusiasm. “Now check this out!”
The egg-beaters dipped into the second bowl, Haney’s product, a thicker and darker oil. As if by magic, the oil clung tenaciously to the spinning blades and even began to creep up the rotating shaft. “This stuff makes engines last forever!”
Next, Haney pulled a rabbit out of my hat, sawed a beer cart girl in half and got Norm to purchase an expensive 55-gallon drum of thick, dark oil. (At least that’s how I recall that day, remember . . . it was ’72)
Odd thing was, I was unable to duplicate Haney’s oil trick with Momma’s egg-beaters until I added some Elmer’s glue and squirrel blood.
I added some Elmer’s glue and squirrel blood.
Looking back, I think Mr. Haney put us on the National Registry of Gullible Sales Targets that same day, because we were then deluged with every sort of “Mr. Haney”.
The next Haney was a fertilizer sales rep with expensive, but magic, products. He was also a Chameleon. This Mr. Haney researched his target’s interests and showed up with the same interests. If I had been a Hare Krishna fly-fishing enthusiast, by dog, this guy would have shown up with a shaved head and ponytail, wearing pink robes and a boonie hat stuck full of dry flies.
Because I was wearing a Jimi Hendrix shirt, Chameleon Haney spoke to me of Stratocasters and Marshall amps in the language of Woodstock, until he realized I had no authority to purchase his special blend that grew fairway grass, suppressed weeds, resurrected dead greens and killed army worms.
Deducing that I was an idiot and Norm was in charge of purchasing, Chameleon Haney figured out Dad was an avid church-going man and before Haney left for the clubhouse, he rummaged around in his trunk, found a Bible, an 8-track of Elvis Sings Gospel and a purple choir robe. Haney left the shop lot humming “Shall We Gather At The River” while writing up an $80,000 proposal.
Eventually, I learned to spot a Haney pitch. They told me all sorts of great things about the product, but never had anything on paper, just anecdotal info. (This was to avoid the annoying arrest for fraud.) Haney always mentioned the research labs that were delighted with his product, yet never named the labs, because they were in a basement in Marrakech. A Haney typically said things like, “This stuff killed every nematode on the place for just $3 an acre, but I’m not allowed to sell it for nematode control, cause the big companies control the government regulators. Why, BigGiantChem even sent professional killers to stop me from selling this.”
never named the labs, because they were in a basement in Marrakech.
Sometimes, Haney had an organic product, clear as mountain water and safe enough to put on your Cheerios. He was even willing to consume some, right in front of us, as proof. I remember one product smelled like cheap beer and had a suspiciously homemade label. I remember this because Ludell demanded a taste test and consumed $440 worth of Arctic Hyperode Repellent in 30 seconds.
During my last decade as a GCS, I developed a Haney early warning system, consisting mostly of crew members yelling “Mr. Haney, Mr. Haney!” into the radio. I rapidly changed into my crew worker costume and vanished, leaving Buddy to deal with Haney by lapsing into incoherent speech patterns . . . which really wasn’t that difficult for him. The crew would then take turns directing Haney toward the cart barn.
Most reps would give up after several years of failing to catch a glimpse of the ghostly GCS phantom . . . but not Mr. Haney, the shrewdest of the cold-callers.
Haney once sent a hot girl in a mini-skirt down to the shop, while he waited in the clubhouse parking lot.
Standing in a circle around the girl, we were trapped like rats when Mr. Haney ambushed us from behind. I don’t know why, but his decoy tactic worked several dozen times before we caught on.
his decoy tactic worked several dozen times before we caught on.
The most persistent Mr. Haney sold nuts, bolts, pre-owned rope–and kept on coming like a Terminator. Even if Buddy told him the GCS was out on the course and would not be coming back in, Terminator Haney had no qualms about commandeering a turf vehicle and going out onto the course with his sales message. A Terminator Haney once grabbed a Cushman when we were desperately trying to fix a Four-Way irrigation blowout in temps over 100 degrees; he tracked us down and peered into the hole, showing no fear. Then he demanded that we come look at his new product line.
(This was just after the repair had blown out for the second time that day.)
I wanted to bury Mr. Haney neck deep in the hole. Mike suggested stripping him nekkid, tying him across the front of a cart like a dead deer and riding him around the course, but Norm snapped before we could vote. Dad jumped out of the hole bellering Bible verses about vengeance and hammer tackled Haney after a short but terrifying chase across a par four. Even as Dad was killing him, Haney managed to pitch his entire new line of color-coded citrus flavored hand degreasers and hook us with free samples.
In 1986, Haney sold us a load of organic greens fertilizer made from dead chickens. It was so hot it burned like a white phosphorus campfire and Mike thought we had the rare disease, fire pythium. I was on the phone with Three Mile Island when dogs began digging big holes to get to the dog food they thought we had buried in the root zone.
When we questioned Mr. Haney’s integrity, he became indignant and threatened to sue if we went public. Unfortunately for Mr. Haney, my brother Mike, fresh back from four years in an Army Ranger Battalion, corrected the situation by attempting to fling Haney over the fence. Mike never actually cleared the fence with Mr. Haney, but came close several times.
For clues on how to spot Mr. Haney and what to do if he shows up unannounced, watch this short training film by the Mystic Order of Greenkeepers, Ludell Hogwaller, Grand Poobah, MOG.