Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Watch what you're buying

Every once in a while I get those ever pesky Spam e-mails for Rolex and other big name counterfeit watch brands, which I always trash. They kind of remind me of an old experience I had.

In the mid-seventies, I managed a Weiner King restaurant in Warminster, PA. It was to be sold as a franchise of the main restaurant based out of Flemington, NJ. We opened it and I managed it for months before a suitable buyer was found.

One afternoon, I was sitting in the office doing paperwork. After the lunch rush, that was generally what I did on most days. An employee came to the door and said there was a man standing at the counter wanting to see the person in charge. I walked up and asked him what I could do for him. He lifted up a brown paper bag, the kind you used to get at the supermarket. It probably said ACME on it.

"Inside this bag I have all these big name watches. Would you like to look at them?" he asked as he slowly opened it up. I've never been one to wear watches. I don't really care for any type of jewelry or adornments. To me, it just feels uncomfortable, all dangly and moving around or too tight and restricting, but for some strange reason, I've always wanted to own a nice watch.

"C'mon back here, into my office." I told him. I sat down at my desk and said, "Let's see what you've got in there." He started to bring out watch after watch. I saw all types of wristwatches. Jules Juergensen. Elgin. Waltham. Bulova. Nothing too fancy or expensive, but very nice. All of a sudden, two watches caught my eye. "I like this band, but I like this watch. How much are they?"

$20 each."

"OK. Could I buy this one, but switch bands?" It was a Hamilton that I was interested in.

"Mmm. OK, but hurry up." He started to fidget a little bit and look nervously out the door, as if waiting for the Warminster Watch Police to suddenly burst through the front doors, guns drawn. I gave him the twenty bucks and removed the two bands. The one I wanted was a very nice gold mesh that sparkled in the light and truly complemented the watch I chose, all gold and exquisite. After the exchange, it looked like a million bucks! I looked up to show him, but he was gone. I got up and looked around. He was nowhere. I went outside. Gone. Dang, that guy was fast, I thought. Oh well. I went back to my office and decided to set the time.

The interesting thing about this new acquisition was that the minute hand was strategically placed over the "R" in Hamilton. Now, before you go saying there is no "R" in Hamilton, let me explain that it wasn't a Hamilton watch I bought after all. It was a Harmilton. That second hand completely hid that letter. I was now the proud owner of a very nice Harmilton watch. I wound it up. Battery watches weren't invented yet, at least not the wristwatch variety. It worked! As a matter of fact, that watch worked great for a month or two, until a girl slapped me on the wrist in a teasing gesture and fractured the glass crystal. Then, it stopped. Never worked again. I learned my lesson to never buy merchandise from a street vendor who comes banging at your door until...

A couple of years ago, I was in New York City and a guy was peddling Rolex watches. Very nice ones, too, and at just $20, it was a steal. I bought one, a real stunner. A friend of mine bought a different one while he was on a cruise and the funny thing is, his has the same serial number as mine. No big deal since I only wear it a couple of times a year. I get a lot of compliments when I do and if anyone asks about it, I tell them the truth - that I talked the guy down from $30. And hey, the best part is that it doesn't say Rolrex.

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