“I still sez he ain’t nothin but a well-dressed snake oil salesman. Too smooth. Too articulate. Voice too modjoo—madju—modulated. Guy shows up with FOURTEEN team members then hogs the whole show fer hisself. And that video with Joan London—” Then Loop Lonagan shakes his head and mutters under his breath. “Maybe it’s the flowing white hair. Kinda like the guy sold me my first car.”
“What do you want? Should he speak street slang and dress like a bum? I think he did a professional job of representing his company.”
We’re at our corporate offices in the backroom of Ludditis Shots & Beer, fresh from a BNC Venture Capital meeting. Loop’s boots are resting on my battered WWII Air Force desk and his Bull Terrier, Clamps, sleeps under my desk. “Face facts, Loop. Avantcare is solving the alcohol and nicotine addiction problem, and they’re doing it with a natural product. I think Sobrexa is the real deal.”
“Bullshit. They went herbal just ‘cause that don’t take no FDA approval.”
I slide the bottle of REDBREAST across the desk with a tumbler, just to be polite, and he sits up and pours till the whiskey reaches the rim. “I think you’re missing a few pieces.” I say, trying to sound reasonable. “How many times did you duck out of the meeting for a fresh beer? Let’s take it apart. Addiction is a terrible thing. Fact: Their success rate is three times higher than anything out there.”
Loop slams his tumbler down and Whiskey sloshes across the desktop. “Prove it,” he says. “All them herbal remedies is like that. Who knows what works and what don’t? The burden o’ proof is a hellavalot lower than what ya gotta do fer a real drug. Then there’s always some moron believes in it and says it works.”
As far as I’m concerned, Loop’s full of bunk, so I’m ready to debate him. Maybe he’ll even take a swing at me—you can never tell. “Apparently it actually does—work, I mean. Look at all those independent studies. Craving fades in three weeks. After 8 weeks, you’re done. The addiction is killed.”
Loop sneers at me. “Maybe it’s the patient gets killed.”
“C’mon Loop. Nobody gets away with that stuff anymore.” And as far as I know, nobody does. Health food stores are staffed by highly trained nutritionists and quack cures get shouted down all over the internet. “Consider this: Alcoholism is now officially a disease. With the new health care laws, who knows? Doctors could be writing scripts for Sobrexa pretty soon.”
Seems like a state-of-the-art therapy to me. “Look, it changes the neurophysiology of the body and brain and it’s response to alcohol and nicotine. It works on the neurotransmitters that cause the addiction in the first place. ” I stop talking because Loop is shaking his head and pointing his finger at me like he’s taking aim.
“So does Prozac,” he says. “Nobody’s changing da neuro—nooru—da physique o’ my brain.” He downs his tumbler of the Irish whiskey and it occurs to me that alcohol may not be the only mood-altering drug he’s experienced in his lifetime. The way he packs away the hooch, maybe this Sobrexa is just what he needs. “Whadaya see that I don’t ?” he says.
I settle back in my chair. “Money! It’s like this: Asking an alcoholic to stop drinking or a smoker to stop smoking without any help is like asking a man with a broken leg to run a mile.”
Loop seems to be getting more and more unreasonable. I stop and consider another approach. “There’s a story about a guy that complained about Sobrexa. Said he couldn’t stand the smell of pot any more since he started the treatment. So what was his beef? All he wanted to cut back on was his alcohol abuse.”
A wheezing laugh escapes from Loop and pretty soon he’s all smiles, so I keep hammering at him.
“Don’t you realize there’s 15 million untreated alcoholics that won’t even admit they’re sick? Who wants detox on his permanent electronic medical record? This company figured out that anonymity is the key to driving sales, so you can buy it right on an e-commerce site—nobody the wiser. That’s huge! 65% of customers click and buy. 9% provide personal information. 15% of chats result in a sale. One out of four phone calls ends in a sale.”
Loop drains his tumbler. “Pass me over summore o’ dat Pink Tit.”
I wince at the popular Irish moniker and slide the bottle across. He refills his glass, then holds it up to the light. “Been meanin’ to cut back. Maybe I’ll give that Sudoku stuff a try.”
“Sobrexa.” Sheesh—I just made a sale! If it’s that easy, maybe those hockey stick projections actually make sense.
“Let’s talk about the Glass Mountain Capital.”
Loop gives me a double-take. “Who—da leg breakers? Sure why not?”
“Whadaya talkin’ about? You call da guy ‘n’ either he pays er else.”
That gets a laugh out of me. Nowadays, bill collectors have to comply with CFPB rules – that’s the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. No strong-arm stuff allowed. It just puts a stain on the industry anyway so this is a new approach. “You’ve got it all wrong, Loop. This is debt collection without harassment. Treating people with dignity and respect. Protecting the reputation of the brand you represent.”
You mean you can’t call up some deadbeat and threaten his cat er somethin’? How d’ya get any leverage over da guy?”
I lean my head back in my hands and grin. “Analytics. They monitor everything and record every collection call, then analyze the data. Say they get 100,000 accounts. They use technology to figure out which ones are collectible and put all their resources on those. Then they match the right collector with the right consumer for a good outcome. That way, they collect more with less.”
Loop lets out a snort. “I ain’t convinced. You done?”
“No. These guys are way ahead of the curve. They safeguard data for the client as well as the customer. They’re real careful to stay in compliance. That’s good for everybody.”
“John, you ain’t makin’ no sale here yet.”
“Okay, try this: While their competitors are going belly-up, these guys are growing fast. US Bank called them—not the other way around. They expect 80 Billion in collectibles by the end of the month and on average earn 4.25% of that.”
Loop sits up straight in his chair. He’s done the calculation. I always enjoy seeing that look of avarice transform his face when that happens.
Photo credits—Avantcare, Glass Mountain Capital, Tektite Group
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