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So what’s with the duct tape?

  • Duct Tape Fan

I get this question a lot while I’m at the CoursEval booth during professional conferences. At last week’s NERCOMP meeting in Providence, I must have been asked this question a dozen times.

Like most all conference vendors everywhere, AMS comes to these events bearing trinkets, baubles, and gew-gaws for passing attendees and fellow vendors. T-shirts seem to be popular, but the lion’s share of the give-aways are plastic and enjoy a, sadly, short shelf-life before consignment to the land-fill.

As it happens, I’m sensitive to land-fill issues. Where I live on Cape Cod and I suspect in every other city and town in America, the problem of what to do with solid waste – plastic and paper particularly – is a roiling economic and environmental issue.

It’s also personal. I remember with horror vendoring in the late 80’s at a massive college fair in Boston’s Hynes Convention Center shortly after I’d spent half a year putting together a glossy new viewbook. The fair itself wasn’t horrible, and our viewbook was quite good, if I do say so. Toward the end of the fair, I watched a young man carrying a stack of glossy new viewbooks up to his chin, mine included, head for the exit and stall just before walking out. He apparently realized he’d have to schlep all those glossies home on the Green Line. The horror came from watching him pivot toward a nearby trash bin, deposit the treasury, and continue on his journey unencumbered.
I made a solemn vow that day to stop contributing glossies and related booth schwag to the landfill.

So that’s the first part of the duct tape story. Nobody throws it away, at least not before they use it. And everybody uses it. For everything. Duct tape can save your life. It’s achieved cult status in some circles. Conference attendees see it on the table from thirty feet down a crowded aisle and make a bee-line for it. The hurried and boorish will swipe a roll and scuttle away. Most others will approach the table cautiously, wide-eyed, wondrous, a little like Ali Baba on his first glimpse of the cave. Attendees will look at the tape, look at me, look at the CoursEval booth logo, then look back to the tape and say, “Is that, ahhh, duct tape?”

“Yes,” I say, “yes it is.”

“You’re…giving away…duct tape?”

I smile benignly, like a bishop blessing pilgrims. “Yes,” I say, “would you like a roll to bring home?”

The attendees smile back, pick up a roll of tape, turn it admiringly in their hands. Many say, “It’s for a friend,” or “My kids love this stuff.” The daring ask for a second roll. “Take what you need.” I say.

Here’s the best part. Every third or fourth visitor to the booth will linger a minute, still looking back and forth from the tape to the CoursEval booth graphics and back, a meditative furrow on their brow. Then they step forward, lock eyes on mine, and say, “So really, what’s with the duct tape?”
(To be continued…)

~Brian R. Hopewell, VP, Sales