From Chicken Soup for the Soul at Work

A Captive Audience

Your future depends on many things, but mostly on you.

Frank Tyger

On my way out of town and in a hurry, I hailed a taxi in front of my apartment building at 64th and 1st in Manhattan. “Kennedy Airport,” I instructed the driver.

When I was settled comfortably in the back seat, an unusually friendly New York cab driver started a conversation with me.

“Nice apartment building you live in,” he said.

“Yes,” I replied, distractedly.

“Live there very long?”


“I bet you must have a really small closet there,” he said.

Now he had my attention. “Yes,” I said, “quite small.”

“Have you ever heard of closet organizers?” he asked.

“Yes, I guess I’ve seen an ad or something in the newspapers.”

“I only drive a cab part-time,” he said. “My full-time job is organizing people’s closets. I come in and put shelves and drawers and this and that in closets.”

Then he asked me if I had ever considered having my closet organized.

“Well, I don’t know,” I said. “I do need some extra closet space. Isn’t there another closet company out there, California something?”

“You mean California Closet Company. They’re the really big company in the business. I can do exactly what they can do but for less money.”

“Oh, really?”

“Yeah,” he said. And with this, the driver gave me a detailed explanation of what a professional closet organizer does. He finished by saying, “When you call up California Closet and they come to your house to make an estimate, this is what you do: Ask them to leave you a copy of the plans. Now, they won’t want to leave you anything, but if you tell them you need it to show your girlfriend or wife, they’ll give you a copy. Then you call me, and I’ll do the same thing—but for 30 percent less money.”

“That sounds very interesting,” I said. “Here, let me give you my business card, and if you call me at my office, we’ll set up a meeting.”

I handed him my card and he nearly swerved off the road.

“Oh, my God,” he shouted, “you’re Neil Balter! You’re the founder of California Closet. I saw you on the ‘Oprah Winfrey Show,’ and I thought you had such a good idea, I went into business myself.”

He looked in the rear-view mirror and studied me. “I should have recognized you. Gosh, Mr. Balter, I apologize. I didn’t mean you guys were an expensive company. I didn’t mean . . .”

“Calm down,” I said. “I like your style. You’re a pretty smart fellow and you’re aggressive. I admire that. You have a captive audience in your cab, and you took advantage of it. It takes chutzpah to do what you do. Why don’t you call me, and we’ll see what we can do about having you become one of our salesmen?”

Needless to say, he came to work for us—and became one of California Closet’s top salespeople!

Neil Balter

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