The copy is important, it is "vital to our tone," says Richard Tinberg, Hammacher's CEO.
"We avoid superlatives, we check the facts.
If a company makes a claim about a benefit their product provides, we ask for the scientific studies that back it up.
We are sitting beside a burbling brook, Tinberg
and I, inside Hammacher's
headquarters in Niles, a Chicago suburb 20 minutes northeast of O'Hare by car.
Hammacher's longtime chairman, Dominic Tampone, had a saying, "an axiom, a tenet," Tinberg tells me: "If it's not electric, make it electric.
Maybe we didn't have the unexpected yet," Tinberg
says, referencing the company's tagline -- Offering the Best, the Only, and the Unexpected -- "but that came to be over time."
Toward the end of 1982 Tinberg became president.
"It was a monumental task," he
Sharper's founder, Richard Thalheimer, "his strategy was to be able to change his strategy," Tinberg says.
pauses and squints out into some vague distance beyond his
wearing a pinstripe suit, tall and elegant with a face defined by its brow, long and broad.
A Hammacher man.
We listen to the stream for a spell.
I ask what companies he
looks upon as kindred spirits.
"Banana Republic, in the early days.
But mostly the cover items need to surprise, delight, and intrigue, Tinberg
The need to surprise transcends sales, even; there are cover items that do not sell at all.
Sometimes, however, a cover item sells far better than planned.
The hovercraft is one example.
The first time the company put one on the cover was in the 1980s, and it ended up a blockbuster -- several dozen sold.
"People were just sending us $6,000 checks in the mail," Tinberg
says, sounding as surprised and delighted today as he
surely was when the checks came in.