14 august 2006 — walhalla
The daily life of a sauna dealer

On June 7, 2006 we received this email.

From: ggilliard@hotmail.com
Subject: Regarding “Read Naked,” exchanging links, using sauna font
Date: June 7, 2006 10:32:38 PM GMT+02:00
To: info@underware.nl

In January, I founded a company, Saunadream, to sell saunas manufactured in Asia. While scanning the web for basic information about saunas, I read about your company’s book, “Read Naked.”
I’m just going to ask questions and not worrying about whether you are invested heavily in competing sauna companies.

1.) How do I obtain copies of your book “Read Naked?” My 2005 GM819 Gateway computer froze up everytime I tried to access the Kijhof & Lee bookstore, who to my knowledge is the only company currently selling the book.
2.) I’m considering presenting x copies of this book to the first x purchasers (I haven’t yet determined the value of “x”).
3.) I would also like to establish reciprocal (two-way) incoming links connecting www.saunadream.com and your firm’s website, www.underware.nl.
4.) I also like your “Sauna” font a great deal. Is there a word package already featuring Sauna that I can buy for my website designer, or do I have to purchase directly from your company? If so, how much would you charge to permit each page to be written using your font?

After reading this email we got curious about the daily life of a sauna dealer.
Here is his story.

Confessions of an Infrared Sauna Dealer
a true story by Gerald Gilliard

In April 2006, in the shadow of centuries’ old monarchies, I embarked upon creating what may one day be considered my marketing empire – a smart marketing empire.

I’m skeptical and had to be vigorously persuaded to attend the smart marketing seminar hosted by internet marketer Brad Fallon in Guangzhou, China during the 99th Chinese Export Commodities Fair. This actually turned out to be a wonderful experience. Trade fairs give China’s small town companies, the world’s low cost manufacturers dating back to Marco Polo, a time and place to shine and to sell their wares to domestic and foreign buyers. The number, quality, and type of goods crafted in China and already present in your clothing closet, kitchen, etc. would surprise you. The level of artisanship in all products, from leather handbags, to four-foot tall teddy bears to electronic foot massage devices, was impressive. The manufacturers’ advanced capacity to mass-produce these items makes prices extremely low for retailers and wholesalers like me.

I was worried about neglecting my existing business back at home. At the time, a client was awaiting grant of a U.S. Patent for a special kind of handbag. She was still trying to secure manufacturing while I was trying to determine how best to license the product and market that license.

I decided against asking the handbag manufacturers at the Trade Fair to price the cost of making a prototype and mass-producing her invention for a very simple reason: intellectual property rights are not respected here – yet. In a nation where one successful manufacturing company can employ an entire town, the ability to manufacture goods cheaply and quickly is valued and honored. The sacrifices a foreign inventor must make to develop his unique an original invention/product, fight competitors, and get it to market, or the effort required to familiarize millions of people with a particular brand name is not so much understood. The state owns almost all real property (i.e., land, real estate, etc.), so to expect citizens to comprehend or respect the intangible value of “intellectual property” might be somewhat of a stretch, at least for now. Nevertheless, the government has enacted intellectual property protections and may enforce them if pressed by an aggrieved IP owner.

The following are a few of my experiences from my first visit to a Communist-slash-developing free market economy:

01 Upon arrival in China, the government-owned airline informed us that our return flight to LAX had not been confirmed by CheapTickets.com. I had to pay another 400 RMB to return to America. Thank you, CheapTickets.com.

02 When in China, try entering the word “freedom” into Google or another search engine. This search doesn’t produce the expected list of websites referencing or related to “freedom.” What appears on the screen instead is a cautionary, abstract definition of freedom prepared by the Chinese government. If this narrative ends up being banned in China, I guess it would be because of my flagrant use of the “f-word” (freedom) two lines above.

03 There was not even one Chinese woman falling all over herself to meet and wed me, a big American. You can’t believe everything you read.

04 The hotel staffers, the restaurant workers and cab drivers all appeared equally insulted when I tried to tip them. I don’t know whether this custom is a vestige of pre-Communist monarchy, or present day Communist government regulations. On my last day in Guangzhou, the hotel bellhop called a taxi for my family and loaded our luggage into the cab. He refused, again, to take the $5.00 tip I offered. At this point, however, the hotel front desk indicated that I could not leave without paying for a bottle of mineral water, a bottle they claimed was missing from my room’s mini-refrigerator. Although the cab was already loaded with my suitcases, the hotel bellhop then held the door open and refused to let the cab leave. Although I have never partially nor completely consumed this or any other bottle of mineral water, I did want to return to America. So I returned to the front desk to pay to replace the bottle of mineral water. The replacement price turned out to be $5. This was, ironically (or perhaps, intentionally), the same five dollar amount that the bellhop refused to accept, all for a bottle of mineral water that I never used. I strongly suspect that this “missing” bottle turned up in another guest’s refrigerator the very next day. I wonder whether the hotel made the same effort to locate my diver watch and 2 MB flash drive, both of which went missing during my stay.

05 The Chinese/English dictionaries sold at the local bookstore bore the traditional pictorial Chinese alphabet characters, enabling a Chinese speaker to easily translate Chinese to English. The English/Chinese dictionaries sold at the local bookstore presented English language using the same Chinese alphabet characters – not the 26 English language alphabet characters – making a convenient English to Chinese translation virtually impossible.

06 While I found the crumbling infrastructure and general urban decay of Guangzhou a little worse than that of Camden, NJ or Flint, MI, I was informed that the city looked even worse five years earlier. The many skyscrapers and the airport highway had been recently constructed, indicating growth and renewal in Guangzhou.

07 Workers at the factories I visited more often than not crafted goods by hand. In the absence of American-style workplace regulations (i.e. OSHA), I found the air inside the factories difficult to breathe. Additionally, in the absence of American-style zoning regulations, factory workers also frequently live in these same factories.

08 Although life seems hard here, not too many people complain. Foreign buyers like myself don’t complain either simply because the prices pf the products we seek are sinfully low.

I did not encounter any “homeless persons” in China, or at least as we define this term in the United States. One evening, however, I gave three yuan to a little street urchin begging for money. He appeared to be the same age as my son, who I missed a great deal back at home. Sitting near this child was a woman I assumed to be his mother. I was told later that the woman with him was probably not his mother, and that he had likely been kidnapped from a rural area for the sole purpose of helping beggars like her garner sympathy and thus earn more money. For some reason, no one seemed to be running to call the police about this practice, which I found bizarre. I had heard that the government discourages parents from having more than one child – for purposes of population control. I didn’t know which was the greater tragedy – a child being separated from his parents, or a government policy that may encourage parents to abandon “extra” kids to lives on the street.

While we are presently using an American source for infrared saunas, we ultimately hope to hire one or more of the Chinese manufacturers we met to produce custom items for our cookware website website. We really believe in our staple product, the infrared sauna, which requires less energy and often produces a better sauna experience. I am in the process of convincing you and every other man, woman and child to give up steam saunas and buy our infrared products. So please, ladies and gentlemen of Scandinavia, if you will, discard thousands of years of your customary sauna preferences. OK? Thanks. Hopefully one day you’ll compare the infrared sauna to the steam sauna in the same way we compare the iPod to the walkman (I admit that no one compares the iPod to the Walkman because iPod users have never touched, seen or smelled a Walkman – but you get my point).

As far as cookware, I find that it is easy to pack, easy to ship, and aside from any few product liability issues related to pots and pans, a cookware website is a no-brainer as well. As I stated above, the quality of the products we saw was high and the manufacturers’ rates are almost scandalously low. We really hope to achieve tremendous success in our first year of operations.

In order to purchase standard or custom goods manufactured in China for sale in the United States we need the following personnel and resources:

01 An in-country factory agent 02 One or more freelance translators who speaks and writes flawless Chinese 03 A freight forwarder 04 A customs broker 05 One or more banks lending to small/internet businesses 06 One or more warehouse/fulfillment centers 07 One or more freelance web designers 08 One or more freelance copy writers 09 One or more executive secretaries/executive office assistants or office managers handy with computing, technology and the internet (I’m really interested in trying a remote secretary system). 10 A housekeeper (this is quasi-business related, but still…).

If you meet the criteria above, or know someone who does, please, don’t be shy. Feel free to forward your resume to glg@saunadream.com. Be sure to reference to reference my cross-marketing compadres, Underware. Any interested copy writers should also forward a 4 page or less writing sample. Peace and love – buy saunas.