Welcome to Buster's Blog

Irregular commentary on whatever's on my mind -- politics, sports, current events, and life in general. After twenty years of writing business and community newsletters, fifteen years of fantasy baseball newsletters, and two years of email "columns", this is, I suppose, the inevitable result: the awful conceit that someone might actually care to read what I have to say. Posts may be added often, rarely, or never again. As always, my mood and motivation are unpredictable.

Buster Gammons

Thursday, November 17, 2016

"We're Dealin'!" Why Donald Trump Is Like Fred Ricart

Please forgive my provincial angle on this one.

Fred Ricart is co-owner with his younger brother Rhett of Ricart Ford, a very large and successful auto dealership here in Columbus.  They are one of the highest-volume dealerships in America, delivering approximately 1000 vehicles per month.  The average dealership does about 100.

The two brothers took over their father's small country store in the mid-1980's, and quickly turned it into a behemoth.  They accomplished this amazing growth with a strong commitment to advertising -- huge amounts of advertising.  Ricart Ford ads were suddenly everywhere -- TV, radio, newspapers, billboards, mailers, phone books, bus stop benches, etc.  They spent tons on advertising, which meant they needed to sell tons of cars.  And they did.

Along the way they developed a well-deserved reputation for greed, sloppiness and dishonesty.  They were devoted to selling cars and making money, and they didn't much care how they did it or who got hurt along the way.  The brothers had a consuming desire to be the biggest, and in the car business, size matters.  Size buys influence and a certain degree of leeway.  And despite being subject to many lawsuits and fines, their approach has proven successful, if not always ethical or pleasant.

Of the two, Rhett had a nose for business and he was the one who actually ran the operation.  (Way back when, Rhett and I were in a couple of the same business classes at Ohio State, and he was -- how shall I put this? -- a dick.)  Fred didn't have a lot of interest in the actual car business -- he was more into car racing, partying, and most of all, music.  Fred is truly a talented guitar player.  From childhood, he really worked at it.

To this day in central Ohio, nobody knows who Rhett Ricart is, but almost everybody knows Fred Ricart.  That's because, early on, Fred and his guitar became the advertising icon of Ricart Ford -- every ad featured Fred and his guitar.  His guitar was slung over his shoulder in print ads.  In his TV and radio spots, he mugged and sang and played his six-string on take-offs of Top 40 hits and TV shows, always ending with his grinning catch-phrase, "We're dealin'!"

It was memorable and effective advertising, to say the least, and Fred became a local celebrity.  But reality was that little brother Rhett was doing all the heavy lifting.  Fred was just the front man, the carnival barker.

Donald Trump reminds me of Fred Ricart -- a front man; an image rather than a reality.

"I'm president!  Top of the world, ma!"
Idiot Nation has made Trump president-elect, but Trump has no interest in governing, in doing the job.  He doesn't know how and doesn't care to learn.  For him, winning was the end-all, be-all.  His "brand" positioning has been maximized.

He'll pop into the White House from time to time and make an occasional Chairman-style decision -- "Ivanka, I need you to summarize all the Middle East issues for me in a one-paragraph memo, double-spaced, yuge margins" -- but he'll spend most of his time in Manhattan or at one of his golf courses or horseback-riding in Russia with his pal Putin.

He'll be just like Fred Ricart -- a cardboard cutout, talking logo detached from the nitty-gritty, floating above it all and distracting us while others run the store.

We'll need to keep a close eye on those "others."


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