How Richard Sears turned someone's trash into
billions of dollars!
In 1822 Richard Sears was working as a railroad station agent when a
shipment of watches was dropped off at the station. The problem is that
the manufacturer had sent this box of watches to the wrong jeweler. That
jeweler refused the package of watches; not wanting to be responsible for
any damages or costs.
Sensing an opportunity to make a few extra dollars, Sears contacted the
manufacturer and offered to buy the watches for a substantial discount. The
manufacturer agreed, as it would have been very costly to ship the watches
Now until those watches fatefully arrived, Sears had a small side business
going on at the railroad station in addition to his job as an agent. He
would buy venison and berries from local Indians and resell them to
railway travelers. Sears was quickly able to sell these abandoned watches
to railroad employees as they came and went for a nice profit. The story
goes that Sears took the money he made from those watches, bought more,
and continued to sell them to the large number of people and railroad
employees that passed through the station he worked at.
How Sears made his watches so popular.
One story suggests 2 reasons why Sears' watches became so popular. First,
he was working in the perfect location: the railroad station. Travel was
really picking up and many industries were becoming dependent on rail
service. The problem was that the trains didn't wait for anyone! If you
were late you were out of luck. So the need for reliable
timepieces grew dramatically. It just so happened there was some kid named
Richard Sears standing at the train station selling watches.
A serious guarantee.
The second reason was that Sears guaranteed his watches free from damage or
malfunction. Sears stated that if anything went wrong with the watches he
would repair it or replace it for free. Another story says that Sears was
approached by a conductor who had bought a watch and dropped it on the
The conductor jokingly suggested that Sears do something about that with
his guarantee. Sears replied that was not a problem. "I guarantee my watches
not to fall out on stones and break!" The conductor was stunned when
handed a new watch and passed this story up and down the railways. In
order to fulfill his watch guarantees, Sears hired Alvin Roebuck to fix
all of the watches that were returned for repair and the two later became
Someone discarded a package of watches. Someone else turned it into a
thriving small business that later became a world-wide retailer.
What opportunities can you identify that others are missing? What are they
throwing away that you can turn into value?
Need some inspiration and ideas? Check out "7 Weird Things In Your Trash
Worth Cash" in our January / February 2012 issue of The Quarter Roll!