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 again.

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 rocks.

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 business partners.

Creating value.
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!

More stories: Henry Ford   George Washington   Thomas Jefferson   Benjamin Franklin   James Garfield   Harry Truman   Alexander Hamilton

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