Friday, August 22, 2008

Bottle Mate®

On behalf of water carriers everywhere, thank you, Tom and Nancy Shebesta.

Tom Shebesta is the General Manager of Bottle Mate in Lake Isabella, CA, northwest of Bakersfield. You may not remember as far back as February. I wrote about Ozarka Water screwing up its chance to do a good deed. (Read about that fiasco here.)

But I remembered. And so did Tom, who’s in charge of the “entire” Bottle Mate operation out there in the West.

He called me to ask if I’d ever gotten ‘round to getting a Bottle Mate XL from the Pittsburgh Water Cooler Service. When he found out I had not, he made certain he got one into my hands…and it arrived courtesy of the US Postal Service: Your basic great invention. Patented (1991 317.843). Useful as all get-out. And made to last forever – in fact, it’s guaranteed for life.

Paul L Gagnon invented it back in the ‘70s, from a sand-cast mold…made in his backyard with a hair dryer and casting sand in 1971. His daughter Nancy (see above) used to help him in the product development phase when she got home everyday from high school. The original company was called Port-O-Clamp, Inc.

The original Bottle Mate was made of cast aluminum. The company went to plastic injection-molding in the early 1980s. The Bottle Mate XL, my own pride-and-joy, came out in 2000 because of requests for a larger handgrip.

Now along with my blue nylon Bottle Mate came some sales literature. After reading it, I don’t really know why Ozarka (and its owner, Nestlé Waters North America) don’t follow the simple marketing instructions which Bottle Mate has gone to the trouble of including:

What are your marketing tools? One free Bottle Mate handle…Satisfied customers boast to their neighbors and friends for years.

Tom manages the company founded by his father-in-law and he thinks it’s because these large-scale water companies don’t want to go to the trouble. Okay: Lauren Barack of MSN Money says bottled water is one of those “unnecessary necessities” we can live without. You know it’s true; so do I. Maybe – just maybe – the large-scale bottled water companies will do what smaller, local firms are doing to compete more effectively for our increasingly less disposable dollars. A Bottle Mate promotion could deliver a customer-winning edge.

BTW, I have a family member who prefers the taste of Ozarka to our municipal water supply. So we continue to purchase those 44-pound plastic bottles (without the fancy molded-in handles, too). Fortunately, the Shebestas have been there for me. I used the Bottle Mate XL just yesterday to transport those monster jugs from the front porch to the back.

Thanks to Nancy and Tom, I felt the very model of a modern Gunga Din!

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