There's also some tips on how to blag over the phone and two random products reviewed.
Chapter 8: In to the den
I’ve always loved the BBC’s Dragon’s Den as it’s a show that appeals to my
own heart. For those unfamiliar it’s a show which features budding
millionaires showing off their ‘revolutionary’ and ‘ground-breaking’ (in their
own minds) products. They have just a few minutes to show off their ideas
and then a bunch of millionaires rip them to shreds.
One product which always interested me was the Bedlam Cube, a sort
of Rubiks Cube style puzzle. It looked like a good toy and the millionaires
even decided to invest in it. Then against all odds the CEO of the company
decided to turn down the dragons and go solo, trust me that man had balls, or cubes.
The product has gone on to do really well and I’d been looking at it
for a while always wanting to try it but never feeling rich enough to shell out
£10 on one. I’m like that with a lot of products, if it’s £5 I’ll be there in a
second, time and time again but once it starts to hit double figures for what is
essentially a novelty, I’ll usually back down.
Anyway I had forgotten all about the product until hearing that
Dragon’s Den would be back on BBC2. Quicker than you can say “gullible
wanabees” I hit upon the idea of emailing all the people from the show and
asking for free stuff. I even thought about promising them something along
the lines of worldwide exposure through the website (well visitors had come
from China, America and beyond so there was some truth in it).
But then I changed my mind. Firstly I didn’t want to be potentially
deceiving people who are putting their life on the line with new products.
After all giving me a product for free could mean they can’t eat for a week
and I didn’t particularly want that on my shoulders. And also have you seen
the crap they try and sell on that show? Like I’d want to play with all those
Plus at various trade shows I have met some of the contestants who
failed. They sit their on their stands with “As seen on Dragons Den” in big letters by the product, leaving out the part which says “during which the
dragons said my idea was a load of rubbish“ and any actual questions about
the product are met with comments about the show. For example:
“Hi I’m Mike”
“Oh hi, the dragons were wrong you know”
“I see so how does the product work?”
“They wouldn’t know a good idea if it hit them over the head”
“So how much does it cost?”
“Well after what they said my business has gone downhill so I’ve sold my
home, and my first born son and….”
“No not what did the show cost you, what does the product cost?”
At which point she moved on to someone else who was more interested in
hearing about the den. Sure she got a lot of bad karma out of her system, but
did she sell a product to those that were genuinely interested? Not a chance.
Still one product that did fit the criteria was the Bedlam Cube, the
CEO Danny Bampling wasn’t a nutcase and had proved on the show he was
confident with the product so I knew he could stand to hand over a £10 piece
of his salary, and his product actually looked cool. This was only sweetened
by the official website which gave a number for journalists to call for a free
sample. It seemed perfect!
Unfortunately even when given a clear phone number everything can
still be ruined by a clever receptionist. So clever in fact that I want to create a
whole new category of phone person called a ‘wise-one’. These phone people
are smarter than your average phone person, they can see a fraudster from a
mile away and can sense if you are a timewaster. As I was calling from a site
called ‘Freebie-Man’ and quite clearly wanted a free product my chances
I should also mention that until this point I had been saying exactly the same thing every time I called up a company “Hi, I’m calling from
Mikeessex.co.uk, a reviews website and was wondering if you could send us
a sample of X so we can feature it on the site”. Now this works with most of
the phone people because they know who to put you through to and they
know they can get you off the phone in 5 seconds if they just give you
something for free. Yes for all intents and purposes I had turned in to the
phone equivalent of a phone salesman or a street begger….
Whilst the strategy does work wonders for most phone people a ‘wiseone’
won’t take the bait. They’ll start to grill you with complicated questions
like “Why do you want the product” then they’ll lead you away by saying “
this isn’t the press phone number and the press have the right contact details”
which is a brick wall in itself.
I didn’t really have a good reason why I wanted the product and if I’d
started talking about the quest she’d probably have hung up straight away,
after all why would she want the product to be just another notch on my
free stuff belt? However what I did have was free time, and in a battle
of the phone that’s all you need. Sensing that the ‘wise-one’ was getting
bored but didn’t want to hang up I asked her very nicely for the press email
address and finally she buckled and gave me the details, leaving her free to
escape from the clutches of my phone call.
You see everyone’s the same at the end of the day, if someone rings
up and we have no idea what the hell they want we either want to make them
shut up by telling them something or we want to pass them on to someone
else. In this case they managed to shut me up and pass me on which as
anyone who has worked in a call centre will know is the greatest victory of
Back to the Bedlam Cube, she hadn’t passed me on to just anyone but
had given me the direct email address for the CEO of the company. Knowing
this would require some tact I did away with the pretences of Freebie-Man and proceeded to bend down and kiss some serious butt. Now even though he
was out of the country at the time Danny must have liked the kind words I
spouted as he promptly arranged for a Bedlam Cube to arrive the very next
So from one budding entrepreneur to another I thank you Danny, and
what’s more I thank you wise-one for pointing me in the right direction.
Read the Bedlam Cube Review
Around the same time I also received a similar game called ‘Blokus’. Again
it’s another game all about putting square pieces in to holes. It arrived a
couple of days before the Bedlam Cube and proved to be another interesting
Read the Blokus Review
12 Down, 88 To Go.