Saturday, November 10, 2007

The most boring store in Wisconsin: American TV

I used to shop a lot at American TV, the Wisconsin based electronics and furniture retailer that grew from a hole-in-the wall on Madison's east side to a small midwest chain.

The impetus for American's growth was the Len Mattioli, the brother of its founder, who took the business that was on life support when his brother died and made it famous because of his nonstop promotional ability.

American TV was the happening place. Mattioli learned the secret of constant promotion, morphing himself as "Crazy TV Lenny" for the various stunts he pulled in his commercials and for his cutting edge marketing ploys, like "giving away" a bicycle with virtually everything American sold.

American's stores were usually packed with shoppers lured by Lenny's antics and crazy-like-a-fox marketing. Savvy shoppers could get great deals by dickering with American's sales staff. If there was ever a real problem, well, there was always Lenny.

In addition to being a marketing genius, Lenny was also the visible representative of American TV. A lot of us did business there just because it was a Wisconsin company employing local folks and there was an identifiable person in charge (as opposed to some faceless corporation). Lenny was American TV.

So, when my new washer and gas dryer were being installed by a moron smoking a cigarette in the basement of my home, one call to Lenny immediately fixed that problem (I think he was even more livid than I was). Try that with Best Buy.

But that was then.

Now, American TV has done a "one-eighty." Lenny hasn't done a commercial in a decade. Its sedate stores are no longer packed nor are they fun to shop at. Prices are as good and usually worse that the competition, selection often isn't the greatest (at one time American even had a full-service photography department) and condescending and patronizing sales staff round out the reasons why I seldom even stop in there.

But the number one reason is the absence of Crazy TV Lenny. For without his visible presence, American is just another faceless entity and one that isn't any fun.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lenny is back. This week he is promoting American's Employee Family sale on the radio. He may start up the TV ads soon!