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home : blogs_old : ability and accountability September 30, 2014

Ability and Accountability
By Richard Haddad, Prescott Valley, AZ
"[Children] don't remember what you try to teach them. They remember what you are."
"Please watch out for each other and love and forgive everybody. It's a good life, enjoy it."

-- Two of my favorite quotes by Jim Henson

Friday, August 15, 2008

Salesman or cheater, what I learned from an honest clown

 By Richard Haddad

Top: Zeezo the clown with his children when they were young. Bottom: Larry Campbell entertaining children in Egypt earlier this year.
Photos courtesy of the Sawyer and Campbell families

When I was a young man I worked for a chain of magic and novelty stores called Zeezo's Magic Castle. The company slogan was, "We Only Sell Fun."

It was a wonderful job for a teenage boy because I was able to learn and perform magic every day after school and earn money from commissions selling the magic tricks and novelties like disappearing ink and squirting cameras.

Zeezo the Clown was the owner of the store chain. His real name was Larry Campbell, and he was not only a successful businessman and entrepreneur, but also a master teacher, seeking to help his employees reach their highest potential.

The magic store and Zeezo's mentoring proved to be the perfect equation for me to achieve success. One day the employees were gathered for an annual event to recognize the top salesperson of the year. It was an honor to learn that I would be named as the leader in sales. I understood there would be a generous bonus check awarded during the ceremony. At 15 years old it was an unprecedented boost to my ego to have outsold seasoned adults.

During the awards presentation Zeezo openly praised me for my ability to gather an audience at the mall storefront and achieve such high sales numbers. With his polished bald head and bright wide smile he continued to address the audience as he slowly lowered a white envelope toward my anticipating hand. But just as my fingers started to close on the envelope Zeezo quickly jerked it upward, snatching it from my grip. Then turning to me, speaking only so that I could hear, he said, "You're very good as what you do, but if anyone ever walks out of one of my stores with something they didn't want, you will be out of here."

Turning again to the audience he made the envelope maneuver seem like nothing more than a playful joke, now handing me the check as the audience began to applaud.

Standing there at what should have been a moment of basking glory I felt all pride drain through my shoes and onto the floor. I didn't know it at the time, but I would later be thankful for this enigmatic moment of covert humiliation. Larry Campbell was looking beyond the moment.

He later explained he wanted me to remember that moment because it didn't matter how good a salesman I was, if I sold someone something they didn't want then I was cheating them - and no cheater would work for him.

I know now that he was trying to teach me to put integrity before greed and glory. It's a principle I have never forgotten and have always tried to inculcate in my employees and my own children.

It breaks my heart to see so many talented people using their God-given gifts to steal from others. Whether on the Internet, over the phone, door-to-door or through the mail, technology is fertilizing more scams today than any other time in history. I cannot comprehend how these people can go to sleep at night with any peace knowing they have cheated another human being for their personal gain.

I believe we have all been deliberately given specific divine gifts, skills and talents that were intended to uplift, enliven and enrich our lives and the lives of others. Each day we must choose between truth and deception, to serve or to self-serve. Imagine what kind of world this could be if everyone used their talents for good in their careers and hobbies.

As we strive to discover and develop our talents may we all reach for the paycheck that matters most.

Related Links:
• Who's Your Inspiration?

Reader Comments

Posted: Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Article comment by: Mr. Shannon Schrum

My childhood memories of Zeezo are very special. I lived in a small town in Western Colorado. As a child I couldn't wait until Zeezo would make an appearance at our local Safeway. Even as a child, I studied everything about his show, the over all presentation, in fact he inspired me to become a performer. When I would go to the store with my mother, I would look at the bulletin board each day in hopes that a Zeezo poster would be there. And when it was...I could hardly wait until the day of the big show! There was a lot of fun to be had at a Zeezo Safeway show, Free balloons for all! Boys would usually get Rocket Balloons and babies would get apple balloon. I marveled over his magic tricks, sponge rabbits, color changing knives and the cups and ball trick. The audience would be lined up along the entire front of the store and Zeezo would start working the crowd, using a shopping cart with a special tray top for a table and he would perform all the way down the line until everyone got to see some magic. Then it was time for a ride in his little car. A car that inspired me so much, I had the same manufacturer build me an identical car (a treasured piece of my collection). But I think most importantly...Zeezo taught us manners. he taught us to say "Please and Thank You" he taught us something very important, something we could use throughout the rest of our lives. How many shows or appearances can we go to nowdays and get a "life message" from? Not Many! Zeezo was an amazing positive part of my childhood. I have really enjoyed hearing this great story about how you worked for Mr. Campbell and about his integrity..Thanks for sharing!

Posted: Thursday, August 06, 2009
Article comment by: No name provided

As a child in northen Colorado ,raised in farming country,my greatest treasure was my Zeezos Safeway cookie club card.When every shopping at Safeway when presented I would recieve a free cookie.

Posted: Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Article comment by: Anonymous

Larry - You came to my birthday party in the basement of our house on South Josephine Street in Denver about 43 years ago. My dad, Jim Ritchie was a PR man for Safeway.

Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2008
Article comment by: Larry Campbell

Pictured in the top photo with me is my son, now 47 years old. And the little girl in the picture is JeNeal - she was killed in 1983 in a car wreck in Colorado Springs. I have never gotten over her death and don't know that I ever will.

Posted: Saturday, August 16, 2008
Article comment by: Chris Bergman

Ah, integrity. It's been said that integrity is the only thing you'll ever own that no one else can take from you. Thanks for a great read, Richard. bergman_blogs@yahoo.com

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008
Article comment by: Shari

Wow, what a profound story. Thanks for sharing it. I love reading your blogs, Richard. You always have some surprise twist at the end, and the lessons always draw me in. However, this one, especially, drove home an incredibly deep point.

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008
Article comment by: Fred Brito

A truly inspiring story. I wish now that I had heard this when I was a kid. Maybe then I would not have turned out as I have. But I am on the Road towards Redemption... and God only know where that road may lead me too. Thanks for this story. Fred Brito fredbrito dot com

Posted: Friday, August 15, 2008
Article comment by: Larry Campbell

Thank you Richie - you're one of the very best that I have ever had working for me, ZEEZO.

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