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GP 16 August 2006: The Power of Attention Deficit Magnified 

Two Chums.  A couple of old Dallas pals, Dick Marcus and Mort Meyerson, got us jawboning with Chip Thompson. Cheryl Hall (we think she was once the business editor of the Dallas Morning News) had written a column about him in June 2004.  Dick and Mort got intrigued and have since gotten caught up in his crazy invention, Chip having put a clamp around some of their money. 

Tin Cup.  Chip Thompson is a ‘tin cup’ sort of fellow.  You remember the movie, or if you don’t, check it out.  Kevin Costner plays a down-and-out golf pro living in shambles who is always licked by his arrogant friend Don Johnson, the big money player, out on the golf course.  Costner loses every round but wins the war, conquering the crowd with his high-risk, no-holds-barred, go-for-broke golfing, and, in the end, gets Johnson’s girl, played by Rene Russo.  We don’t know if Chip got the girl, but he’s a winsome fellow who’s gone a few rounds and won a few hearts.  Tin Cup is not quite as compelling as lyrical The Legend of Bagger Vance, but it provides more laughs. 

Hailing from Illinois, Chip fluttered out of college two years shy of a degree, despite his great golf game that created a little stir around school.  He got a few sales jobs, most notably at the edges of the nuclear industry where he has made an isotope or two fly.  He loves golf and oft as not can be found at the Barton Creek Country Club in Austin, Texas. He makes a nickel or two on the golf circuit, both as a pro and as a TV commentator.  We gather he thinks of the late Harvey Penick as his mentor.  When he’s not golfing, he’s done quite a patch of bartending, especially in New Orleans, and even today he is able to give us guidance on where to go for the potent concoctions we partake of in Katrina City.  We never did get around to asking him what he learned during his stay in Santa Fe. 

The Money Clamp.  What he’s done is to come up with a new fangled money clip where we have stowed a lot of the stuff we are always losing.  We haven’t used money clips for 40 years, but some fellas, often two-fisted bourbon drinkers, have a passion for them.  We observe that it’s a Texas thing.  Lots of folks carry a wad around there, a few maybe with a rubber band, others with a spring action paper holder, some with a traditional money clip.  There’s always a credit card or two in the mix. 

Darned If the Things Aren’t Selling.  Thompson took the clamps to the Dilliard’s buying office in Fort Worth first.  Then came Foley’s which seems to have to copy everything Dilliard’s does, and vice versa.  One time he put a sample batch of 1,000 in a flagship store of a big chain. Only 250 sold.  So he had to pull an old merchandiser’s trick; he went in near closing time and bought out the other 750.  The chain then placed a huge order for all its stores.  He calls it a clamp because it has a spring clip that won’t let your bills get away.  We think he should rename it the Texas Hold ‘Em.  Oh yes, worldwide headquarters for him is in Austin, in shooting distance of the state capitol, the University of Texas, and all sorts of old weeds. 

The Eureka moment for this invention came when he was out with his buddies shooting the breeze.  He went golfing with Darrell Royal and Larry Gatlin at Barton Creek one day.  As the round closed, they each drew their cash and their cards out of their golf bags: each had one of those big black office clips around their stashes.  Chip said, “Aha.  There’s got to be a better way.”  Hence, the Money Clamp.  He’s also come up with a Honey-Do, Windzone, and other items—all purpose portable tools that stem from his long rides on motorcycles.  We expect him to concoct a cut-and-spoon-and-mix tool when he’s next tending bar. 

Wallet Sciatica.  But there’s more than one reason to have a Money Clamp.  Turns out that it’s not just tall-tale Texans with wads in their pockets that have a use for it.  Across America legions of men carry around overstuffed wallets in their back pockets and give themselves galloping cases of sciatica.  The fancy word for it is pirifomis syndrome.    There are all sorts of treatments to deal with errant nerves that pass through the piriformis muscle and cause persistent agony.  But if the culprit is your wallet, we are told by much-relieved sufferers that the Money Clamp offers a solution. 

No Charge for the Haircut.  Of course, we really did not seize on the Money Clamp to learn about sciatica.  We just wanted to meet Chip Thompson.  He’s good for a story a moment and is a master of non sequiturs.  As he says about himself, it was not a challenge for him to part company with Spoon River Junior College or Illinois College and move on to other things.  We’re pretty sure he is their most illustrious non-graduate, or at least their most entertaining.  He has a hard time keeping his mind on one thing.  In fact, he’s not comfortable if he’s not working on six, and dreaming about 10 or 15 others.  It’s an interesting thing about entrepreneurs: they sort of succeed because they cannot stay focused and so they find time to go up alleys the rest of us are content to ignore. Chip clearly got his PhD in distraction. 

We have a barber in New York named Arthur who always tells us he’s not charging us for the haircut, just collecting for his eloquent conversation.  More like a monologue.  Well, that’s Chip.  We figure we got our Money Clamp free.  And if you listen carefully to his adventures with the various retail chains from the Southwest, you can understand the highs and the lows of retailing in America today.  Many are good at sourcing goods, but have lost their merchandising instincts. 

P.S.  We’re working up to a conversation with Don Williams, author of Saving Stuff, a how-to which tells you how to take care of everything you’ve had around the house for too long.  We’re betting that he has some old money clips somewhere.  Now he’s not to be confused with Don Williams, the country Western singer from Texas who specializes in happiness. 

P.P.S.  With Chip Thompson, we discover why most people cannot be entrepreneurs.  Mere mortals think that the shortest distance between two points is a straight line: entrepreneurs know different. 

P.P.P.S.  QVC is picking up the Money Clamp, so you will soon be able to come by one from the comfort of your armchair.

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