Episode 4:

(Forgot where we left off? Re-read Episode 3)

At the beginning of the week, if someone had told Bob he would be taking business advice from a twenty-year-old, Bob would have laughed in their face. Or breathalyzed them. But here he was just a few days later. Instead of his usual Thursday night pondering of what the hell Angie saw in Grey’s Anatomy, Bob was parked at the kitchen table with a lager, a laptop, and his nephew Jackson.

“You just hit this button to create a new blog,” Jackson explained. “You add an image like this, write some information about the new RV below it here, and then hit post.”

The words sounded simple enough, but the rapid movements of the mouse on the screen had Bob reaching for his beer. “So, for the pictures…”

“Just shoot some with your phone when new stock comes in. You can definitely get fancier, but this will get you up and running fast and cheap for now.”

Bob sighed. The whole thing made him miserable, but fast and cheap was preferable to slow and expensive. “Okay, show me again.”

They ran through it a few more times until Bob had created a half-decent new arrival post for the new Thor Ace he had pictures of from a few weeks ago. The small surge of triumph he felt was unexpected. Maybe he could do this.

“So, now that it’s a post–how do we get people to see it?” Bob asked.

Jackson was nodding. “I’m mostly a website guy, but there are a couple ways. You probably don’t have many followers on social media—”

Good guess, kid. Robbie’s RVs didn’t have a social media presence at all.

“—so your best bet is to start with email. How many email contacts do you have?”

“Ehhh.” Bob pulled out his phone and opened up his email address book. “Sixty-seven.”

The resemblance to Angie was uncanny when Jackson’s eyes narrowed into a squint. “How many of those are customers?”

“…Twelve?”

Jackson shook his head. “Okay, so…we’ll put an email collector on your website. And you can have the sales guys start asking people for them. In a few months—”

“What good will it do to send an email out to a bunch of people who just came to the lot? I need to get new people on the lot now,” Bob insisted. He knew it. This was a stupid idea. A total waste of time. He didn’t have months to sit around and let RV Superstore finish stealing the rest of his customers.

“Okay.” Jackson held his hands up, as if he could corral Bob’s frustration with his palms. “There’s another option. It’s not a great one, but…you could buy somebody else’s email list.”

“I can?” Buying someone else’s list sounded a lot easier than trying to collect his own one at a time. ”But they wouldn’t be useful, right? I mean—they wouldn’t be from around here.”

“Not necessarily. Here, look.” Jackson’s fingers flew over the keys. He pulled up a website and started checking boxes and typing in numbers.

Bob went back to his now-room-temperature lager while he waited.

The wild typing stopped and Jackson angled the laptop so Bob could see the screen better. “Here. There are eighty-eight hundred emails within a fifty mile radius for people who make over one hundred thousand a year.”

Eighty-eight hundred! Bob leaned in. “How do they know how much money they make? Or where they live?”

Jackson shrugged. “Who knows.”

Bob stared at the screen. “For nine-hundred dollars?” His nephew nodded. Bob leaned back again, thinking. Nine hundred dollars was a lot of money if it didn’t work. If it did, though…that was pocket change if they sold a few RVs.

“Do it.” He pulled out his credit card and handed it to Jackson.

The swift clacking of keys filled the room again. Within minutes, they had a spreadsheet full of information. Bob even recognized one of the names. Holy crap.

“Ok, so now we send them an email?”

Jackson nodded. “Do you want me to walk you through how, or—”

“Just do it.” Bob had had enough technology for one day. “Do you need anything else from me?”

“Nah,” Jackson answered. “I’ve got enough info here.”

Bob grabbed his beer and headed into the living room. Angie pulled her feet underneath her to make room for him on the couch.

“How’s Meredith tonight?”

She waved his question away. “Shh. Dr. Bailey is about to go off.”

He smiled, sipping his beer and watching his wife. She watched the screen, sipping her wine without taking her eyes off the TV.

When the show broke for commercial, she turned, finally ready to give him her attention. “How’s the tech tutorial?”

“Good,” he answered, and for the first time in days—he meant it. “Robbie’s RV has a new website and we’re sending out our first email right now.”

Angie’s smile lit up the room. “Exciting! I told you Jackson could help.”

“Yes, you di—”

The chime of Bob’s phone alerting him to new email interrupted them. Not just once, or twice, but so many that the sound glitched out and started making a strangled digital sound like an old dial up modem. Bob opened the app.

Failure Notice
FAILURE NOTICE
Failure Notice
Out of Office Alert RE: Check out our new RV
Failure notice
FAILURE NOTICE
Mailer-Daemon Failure Notice
I’m away from the office right now re: Check out our new RV

They kept coming, so fast they scrolled the others off his screen before Bob could finish reading them all. “Jackson!”

“Yeah?” His nephew popped his head into the living room. “Sup?”

“Did you just send out the email?”

“Yup.” Jackson grinned. “Are you getting responses already?”

Bob could feel his blood pressure spiking. “Why are all these errors and out of office replies coming to my phone?”

The grin dissolved. “Was there another email address you wanted to use? I thought you just had the one.”

“I do, but—” But he hadn’t wanted this. “How do we make it stop?”

“I can turn the alerts off on your phone.”

“I want the damn emails off my phone!”

Angie put her hand on his leg and gave him the look.

Bob took a series of deep breaths, and reminded himself that he had asked for Jackson’s help. “Here, look at this.” He handed his phone to his nephew.

Jackson’s eyes went wide. “Oh yeah, that’s a lot. The good news is, those are all automated. It’s not actually—oh, no wait. Someone replied for real.” Jackson peered at the device in his hand, then cringed. “She’s pissed. Oof, this guy too. Shit.”

“Jackson,” Bob warned.

“I’ll fix it,” his nephew promised, handing the phone back. “I can figure this out. As soon as I’m done with work tomorrow, I’ll come over, and we’ll get it taken care of.”

“Tomorrow? TOMORROW?” Bob’s phone was making sounds like R2D2 having a seizure as more and more emails flooded his inbox, and the kid was calling it a night? “What am I supposed to do with this thing until then?”

Jackson slung his laptop bag over his shoulder and had the decency to look apologetic. “Just uh…maybe delete your email app until we get it figured out? Or turn off your phone.”

“I have to go to the RV Dealers Expo in Vegas on Tuesday. I can’t do that without a phone!”

“We’ve got plenty of time,” Jackson told him as he headed for the door. “We’ll get it all figured out tomorrow. Don’t worry.”

It was too late for that. Worry was just one of a myriad of emotions Bob was experiencing right then. He’d just spent nine-hundred dollars to end up worse off than he started. It was his own fault—he’d known better than to think Jackson was a viable solution, but he’d wanted to believe it could be that easy.

There was no getting around it now. It was time for him to move onto Plan B.