This is one of my favourite “Chronicles” (the reason will become obvious in the story) As many of you must be aware, the Plus 4 was another example of our “industrious leaders” producing something that nobody (in Europe) had been consulted about. It was a “lemon” from day one and with no compatibility with C64 software there was little in the way of titles for it. To get straight to this story I jump to September 1985, when CBM UK Ltd (as did all of Commodore globally) had a huge volume of Plus 4 in inventory that we simply could not sell, and also a big volume of dedicated peripherals including Monitors, External Disk drives and Printers all in dark grey. Our newly appointed Managing Director Nick Bessey approached me (as National Accounts Manager) to ask what we needed to do to increase the then stagnant sales. Clearly price was an issue but I felt that it was also important to add an extra incentive to my sales team (and myself of course) because the whole team were turned off by the product’s lack of acceptance by the retailers. He (being new) came up with the idea of offering a bottle of Champagne for every (I think) 24 Plus 4’s sold
So I had a Consumer Sales team meeting and made the announcement that we were reducing the price to clear our inventory and added the extra incentive – which was very well received, so off we all went on the mission to sell every Plus 4 we had. I put a “Bundle” together with the cassette drive and as I recall 3 games, designed to sell for just £99 – a very competitive price at that time. It was still a hard sell, though some of the team had some minor successes. I got lucky because I had all the major retail chains, I did quite a big deal with a company called Laskys who at that time had 54 stores Nationwide. I was quite pleased with myself. We arranged to have the required volume (I can not recall the volume – sorry) made into packs for them.
However less than 2 weeks later a guy (I will keep his identity secret) made an appointment to see me in my office at Corby. He was representing a large High Street retail chain called Greens. He was very Cockney London and proceeded to tell me he had £25 million to spend with me to get the best deal possible so he would buy ALL the Commodore 64’s we had coming in to the UK (He wanted to corner the market) Of course I had to refuse him because I already had orders from all the major retailers for stock for Christmas so did not need to do a “cut price” deal at all.
He was getting very upset and using lots of bad language whilst he sat with his feet up on my desk picking his nose (True I swear to you) he could not believe with all that money I would not sell anything to him. At which point I said to him “Have you heard of the Commodore Plus 4?” which he had not. “Thank you Lord” was my first thought – ha ha….
So again to cut a long story short I did a deal with him which meant he took EVERY Plus 4 we had in stock including those that were only in component form in our warehouse, so we could assemble them and clear our inventory completely. This did mean I had to go back to Laskys and get myself out of that deal I had previously agreed with them. I made it up to them later. Anyway Greens took delivery of first several thousand Plus 4 packs and put them into their stores as I recall in mid October. The sales of the £99 pack were sensational, and they were flying out of the stores in vast numbers.
So much so that I went to see Greens again and sold them ALL our Plus 4 Peripherals as well! They were absolutely delighted. So I then asked them if I could get more stock were they interested. I took an order from them which meant we had to bring in ALL the inventory Commodore had worldwide in finished form and in component form which we assembled in our factory in Corby. Plus ALL peripherals in inventory around the world. I was actually with Tom Hart (CBM UK Ltd) at the time and we were so euphoric we both felt like doing cartwheels in Greens car park ! This meant we cleared everything during the few weeks leading up to Christmas. I ended up with 12 dozen (144 bottles) of premium Champagne!
The “punch line” to this story though – is just so incredibly funny. During all the negotiations I had with Greens and their representative (name withheld) I was never asked about Plus 4 and Commodore 64 compatibility!! Which is just as well because of course there was none! So, many thousands of Plus 4 packs were sold and on Christmas morning were given as presents, and for the first couple of weeks it was great, until the purchasers went out to buy further software, which is when they found out that none of the hundreds of available C64 titles were compatible. Oh dear!
David J. Pleasance