2 Lessons of International Skoal Sales…




For Thanksgiving, I traveled to a country that celebrated it (Thanksgiving, that is…) six weeks earlier.



And it was in and around Canada last week I discovered 2 important lessons about business and life.

I learned these lessons in pursuit of a bad habit… Skoal chewing tobacco.


During long road trips – 8-hour international road trips, for example – I prefer to stay alert behind the wheel. Skoal chewing tobacco helps me do this.


Chewing tobacco is generally vile and causes mouth and throat cancer, but I rationalize and discard these risks by the infrequency of the act and focusing on the more immediate danger – crashing and dying.


So, somewhere around Pointe aux Roches I empty the tin. Stopping at a gas station, I ask to purchase a Skoal replacement. The Canadian employee shakes his head, no.


You don’t want to buy this,” he says.

“I know… you’re right. While chewing tobacco is generally vile and causes mouth and…”


No dude,” he cuts me off.  “You don’t want to buy this because it’s $18 U.S.



He’s right.

That’s six times the price in The States.

I’m not that tired.

Habit broken.

At least in Canada…



Want to change bad behavior?

Tax the Canadian Skoal out of it.


Is there bad behavior you want to discourage on the jobsite?

How can you tax it? 


Ever set up a “Dollar F-Jar” in the jobsite trailer?

Anytime someone uses the F-word in the office they pay $1.


That jar fills up in a hurry on a construction site.

F-word usage goes down.


Be careful though: unintended consequences should be expected. When I’ve employed the “Dollar F-Jar” new and exciting colorful language emerged to fill the F-word vacuum.          


Is there bad behavior you wish to discourage on the jobsite?

How can you creatively tax it?

What behavioral experiments can you run?



Lesson 2 came upon re-entry to the good ole U.S. of A.

Entering Port Huron, MI at nightfall with another 5 hours on the road ahead of me, I was once again preparing to purchase Skoal.


I purchased gas and went inside.

I approached the clerk.

She was in her mid-20’s.

She was short.

Really short.

Like under 5’ tall short.


Screen shot 2013-12-04 at 11.39.05 AM


Her height is relevant here. When I inquired about the available Skoal flavors, she said, “Just come on back here and look for yourself. I can’t reach any of the tobacco products. I’m too short and my boss won’t let me get a ladder. Say it’s too dangerous…

Since many gas stations like this have plate-glass windows and triple deadlocks to ward off robberies, I was surprised at the corporate decision to, in effect, encourage random customers – at least the tall ones – to step behind the cash register.



Want your employees to succeed?

Develop business processes with employees in mind.


We have employees fill out cumbersome spreadsheets with more information than anyone cares about. Then we wish for higher productivity.


We only allow mothers to work at home on Fridays when 90% of the company would be more efficient and productive doing the same thing.


We know Power Point at the office is like a loaded handgun at the playground, yet we allow every Tom, Dick and Sally to waste our time using it like a teleprompter with clip art.


No training needed.

Expectations are really low.


The business processes in place on your jobsite today deserve a reality check.

Start by asking everyone, “What stupid stuff do we do that wastes a bunch of time?”


You’ll get answers.

Are you ready for them?


Next time you look at Skoal, don’t think esophogeal cancer.

Think about the creative taxing of bad behavior and intelligent business processes.

At least until your next road trip.




Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (www.redanglespanish.com), a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.    

If you enjoyed this post and would be interested in other related content, subscribe to our monthly Newsletter – the Red Angle Revista. Once a month, no fluff, no sales pitches. Just ideas and language skills to help you run a better job.

Categories: Jobsite Leadership

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2 replies

  1. Good post, I like this one…beneficial management lesson. Cheers!

  2. Expectations and consequences, we humans are so simple!

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