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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The Little Pin That Could

In almost a decade we have certified dozens of Tobacconists in Princeton, NJ and in Pennsylvania. By the end of this year we will complete the first generation of our four college Academic Curriculum. In addition we will, in all probability, have over one hundred Certified Retail Tobacconist individuals (CRT) throughout the country by the end of 2008. This is a small, but historic step, in a long and uphill journey. This generation of Certified Tobacconists will wear the first ever Tobacconist University Certified pins (see Certified logo in sidebar). These are the same antique brass type pins that U.S. Senators and Congressman wear on their lapels, and to me they are equally special.
I am writing today because I just approved the proof for the pin and it prompted me to think a little about its significance. I know that the pin is a reflection of academic achievement, our adherence to the Code of Ethics & Standards, and also a symbol of pride, sacrifice, and accomplishment. We are proud because we work in an industry filled with generous and extraordinary people (both producers and consumers) as well as with special products. We sacrifice income, honor, and public credibility every day because tobacco has become ‘anathema to our modern society’. Now, through our bona fide accomplishments, luxury Tobacconists can take back their integrity and place in society as esteemed professionals; no less than sommeliers and chefs. Above all, we are individuals who have chosen to work at what we love and to follow our passions.
This brings me back to the pin. The pin is for Retail Tobacconists; those who serve their customers in ‘Brick and Mortar’ tobacco shops. Frankly, we may be a dying breed. Over the last decade we have seen the proliferation of Internet mail order and anti-smoking laws: both of these are formidable forces. As if the anti-smoking laws weren’t enough, the Internet threatens to commoditize the products we sell, and Retailers are challenged to provide increasing value to our customers: a challenge we can live up to. When a customer sees the pin, they will learn that their Tobacconist goes to great lengths to serve them. Customers will then realize the same educational resources their Tobacconist used are freely available to them. If we can educate and enhance appreciation then we can change the culture we live in: one Tobacconist at a time, one Customer at a time.
Soooo…. Look for the Pin.

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