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Monday, November 24, 2008

Georgetown Tobacco: A National Treasure

If you know me well, you may know that walking into Georgetown Tobacco in the early 1990s changed my life. I never knew the world of luxury tobacco existed until I stepped into that store; I was used to buying cigars at cafeterias on the streets of Miami. To this day I remember the extraordinary Tobacconists that helped me discover great cigars and new ways to savor my time – perhaps this is why I have such a fondness and respect for Tobacconists. And I can only begin to imagine how many thousands of people have been impacted the same way.

While Georgetown is coming up on its 45th Anniversary, and they just Certified their 11th CRT, it is no mystery why they are one of the world’s greatest retail Tobacconists. Starting with their founder, David Berkebile and every Tobacconist I have met in their stores, there is enough passion and knowledge on their sales floor to make any Tobacconist and customer salivate. While TU writes about putting Products & Customers first, I think that philosophy might have been absorbed from Georgetown. I’m sure someone could write a book on the knowledge, history, tall tales, and passion found at Georgetown; and I can honestly say that their retail store is one of the world’s most beautiful – in any industry!
Ultimately, we are lucky to have such an extraordinary group of Tobacconists Certified, and grateful for the things they have and will teach us down the road. Congratulations to Georgetown for continuing to be the best at what they do. And many thanks for sharing that with TU, your customers, and the rest of the world….. Looking forward to the next 45 years.

- Jorge Armenteros, CMT 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Carry An Unlit Cigar II

“I am beginning to be able to really sympathize with smokers and to see how this treatment by institutions in our society really marginalizes them and makes them feel like social outcasts or pariahs. Were I a smoker, this would probably make me angry and motivate me to identify even more strongly as a smoker and to resolve even more strongly to continue smoking. Any desire to quit would be tempered by the viciousness of these anti-smoking advocates and their bigotry. I am starting to really see where many of my readers are coming from.”
-Dr. Michael Siegel
Smokers to Be Banned from Fostering or Adopting Children in Several Districts in Scotland
November 14, 2008
As I postulated over a year ago, we need to Carry An Unlit Cigar; mostly to project our existence and credibility; while refusing to be marginalized or de-normalized. Smokerism continues to rob more individuals and business people of their rights than any other legislative/social reality today. In Boston, cigar bars are on the verge of being voted out of existence by ‘health’ crusaders, college campuses everywhere are banning smoking on their property, and in Los Angeles they may make smoking outside of your home illegal. There are even Tobacconists in the United States of America that cannot smoke in their own stores, even though sampling and studying our products is absolutely necessary. We need to put ourselves ‘out there’! And as far as I know, even the ‘unpleasant’ smell of an unlit cigar (either partly smoked, or fresh) is still LEGAL everywhere!

At the very least, Carrying An Unlit Cigar (or Pipe) may give us the opportunity to talk to a few people and maybe even sway their opinion…. making converts and teaching tolerance while sharing our passions. Be a positive public ambassador for the luxury tobacco industry!!! If every cigar smoker convinced just 10 people to respect and value our rights, then we would be in the majority…
What do you think? Do you Carry An Unlit Cigar/Pipe? Making friends or enemies?

Jorge Armenteros, CMT

Friday, November 14, 2008

Butane Lighter Maintenance FAQ

Retail Tobacconists spend at least five minutes a day (20+ hours per year) helping customers learn how to properly fill their lighters. And, many customers spend countless hours trying to get their lighters to work properly. Most customers need to be taught the proper filling technique when they buy the lighter, while other customers return because they filled it incorrectly and think it is broken. Either way, this Butane Lighter Maintenance Video will save you and your customers time and frustration. Along with Humidifiers, Butane Lighters are the ‘trickiest’ products we sell so a thorough knowledge of the product is necessary to provide good customer service. For more information or help with lighter repairs, please visit the TU Lighter Maintenance FAQ.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

TU Outtakes

At the risk of inundating you with too much content this month, I can’t resist posting this Outtake video from our 2008 How To video shoot. We have put well over a thousand human hours into these videos and it is easy to forget how much fun it was.
My only lament about TU is that there is really no place for humor (or sex)…. and anybody who knows me knows I value a sense of humor (because I’m hilarious)…. so it is an especially nice treat to post something funny…. Hope you enjoy!

Jorge Armenteros, CMT

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Certified Tobacconist Impressions

The first step towards acceptance and credibility is to build awareness. A decade ago I had people laugh at me when I told them I was a ‘Tobacconist’. And, the society we live in barely recognizes us as a legitimate profession – most days they treat us like criminals. So, awareness is the first step towards carving out a respectable niche in our society.
Tobacconist University exists largely to build awareness and credibility for the luxury tobacco industry. While many more consumers visit TU than Tobacconists, we consider every impression we make a positive Certified Tobacconist Impression (CTI). CTI are created every time a consumer visits TU, thinks about TU, mentions TU to a friend, or says the words ‘Tobacconist University’. CTI are created every time TU helps somebody refill their lighter, learn how to cut their cigar, season their humidor, and enhances their appreciation of luxury tobacco: always educating and enhancing appreciation under the umbrella of “Tobacconist University”.
Ultimately, if you had to distill down the priceless value of TU into something quantifiable, you could think in terms of Certified Tobacconist Impressions (CTI). After all, you need something to measure and strive for when you are trying to change the culture and fighting for your freedoms. Knowing this, TU regards every Tobacconist Certification with extreme reverence. Every TU Certified Tobacconist goes into the world creating thousands of Certified Tobacconist Impressions per year; by showing customers and civilians that we are legitimate, valuable professionals. Every time a Certified Tobacconist mentions Certification, or shows their lapel pin, or posts their Certified Logo, an impression is made. Every time a human being thinks about Tobacconists as professionals a positive impression is made. In fact, every Certified Tobacconist creates between 15,000 (lazy Tobacconist) and 50,000 (not lazy) Certified Tobacconist Impressions (CTI) a year (conservatively estimated). At this rate just one thousand Certified Tobacconists can create 50 MILLION positive impressions per year. Ultimately, this simple notion of projecting and leveraging our credibility through Certified Tobacconist Impressions (CTI) is a big part of how we will “preserve luxury tobacco for generations to come”: one Tobacconist at a time, one impression at a time.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Guns, Tobacco, Fear & Control

“Where the rights of men are equal, every man must finally see the necessity of protecting the rights of others as the most effectual security for his own.”- Thomas Paine
Dissertation on First Principles of Government -1795

On a personal note…. I have one sister, twenty one years younger than me. This picture was taken two years ago in the D.R. – right about the time she told me a policeman came to her class, wearing his uniform, badge, and gun, to lecture the students about the dangers of tobacco. Of course the lesson was not un-biased or purely factual. Rather, it was about fear. They did not tell her ‘cigarettes can shorten your life or lead to illnesses’; they told her ‘tobacco and smoke are disgusting, immoral, and kill’. While I know that life kills, and fear can be an effective motivation for children, and teachers can exaggerate to make a point, to this day, I cannot fathom why a man with a gun is sent to schools to ‘teach’ and threaten children. Frankly, it has taken me two years to calm down enough just to write this piece…. In fact, a big part of the reason I started this blog two years ago was because I was so infuriated by my sister’s story and needed a place to voice my opinion and tell these tales. And, someone has to question how the anti-smoke people have influenced legislators to the point that they are employing our police to promote their agenda … WTF is happening?

I remember in high school a policeman came and lectured us about the dangers of drinking and driving: at least that made sense since the crime takes place on our roadways where innocent people can be hurt. But where is the crime in smoking? And why are the police talking to children about it? And why the gun?

On a positive note, my sister comes to my house and walks into my humidor just because she loves the smell. Thankfully, she is smart and free enough to think for herself; but, for how long? In Cuba they have signs everywhere insulting ‘capitalist pigs’ and the only people with guns are the cops and military; I suppose that is why my family came to this country. But, in America there are already advertisements insulting smokers (of all kinds), disparaging fat people, and basically equating anybody who is not ‘healthy’ or ‘normal’ as immoral or inadequate. Yet, I can’t watch TV for half an hour without seeing erectile pill commercials or advertisements for pharmaceuticals to make us all happy and fill us with ‘energy’.
Meanwhile, the hypocrisy of our legislators/government and the degradation of our rights is only getting worse…. Today I read an AP article about an Alabama Botanist who was arrested because the wildflowers on her property were a nuisance. People actually complained about the annoyance of flower aromas!!!
As the son of refugees, I cannot forget the value of freedom, and the need to defend it: that is why I am a Certified Tobacconist. And, I have put every resource at my disposal towards defending my profession and helping others do the same. Ironically, at this rate, I will end up a Certified ‘drug dealer’ in the nanny state’s eyes…. and so will my plant, coffee, alcohol, and food loving friends. That cop who terrorized my 10 year old sister may very well arrest me for smoking a cigar on the sidewalk one day. In the meantime, real drug dealers who peddle anti-depressants, anti-anxiety drugs, 5-hour energy drinks, and erection pills continue to live down the road from me in mansions I can’t even afford the taxes on. The America I love seems to exist only in my mind and heart now…. and within the four walls of every retail Tobacconist who is still allowed to smoke in their business and home. As I write this very personal blog, my last living grandparent lies on her death bed, incoherent and unaware that the America that embraced her inalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is not so different than the country she fled; in this rare case I think that ignorance is bliss. But, the rest of us have no excuse.
My point is not simply to vent here… it is two-fold:

1. to compel you, my fellow Tobacconists and citizens, to get Certified and project your credibility. Be Proactive! Don’t be apathetic. Don’t ever give up. First we must educate ourselves, and then we go about teaching others (Tobacconists Are Teachers).
2. to remind everyone else that real freedom involves protecting others’ rights, not just the rights you like and/or use.

Disclaimers: I have cop friends and customers who I love; I think guns are awesome – when they are not killing or intimidating people; I love plants and flowers and their aromas; I love my sister and family, no matter what they think or feel; I have lots of friends who take the legal drugs mentioned in this article; I believe smoking is a human archetype and delicacy which will always be and should be enjoyed by a significant percentage of the population; I don’t like the use of chemicals or additives in tobacco or food; I eat meat and fish; however you define ‘health’, it is useless without freedom – and legislating ‘health’ is simply a way to control people; I drive like an old lady, have never had a dui/dwi, and have not had a moving violation in my adult life (’knock on wood’); I am only superstitious, ‘just in case’; I think people who sky dive and bungee jump are crazy and I fully support their right to do it – just like I support any person’s right to think, say, and do anything they want as long as they do not infringe on another person’s ability to do the same – that’s American!
Jorge Armenteros, CMT

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tobacconists In Art

300 American Tobacconists M-Z (1980)
Dick Jewell
Copyright: Dick Jewell
Courtesy of the artist and Rachmaninoff’s, London
Dick Jewell is a British artist living and working in London. The images in this very unique piece came from a discarded filing cabinet drawer he found laying on the pavement in New York City during the late 1970s. Intrigued by the range of quality and type of images (from photo booth miniatures to studio photos), Mr. Jewell created this extraordinary piece which reflects Tobacconists’ ‘individuality and cohesion as a group of specialists’.
Well, many thanks to Mr. Jewell for recognizing our humble profession as one worthy of being represented in his art. While we know about Cigars & Art, it is refreshing to see Tobacconists in art. Let’s see if any American Tobacconists recognize themselves in these photos…
Ultimately, when these photos were found they were artifacts depicting a dying breed of professionals: perhaps, that is why they ended up as trash on the sidewalk. Regardless, we are now living in a new era. While hysterical anti-smoke sentiments and smokerism continues to hypnotize people around the world, the Tobacconist profession is resurging; as anybody wanting to savor their time knows the true value of luxury tobacco. Fighting back from the brink of extinction is no easy task, but I cannot imagine a group of passionate individuals more capable of meeting the challenges. As we move forward, we must remember and be thankful for all of the Tobacconists who came before us – thankful for their ‘individuality and cohesion as a group of specialists’