CUSTOMER SERVICE

Real Service

Mail-order computer software and peripherals company sets new industry standards for customer service.
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Can providing customer service as outstanding as PC Connection's really be this simple?

I wanted to write about a company -- a mail-order company -- that has become one of the fastest-growing businesses in America, with room in the margins to finance more than $100 million worth of growth. Its customer-service practices -- reliability, courtesy, support -- have set new industry standards. This stuff is so basic, the question we should be asking is why we all don't treat our customers this way. -- R. A. M.

* * *

Most up-country enterprises don't make unusual demands on rural utilities. Certainly Patricia Gallup and David Hall had no idea theirs was going to. Back in 1982 they meant only to get into something that would keep them ensconced in their tiny New Hampshire town, safely tucked away from the trappings of bona fide commerce. Mail order happened to fit the bill nicely.

Pretty soon, though, the ancient electric and telephone lines along the 20-mile stretch of road that meanders to PC Connection's facility in Marlow, N.H., had to be entirely redone, brittle wire by rickety pole. How else could the two founders hope to run the mighty IBM AS/400 computer and complex Rolm PBX that their micro and handset inadvertently had turned into? By the time the upgrading was finished, their original $8,000 investment had undergone a startling upgrade of its own: from sales of $233,000 in '82 to an estimated $120 million for '88.

No one grows 183% a year in mail order these days merely by slashing prices and waiting for the postman to knock (or, more accurately, for the phone to ring). Not when you're dealing with the fussy microcomputer crowd. Ask any of the scores of companies that went broke trying. If the odds were stacked heavily in favor of failure in mail order, what did the winner have going that was different?

"Plain common sense," Gallup discloses, most of which came from the owners having been customers themselves. "Living up here, we had to buy through mail order. In the past, when mail-order customers got super rake-off prices, they expected to pay at the other end. We wanted to dispel people's fears about ordering over the phone, so we started right in offering a high level of customer support.'

They succeeded. Now, their customers expect not only to be raked off, but to be granted such theretofore unlikely favors as prompt delivery, accurate order filling, honest billing, reasonable freight charges, seller-endorsed product reliability, current merchandise, generous warranties, promptly answered phones, deep inventory, knowledgeable salespeople, and aid when the thing doesn't work right. In other words, blandishments other companies try to avoid because there isn't enough room in 10%-over-cost pricing to pay for them.

To launch the nation's first mail-order business exclusively devoted to the then-six-months-old IBM personal computer, Gallup (who was 28) and Hall (who was 32) formed a customer-support staff of two: themselves. They dispensed pre-, during-, and post-sale information freely, and for free. Any caller could ring up with any question at any time and get a courteous hearing. Today the staff is considerably larger and its largesse less revolutionary, but back then it was unheard of for any company in the microcomputer industry, let alone mail order, to accept an outside call for help without first screening for the serial number and date of purchase of the product. "A lot of the things we've done," Gallup's modesty allows, "have improved the quality of service.'

Doling out intensive instruction about complex problems shrinks generically tight mail-order margins even tighter; after all, consumers don't pester customer service at Frederick's of Hollywood to find out how to use its goods. Yet it's standard policy at PC Connection Inc. (PCC, from here on) that for each product offered there is at least one person on staff who thoroughly understands how it works. If you own a spreadsheet program that is printing out smiley-face gibberish, just call PCC's toll-free line, and a trained person will troubleshoot the problem over the phone -- even if you got the disks in a plain brown wrapper from some guy with a pushcart.

Doesn't that mean PCC may be hand-holding the buyer of a product that another reseller has already squeezed the profit out of? Sure -- how else do you build volume? As far as customer-affairs director Peter Haas is concerned, the best call to PCC is one that begins, "I bought this somewhere else, but . . . " Concludes Haas: "We just made ourselves a new customer.'

Being out among the lonesome pines as they are, you'd think PCC officers wouldn't be all that fussy about who handles the phones. On the contrary, they're so demanding that only one of every 30 applicants who makes it to the interview stage is offered a job. Only college graduates are considered for positions in sales to begin with, the theory being that at least they'll possess a modicum of communications skills and have an inkling of where the other 49 states are located. "We don't just fill a slot, we hire the right person," emphasizes personnel director Gallup, who checks out candidates' backgrounds as carefully as if they had been nominated for secretary of defense. Why such scrutiny? Because "they're creating customer contact."

There has to be something to the notion, judging from a recent poll undertaken by a leading microcomputer magazine in which PCC absolutely schneidered the competition. Among computer mail-order companies, PCC was rated tops in providing customer service, outpolling the next four contenders combined. PCC also handily won the reputation category, receiving 54% of the vote compared with a mere 19% for the runner-up, and it was uncontested in the three remaining categories: price, available stock, and variety.

Also in 1988, another microcomputer publication ranked PC Connection its number-one-read advertiser, well ahead of flossy, big-name spreads from Lotus Development, Ashton-Tate, NEC, and Toshiba. PCC intersperses typical product listings with corporate-image ads so slick that magazines that once relegated them to the back pages with the rest of the six-point-type crowd now give PCC run of the book. One reason the ads are so well read is that some actually are meant to be. Among the company's first was a double-page spread headlined: "If One More Person Asks Me a Question About Multifunction Boards, I'll Write an Ad." Somebody must have asked, because the text went on to detail answers to the most frequent technical queries the PCC staff got by phone. "It's the type of expenditure that comes back to you in sales," PCC's president and chief administrative officer Gallup says, "even if you can't measure it."

For all their pollable loyalty, though, mail shoppers are a fickle lot who don't bond with some impersonal logo simply out of past favors. To keep them ringing the switchboard at PCC (and at MacConnection, a division formed in 1984 to deal exclusively with Macintosh-oriented accessories) requires hands-on attentiveness beyond self-deprecating ads ("Only a five-day drive from Silicon Valley," reads another). Thus, in an age when mail merchants still abuse their customers by expecting them to wait six weeks for delivery (and nonetheless charging their credit cards immediately), CEO Hall spirits merchandise to his customers the next day.

Traditional mail-order operations selling traditional lines of goods don't approach PCC's turnaround time mostly because they don't need to, Hall says. "Their customers don't expect to get products tomorrow. But when computer users order something, usually it's because they need it to solve immediate problems. Speed is what they expect." PCC's internal systems are so swift that even if an order is phoned into New Hampshire as late as 7:59 the night before, the goods are on doorsteps as far away as California by next day's close. Not at the double-digit price of some carrier's blue-ribbon treatment, either, but at a flat $3 for the entire order.

Yet even PCC's own in-house professionals had advised Hall it couldn't be done. No expert himself, of course Hall insisted it could. "A buck a pound the world around" became his rallying cry. He invited five next-day carriers -- UPS, Federal Express, Emory, Purolator, and Airborne -- to take a crack at it for a couple of weeks each. "They all laughed and said they couldn't even come close," Hall recalls. But when he described some schemes for cost reduction, "the price came into the realm of possibility, and they started getting psyched about it." When the dust settled, Airborne had gotten the contract.

In one step-saver, PCC packers cram the individual cartons into specially curved containers that conform to the inside of a cargo carrier, so they can be moved from the warehouse to the plane without further handling. Whatever spillover can't be carried on Airborne's flight from Manchester, N.H., to its private hub in Ohio is trucked to Boston -- a one-hour stint. When they get to Ohio, the packages are shipped the world around (though not yet for a buck a pound). PCC's computerized system compiles weight and destination information and transmits it directly to Airborne's computers. At the moment the truck leaves the warehouse in New Hampshire, Airborne's people in Ohio know exactly how much fuel to put in each of that night's planes. "We definitely set new standards of delivery," crows Hall, who, to make sure no potential savings had been overlooked, has calculated the cost of PCC's owning its own planes.

PCC constantly receives letters of amazed appreciation from customers who get merchandise faster from PCC than they could have from the corner computer store. A medical-equipment distributor in Pennsylvania wrote last winter that he had received an urgent request for intricate price proposals that had to arrive at a distant hospital convention by noon the next day. It seemed impossible, since Federal Express had already closed. A last hope for a stiff commission was to acquire a fax device for his Macintosh -- but pronto. PCC's time-stamp shows that the order was received at 7:54 p.m. and that the plug-in board was packed and ready to be picked up at 9:07 p.m. The salesman's records show that he received said item at 9:00 the next morning and that he faxed the quote by 10:30. Total freight: $3. Exactly what Sears, Roebuck would have charged for express freight to Pennsylvania -- in 1902.

But Hall, a formidable worrier, isn't resting easy. "Now that we've shown them how," he frets, "they can do it for the competition, too." To keep also-rans at bay, by the time they gear up to guarantee next-day delivery of an order phoned in by 8:00 p.m., Hall intends to have pushed his own deadline ahead to 9:00 and eventually to midnight. And now that the heavy-duty overhead wires are in, he is shooting for a one-ring answering response, followed by a one-minute order-taking interlude. "Once they decide they want something," Hall has determined, "no one likes to wait on the phone just to ask for it." (That's not entirely true. PCC's music-on-hold is so appealing that one customer whose serenade was interrupted by a live voice asked to be put back on hold until the piece was over.)

The ante may climb further still: PCC shells out extra for polystyrene packing "peanuts" that have been rendered static-free, so that they won't cling to the recipient on arrival. At that, fake goobers may not be good enough for the environmentalist in him: Hall is considering spending yet more for edible clusters of popcorn, which will be disposed of the way nature intended.

In the shallow trenches of deep discounting, it's daunting enough to pay for the likes of popcorn and peanuts while swallowing minuscule margins. But giving away a vid-eocassette and at the same time amortizing its production is, to most minds, unthinkable. Yet a PCC-recorded cassette is what buyers of certain accessories are finding in shipments this year. The tapes document fussy procedures that, like fussy children, are meant to be seen, not heard. In a taped demonstration of how to install a hard-disk drive, a PCC tech-staffer spends 20 minutes mucking around in the bowels of a computer, yanking cables and screws with the relish of a butcher eviscerating a turkey.

"It wasn't a luxury, it was a necessity," insists Hall of the $2 million he's plowed into constructing a top-of-the-line television production and broadcast facility. Expensive, maybe, but when such costs are applied against the increasing massiveness of PCC's sales base they become manageable, Hall argues, not one to give a P&L unwarranted scrutiny if nothing's broken. Besides, he expects that not only will the output of the new division, PCTV, cut its parent's customer-relations costs, but it will generate income as well.

The arithmetic goes roughly like this: a $3-or-so instruction tape frees up perhaps 15 minutes for a $20-an-hour technical-support person, who otherwise would be hassled repeatedly on the phone with the same predictable questions. Balance: $2 in the company's favor, applied by a growing business to not having to put the next technical-support person on the payroll so soon. PCC will eventually broadcast via satellite, saving on the cost of videocassettes, and a good part of the company's internal apprenticeship and product training will be prepackaged on video, saving on teaching costs as well.

On at least one demonstration video so far, PCTV has sold part of the airtime to the manufacturer of the product involved, who uses it to talk up some of its other products, just like on commercial TV. Until recently, a vendor-reseller relationship as cozy as that was as unlikely as a Tyson-Givens wedding anniversary. Indeed, from its inception in the late '70s, computer-equipment mail order was well out of the mainstream, and manufacturers aimed to pin it there by refusing to let mail-order houses carry their wares, ostensibly on the grounds that sellers by mail couldn't provide aftermarket technical support. However, Hall observes, the moral high road didn't stop some manufacturers from stooping to buy stuff for themselves at discount. "Mail order is sleazy," they would preach, and in an aside to PCC would add, "but can you give us a good price on a hard drive?"

How times -- and the exigencies of the market -- have changed. As late as 1987, Lotus Development deauthorized any dealer caught leeching out Lotus products to mail-order aspirants like Gallup and Hall. PCC wasn't fully authorized to carry Lotus products until early '89. (Previously, PCC had to get its Lotus products from gray-market dealers, who turned them over at a few dollars' profit.) By the end of '88, however, Lotus and PCC were chummily working out co-op advertising agreements.

Thanks in part to its indescribable buying power (PCC accounts for "several percentage points" of giant Microsoft's domestic software and peripheral equipment sales, Hall hints), the company has been able to pressure hard-nosed manufacturers such as Lotus to drop copy protection from their software and to ameliorate vendors' cruel insistence that goods be bought in quantity rather than as needed by merchants struggling to balance inventory against cash flow. And it was at PCC's not-too-subtle suggestion (any company that refused would be banned from its latest MacConnection catalog) that a considerable number of previously reluctant manufacturers were inspired to back their products with their own money-back, no-questions-asked guarantees.

But perhaps the best testament to the solidity of PCC's place on the mail-order map is that vendors now trek all the way to Marlow to peddle their lines. Gallup and Hall are preparing eight rooms in the inn for reps to bunk in -- including any who may have spurned them in the past.

The reason PCC grew so fast with no outside investment, Hall claims demurely, is that "selling microcomputer peripherals was so easy it was like a black hole -- you could throw any product in, and buyers would make it disappear." Yet other stars in the mail-order universe were favored by the same phenomenon, and they disappeared instead -- this in an industry sector estimated to have grown from $1.5 billion in 1986 to $2 billion in 1989. Nor are any more competitors likely to crop up. When Gallup and Hall began in '82 with a ninth-of-a-page ad, a full page in a computer magazine cost but $1,000. Seven years later, in 1989, the same full-page ad costs $19,000, and PCC runs up to eight pages at a crack in several each month.

Despite its already giddy ascent, PCC could be climbing yet higher, given more space, time, and people. A couple of years ago PCC sold high-ticket computer systems as well as peripherals, and wasn't doing a bad job of it until -- on a minor technicality -- the FCC banned some PC clones, including PCC's house brand, from the market. Hall never bothered going back into CPUs, all else being equal?. "But I could," he warns anyone watching anxiously for a downtick, "if things started to slow." That's not happening just yet, it seems. In February 1989 PCC broke ground for a 120,000-square-foot facility -- the most significant industrial construction in Marlow since the sawmill in 1819.

Would-be competitors also must face up to the fact that not only do PCC's vendor contracts protect it from getting caught with a surplus of a product when an updated version is released, but it can buy a vendor's overstock advantageously because of its ability to jump into a volume deal with fast cash. When one manufacturer recently put a large quantity of a certain piece of software on the block at a bargain price, PCC plunked down several hundred thousand dollars for the entire lot, cornering an unbeatable retail price for months to come. And it earns the lowest fee schedules on credit-card charges, having driven the rate down by sheer sales volume. (Hall still stubbornly resists using American Express, because Amex still stubbornly resists lowering its rate.)

As formidable a volume shopper as PCC has come to be among manufacturers and distributors, its margin schedules do not necessarily dictate best buys for customers. Some intrepid competitors have tried to compete solely on price -- an arena where PCC may be vulnerable -- but without measurable success. (Indeed, two of PCC's staunchest competitors, both we'll-beat-any-price merchandisers, went under last year). That's because PCC's solid reputation turns its occasionally higher pricing structure into advantage. "There have been items we've gotten really good terms on," admits Gallup, "but we've never gone strictly on price; it's always because it's something we think people would want to use." For PCC repeaters, it's evidently worth a few more dollars now and again not to have to ask themselves after they get it, why was PCC selling this awful thing?

In lieu of rock-bottom prices, other thoughtful concessions are aimed at buyer fancies beyond the coffee mugs and pocketknives that PCC gives for customer constancy. For one, Hall dislikes nickel-and-dime add-ons, such as mail order's hoary "handling" charge; not only does PCC not tack them on, but if someone telephones in an order for an item that is quickly found and easily shipped -- a replacement knob, for instance -- it's postaged and handled gratis.

PCC's payment to many of its vendors is one day net. Not because the company hadn't been discharging credit obligations, says Gallup, "but because it's good for us. Sometimes manufacturers can't keep up with demand for products, and we're making sure we're on the top of their list. We want them to ship to us right away because they know they're going to get their money right away." To accommodate customers should a product be out of stock for a short time, PCC writes the invoice at the current price. Should that price be lowered when the new lot comes in, policy dictates that the difference be automatically refunded. Even if the amount is as scant as a cent, the computer dutifully disgorges a check. "The bank thinks we're nuts," admits Hall, "but I see it as cheap advertising."

A noncommissioned sales environment is another important ingredient of customer satisfaction, Hall has determined. As a retail shopper, he has been insulted once too often by computer-store clerks eschewing software shoppers in pursuit of the real money in hardware. Besides, in PCC's open setting, a salesperson on commission might be tempted to undercut another's overheard quotes. A strictly salaried force, on the other hand, is willing either to work patiently with callers or pass them on to specialists who can better help them. Sometimes customers themselves are attuned to the commission standard: "Shall I ask for you by name?" PCC salespeople often are asked. But when Hall considered assigning a permanent sales representative to each corporate account, invariably the customers answered: "That's not necessary, everyone is as good as everyone else.'

Being noncommissioned, a salesperson's efficiency can't be pinned down through conventional methods, especially since the PCC staff is encouraged to lavish not-necessarily-productive time on callers. As a stand-in for sales-per-employee analyses, a supervisor roams the aisles listening in on sales approaches, and errant sellers are coached into better techniques. Gumshoeing may be rather distasteful, Hall admits; then again, the snooper is apt to pick up a tip from the snoopee, who may have developed a twist that everyone can share.

In furtherance of PCC's one-for-all attitude, Hall has set up an internal system of "spifs' -- the trade term for cash premiums offered by vendors to retail salespeople for surpassing certain dollar volumes on given products. The idea is that if a salesperson knows there's a spif behind it, he or she will push that product over competing products. Hall, however, gathers the vendors' spifs into a blind pool, so salespeople won't be swayed by particular products. Sometimes, though, a spif is assigned to a specific set of products, such as when tax-preparation software began getting brisk play in February; Hall detected oh-no-not-another-tax-call grumblings from the sales floor, and soothed them by announcing a special spif for any tax program sold.

The effort to maintain service standards is far more demanding now than a few years back, Gallup acknowledges, if only because the pace of staffing is starting to slip behind PCC's torrid growth. In a chronically tight labor pool (in 1988 the unemployment rate in Cheshire County, N.H., was a meager 1.6%), PCC has been mounting recruitment programs that self-consciously extol the virtues of small-town isolation. "There are colder places to work than Marlow," one solicitation wryly points out, citing the Arctic and the Klondike as more challenging climes. In truth, Marlow's winter is apt to be nearly as rigorous, so PCC includes four studded snow tires and a set of ice-breaker windshield wipers among its benefits. Another appealing notion, Gallup offers tentatively, is that at lunchtime you can grab a quick ski.

In case those perks don't do the trick, Gallup and Hall are casting a more potent lure: a 100-acre plot of farmland on which they plan to build 10 houses, liberally spaced to avoid a company-town look. The houses are to be partially financed by PCC and sold at a modest cost-plus increment to employees who might otherwise not be able to afford their own.

Even after posting their first $100 million, PCC's two owners have yet to exhibit the familiar signs of fast-growth complacency that would place the next hundred million in jeopardy. "We never wait until we have a problem to come up with a solution," Gallup insists. "We come up with a solution before we have a problem." PCC has every returned product physically probed, for fear its reappearance may be signaling an about-to-widen headache. And Hall indefatigably reads every letter that comes in, lest he miss a hint of disaffection.

Especially evident problems, such as when Eastman Kodak suddenly downrated PCC in its supplier ratings, go right to customer-affairs director Haas. Getting to the bottom of this unacceptable turn of events, Haas rang up Kodak to find out what the problem was. You put packing slips inside your boxes, Kodak complained. "What's wrong with that -- don't you have to open the box to get at what's inside?" the perplexed Haas asked. Well, our receiving dock looks like a freight terminal gone mad, Kodak explained, and we can't afford to have to slice open the box, burrow through the packing material to find the slip, get the PO number, close up the box, and hope it makes it to the end-user without disappearing altogether.

Hmm, Haas pondered, the same thing is probably irritating any number of customers, only they haven't mentioned it. Now, PCC packers stick corporate-account packing slips on the outside. "I enjoy calls like that," he cheerfully confides. "They're opportunities to make someone happy."

Couldn't PCC consider not making people so happy, and settle into the unhurried up-country rhythm its founders originally intended? No way. To stay competitive in the mail-order business these days, you have to hold the undivided attention of manufacturers, and there's only one way to do that: move a lot of product. And Gallup and Hall know there's only one way to do that.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

THE COMPANY

Founded: February 1982

Primary line: Sells software and computer equipment by mail

Secondary line: Video production

Sales, 1982: $233,000

Sales, 1988: $120 million (estimated)

Six-year compound annual sales growth: 183% (estimated)

No. of employees, 1988: 210

Sales per employee, 1988: $571,000 (estimated)

THE FOUNDERS

Patricia Gallup

David Hall

Age at founding

28

32

Hours worked per week, 1982

80+

80+

Hours worked per week, 1989

65+

65+

Percentage of company owned

50%

50%

Business function

President, personnel director

CEO, treasurer

Education

University of Connecticut

University of New Hampshire

Degree/major subject

B.A./prehistorical anthropology

None/chemical engineering

Home before moving to New Hampshire

Mansfield Center, Conn.

Amityville, N.Y. (continued)


HELP WANTED

Tackling turnover

PC Connection's phone-handling course is so thorough that, to sharpen the conversational skills of new customer-service trainees, in one simulation session the instructor feigns foreign dialects in case a customer with a hard-to-understand accent dials in. The trainees also are exposed to other aspects of the mail-order trade during a four- to six-month apprenticeship, including two blue-collared weeks working in the warehouse picking and packing orders so that they will appreciate the potential for error when an order is entered incorrectly.

PCC's entry wages, which start in the low twenties, are competitive with those in Boston, 120 miles away -- a factor that has helped keep turnover low. But, president and personnel director Patricia Gallup acknowledges, maintaining service standards has become more demanding than it was four years ago, especially in the competitive New England market. Because of the local labor crunch (unemployment in 1988 was 1.6%), activity on the PCC sales floor is nonstop, and burnout has become a genuine concern.

As a reward to salespeople who put in a lot of overtime during the normal 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. order-taking day, PCC dangles substantial gifts. Many of the incentive items, such as canoes and tools, are ordered from another renowned mail-order specialist, L. L. Bean, just up the road in the neighboring state of Maine. PC Connection -- sometimes called the L. L. Bean of computers -- purchased so much gear this year that Bean rang back warily, concerned that PCC might be thinking of going into competition.


THE DELICATE BALANCE

Growing a company in a nongrowing town

For seven years now, PC Connection (PCC) has hired mostly within a 40-mile radius; therefore, few newcomers have moved in to strain the modest services of Marlow, N.H.

But you can't blame the populace for becoming a bit edgy. Who wouldn't, what with PCC's ground breaking for a $5-million commercial edifice that will centralize all its operations within the tiny municipality? To be sure, the company has pledged to make the building as unobtrusive as 120,000 square feet can be made, siting it well off the road, screening it with trees, and camouflaging it to blend with the bucolic background. Then again, when it comes to an aggressively expanding seven-year-old business versus an idyllic two-centuries-old town, guess which stands to lose.

In this case, though, PCC cofounders Patricia Gallup and David Hall have pledged themselves to planned growth. A hard-to-sell concept, perhaps, but one Marlovians can appreciate: history is repeating itself, and it wasn't that bad the first time around.

Indeed, PCC isn't the first enterprise to practice mail order in Marlow. For more than 70 years, starting in 1833, the Farley family posted printers' inks from the 155-year-old Victorian homestead that PCC now owns and is in the process of restoring. Besides, reports Tracy Messer, the company's in-house historian, PCC isn't even Marlow's first high-tech endeavor. In the 1890s the Granite State Evaporator Co. introduced a sap boiler that stood maple sugaring on its ear. Adding in the then-active sawmill (also owned and rehabbed by PCC today), industry was so brisk in the eighteenth century that town officials tried to direct the region's proposed railroad line through Marlow, rather than see it squandered on a southerly track.

Again the road of commerce is leading to little Marlow (population: barely 600), and it will be bearing more vans and semis than ever. But there are quid pro quos. In 1988 PCC accounted for some 15% of Marlow's tax revenues, even though its employees have added only three students to the town's schools. (There have been 34 marriages involving PCC employees, so that statistic is apt to change.) PCC already has donated six computers to the school and another to town government, has repaired the crumbling dam outside its headquarters to create a swimming hole, has proposed building a baseball field, and is supporting a group of local musicians.

Not every benefit is as tangible: stirred by pride after Messer mounted a show of antique photographs documenting Marlow in the old days, townspeople began fixing up houses that had hardly been touched since. For its part, PCC features both the old photographs and old, real-life Marlovians in colorful ads that highlight the attractions of country living.

PCC has acquired an additional 100 acres on which it plans to build housing for employees, triggering concerns that Marlow may turn into macadam. "But we're not developers," protests PCC customer-affairs director Peter Haas, a former exurbanite who happens also to be chairman of the planning board of the next town. "The pattern to really worry about is a developer coming along, buying up a nice piece of farmland, and making a big profit selling three-acre lots to New Yorkers who can't believe how low the prices are. Then the developer takes off, leaving it to the community to cope with the demand for services." PC Connection, of course, is staying and helping. One way: each house the company builds is to be on an average of 10 acres of land, twice what the zoning requires.

Though PCC is growing at a furious pace, would it have become yet stronger in a more accessible locale? "Possibly," grants president Gallup. "But the main thing is, we want to live here, and the people who work for us want to live here, and that's why it has been worthwhile to have to overcome the obstacles.'

Last updated: May 1, 1989




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