Local

Got too much stuff?

Americans certainly love their "stuff." It's everywhere - crowding closets, overwhelming attics, and busting basements. The more it grows, the harder it is to tame. And taming takes time, a precious commodity. Mark Bischoff learned his lesson when he retired last year and finally had time to clean out his basement. After finishing the complicated, multi-day project, Bischoff bought a franchise of 1-800-Got-Junk?, a Vancouver, B.C.-based junk removal company with more than 270 outposts on several continents. Got-Junk removers, dressed in freshly cleaned uniforms with equally clean blue trucks, haul out a customer's unwanted items, sweep up the rubbish, recycle and donate what they can, and deliver the rest to the dump. "I would have spent the money," Bischoff said of his own experience. "It's a premium service, but yet it's a great service that can save you a lot of time, effort, and aggravation, and that appeals to me." Bischoff is equally positive about the company he has joined. He describes the experience of becoming a franchisee as much like becoming an employee. "It's almost like you have to earn your way in with them," he said. The company flew Bischoff to Vancouver where he interviewed with executives to determine whether he was "a good fit" before signing the contracts. Got-Junk?, which was founded by chief executive Brian Scudamore in Vancouver in 1989, mixes high-tech operating systems with quirky grassroots promoting. All customer calls are fielded through a central call center in Vancouver, then dispatched through the company's intranet communications system, Junknet. The company tries to consolidate trips by zip code to maximize efficiency for franchisees, Bischoff said. The businessman is unfazed by the company's "guerrilla marketing" tactics, which include a thorough planting of 1-800-Got-Junk? signs, direct mailings, feet-on-the-street door flyers, and "the wave," for which employees don blue clown wigs, safely position themselves along a busy road, and wave at cars. Bischoff and his four employees "just have fun with it," he said, adding that his company is gaining brand and name recognition. The Libertyville resident based his franchise in Crystal Lake, where he is focusing his marketing efforts, but his territory covers most of McHenry County, as well as Boone, Winnebago and Stevenson counties. Bischoff said he likes that he is helping people, citing a recent job hauling various pieces of furniture from the basement of an older, female customer. "She would never have been able to do that herself," he said. Bischoff might discover more about the local community than he ever wanted to know. Since the Got-Junk was founded, employees have hauled away such unusual items as urns, frozen animal carcasses, used diapers, and 18,000 cans of expired sardines. Couches and sofas are the most common items sent packing, according to the company. 1-800-Got-Junk? Web site: www.1800GotJunk.com. Local franchisee: Mark Bischoff. Cost: Determined by volume, with a $98 minimum. Bischoff still is hammering out his truckload price, but he will charge by the fraction of truckload filled. By LIZ WOLGEMUTH lwolgemuth@nwherald.com

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