In New Zealand and Australia you can buy electric appliances from a shop called Dick Smith.  Dick is Australian (ahem).  Here is what the signs look like in 2012.

I show you this purely so that I can tell you a story.  I was once at a really fantastic talk about the Treaty of Waitangi by Moana Jackson (I don’t use the word fantastic lightly when I talk about the Treaty of Waitangi… talks about the Treaty of Waitangi usually deserve the adjectives boring, pointless, and ignorant).  Anyway, he told us about when his daughter was learning to read, and they drove past a Dick Smith store and she said she could read the sign outside the shop.  “What does it say?” asked Moana.  “Dick Head Smith,” his daughter announced.

Here is Dick (just so you know, yes I am going to be using his first name as much as possible in this post) in 1982,

As you can see, he is wearing the super on trend white suit of the early 80s, which puts him on the same fashion page as Simon Le Bon.  I also note that heavy, black plastic frames have come back in for glasses.

Here’s what DICK was trying to sell us in 1982:

Why, Dick, why?  Why do I need the time twice? 

Ok, one at a time:

  • A pen/watch.  I can remember thinking this was cool, before I realised it was pointless.  We were in the pioneering age when clocks went digital and people thought they could make anything modern by putting a clock in it.  Also, “a watch in the handle”… do pens have handles?  Actually, what do pens have?  Stems? Shafts?
  • Advanced metal detector.  Did anyone fall for this?  Weekend gold hunting.  Sure, because as we all know, gold is generally found lying around in fields and buried in beaches.  If only all those idiots panning for gold in river beds in the 1860s had known.
  • The $460 answering machine.  Love the phone.  Not using it (it’s like so SLOW to dial a number), but looking at it.  In New Zealand you have to dial 111 in an emergency.  By the time you had done this on a phone like the one above the emergency was usually over.  There must have been a lot more calls like this to the emergency call centre in NZ in the 80s:

Operator: Which service do you require?

Caller: You know what, my house has pretty much burned down so let’s just forget it.

As for calling the police because there was an intruder in the house.  Well, you could totally forget that. 

Scene: interior, bedroom, night

Sound of breaking glass off stage.  We see a woman sit up in bed.  She grabs the phone by her bed.  She lifts receiver and begins to dial 111.  After dialing first 1 she sits and waits for the plastic dial to slowly click back to its starting position.

Burglar (off stage): I can, like, totally hear you dialing the police from the other side of the house.

Woman: No I’m not.  (She noisily dials the second 1)

Burglar: Just so you know, I have already stolen your TV.

Woman: Ok.

Burglar: And your oven and fridge.

Woman: Ok.  (Dial returns to starting position, she begins to dial third 1)

Burglar: Well, I’ll be shooting off I guess.

Woman: Yep.

Burglar: Catch you later.

DICK has been in the papers recently.  He sold his company to Woolworths in the early 80s.  Seems that Woolworths are now selling up.  They have been shedding 30-40 stores a year for a few years and now are looking to close 100 more to make it a more attractive prospect for buyers.  DICK is not happy.

the Woolworths’ decision was a sign Australia was moving closer to the point when everything would be foreign-owned….  he believed selling it to a foreign investor would mean “further destruction of Australia”.

“This is just continuing where all the wealth is going overseas and damaging our country,” he said.  The Buy Australian campaigner believed the local market was not big enough to provide sustained profits for companies in an increasingly globalised world.  “When you want endless growth only the biggest survive,” Mr Smith said. “Little Australia won’t have any ownership at all.”

Really?  I have three points DICK. 

Firstly, you sold your own company to a foreign business 30 years ago. 

Secondly, your business has nothing to do with Buy Australian Made but is about importing foreign designed and made goods. 

Thirdly, I take it this means that New Zealanders shouldn’t go to your stores because in New Zealand your stores are an example of an attempt at “endless growth” of which “little [NZ] has no ownership at all.”


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I wrote a book: https://www.seraphpress.co.nz/kaitiaki.html

14 thoughts on “Dick”

  1. LOL I thought the exact same thing when i read your points at the end.

    Dick’s got a bit of a problem. Woollies is completely dead and buried in the UK and they’re probably selling off as many stores as they can to pay off their foreign debtors.

  2. Woolworths seem to be a shrinking brand everywhere then. I wonder what went wrong for them. Probably I could find out by looking at Wikipedia but I’m far too lazy to do those keystrokes.

    Dick will be ok. I don’t even know why he’s complaining; he sold out all of his business by 1982.

  3. The Australian company Woolworths Ltd has no connection to the original American company FW Woolworth or its UK subsidiary, Woolworths Group (both of which have ceased to exist). When the Australian business was founded in 1924, it cheekily took the Woolworths name, as the founder discovered it hadn’t been trademarked in Australia. So when Dick Smith sold his electronics stores to Woolworths, he was selling to a 100% Australian company.

    But speaking of changes to Dick Smith, remember when it used to sell electronic components? That was part of my childhood.

  4. By the way, Dick Smith still owns Dick Smith Foods, a company dedicated to producing Australian-made foods. It’s a direct response to all the globalisation of popular Australian (and New Zealand!) foods. There is a cream cheese spread but it is not called Dick Cheese.

  5. My main question is this:
    Why didn’t the advanced metal detector have a digital clock in it? I think that’s a product where it makes sense. “Jesus, I’ve wasted three hours searching for gold by this duck pond? I’m a dick.”

  6. Hmmmm, interesting – I didn’t know that about Woolies 🙂 Either way, I agree with Jp – I don’t think Dick has much justification for complaining when he sold out his electronics business thirty years ago LOL

  7. LOL That’s an excellent point. If I remember correctly, I believe there was some kind of law passed throughout the western world that made it illegal to manufacture anything without a digital clock.

  8. Hmmm. I always run hot and cold on this BUY [insert country here] MADE stuff. Seems like it is often some kind of code for “don’t by Asian stuff”. Presumably Dick is not a supporter of NZ apples being imported into Australia (for example), but sees no problem with Aussie stuff being exported to other countries?

  9. Rotary-dial phones were indeed painful. I can scarcely remember a school office that didn’t have one. And I remember trudging down to the school office after throwing up on my desk and then having to dial all seven numbers on that damn phone to get my mom to pick me up.

    I never before considered the reason all those digital clocks started appearing on everything back in the 80s. You’re right; it was like they were showing off. Sort of reminds me of when they got the technology to build tiny TVs. Pretty soon there’s a wristwatch with a TV on it and you’re supposed to walk down the street catching up with Benson on your arm.

    Dick Head Smith — fantastic!

  10. I remember those answering machines fondly. I erased a lot of messages from the high school about classes I was skipping before my parents got home. Good times, good times.

  11. Ha. Cellphones have ruined this, but reports can still be “lost” between the mailbox and the front door.

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