EduCALC Pulls Out of the HP Business
November 23, 1997
Sad to tell, the end of 1997 will also see EduCALC close its doors for good. After serving the HP Handheld user community so well for 21 years, EduCALC is folding its tents and going out of business... at least, out of the business of being the world's largest outlet of HP calculators and related products.
On December 31, 1997, Jim Carter will lock the door of their famous warehouse and showroom on Cabot Road in Laguna Niguel, California, and drive away for the last time. It will be totally empty, and the EduCALC signs will have been taken down. EduCALC is not in bankruptcy, and Jim Carter has made it clear that he's closing the business down "cleanly" with all shipments due being shipped, all payments due being paid, and all accounts receivable hopefully being received. The big "parking lot sale" during the past two days was held to help clear out the warehouse. It's pretty empty now.
The reasons for EduCALC's demise are many, and I hope that they tell the whole story some day (hopefully Richard Nelson or Jim Carter). In a nutshell, Hewlett Packard did EXACTLY the same thing that Commodore did to the Amiga. After getting so many dealers to carry HP calculators, HP then screwed their own dealers by selling calculators at brainless mega-stores like Office Depot. The dealers simply could not match the profit margin of these mega-stores, and they either dumped HP and went into other product lines, or went out of business.
In the heyday of HP calculator sales, 1 out of every 4 phone calls to EduCALC were sales-related. Recently that ratio had dropped to 1 out of 20! To add insult to injury, EduCALC was getting more and more calls that went like this:
Caller: Can you tell me the difference between the HP 48G and GX?
EduCALC: Sure! [detailed explanation snipped].
Caller: Thanks; it sounds like I'd rather buy the GX then.
EduCALC: Good choice. Would you like to order it now?
Caller: Oh, I'm not buying from you, I'm going to get it here at [name of brainless store snipped].
Caller: Yeah, their price is lower, but they didn't know anything about it, so they called HP, and HP said to call EduCALC, so you answered my question, thank you very much, and now I can buy it cheaper from somebody else. click
On top of this, HP Corporate has gotten too big and stupid for its own good. Their engineers are the greatest bunch of men and women anywhere, but HP Corporate is a pack of incompetent fools. Proof: They predict how many palmtops (or whatever) will probably sell in the next few months, and they make that many and then STOP PRODUCTION ENTIRELY. Last year EduCALC got a huge backorder for palmtops, and HP told them "Sorry, we're not making any more until next January." What kind of idiocy is that??? Believe it or not, HP even told Jim Carter that the way to avoid that problem this year was not to sell any palmtops during December. WHAT?!?!? EduCALC depended on the back-to-school rush and the Christmas rush for survival! Hewlett Packard is making all of Commodore's stupid mistakes, all over again. Sheesh.
Sooner or later you'll hear that EduCALC was also hurt deeply by the embezzlement of about a quarter million dollars of funds and products by a former employee. Although this may be true (the details will only be known for sure after the police investigation and legal red tape are taken care of), it's possible that EduCALC would have survived that problem if it hadn't been for the other problems mentioned above. Then again, $250,000 was not pocket change for EduCALC, which struggled to keep above water on the smallest possible profit margin. In any case, it didn't help.
January 1999 addition: Jim's Office Manager (whose name I will withhold) was convicted of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars over a six-year period, and she is now in jail. Her embezzlement of EduCALC was a major reason for the company going out of business.
I am personally saddened because Richard Nelson will lose his job there in two weeks. He's hosted the weekly HP48 Programming Class which will now end; he's been the prime mover and shaker of the Southern California Chapter of PPC (the original and oldest HP calculator group) which will now probably evaporate. He told me that he's looking into moving to Northern California to go back into teaching, and I wish him luck, but... He's been my friend for 21 years, and it really bums me out to have to say goodbye because HP Corporate is so freaking STUPID.
Enough rambling. Goodbye, EduCALC. It was fun. I'll miss you. A lot.
PS: If you call EduCALC, remember a few things: they have only a few people left; they have very little stock left; they are VERY eager to sell the remaining stock at almost ANY price; and do it SOON! Their famous 30-day return policy, of course, is no longer offered. All sales are final. They're in mop-up mode now.
-Joseph K. Horn-
Disclaimer: I didn't work for EduCALC.