by CIO Staff

‘Battery King’ Finds Elusive Charger

May 10, 20064 mins

High-tech companies like to predict that someday the world will be technological nirvana where we’re always connected to the Internet—and each other—via a plethora of shiny devices.

What they seem to have forgotten, however, is that power supplies for devices have evolved far less rapidly than technology itself. If we don’t have good, old-fashioned and fully charged batteries to power those devices, we might as well kiss the digital revolution goodbye.

That’s where a guy like Lynn Fuller, the self-titled “Battery King,” comes in handy.

The other day, when the battery charger for my digital camera suddenly didn’t work anymore, I knew I could find a replacement lithium battery easily enough, but locating a battery charger proved a slightly more difficult proposition.

First I checked online, and found comparable products, but none of them looked as good as the original one I received with my camera, and some appeared downright suspect. Then I began calling around to local electronics outlets like Best Buy, but they didn’t carry what I needed. They suggested camera stores that sold my camera’s brand, Konica Minolta. So, it was at a Wolf Camera store in San Francisco that I learned of Fuller, who owns a three-person battery supply company called Batteries Direct in Parkersburg, W.Va.

I explained what I was looking for to the man who answered the phone at Wolf, and he said the store did not have it in stock. “We usually tell people to call the Battery King,” he said, and reeled off a toll-free number.

“Wait, who is this guy?” I asked, confused. “I can’t just call some random guy.”

“His name is Lynn,” the Wolf employee told me, sounding slightly irritated—perhaps he had heard that question before. “Just call him.”

Intrigued, I did, and Fuller answered the phone on the second ring. Fuller, who started his company in 1985, likes to answer the phone, and will do so from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Eastern Time every day.

Fuller had my charger in stock, he told me in a pleasant drawl that made me feel at ease. (The product arrived right on schedule, two days later.) As we sealed the deal, we chatted about how a clerk in a far-away city camera shop would know that one man way out in West Virginia would be able to deliver what I needed.

You might think of West Virginia as a good place to find coal, green hills or agricultural products, but batteries? “This is the battery capital of the world,” joked Fuller, whose company has two websites by the names of Battery King and Batteries Direct

Fuller started out selling mostly laptop replacement batteries. To this day, companies such as Toshiba and Hewlett-Packard refer customers to Batteries Direct, he said.

Referral is the name of the game for the company, which used to advertise and give presentations at retail stores so clerks would refer customers if they didn’t have a battery or battery charger in stock. He doesn’t need to do much marketing anymore, Fuller said.

Fuller’s business gradually evolved over the years, and he now carries a wide range of batteries for electronic and digital devices, such as cell phones, digital cameras and camcorders, as well as chargers for rechargeable batteries.

Batteries Direct ships products worldwide. The company also used to create its own battery packs, and once created a battery pack system for the U.S. Space Shuttle, Fuller said.

The battery business has been so brisk that it has even spurred another company. Fuller said he used to send out Batteries Direct flexible magnets for customers’ refrigerators with every package. “I passed out so many and got so many calls about them, I figured I’d start a magnet company,” he said.

That company, called Magnets Direct, now designs magnets for the San Francisco 49ers football team and the TGI Friday’s restaurant chain.

-Elizabeth Montalbano, IDG News Service

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