The business continued to grow stronger and we were planning the big event at the Sheraton Hotel.
Bob had teamed up with American Express to do a joint marketing mail shot to all their Gold Card holders throughout the Middle East promoting Porsche Design sunglasses, watches and leather goods. This mail order worked very well indeed and Porsche Design and IWC had made 10 handmade solid 18ct gold Porsche Design Compass watches, from the 10 made, the first one had gone to Dr. Ferry Porsche himself, with several others going to other Porsche family members. Porsche Design and IWC had been stuck with three remaining watches and Bob had agreed to take them for the AMEX promotion that was to include a number of solid gold Porsche Design sunglasses made by Carrera and would be used especially for this event.
When we received the compass watch(s) they were so heavy it was like having a paperweight on your wrist and I had great reservations that we would sell them and that they might indeed end up as paperweights! However as all the sales were going through AMEX, we got our payment up front, less their commission and all we had to do was to make sure the signed order was delivered as advertised. Bob had arranged for all orders to be delivered by DHL so we had a signature to cover ourselves for each one.
Shortly after this success, Paul Stephen the Marketing Manager of AMEX Bahrain, asked me to do a similar marketing promotion for the impending Sheraton Porsche Car Show. I initially said, “You have got to be joking, who in their right mind would buy a Porsche car using an AMEX card, and besides we could not give AMEX a percentage off the top.” However, the more we all discussed this, the more I thought it was indeed a good idea, as we could get a lot of publicity for no cost to us. I was convinced no one would actually buy a car from us but in case the unexpected happened, I did a deal with AMEX for half of one per cent commission on any car sales. AMEX also gave us some cash to help meet the cost of the Sheraton event in return for having their logo everywhere, so everyone was happy as the evening neared.
I had arranged for a Porsche 930 turbo which was white with Burgundy interior, two 944 Coupes, a 928S in Pearl White with can can red interior, a 911 Targa also in Pearl White with can can interior, a 911 Coupe in Guards Red with all white leather interior with black carpets, and a 911 in powder blue with dark blue leather and carpets and we made up the other using some new customer cars.
When a car was built with white leather dashboard, we had to sign a waiver that neither we and or our customer agreed not to sue Porsche in the event of an accident. Porsche were always worried about the reflections from the dashboard in the driver’s eyes, hence the required waiver.
The ship duly arrived, Ghuloom cleared the cars from customs and we prepared and delivered them to the Sheraton Al Taj Ballroom.
I had sent out invitations to all leading local businessman and the Ruling Family members and we had RSVP’s from over a hundred people.
We had to take the doors off the ballroom to get all the cars inside but once this was organised the show took shape very quickly.
Paul Stephen from AMEX really helped us a lot and at last we were ready for the big evening. We planned to keep the cars in the ballroom for the following day and invite members of the public in to see them.
Sheikh Rashid was dressed in his formal national dress and I donned a white dinner suit and we welcomed our guests together that evening. The event turned out to be a huge success and we got a number of leads to future customers and promoted Porsche to our marketplace.
First Porsche Sale on Amex
However we had an unexpected bonus during the evening. Irene our secretary came over to me to say that, “Sheikh Ali bin Abdullah AL Khalifa wants to buy the Pearl White 911 Targa using his AMEX card as payment!” I knew Sheikh Ali and I went over to see Paul from AMEX and we joined up with Sheikh Ali and Irene to discuss the purchase. We processed his normal green AMEX card and rang through to get approval from AMEX call centre. I then arranged all the paperwork with Sheikh Ali asking Paul to double-check everything with AMEX himself.
We had a photographer at the event and I asked Sheikh Ali to have a picture of him taking the keys from myself with Paul from AMEX, but he refused. He told me he did not want to be in the newspapers, so I told him this would only be used outside of Bahrain in the Porsche magazine Christophorus and then he agreed.
I believe I was the first person to sell a Porsche car on AMEX in the world.
Chainlink fence’s and Porsche’s don’t mix.
We all went home around 11.30pm and on my way home in our new Porsche 944 demonstrator; I ended up putting it through a chain link wire fence backwards and into someone’s front garden!
The rain had come on suddenly and the roads were very greasy when it rained in Bahrain, as there was always a lethal combination of sand, oil, rubber and the water just sat on the uneven surface. The 944 started to snake as I drove through numerous puddles and then all I saw next were the trees rushing by the windows as I spun out of control through the fence. The car stopped in the front garden bogged down in mud. I knocked at the house door but no one answered.
I was near to my home; I locked the Porsche 944 up and walked home in the rain getting soaked through in my dinner suit.
The next morning I had to go and call the traffic police and explain what had happened, but when I presented myself at the Traffic Department, I got arrested for leaving the scene of an accident the night before. I then called Sheikh Rashid to get him to explain to the officer in charge that I was with him the previous evening and they let me go.
I went to see the Porsche 944 in the police compound and we arranged to transport it to our workshop. When Rob looked into things, he found an old wood screw in the rear flat tyre and he said coupled with the puncture, rain and very slippery conditions, the slow flat tyre had caused me to spin off. We soon repaired the surface damage to the car and I was back on the road again in a few days.
Second AMEX sale
Two days had elapsed after the show at the Sheraton Al Taj ballroom when we had a caller into our workshops. This was a nephew of Sheikh Ali (our first AMEX customer) called Sheikh Khalid bin Mohammed bin Abdullah Al Khalifa who was interested in buying one of two Porsche 911 coupes we had left for sale. The car in question was Guards red with all white leather interior with black carpets. When I started to discuss the car with Sheikh Khalid, I was surprised he did not want to test drive the car. He said, "No that is fine, I will take it. You take American Express I understand."
I then took him into the office and this time it was a Gold AMEX card (Sheikh Ali had used a green one) and I got Irene to call through to AMEX for authorisation. She called me to one side and said, “The girl at AMEX said they had approved BD 12, 000/- for this card earlier in the day?” I could not understand this, so I called Paul Stephen and got him to check things out for us. Paul called back and said there was some confusion as Sheikh Khalid had spent BD 12, 000/- in a jewellery shop in the morning and now we were seeking approval for a similar amount with us. Irene called AMEX back and we got our authorisation so we had concluded our second AMEX sale within 3 days!