Location, Location, Location

Last week’s post gave a rambling answer to a Reader’s Question from Worried Mom asking about survival of private practice.  The Answer went down the old bricks-and-mortar path, consolidated into a set of reflections that I (jokingly) referred to as my  Unified Location Theory– 17 years in the making and no better now than it was back in 1995.  I clarified that this grand theory boiled down to “Location, Location, Location” but not location in the traditional sense of store-front, corner-location thinking.

Exhibit A:  Headquarters, Clark&Kent, New York City

Today’s post pays homage to the traditional axiom that storefront thinking about Location DOES matter.  There are people out there thinking creatively about how to use that old approach to advantage.  As Exhibit A, I present the venerable advertising agency Clark&Kent, which has transformed itself from Superman’s phone booth closet into Clark Kent’s phone booth ad agency:

“The headquarters of advertising agency Clark&Kent is located in a New York City phone booth. To help people remember, they have created business cards that pop-out to look like a tiny phone booth.”

Defying traditional media approaches–including the telephone hanging in the office, the mailbox  and the free local newspaper dispenser next door– Clark&Kent can be contacted only through electronic media (e.g., facebook page), though their clever business cards seem to encourage walk-ins (or walk-bys?). This forward-thinking company is using Location to guarantee success.

Now, let’s have some of this less-is-more creative thinking in our field.  Why not business cards that pop up into single-use hearing aids, like the old disposable cameras we took on vacations before we got smart phones?  Our convertible hearing aid cards would be emblazoned with our names and “dispensed” from our own versions of phone booths.  Who says small independent practices are on their way out?!

Just think how many times throughout the years  we’ve used test booths the size of phone booths for various applications.  Offices-on-casters (see feature photo at top) have the added convenience of relocatability, just in case you don’t plop down at an anchor location on your first try and have to keep pursuing the cognitive mapping of local consumers.{{1}}[[1]]A previous post investigated the legality of selling from portable stalls – we’re cleared for it under Sector 44 of the NAICS, Retail Trade–so long as we don’t sell food. Whew![[1]] That important features satisfies an important requirement of the Unified Location Theory — being in a community.  In fact, audiology in a phone booth can access a worldwide community, thanks to the Payphone Project which documents and “preserves the memory of public telephony…includ[ing] a massive collection of about 750,000 payphone numbers and locations throughout the United States and the world…even Antarctica!

The phone booth office satisfies all other requirements of the Unified Location Theory (underlined items throughout this post) as well:

  • Locate in a Commons area:  You just can’t get more into the public domain than a street corner, especially when the cop asks you politely to move on.  I can see it now — audiologists will be fighting for street vendor permits at city hall.
  • Locate where there are Local Communications, Regional Newspapers:  Observe the free newspaper stand next to the phone booth in Exhibit A.
  • Locate for Convenience.  Old fashioned phone booths were located not only in public places, but convenient places with aggregated shopping and parking.   Forget the test booth. Just move into an abandoned phone booth — look how easy it is to see merchandise displays in Exhibit A.  You’ll be helping the Payphone Project, thereby getting your phone number listed in their “massive collection” while you simultaneously qualify for a charitable donation.  Think of the tax deduction possibilities here.
  • Be the First One on the Block.   This just keeps getting better.  No doubt, your phone booth was the first one on the block.  Most likely you can get your office approved as a national historic building — I think all public phone booths are at least 50 years old.  That reduces your property tax by almost 50%.  
  • Solid But Not Hefty.  For their size, phone booths and test booths are plenty heft.  They’re not going to be blown over and nobody’s going to walk off with them.  At the same time, their highly-desirable compactness allows the operator to monitor all functions in real time…. as well as answer the occasional phone call.  

Apologies to readers who were expecting a serious post today. But, I think there are a few gems hidden here which are worth pursuing:

  1. I’ll bet a used phone booth is cheaper than a test booth.  
  2. There’s a built-in Marketing Message that does half your work for you before a person even walks into your office: phone booths telegraph strong messages of privacy, noise reduction, and communications– all highly desirable features for those who use phone booths OR hearing aids.    
  3. It must be a disruptive innovation because it’s using old technology (pay phones) in a whole new way.  I doubt anyone has considered this application of telemedicine.  Think of the possibilities in Antarctica.  
Exhibit B:  Hearing Economics’ Boutique Hearing Healthcare Center

Phone booths offer a new spin on the Boutique Audiology concept.  I found a great boutique site this weekend in Philadelphia (Exhibit B).  This lovely, antique English phone booth is ideally situated outside a busy (probably noisy) restaurant that coincidentally is  called “Elephant & Castle.” Tragically, the booth sits empty, not even used for take-out food.  For the right price, we can get our name in the slot and build a thriving, symbiotic business by aiding customers who had difficulty hearing in that noisy restaurant.  

Finally, I have to point out that phone booths are an improvement over submarines, which were an option suggested in the original Reader’s Comment:  “We have done pretty well and could … become a submarine.”  Well really, I didn’t want to be rude to that Commenter, but I think doing hearing healthcare in a submarine is just plain silly{{2}}[[2]]Yes, Readers, I DO know that my idea of hearing healthcare in a phone booth is silly, but it’s OK if you want to send an irate Comment telling me just how silly it is.[[2]] — parking is impossible, access is a big issue, they’re invisible when they’re under water….  I could go on and on.  I hope that Worried Mom will read this post to the end and rethink her options.  Phone booths are a lot like submarines so it shouldn’t be too hard to make the switch.  

Photos courtesy of Mark Thomas and acoustical solutions 

About Holly Hosford-Dunn

Holly Hosford-Dunn, PhD, graduated with a BA and MA in Communication Disorders from New Mexico State, completed a PhD in Hearing Sciences at Stanford, and did post-docs at Max Planck Institute (Germany) and Eaton-Peabody Auditory Physiology Lab (Boston). Post-education, she directed the Stanford University Audiology Clinic; developed multi-office private practices in Arizona; authored/edited numerous text books, chapters, journals, and articles; and taught Marketing, Practice Management, Hearing Science, Auditory Electrophysiology, and Amplification in a variety of academic settings.


  1. I love the silliness of this! It has a bit of a Monty Python feel to it. Come to think of it, so does the submarine…..

    Very fun read – thanks!

    1. Thank you for the comment. I’ll try to get back on track next week, unless John Cleese calls to offer me a writing gig. Probably not….

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