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Written by Gary J. Arzt

Friday, 23 January 2009

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Puff: You felt that tobacconists in the U.S. lacked an adequate degree of knowledge and professionalism? 

JLA: Yes, and consumers too - including me, as I learn something new every day.
Ironically, today's cigar and pipe smokers are more educated than ever, thanks to magazines, the internet, and passionate reporters like you.  But that substance can be offset by marketing myths and hobbyist tobacconists who are more interested in passing the time by smoking cigars.  I think every B&M customers have as many bad B&M stories as they have good ones.  And this inspired me, since I fell in love with the industry in Washington DC, which had at least two world class Tobacconists - and once you have seen the difference, you realize the value of a great Tobacconist.

Ours is a romantic passion, the rituals, the time you take, the smells, the smoke etc.... So it is only natural to excessively romanticize and exaggerate certain imagery and words.  But the beauty of the luxury tobacco industry is that it needs no exaggeration; the extraordinary realities, like 300 hands touching every tobacco leaf, are enough to justify the true artistry and magnificence of this industry.   Above All, I thought the industry needed an objective and credible resource to spread the wonderful truth about its people and products.

Puff: Who wrote the curriculum? Was it a collaborative effort? 

JLA: I have done most of the writing, but in 2007 we started accepting Academic Contributions from industry members, and have Certified Retail Tobacconists (CRT) contributing copy and writing assignments; we also have Kate Bellando, CRT, our Academic Administrator and R. Sloane Franklin, CRT, our Director of Academic Resources doing writing now.  I believe the future of our development will come from Certified Tobacconists who will have their contributions placed in the academic curriculum with their names and store logos.  But, we welcome all credible industry members to contribute as we are an open-source curriculum.  You can also view our Resources section to see who/what resources have been used.

Puff: My original impression was that the "university" functioned as an online entity. I am now aware that you conduct live seminars. How does Tobacconist University operate? 

JLA: It's funny that people think of TU as a website, but we think of the website as the primary communication tool of the University. Tobacconist University; without the internet would never exist, at it would be cost prohibitive to publish anything - but it is only a tool.

The internet allows us to publish our entire academic content - you don't even need to give us your email to see/experience it (although we would love to have you on our mailing list); both consumers and professionals can access all of Tobacconist University, for free!!! 

The internet site(s) provide a virtual campus for Tobacconists around the world.  If a retail Tobacconist sends us an email stating they would like to be certified, we send them an Introduction Email which asks them to accept the Code of Ethics & Standards.  After they accept the Code, they are listed on the Certified Tobacconist Webpage. Then, on the first Monday of every month we start a series of 12 E-Seminars (two per week) which act as a study aid to get you through the academic curriculums' four colleges: Tobacco, Accoutrements, Taste, and Service (for professional Tobacconists).  At the end of six weeks retail Tobacconists are ready to take the final exam (usually it takes them a few months).

But, yes, I have done live seminars on multiple topics at the last 3 IPCPR conventions and get paid to do Seminars for Certified Salesforce Tobacconists (CST)*.  In particular, Miami Cigar & Co. has certified their entire in-house salesforce and their customer service representatives, so for the last two years we have been doing all day seminars to train and teach them - as well as learn from them.  This January we did a Seminar/Workshop on how to better service Retail Tobacconists.  I am in a unique position as a retail Tobacconist, knowing what I know, plus I travel around certifying other Tobacconists so I get to learn a lot from the best - I try and take this knowledge and use it to help all Tobacconists, including CST. 

*One of the unique things a CST does is bring retailers the TU final exam, as a favor.  So CST has the unique ability to consummate the TU + Retail Tobacconist relationship by bringing them the final exam.

Puff: Would one not have expected this type of programme to be developed ages ago by the IPCPR (Formerly the RTDA)?






Comments 

 
0 # President TUJorge Armenteros 2009-01-24 04:28
Thank to Gary Arzt and Puff for writing and publishing this article. The questions were great and I thouroughly enjoyed the process. Looking forward to many more years of productive and proactive communications...

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