(Topic ID: 211448)

A Pecos Diary - My Journey to Pinball Operator

By Pecos

3 years ago

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  • Latest reply 1 year ago by Atari_Daze
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#88 3 years ago

Fingerprints/background check took almost the max amount of time. The funny thing is if they made a single phone call they would have saved themselves a lot of time. Oh well.

Do that spreadsheet on something like Google Sheets if you have a Gmail account. Eliminates double effort and less chance of data entry errors.

Looking forward to location announcements.

4 weeks later
#110 3 years ago
Quoted from Ramtuathal:

I finally caught up on this informative and interesting thread - thanks for documenting and sharing your journey to route operator. Whew!
I had no idea there were so many bureaucratic hoops to jump through to put a machine on route. For contrast, I started a (non-pin related) LLC in AZ a few years ago. IIRC, it was $50 for an Arizona Corporations Commission application for an LLC, $40 (?) to publish a public notice (in... some AZ newspaper), and $0 to get an EIN from the feds. So, for $90, I was (literally) in business. No fingerprints, no background checks, no "privilege" tax fees. Wow. I'm curious to know if soda machine vendors have to go through the same process you did, or if there is some (legal) residual prejudice against pinball machines because they were deemed "gambling devices" for most of the mid-20th century (bow to Roger Sharpe).
Not to dampen your enthusiasm for originality, but I can offer an anecdote about logo, font, layout, web design, etc. that might give you a pearl to ponder regarding your marketing. You've been given some sound advice in this thread about branding and web presence. I tried to diy all that for my own biz (and, like you, I preferred to code my own html, etc., except HTML 5 and meta data coding is not like it was when I was whipping out geocities pages in the late 90's w html 2+). I spent many hours trying to tweak my page to function on most browsers (desktop and mobile) and that was one helluva a challenge for an amateur OL programmer. With grit and brute force, I finished it all up and showed my work to my wife (her BA is in Commercial and Graphic Design) and, well, she tore my design apart. I was frustrated because (1) I didn't want to hire anyone to do work I thought I could do, and (2) I wanted to do it myself. My pearl for you: Sometimes what you think looks good - no matter how much you think it represents you - isn't what will catch the eye and gain the top-of-mind presence you want your clients to have. I'm not trying to be negative - in fact, I want you to succeed! However, when those quarters start rolling in (and they will!), I implore you to hire a brand manager to smooth out the rough edges of your marketing package.
Finally, congratulations on becoming a full-fledged operator! Maybe one day I'll be at a bar in Tucson and I'll see a Honey or #Moulin Rouge .

The extra steps are because of the $150 vendor license. Pinball falls under that to the city. Took us at least 6 weeks to get our prints approved which is funny considering the place myself and my business partner work for our 9-5.

1 month later
#121 3 years ago
Quoted from PinPilot:

Good on you Pecos for all your efforts!
Allow me to share this - We just sold two machines to an operator in Texas who runs about 20 machines. I don't have his permission to share his name, but I will share some "generic" info about his operation. He is in a large Texas city, located close to the airport in a warehouse district. Rather than locate his machines scattered all over town, he found a local business who had some extra warehouse floor space. They added on a room to the office area (literally 2"x4" wood plus drywall and insulation) and placed the machines there. He updated Pinmaps to indicate his existence, and he is doing fairly well on a 70/30 split. He mentioned $600-$800 per month gross as his share. He said he gets lots of traffic from business travellers looking to kill time before their flight, and everyone finds him on Pinmaps. All machines in one location greatly simplifies his operation.
Just a thought, but best wishes to you sir!

The main pinball location in town (D&D) is in something similar. They rent a converted garage space, maybe 1200 sqft, just off one of the main shopping streets. They have an ideal location, "minimal" rent compared to an actual retail space, and have room for up to 30 games. They tend to keep it closer to 24 though.

I run Tucson Pinball with a buddy and we have 3 route locations. We are at 20 games between the 3 locations. Ours is a hobby LLC.

We have talked about what it would take for us to pull our locations and just open a single location. Then we look at rent at places that aren't warehouses and it is quite a pretty penny. The further east you go in Tucson, the fewer warehouses you can find. I don't think we are brave enough to go big yet.

The point is that Tucson is a little goofy with the way it is laid out. I'm looking forward to Pecos getting into a few places out east. I'll make it a point to go play them as they are unique titles from what I have and what D&D has.

#128 3 years ago

Just bring Windex with you on your collection days and fingers on glass will mostly likely be the "worst" thing you will encounter.

2 months later
#141 3 years ago

I'd still suggest you have that spreadsheet up on google drive. I enter each machine as I count quarters into drive and can be done at the location pretty quick. Then I can go over the numbers at my leisure. If you want to be methodical about things, that's not a problem at all, but the convenience of having the spreadsheet web based is really nice.

Also, try to collect on the same day of the week/month/whatever. It will help you track average earnings compared to other locations with just a simple glance. I collect on Thursdays for 2 locations, since that's when I have tournaments at one spot and the other is on the way. The third location is typically on the Tuesday I have events at that location, and other random times during the month. Still ends up being 4 times a month usually, but that one is a little more of a convenience stop, and not as scheduled.

1 week later
#150 3 years ago

Why would you want them keyed differently?

#160 3 years ago
Quoted from Brijam:

It's likely that somebody can re-key those locks, but it will definitely be cheaper to buy used locks. It's just not that big of a deal to have a few different keys until you have a lot of pins on route.

I have 17 games out now and at least 5 keys. They are all kept together, but not all on the same ring. I’d like to get it down to one or two keys, but it’s not a big deal at the moment. As long as you know what goes to what lock it’s fine.

1 week later
#177 3 years ago

I'm working on a few classic Bally/Stern games right now and am having quite a "fun" time with the rectifier board/transformer in one machine right now. Looking forward to things getting back up and running for you. Is the place open now, or is the "grand opening" still coming up? Just wanting to know when I can go play.

#179 3 years ago
Quoted from Pecos:

They are going through their soft opening now and are open 6AM to 8PM currently. They are having a heck of a time finding good help. I hear the same thing from a friend who owns a DQ. The Grand Opening is set for October 13th. I plan to bring one of my ‘special’ games like Wizard! or Firepower set to free play.
Wait until I get Harlem back to the Spotted Bull before visiting. It will be worth the wait. The backglass is a 10 and the repro playfield is a 9.5. I just ordered $110 worth of LEDs from Comet and a new rectifier board from barakandl for it so it should be a real standout.

Thanks for the good wishes. I can say that I have a much better appreciation for having just a few pins on route, let alone 17! We should meet up sometime and compare notes.

Did you get the resistor board kit for classic Ballys? It keeps LEDs from blinking when they shouldn't.

#197 3 years ago
Quoted from pinheadpierre:

I really appreciate your perseverance in bringing older games back into the wild. It's a truly commendable effort.
I'm curious how you have selected the initial titles to put on location. I ask because it seems like you have either run into a bit of bad luck with immediate breakdowns or maybe haven't chosen the most reliable examples from your herd? Maybe there are other machines in your collection that are mechanically more route ready? Or maybe the ones you're really focused on sharing with the public just need more private testing before putting them on route?
I would have the game set up at home EXACTLY like it would be on route (needs coins for credits, special/ match features set at appropriate values, etc) and play the crap out of it. I would even set myself a high semi-arbitrary threshold of test games (100? 200?) that the machine would have to pass before being deemed ready. Any breakdowns during the testing period would reset the clock and the testing process to zero. Ideally, I would like the machine to have proven itself trouble free for months on end with regular use before becoming a route candidate.
I know that breakdowns are inevitable with everything, but maybe having a more rigorous reliability testing procedure in place would help. Or maybe I'm just unrealistic about how often lightning strikes in the wild....(looks at sky and ducks head).
I've been following along since the beginning of this thread and hope to see many future posts in which you cannot keep up with your overflowing cash boxes!

“Funny” story. I got a shift Speed from a friend who had started taking the topside apart waiting for the Hardtop. I wasn’t going to wait so I put it back together to go on route. Solved a few electrical issues as well. Played 50 games in a few days, easily. Put it on route and the power supply fails 2 days later. Doh! It happens.

#201 3 years ago

It’s 40+ years old, it’s ok if it’s not perfect.

#210 3 years ago

Very cool! Did you know Bud was going to be doing that story? Not trying to steal any spotlight or anything, but Bud came to an event earlier this year, was there for two hours chatting and observing. He talked about playing pinball in high school and that there were at least 2 in the student union when he was in college. There are a few details that get mixed in the video, but all in all I was happy with how this story went. Bud is a legit pinball enthusiast and an all in all nice dude.

Side note. It is way harder to answer interview questions while playing a game. Between not sounding like a stammering idiot AND keeping the ball alive, it's quite tough.

1 week later
#212 3 years ago

Our coverage was specifically for the City Championship, so it was all about the pinball.

3 weeks later
#228 2 years ago
Quoted from NicoVolta:

It’s not the price, it’s the draw. What glory can be achieved for winning? Three of our most popular pins are Fan-Tas-Tic, Klondike, and Wheel of Fortune.
What do they all have in common? Gambling awards. That’s what Pat Lawlor correctly predicted with Safe Cracker... and why it still gets huge lines at TPF when loaded with custom tokens.
Leagues and tournaments are primarily based upon winning and prizes. I have a friend who has an 8-Ball in a bar near Austin. He gives away a free beer for hitting a certain score. The game is hugely popular for that reason.
I’m not saying redemption is the only important thing, but we pinballers (particularly operators) are missing a HUGE piece of the pie by not incorporating awards into the game. We need to get creative again while pinball is making a comeback... it’ll hook many more players if done right.

I freaking love Fan-tas-tic. Hitting “spin” is such a joy.

3 weeks later
#243 2 years ago

I plan on getting there soon. Will have to be when both levels are open since I want to play games on top and bottom.

3 months later
#262 2 years ago
Quoted from Sanctionman:

Hey pecos. Wanted you to know I really enjoyed this thread. I've played pinball for 30 years, but it has pretty much been me and a couple of buddies. I've had a Funhouse at home for 18 years and pretty much have been living in my own pinball world. Recently discovered pinside and found there is a whole community out there that I had no idea about. Found this thread by accident. It was fun to see the passion for pinball in Tucson. BTW, I also lived in Apache dorm (85-86) and my first real pin I played was Cyclone over at the Bayhorse on Grant Ave. Been hooked ever since. It was weird reading this because I just played your pin over at D&D yesterday! Also desertt1 I've dropped a few quarters into Whirlwind, Taxi, and Diner over the last month. I just may have to show up to one of your tournament nights one of these days!
Thanks guys. It was a fun read. Hope to run into you one of these days.

Hey Del, thanks for the support towards all of the local location pinball places. Come check out a tournament when you can. It's a really cool group of players.

I'm hoping to get back over to Hotrods this weekend for some games.

1 month later
#276 2 years ago
Quoted from stumptown:

How does your Stars do? I've got mine out in a bar alongside ten other machines and it's consistently one of the most commented on and played titles there. People love that game (self included)!

The Stars belongs to D&D. Robert says it does pretty well because it’s newer to them, but casual players don’t tend to revere the games that we do. My Stars at my 9 game location gets played by tournament players more than casuals. Casuals will plays it, get destroyed, and move to a game with a ball save or a more familiar theme even if it costs more.

1 week later
#281 2 years ago
Quoted from hocuslocus:

What are the things that break that are specific to an EM?
At this one arcade I was at, they had like 7 of em and 6 were broken.... That's always turned me off from trying one.
I've been contemplating putting one out, but the idea of trying another era of machine and learning new pitfalls, keeping more spare parts kind of puts me out of that bubble. Probably just need to do it and see what happens.

I’d love to hear the Pecos response to this as he is way more experienced with them than anyone locally.

This specific Grand Prix has never scored right so if he got that sorted out it’s time for some spinner nirvana.

#286 2 years ago
Quoted from guymontag451:

That's the truth! It's a passion project for sure. Eventually you dial a route to make a little money, but you won't get rich doing it.

The goal is not riches. The goal is to buy MORE machines!

1 month later
#296 2 years ago

Wow, big bummer about the Spotted Bull. Did you know they were headed towards closing when you pulled your games? If so that was nice of them to let you know. If not, you got a little lucky.

Honestly though, that isn’t the best spot for a restaurant. I live in Vail and had only gone once when it was the previous business. There isn’t a ton out here, but that’s far enough away that it’s out of sight out of mind. If it was on the corner of the frontage road instead of a few hundred yards down it might be the busiest place out here.

1 month later
1 month later
#326 2 years ago

Looking forward to EBD getting out there. Requesting its first stop be Hotrods.

1 month later
#367 2 years ago

I won a tournament recently in New Mexico on Flash. It was only my third time playing it and it was quite fun. I’ll be playing yours for sure when it’s out. Great layout.

1 week later
#370 2 years ago
Quoted from dc2010:

I really feel like karma owes you a system 11 pin

Does Pecos want one though?

2 weeks later
#383 2 years ago

I have a feeling it was Eagle Vending. When I got my license stickers last time I asked the guy at city hall if he could tell me how many (if not who) was the biggest license buyer. He said Eagle Vending got about 600 stickers every year. I used to have a contact there that I could text when a pin of theirs was down. That person has moved on, and their games rarely play well.

Here is my own EVA story. I actually have 2 games that say EVA on the bottom, because I either bought it from them, or from somebody else who did. So this isn't a 100% thing, but if the pin says EVA under where the coin box is, guess who owns/owned it. On to the story. I had a location that also had a Big Buck hunter arcade, and a Golden Tee, both older versions. They might have owned the air hockey table, or the location might have, I can't remember. Either way, their events manager told me once that they had to call EVA to have one of the arcades looked at because it was no longer accepting money. EVA's response was that they had no info on having games there in their system. They came out anyway, and sure enough the games were theirs. The game that was having an issue was all caused because the coin box was full. They hadn't been out in years probably, but because the location didn't ask for a split there was none to be paid on a regular basis. And here I am almost once a week at each of my locations fixing stuff. They leave a game for years and it gets played and eventually fills up. We know we are in the wrong business, but pins are more fun.

#390 1 year ago

Hey Pecos, here is a kit I heard about from my friend Tommy on This Flippin Podcast. I got an orange set for my Stars and I really like it. It's still a kit, but wasn't a ton of hassle. The first one took a little while, but after that the others went pretty quick using the first as a reference.


1 month later
#404 1 year ago

I put a few bucks into Aztec a few weekends ago. Really like playing that one. Put 8BD at Hotrods and I’ll play it for sure.

4 weeks later
#407 1 year ago

That Pinwrench is worth every penny. I got one after putting it off too long. I’m going to get another to keep one at home and one in the tool kit I keep in the car.

1 month later
#410 1 year ago

What a cool looking place!

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