Episode 788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair

Aug 11, 2017
Originally published on August 23, 2017 12:29 pm

A state fair is a magical place. But for Planet Money, the true magic takes place in a massive warehouse where old-fashioned salesmen and women practice the ancient art of looking you in the eye and convincing you to buy something you do not need. It's the art of pitching, and Planet Money's Robert Smith has been obsessed with it since he was twelve years old.

Robert and his accomplice Kenny Malone head out to the Ohio State Fair, with a journalistic excuse. They embed with the pitchmen and pitchwomen--the true artisans of salesmanship--to learn the secrets of their trade.

This story is about these product mercenaries, and how they sell what they sell.

In an era where hyper-rational online shopping dominates commerce, state fairs can seem quaint. Still, some products can only mesmerize you when you see them, hold them, and develop a relationship with them. You can't do that on a website, and the pitchmen and pitchwomen of America know that. They stake their careers on it.

Music: "City Sixties" "A Matter of Time" and "Burning In Me." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

(SOUNDBITE OF PHONE RINGING)

MRS SMITH: Hello?

ROBERT SMITH, HOST:

Mom, it's Robbie (ph).

MRS SMITH: Oh, hi, honey. How are you?

R SMITH: I'm doing good. I'm actually in our radio studio here with my co-host Kenny Malone.

KENNY MALONE, HOST:

Hi, Mrs. Smith.

MRS SMITH: Hi.

MALONE: I didn't know that Robert went by Robbie. This is news to me.

MRS SMITH: Oh, well, I think only I call him Robbie.

R SMITH: So do you remember the knife that I gave you when I was a kid?

MRS SMITH: Yes. OK. You mean the ones that you got at the state fair?

R SMITH: Yes.

MRS SMITH: The Ginsu.

R SMITH: Yeah, check for it - had a plastic handle.

MRS SMITH: I know it did.

R SMITH: Had a plastic handle - it was a serrated.

MRS SMITH: Yes, it did. And I'm sure that we have it somewhere. I'm looking in my messy drawers.

MALONE: So...

MRS SMITH: I'm looking.

MALONE: Mrs. Smith, Robert has been talking incessantly about this knife.

R SMITH: It's not incessantly. But...

MALONE: It's a lot.

R SMITH: I was telling everyone here about the guy who sold me the knife, how I was a kid at a state fair.

MRS SMITH: Yes.

R SMITH: And he started to demonstrate it. And he did all these tricks with it. He had all these jokes. And at one point, he cuts an aluminum can in half, and then he slices tomatoes so thin, he says, that you can read a newspaper through them.

MRS SMITH: (Laughter).

R SMITH: So thin, he says, you can make a single tomato last all summer.

MRS SMITH: I remember you were obsessed with it. You stood there for an hour, I bet.

MALONE: He stood there for an hour watching somebody demonstrate a stupid Ginsu knife?

MRS SMITH: Yes. Yes - while everybody else did fun things.

R SMITH: And all I really wanted to do is to demonstrate a knife at a state fair.

MRS SMITH: That really was your goal, yeah.

MALONE: Yeah, but it was the state fair. There's a million other fun things to do.

MRS SMITH: Well. There is a million other things to do. But he was quite fascinated with that.

R SMITH: Thought she was going to call me a special child.

(LAUGHTER)

R SMITH: I was worried about that.

MRS SMITH: He actually is quite special.

R SMITH: Aw.

MRS SMITH: (Laughter).

MALONE: Mrs. Smith, hypothetically, if I were to go to a state fair with Robert, do you have any advice for me?

MRS SMITH: Well, I think you'll have a really good time with him. He loves state fairs. And you just (laughter) - and just stay close because he wanders.

MALONE: Oh, boy.

What is Robert doing?

Robert.

Damn it, Robert.

R SMITH: Chicken.

There's another marching band.

Oh, my God.

Donuts are the bun.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADRIAN QUESADA AND SKINNY WILLIAMS' "CITY SIXTIES")

MALONE: Hello, and welcome to PLANET MONEY. I'm Kenny Malone.

R SMITH: And I'm Robert Smith. And we are at the Ohio State Fair.

MALONE: And Robert has brought me here to apparently watch people sell things to other people.

R SMITH: It is way more than that. When I was a child, that salesman - that knife salesman pulled off an amazing magic trick. He convinced me, a 12-year-old boy, that I needed something that I did not actually need. And I loved it. I loved every second of it. The state fair is still this place where someone can just use the sound of their voice to mesmerize a crowd and get people to pull out their wallets.

MALONE: And so today we embed with the pitchmen and pitchwomen of the state fair to ask - why, in the age of Amazon and Walmart, why do you need to go to a building at the fairgrounds to buy anything? Why does this even still exist?

R SMITH: I will show you, Kenny. And we'll finally get to look behind the curtain to see how the magic trick is done.

(SOUNDBITE OF ADRIAN QUESADA AND SKINNY WILLIAMS' "CITY SIXTIES")

MALONE: The story goes that one day around the year 1800, this farmer in New England - he starts trotting his prized sheep through the town square, like, you know what, who's got better sheep than me?

R SMITH: So he organizes a livestock competition, and that's the first fair as we know it.

MALONE: All right, it's on.

R SMITH: What?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We welcome you to the state fair. We hope you guys have a fair-tastic (ph) day with us today.

(GROANING)

MALONE: The Ohio State Fair has been around since 1850. It's held in Columbus, Ohio.

R SMITH: And we're walking right down the center, through the midway. It's where all the classics are. The food...

I want a donut burger, but I want the burger patties to be the bun and the donut in the middle.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: A little bit crazy, but yeah, we can do it for you. I mean...

MALONE: Of course, you've got all of the games here as well.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Don't be bashful. Don't be shy. Shoot some water. Win a prize.

MALONE: I don't want any of those prizes, though.

R SMITH: Oh.

MALONE: I want to basketball with the money on it.

R SMITH: But we are here for the salespeople, the vendors.

MALONE: Vendor marketplace starts here.

R SMITH: Oh, my God.

MALONE: There it is. This is amazing.

So Robert and I are standing outside of a building. It's between the pig barn and the fry shack. And all we can see at this point is just a set of doors that I would normally walk straight past if I were not at the fair with Robert.

Ten o'clock - just opening.

R SMITH: This place is huge. This place has not changed since I was in a very similar place at the Utah State Fair when I was a child. It is - it's not even a building. It's more like a warehouse.

MALONE: It is three acres large, we are told.

R SMITH: It is row after row, booth after booth.

MALONE: Dozens upon dozens of vendors.

Ready, go.

R SMITH: Got your gadgets.

MALONE: Triad air fan.

R SMITH: Got your geegaws.

MALONE: Ultimate Hose Nozzle.

R SMITH: Got your toys.

MALONE: Splat balls.

R SMITH: There are hundreds of products here, maybe thousands of products.

Worley's Wonder, which I think is jewelry cleaner.

MALONE: Solar Tees, T-shirts that light up with the sun?

R SMITH: The last glue.

MALONE: What does that even mean?

R SMITH: It means that's the last glue you'll ever need, dude.

MALONE: Right. Right. Right. Right.

R SMITH: Weirdly, there is a hot tub vendor here. Oh, so good.

MALONE: That was three acres of stuff. But we didn't see anybody using a magical knife to slice a tomato.

R SMITH: Yeah. But I do see at the end of the row a lighted-up booth with a cutting board and this mountain of shredded pineapples and cucumbers and zucchinis.

(SOUNDBITE OF VEGETABLES BEING PEELED)

MALONE: If you are thinking at home, OMG, that's a potato peeler...

R SMITH: Yeah, you're right. It's called the OMG Peeler.

TOMMY HARRIS: How you doing, guys? You want to see how it works? Y'all ever heard of a spiralizer or veggetti?

R SMITH: Veggetti?

MALONE: I do not know what a veggetti is.

R SMITH: It makes spaghetti out of vegetables. It's a veggetti.

HARRIS: But now you don't have to get that big machine out. You can already be done with your stir fry dinner right there.

R SMITH: A peeler is not just a peeler at the fair. It's got to slice. It's got to shred. It's got to julienne.

What's your name?

HARRIS: My name's Tommy.

R SMITH: Tommy?

MALONE: Tommy Harris.

R SMITH: Tommy is huge, 6-foot-5, his bright red hair pulled back in a ponytail.

MALONE: If you know professional wrestling, he's a dead ringer for The Undertaker.

R SMITH: Tommy could probably bench press the both of us. But, instead, he's delicately peeling the skin off of the tomato.

HARRIS: Once you get home, and you get used to it, you can go right-handed, left-handed. You can even do it underhanded like most politicians nowadays.

(LAUGHTER)

R SMITH: Who taught you how to do this?

HARRIS: Myself. My dad was a salesman for years, a Baptist preacher. So it comes a little bit natural to me.

MALONE: Tommy's from Texas, he tells us. And he's always been good at talking. And one day, he saw a Craigslist job listing for a cashier at a fair.

R SMITH: So he started out like most of the people here, working behind the scenes out of the spotlight. He would take the money from the customers. He was hired to help the pitch man.

MALONE: But the whole time, he was watching the pitch man and thinking, I can do this.

R SMITH: Do you remember your first time...

HARRIS: Yeah.

R SMITH: ...You stood up?

HARRIS: Yeah.

R SMITH: What was the product?

HARRIS: It was a hose nozzle.

R SMITH: The Ultimate Hose Nozzle?

HARRIS: The Ultimate Hose Nozzle. The same one, yeah.

R SMITH: The Ultimate Hose Nozzle.

HARRIS: Absolutely.

R SMITH: What did it feel like?

HARRIS: Nervous. Nervous. The first time, I was really nervous.

R SMITH: But it went well. You know, he stole a few jokes from some of the other pitchmen. And he was off. He started to draw crowds. People started to laugh and buy.

MALONE: And now Tommy has become part of this small band of pitchmen and pitchwomen who are like product mercenaries.

R SMITH: And say you're a company that owns some product. Or maybe you're a distributor of some product, and you want to sell it at a fair. Well, you call up one of these product mercenaries, wherever they may live. And they fly out, stay at a a hotel on the edge of town and come in and sell the hell out of your product. And it can be a different product each week.

MALONE: One day, you're selling a hose nozzle in Nashville. And then they send you to Memphis for the steam mop. And these folks - these are who the young Robbie Smith looked up to.

R SMITH: No, no, no.

When I was a kid, oh, my God, like, I thought you guys were the greatest.

HARRIS: Right.

R SMITH: You guys were so funny. And they made it look so smooth.

HARRIS: Right. Right. That's the key, making it look easy, you know? - but not making it look too easy where they don't think they can do it at home.

R SMITH: Do you mind if I walk behind there for just a moment?

MALONE: Robert is walking around to behind the presentation booth.

R SMITH: It's so interesting. From this point of view behind here, the world does look different because you can tell people who are sort of avoiding eye contact.

HARRIS: They avoid you because they know you're trying to sell them something.

R SMITH: Yeah. She just gave us a two-second look and then looked completely away. So this guy - just a look of derision. A woman just gave us a little side-eye.

HARRIS: The green-shirt lady will look over here.

R SMITH: Green shirt. Green shirt.

HARRIS: Come on, ladies. You want to watch while you're eating your sandwich? Might as well. Oh, that looks good, right? Y'all ever heard of a spiralizer or veggetti?

MALONE: And, boom, he is back into the pitch. And the weird thing about interviewing Tommy Harris is that if you're talking to him, but someone walks by and looks like they might be interested, mid-sentence, he's out, and he is back into his pitch.

R SMITH: He has to. He works on commission. Tommy did not invent the peeler. Tommy doesn't own this giant stack of peelers. He sells them for $20 and makes about five bucks commission on each one.

MALONE: But he is paying for his own travel and his own lodging. And by our calculations, he would need to sell about a hundred peelers to break even on this fair.

HARRIS: Simple, easy.

R SMITH: I could watch him all day long.

MALONE: Nope. Nope. We will not watch him all day long. But Tommy says, if you want to go see someone who has a little bit of a different style, maybe a little bit more outgoing, check out the woman who's pitching in the row over.

R SMITH: Who also happens to be his fiance.

Oh, so she's here?

HARRIS: Yeah. She's right around the corner.

R SMITH: She's pitching...

MALONE: Wait. Can we hear her? Can we hear her from here?

HARRIS: Only if she starts laughing.

R SMITH: Really?

HARRIS: Yeah.

R SMITH: She's got a big laugh?

HARRIS: You'll see.

MALONE: I've got to hear this.

HEATHER KETO: (Laughter).

MALONE: This is Heather Keto.

KETO: (Laughter).

R SMITH: Now, the thing Heather's great at is called the hook.

MALONE: The hook is when you grab someone's attention somehow. And then you get them interested enough to watch your pitch.

R SMITH: And we see this in action. We are walking toward Heather's booth, and she's leaning over with this huge grin, locking eye contact and reaching out her arm like she wants to shake my hand.

KETO: Hey, guys. Come on over here. Y'all want to try it out? Makes your life a lot easier.

R SMITH: But all of a sudden, she has placed into my hand, like, these garden clippers.

MALONE: It is, in fact, the Tiger Jaw.

R SMITH: The Tiger Jaw.

MALONE: But they are basically just pruning shears.

R SMITH: And before I could set it down, Heather pulls out a branch - like a real piece of wood. And she offers it up right in front of me to cut.

KETO: Go for it. You know you want to.

(SOUNDBITE OF BRANCH BEING CLIPPED)

KETO: Three clips.

MALONE: Don't cut me. Don't cut me. Robert.

R SMITH: (Laughter) I'm in the zone. I'm cutting.

MALONE: And then Heather's like...

KETO: I will tell you they're very sharp.

MALONE: And then she holds up her right hand.

R SMITH: Oh.

MALONE: Oh.

KETO: (Laughter).

MALONE: That's...

KETO: (Laughter).

R SMITH: People should know that you are missing almost all of your pinky. And your middle finger's a little shorter. What's the story?

KETO: (Laughter).

R SMITH: It was a car wreck. She says she's grateful that this was the extent of the injuries.

MALONE: But she says she does use it as part of her demonstration now. And what's amazing about the way Heather has hooked Robert into her presentation is that she's put him in a position where in order to walk away, he has to put down the fun, new toy. And it's a loss. Like, no more chopping sticks. No more wow factor.

R SMITH: And this is the thing that amazon.com frankly cannot do. For all of their selling prowess, they cannot physically put a product in my hand while I'm considering it.

MALONE: And there's a certain type of product that is here at the fair. It's the kind of thing that you need to see and put your hands on in order to understand why it's valuable at all or why it's different from any other product that kind of looks like it. And you can see this in some of the stuff that Heather has sold in the past.

KETO: The LED light candles. The steam mop I've done a year. I've done the hose nozzle a year.

KENNY MALONE AND ROBERT SMITH: The Ultimate Hose Nozzle?

KETO: The Ultimate Hose Nozzle (laughter).

MALONE: While we're hanging with Heather, there's this guy that walks by. And he gets pulled in by her hook.

R SMITH: And he's pretty into it. You know, he has the tool. He's cutting the branches.

KETO: There's no real effort at all to this. You're done.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: That's real easy.

R SMITH: And then he starts to say, well, you know, this might be good for my mom.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: We'll bring my mom by and let her check this out and see if she can get one of them big ones.

MALONE: And then he walks away. And Robert chases him down.

R SMITH: I have a quick question for you. I'm going to whisper it a little bit.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: OK.

R SMITH: So the, like - I'll be back later - I'll have my mom check it out thing...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Yeah. No.

R SMITH: ...Is that just so you can walk away?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Yup. Get you out of there.

R SMITH: Really? You're not going to send your mom back here?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I'm going to tell her about it. But I'm not going to - she won't - she's at home. I'll tell her about Tiger Jaw.

R SMITH: But you just didn't want to...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: I didn't want to make her mad and upset the lady, you know?

R SMITH: Heather has a name for these people. They are called leaners. They're easy to hook. But then during the presentation, they start leaning away, looking for any excuse to leave.

MALONE: In fact we learned that there is all kinds of great lingo in the world of the pitch.

R SMITH: Heather works at what we in the business like to call - I know - a red joint.

MALONE: That means it's hot. The product is selling.

R SMITH: A red joint.

MALONE: OK.

R SMITH: But sometimes you get stuck with a Larry.

MALONE: That's a product that nobody wants. Yes, we asked. Nobody knows who Larry is.

R SMITH: But, man, he must have been a total JCL.

MALONE: JCL stands for Johnny-come-lately. But around here, they just say JCL. And that's a pitch man without a lot of experience.

R SMITH: You know, someone who asks too many questions, who's desperate for the approval of the pitching greats.

MALONE: Robert kept going around and asking...

R SMITH: (Laughter) Sorry.

MALONE: ...Who is the best pitch man here?

R SMITH: Yeah.

MALONE: And people did eventually point us towards the booth where they sell the most amazing showerhead you've ever seen.

R SMITH: You want to, like, throw a little pitch on it?

MALONE: Well, a pitch on it? I can't do it.

R SMITH: Where they sell...

MALONE: Where they sell a showerhead.

(LAUGHTER)

R SMITH: Come on. A showerhead? It's the most amazing showerhead you've ever seen, as pitched by P.J. McGee.

P J MCGEE: Let me give you an example. What's a good example? OK. Remember when we were growing up, and you sometimes played with the garden hose? And you really wanted to shoot that kid across the street with the hose. What did you do?

MALONE: You hold your thumb over the nozzle.

MCGEE: Put your thumb on the hose. That's your first restrictor valve. All we did with this was designed it with 100 thumbs on 100 hoses pointing down.

R SMITH: It is a very powerful showerhead. Now, P.J. has been doing this longer than anyone else we met at the fair. He's sold everything to everyone.

MALONE: He looks a lot like Louis C.K., the comedian. He grew up in the Bronx. He's a huge Yankees fan.

R SMITH: And here's why I love him. He still records his pitches, so he can listen back and see, like, are the jokes landing? Or how's the audience reacting?

MCGEE: You've got to understand there's a difference between a professional salesman and a guy that talks [expletive]. Really. The most insulting thing we hear is when someone says, you're a natural-born salesman. Well, screw you. I spent a lot of time and effort and a lot of energy to learn how to do this properly.

R SMITH: And so we save for P.J. the hardest question - the hardest question a pitch man faces.

MALONE: You've hooked in your crowd. But some of them are starting to look like they're leaners. How do you close the deal?

R SMITH: What's your best close move?

MCGEE: The best close? The best close is asking for the money. I'll ask you three questions. Is this product better than the one you have now? Usually, they say, yeah. And then I always ask them this defensively and always back up and put my palms up - if you bought this today, would you use it? I mean, not everybody needs a new showerhead.

R SMITH: OK. You cannot see this. But at this point, P.J. McGee has stepped back from the customer. His hands are up like he's being robbed.

MALONE: And he - like as if he's saying, oh, no, did I cross a line or something?

My instinct is like, no, no, no.

R SMITH: You're fine. You're fine. Keep going.

MALONE: You're fine. I like you. Keep going.

R SMITH: Keep going.

MCGEE: Please take my money. Please.

MALONE: Oh, so good. And then P.J. McGee has you.

MCGEE: You want to use debit, credit or cash? Biggest problem with salespeople - 95 percent of new salespeople are afraid to ask for the money. They think it's rude. Get into another business.

R SMITH: Nobody goes to the fair to buy a showerhead. But P.J. McGee has already sold 10 of them just today.

MALONE: They cost $100.

R SMITH: I know. And if I wasn't traveling with a backpack, I might have bought two.

MALONE: You used to be a rational economics reporter when we flew to the fair.

R SMITH: I know. I know. And I do have a theory about this. I've been thinking about it for 30 years. And my theory is that, normally, when I shop - when most of us shop, it is a pretty cerebral experience. You know, you go on to amazon.com.

MALONE: Sure.

R SMITH: I read every review. Oh, do I like the 17 centimeter one or the 19 centimeter one? How does it compare with the X-C 3000 model?

MALONE: Yeah, sure. That's how normal people shop, Robert.

R SMITH: Yeah. But the fair short-circuits that logical part of your brain because everything here is a sensory overload. Every decision made at the fair is a decision made on pure emotion. Remember when we first got here? Remember when we first got here, and you smelled kettle corn?

You want to get your kettle corn?

MALONE: Yeah, I would like to...

R SMITH: Right now?

MALONE: I would like to get kettle corn.

R SMITH: Mmm.

MALONE: Oh, I'm so happy.

R SMITH: So good.

Remember when we first walked down the midway - like, when we first got there, and everyone's shouting out all of the choices we can make?

MALONE: So many bad choices we could make.

R SMITH: So many.

MALONE: Deep-fried Pop-Tarts?

R SMITH: Deep-fried bacon buckeyes.

MALONE: Inky pinky donuts.

R SMITH: Ohoho.

MALONE: It's true. And then we walked past the games.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Twenty wins, guys.

R SMITH: Right. And you play basketball. You know the size of a basketball hoop. And these were way too little. You could not help yourself.

MALONE: All right. Here. Hold my equipment.

But I could win a basketball with pictures of money on it.

R SMITH: I cannot believe it. You kept losing and asking me for more money.

MALONE: Give me five more.

(Shouting) Oh.

R SMITH: (Shouting) Oh, you did it.

I will give you credit. You did get the basketball in the hoop. But it was not logical for you to do so. And my theory is that this sensory experience at the fair creates an urgent need in you. It creates a need that you want something now. And then all of these people here - they sell you the thing that fulfills the need. They bring you from desire to satisfaction in under a minute.

HARRIS: So if you can't peel a potato, you probably shouldn't drive a car. Stay away from cliffs. Watch out for lightning outside.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: (Laughter).

MALONE: Before we leave the fair, we wanted to check in one last time with Tommy Harris, the guy we met initially hawking the OMG potato peeler.

R SMITH: We watched Tommy pitch a few times. People are starting to leave for the day. And it comes to me. This is my moment. I'm going to ask Tommy if I could try - just once - to do my own pitch. And I'm going to live my dream of pitching a kitchen object at the state fair.

MALONE: To be fair, Robert did not exactly ask.

R SMITH: Not exactly.

MALONE: No. He went behind the booth...

R SMITH: So one second - I'm going to come...

MALONE: ...Talked to Tommy, started inching closer and closer...

HARRIS: A little bit, not too long, not too long.

MALONE: ...Grabbed the OMG peeler...

HARRIS: I will just to show people.

R SMITH: Excuse - wait.

MALONE: ...And started to yell at people.

R SMITH: Do you like food? Do you eat food? Do you prepare food? I can do food for you. Look at this thing. Do you...

It is superhard to peel and talk at the same time.

We're all eating healthy these days. Right? I mean, believe me, I love pasta more than anybody. But pasta will make you look like me, ladies. You do not want this to happen.

I have no hook. I have no clothes. I don't - I can't even remember what kind of peeler Tommy called it.

So that's why we have this wonderful spiral-cutting...

HARRIS: Spiralizer.

R SMITH: ...Spiralizer.

MALONE: Robert's enthusiasm does pull people over to the booth.

R SMITH: It was exciting. It was totally exciting.

MALONE: But once real customers showed up, Tommy smoothly takes the peeler out of Robert's hand and takes over.

R SMITH: What else? Oh.

(LAUGHTER)

R SMITH: Sorry about that. I took over for you.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Laughter).

HARRIS: So you've got the spiralizer noodles, so your vegetti (ph) - now you can go ahead...

MALONE: Robert sort of slinks to the back of the booth, watches the pitch finish.

HARRIS: Now, thank you for watching, guys.

MALONE: And then goes back up to Tommy.

R SMITH: How was I? Was it just - was it too much? Was it...

HARRIS: You were kind of like a teenager in the back of his car for the first time - just a little, like, excited.

MALONE: Poor Robert.

R SMITH: That's totally fair. That is totally fair.

(SOUNDBITE OF STEVE VAUS' "A MATTER OF TIME")

R SMITH: OK, OK - I did not make a single sale. But I did get to feel what it is like, what it is like to be the JCL, the Johnny-come-lately.

MALONE: And - and now you know what it feels like to turn a red joint into a Larry.

R SMITH: Not good. But (laughter) - but it was my first time.

(SOUNDBITE OF NICHOLAS MICHAEL HILL, VON HEMINGWAY AND WILLIAM RIDDIMS' "BURNING IN ME")

R SMITH: Do you know of a strange place filled with commerce that you would like us to visit? And is it another state fair? We would love to hear from you - planetmoney@npr.org. Or we're on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

MALONE: Today's show was produced by Nick Fountain. Our senior producer is Alex Goldmark. Our editor is Bryant Urstadt. Special thanks this week to Alicia Shoults and Samantha Bartlett.

R SMITH: And if you're looking for something else to listen to now, oh, we have got a treat for you. NPR has a new podcast with a little bit of an assist from PLANET MONEY. The podcast is called Rough Translation. Rough Translation - it is hosted by veteran international correspondent Greg Warner. And it tells stories of other countries not as a tourist would see them or not as a reporter would see them but as someone who is experiencing the culture sees them. You'll get to see how ideas that we take for granted here in the U.S. or other countries change and mutate as they cross borders. It's called Rough Translation. You should really listen. You can get it wherever you find your podcasts.

I'm Robert Smith.

MALONE: And I'm Kenny Malone. Thanks for listening.

Oh, actually, one last thing - while we were at the state fair, we were out looking for food, and we were stopped by somebody who was, like, no, no, no - you're looking for the wrong thing. The best thing at the fair is this new item. I have to tell you about it. And so we said, all right - you know what? - we'll give you 15 seconds. You can tell the world about it.

Fifteen seconds on the clock.

R SMITH: Three...

ALISON SPRANG: OK.

R SMITH: Two...

MALONE: Oh, hold up - we'll give you breath.

SPRANG: Yeah, yeah. Just a second - just let me take...

R SMITH: Doesn't that help people to be like, three...

MALONE: I don't think so.

R SMITH: ...Two - (laughter) OK.

MALONE: No, Robert. I think it doesn't help.

SPRANG: It, like, makes me hegh (ph).

R SMITH: OK.

SPRANG: OK.

MALONE: Ready?

SPRANG: Mm-hm.

MALONE: Go.

SPRANG: OK.

Hi, my name is Alison Sprang, and I am the intern at the Ohio Pork Council. This year at the Ohio State Fair, we are selling pork chop on a stick at the Ohio Pork trailer. Come visit us and be able to walk around the fair with a pork chop on a stick. You don't have to cut it; you can just eat right into it. Like, it's easy and reliable and delicious.

MALONE: Fifteen seconds.

R SMITH: Awesome. You nailed it.

MALONE: Well done.

SPRANG: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.