By Carlie Kollath/NEMS Daily Journal
NEW ALBANY – Arnold Whitson Jr. of Community Ford wants you to call him on his personal cell phone, day or night.
It’s an advertising pitch he’s been making for several years in television commercials, and he said people take him up on the offer every day.
In return, he fulfills his end of the deal.
“If I hear it, I answer it,” he said, holding up a blue LG phone. “If I’m on a date, I answer the phone. If I’m with friends, they know – I’m going to answer the phone.
“When someone calls you at 2 in the morning and they ask if you were asleep, you say, ‘No, I’m eating supper’ or whatever else you can think of.”
Whitson, the general manager and managing partner at the dealership, gets four or five customer calls a day on his cell phone. During football season, he gets more.
“People just call and ask if I’m watching the game,” he said.
He gets many calls from people who are skeptical if the number he gives out – (662) 538-4580 – really is for his cell phone.
Sure enough, when the Daily Journal called the number last week, he answered with a robust, “This is Arnold.”
“It sends the message that you’re a real person and they can call you,” he said.
The availability surprises many people.
“I had some guys from a deer club call me at 2 a.m.,” Whitson said.
When he picked up the phone, he heard laughter and a surprised response from the caller.
“He said, ‘You just cost me six cases of beer and now I have to buy a new truck from you,'” Whitson said.
The man showed up the next week and bought the most expensive truck on the lot.
Most people don’t phone during the pre-dawn hours, but Friday and Saturday nights frequently result in a few late-night calls.
“I do have some teenagers call and I say, ‘Oh, y’all are out having a good time?'” Whitson said. “You play back with them. You don’t fight them. Most of the time, they’ll start talking back and say, ‘I’ll tell my dad if he ever needs a truck to come see you.'”
He said his craziest call came from a woman who asked if he was married. Her sister, she said, saw his commercial and was interested in him.
“I’m not so worried about the pranks,” he said.
Jack Brown, Whitson’s boss, came up with the idea of giving out Whitson’s cell phone number.
“I said, ‘I’m all in. Put me in.'”
The commercials – and his excitement – are the source of friendly ribbing from his colleagues.
“‘Come see the TV man,’ they say,” Whitson said. “We have a good time and we’re all friends. … I’m not an egomaniac, believe it or not. I find all this funny.”
Salesman Daniel Frain is quick to break into a imitation of Whitson, complete with, “Hi, I’m Arnold Whitson. Call me now.”
Whitson’s excitement is legendary among the salesmen. When asked about their general manager, they all refer to the time that Whitson, focused on complimenting a new buyer driving out of the lot, didn’t notice a support column in time to avoid walking right into it. The injury required six stitches.
“He’s so energetic and he wants to do so much all the time,” Frain said. “He’s so into his job and the car business. He’s go, go, go. Cars, cars, cars.”
When he isn’t at work, Whitson, a Georgia native, spends his time at church, hanging out with friends or cooking. He prides himself on his barbecue abilities, especially ribs. He also has five children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild.
And he’s working on some new material for his commercials.
“We’re kicking around a few ideas that involve some of our customers,” he said, smiling.
His customers, and his cell phone number, of course.