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Monday, October 15, 2007

Profile: Mike Halonen, battery guy

click to enlarge battery-guy-web-02982.jpg

(photo by Joeff Davis)

How long have you worked at Batteries Plus?

About two-and-a-half years.

Are you passionate about batteries?

I wouldn’t say passionate, but uh, it takes a lot of knowledge. It takes a long time to learn this stuff. I do like it, because there’s always something new. Every day there’s always new things to learn.

How long did it take before you felt comfortable answering battery-related questions?

A good eight months to a year before I felt comfortable. There’s just so many numbers, names, different types of batteries — thousands upon thousands — and people come in with the oddest things, from old Kodak Land cameras from the ’50s, all the way until now. Like hybrid cars, they take a certain amount of batteries. I think four to eight batteries per car.

Do you ever get tired of batteries?

Of course, I think, but more the customers than the batteries. There’s just too much to learn to get tired of it.

Describe a typical day at the Batteries Plus.

It’s actually pretty easy. Most of the customers are pretty good, especially in this neighborhood.

And I build a lot of things. We build for the Atlanta SWAT Team; we build batteries for their tactical flashlights, tactical weapons. A lot of local big buildings, they have UPS backups, wall-size rack-mount UPS'. There’s a lot to do.

Do you have any regular customers?

We have some elderly come in here, twice a month, like clockwork. They have hearing aid batteries that have to be done.

And it seems like women have hundreds of watches, so I’ll see the same women in here twice a month getting batteries for their watches, whatever outfit they’re wearing that month.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve seen at the store?

Gotta be the customers. Just the crazy customers that come in here with the most abstract batteries. Things with mercury in them. They haven’t made those in 20 years. There are no real weird customers. It’s not like a strip club or anything.

What other sorts of jobs have you held? Other retail? Anything similar?

Nothing similar to this. I bartended for a few years. I’m actually a concrete and asphalt guy, but it’s brutally hot in Atlanta. I came from Washington state. I worked for about eight months for my brother at an asphalt company, and it’s just too much heat out there for me.

So I live like two blocks away, and I came in here. I was talking to a guy I knew who worked here. It was easy, just kind of fell into this. But, no, nothing like this. Closest would be customer service, worked for a bar about four or five years, my mom’s.

What was the last thing you bought batteries for?

My son’s wireless remotes for his Xbox 360. But there’s a lot I buy — cell phone batteries, car batteries. I do buy a lot of batteries. But it’d probably be those remote controls, because he eats probably a six to eight pack of batteries a week. The remotes suck. They eat the batteries real bad.

So you can get pretty much any kind of battery?

I have been stumped twice in three years, and that was very old equipment, mercury batteries, which they don’t even make anymore, and one was from Great Britain or something.

Do you have a lot of batteries at home?

Yeah. Average household has, I think it’s 15 to 20 battery-operated items, from watches to cars. If you have children, you could almost double that. If you treat ’em right, they’ll give you more power, a lot longer life. People just beat their batteries up all the time. You gotta respect the battery. No, I’m joking.

When you were a kid, did you ever try licking a 9-volt battery?

Sure … I still do it.

When there aren’t any customers around, do you ever play with the batteries?

Sure. Sure. It’s kind of fascinating the chemistry that’s at work, how they store energy.

Do your friends and family expect you to give them free batteries?

Not free, but they get good deals. Especially my friends, they expect a little bit more than family. They expect good deals every time, and I get really good deals, so ... .

Do you know any battery jokes?

No. I don’t joke about batteries. Some guy comes in here, says things like, “You have an electric personality,” things like that, little remarks like that, but I don’t have any.

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