Ep. 84 – Advertising Machinery with Tom Scanlan of Surplus Record

By Noah Graff

Our guest on today’s podcast is Tom Scanlan, publisher of Surplus Record, an online and printed marketplace for buying and selling used industrial equipment, founded in 1924 by Tom’s Grandfather.

Scroll down to listen to the podcast. Or listen here on Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts.

I use Surplus Record along with several other online platforms every day for our machinery business, Graff-Pinkert. But Surplus Record is unique because it combines the simplicity and transparency of an old school print publication with the convenience and speed of an online platform.

Main Points

(3:00) Tom says Leonard Graff and Aaron Pinkert, owners of Graff-Pinkert, taught him about Wickman Screw Machines when he started at Surplus Record in 1982.

(3:25) Tom says Surplus Record is the only print publication left of used machinery and industrial equipment. He says it is sent out monthly to 137,000 subscribers, 99% in the U.S. and Canada. 

(3:55) Tom talks about putting Surplus Record listings on the Web in 1995 after urging from his brother, who was in Silicon Valley. He laughs about how most of the machinery dealers at the time didn’t even know what a website was. 

(6:10) Tom says Surplus Record’s Website is constantly updated by machinery and electrical equipment dealers. He says one thing endusers appreciate about Surplus Record is that they don’t have to register to get information. Company names and phone numbers are clearly visible, unlike some other online machinery trading platforms. Also, Tom says Surplus Record’s own contact information is clearly visible on its site for endusers to call if they need credit references for sellers. He says his office gets six to eight calls per day by people asking to confirm if advertisers are legitimate. Tom says he or one of his staff personally visits 90% of Surplus Record’s advertisers, so they can stay up to date with what’s going on at their businesses and who is currently working there. 

(10:15) Tom says in the last few weeks several manufacturers have called Surplus Record to make sure they would receive their monthly print editions. They were concerned that during the COVID-19 crisis they might lose access to the Web and not be able to get the equipment they need if it goes down in the shop.

(11:40) Noah says he uses Surplus Record every day for its constantly active free bulletin board of wanted and for sale equipment.

(13:00) Tom talks about Surplus Record first accepting advertisements from auctioneers in 2005. This came about because many machinery dealers were becoming auctioneers. 

(14:45) Tom says Surplus Record is very popular for people who need electrical equipment quickly when it goes down. He says the transparent information about Surplus Record’s sellers (company name and contact information) makes it quicker and more user friendly than eBay.

(16:00) Tom talks about his father dying suddenly, which led to him running Surplus Record. He says he was trained on the job by a lot of the company’s clients.

(17:00) Tom says he is happy that his 32-year-old son, Tom IV, is now working at Surplus Record and will become his successor. He says his son still believes in keeping the print publication, but he admits that his son is much more Internet savvy than he is. He says he knows his son will come up with new ways of doing things, just like each successive generation of the 96-year-old company. 

Question: Do you prefer reading print or on the Web?

Share this post

2 thoughts on “Ep. 84 – Advertising Machinery with Tom Scanlan of Surplus Record

  1. Andy

    I think both forms of media are necessary. I use internet catalogs everyday for tool purchases, but it is still nice to grab a book and leaf through it when your looking for something. Websites that have gaps in their search features , and there are a few, its nice to quickly flip a page to the next to look at specs that otherwise may be not seen on a search.

  2. r in nyc

    both are necessary

    even though internet speeds are much faster than back in the day
    who remembers dial up modems?

    There are still things that affect speed
    i.e. how many users, time of day weather, external forces, etc…

    That said, just as speed of data and capacity increases, There is more and more added to online catalogs and web pages. Again slowing searches down.

    Too many pages and websites are not optimized for today’s smart phones.

    The other problem, if you are not sitting in front of your monster monitor, and you get older, you cannot see anything of value on your tiny phone screen.

    Then there are times you just want some peace and quiet to think, read, research, collect ones thoughts, and just contemplate.

    It is still nice to grab a catalog, trade journal or printout to the rest room and collect ones thoughts.

    I still like hard copies of important documents !
    And it is more difficult to change and rewrite history!

    Look at FakeBook & google manipulating EVERYTHING!!!

    In days of old, only one company was allowed to print bibles to prevent errors!
    I heard that there were some misprints in B.J. Clinton’s bible
    saw it on the internet so it must be true!

    “All modern American literature,” Ernest Hemingway once wrote, “comes from one book by Mark Twain called ‘Huckleberry Finn.’ ”

    Being an incredible classic, however, hasn’t protected “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” from being banned, bowdlerized and bleeped.
    It hasn’t protected the novel from being cleaned up, updated and “improved.”

    A new effort to sanitize “Huckleberry Finn” comes from

    Alan Gribben, a professor of English at Auburn University, at Montgomery, Ala., has produced a new edition of Twain’s novel that replaces the N word with “slave.” Although this was a common racial epithet in the antebellum South, it was also used as an adjective not much different than today’s rappers and many youth using it as a term of endearment. Twain used it simply as part of his characters’ vernacular speech at that time in history.

    This takes what Twain intended as a part of language of that time and nickname, just as we call the fat guy “skinny” and bald guy “Curly” to this day.

    This dramatically changes the the tone from a bunch of friends to one person who is now merely “property”!
    That’s what a slave is – property.
    And clouds the ultimate irony when Jim is freed at the end…

    History is written by the victors.
    History will be kind to me for I intend to write it.
    – Winston Churchill

    Stay safe!


Comments are closed.