MONDAY UPDATE: Hurricane Blows In Freelance Generator Sales

Generators, unavailable at many hardware stores in town, sold from two box trucks at Colfax Plaza

Capitalism is alive and well in Wall Township.

Around 9 a.m. Sunday, just hours after Hurricane Irene had knocked out power to 130,000 Monmouth County residents – 3,700 in town alone -- two box trucks from Ohio arrived at Colfax Plaza on Belmar Boulevard.

They parked in the front of the lot, nearest the road. It was for visibility, you see, because inside those trucks were hundreds of gas-powered generators – possibly the only power generators for miles around.

And the trucks attracted a crowd:  A big, long, continually growing, crowd of customers, mainly Wall residents who were unsure how long the power outage would last and who were desperate for lights and refrigeration for their food.

“That’s American capitalism at its best,’’ said township resident Mike Carr, who cued up to buy one of the generators. “

Carr, himself out of power since 11 p.m. Saturday, said he was taking the 4,000-watt generator he bought for $550 to a friend up north had no way to power a sump pump and water was rising.

Not long after noon, a Wall police officer arrived. There was a hush, and a palpable fear that the make-shift storefront would be shut down.

The officer asked for the identification of a svelte blonde woman with a ponytail who was receiving customers at the rear of one of the trucks. The woman showed the officer some papers, and then produced an Ohio driver’s license, which the officer took back to his car as generator sales continued.

The woman’s name is Meg Shanklin. She’s been selling generators out of a box trucks for 10 years, at different locations throughout the country, she said.

It’s a simple recipe, she said: When there’s a storm, people lose power. They need generators. She finds the locations, opens the box truck. And that’s pretty much that.

“It’s a hobby,’’ Shanklin said. “I love business.’’

And business was booming Sunday.

Shanklin, whose box trucks were emblazoned with the name “Generator City’’ was running a well-oiled machine.

She had display modes set up in the parking lot. Three different sizes of generators – 12,000-watt, 8,000-watt and the most popular 4,000-watt model – were for sale.

There were several assistants who demonstrated the models, unloaded the boxes from the trucks and loaded them into customers’ vehicles.

They were also available to answer questions about the products. Each was dressed in a green t-shirt with the name of the company and the tagline: “On-site Generator Sales Across The Nation.’’

Everyone waiting in line received a business card, on which was printed a telephone number and a website address – mygeneratorsfast.com -- both of which were also written in block letters on the side of each of the trucks.

On the back of the card, a pricelist. Generators were going for $1,299, $999, and $550, respectively. To ease payment, Shanklin accepted Visa or MasterCard.

“They seem legit,’’ said Johnson Street resident Doug Berry, who bought a 4,000-watt generator from Shanklin. “They’ve got business cards, a website, a telephone number. It’s all written on the side of the trucks.”

A call to the phone number -- (866) 505-5857 -- on Monday was answered by a secretary for "Fun Services," a company Shanklin said she also owns.

The secretary said Generator City would be operating Monday and Tuesday at Colfax Plaza and said that any problems with a generator bought there that are discovered after Tuesday could be reported to her using the telephone number on the business card and Shanklin would be contacted to assist.

The business' website, however, is not operational.

The domain name -- the internet address -- is registered to Shanklin and gives the email address generatorcity@yahoo.com, according to Network Solutions, the company that tracks domain name registrations.

It lists Shanklin as the administrative contact and the technical contact, giving the physical address of 6060 Executive Blvd. Dayton, Ohio 45424.

Berry and his wife, Lynn, were out checking on other things when they saw the commotion in the parking lot. They, too, lost power around 11 p.m. Saturday.

“We just stumbled on this,’’ Lynn Johnson said. “We came for coffee (at the convenience store in the plaza) and left with a generator.’’

Wall resident Joe Whalen had fewer qualms about Shaklin’s operation. He bought two, 4,000-watt generators. He paid with credit and loaded them into a pickup truck.

Michael Paterno, of Interlaken, was impressed by Shanklin’s operation.

“That’s something, isn’t it?’’ Paterno said. “It’s a great idea.’’

He was out checking on a house he owns in Spring Lake when he found Shanklin’s box trucks. He said the 4,000-watt generator he bought is going to help pump several inches of water from the basement of his home, which is without power.

Carr said he thought the generators were marked up a little high. He had priced the models prevously and said the price of each of Shanklin's generators was $100 to $200 higher than you could get in stores. If stores had them, that is.

“If I didn’t need it, I wouldn’t be standing here,’’ he said.

A few minutes later, the officer who was running Shanklin’s credentials emerged from his squad car. He handed Shanklin back her identification card. They exchanged pleasantries, and the officer left.

And sales continued.

Michelle Alvarado August 28, 2011 at 10:32 PM
Just checked and both website and phone number are bogus
Lynne Landis August 29, 2011 at 02:50 AM
Very interesting and disturbing at the same time!
Lynne Landis August 29, 2011 at 02:53 AM
My thought here would be how did the woman check out with the police and still have bogus info tht she was giving out? Perhaps they can't check website and phone number credentials?
Meg Shanklin August 29, 2011 at 11:50 AM
This is Meg Shanklin. I own multiple companies. Fun Services is one of them. My secretaries will be in the office between 8:30-500pm Monday through Friday answering the phones for generator city. We will be in the same location today to service anyone that needs help.
Keith Brown (Editor) August 29, 2011 at 01:02 PM
Excellent. I sent an email last night to the yahoo address listed for the company. Is that still valid?
Kim August 29, 2011 at 08:06 PM
Kudos to Meg Shanklin! It's a shame that our country has come to distrusting young entrepreneurial types when so many 20-30 year olds are apathetic about both career and personal goals. (and it's also no fault of the general public when we've all been burned before.) Yes her pricing is higher than the box stores but she is bringing a service to those in need at the exact location they need it. No shipping costs either yet she paid for gas for her vehicles from Ohio. I was curious and checked her out only to find a woman who graduated college with a degree in Marketing. She owns a Franchise using the Fun Services name for party rentals (ie bouncy houses etc.) loads of testamonials online about her from disasters in Seattle with her generator sales to schools and churches praising her efforts with their party planning needs. I applaud her efforts and her ingenuity. Her drive is what we are trying to instill in our own children. I think this is a great Hurricane Irene story! :)
Michelle Alvarado August 29, 2011 at 09:45 PM
If you don't want people to mistrust you then, it would make sense to have a real phone number and website scrawled across your trucks instead of fake ones.
Keith Brown (Editor) August 30, 2011 at 12:26 AM
The phone number, as I pointed out in the update to this story, was answered by someone connected to the company. The website, while inoperable, is legitimately owned by Shanklin, again, as it was pointed out in the story. There's nothing fake about either, as I can tell.
Cheryl Allocco September 01, 2011 at 02:09 AM
I have an interesting story to share that might show you what kind of company this is. We purchased a generator on Monday at the Colfax Plaza. Today,(Wednesday) we had a problem with it in the afternoon when we noticed that it was running, but not generating power.. We didn't know what happened. I drove back to Colfax Plaza but the trucks were gone. When my husband got home around 4:30 he contacted them and Meg got back to us right away, however the truck was already on route back to Ohio. Meg called us back and told us that the truck was turning around ( it was already in PA) and would come to our house here in Wall to take this one back and give us a new one! We couldn't believe she would do this for us. We told her that we would be more than happy to drive to a halfway point to do the exchange. We met in the parking lot of the Jackson Premium Outlets and got our new generator. We drove back home, very thankful for a company that would go this far for a customer! Meg, we will never forget what you did for us.. Thank you, thank you and God bless you as you continue to help others in need!
Keith Brown (Editor) September 01, 2011 at 02:14 AM
That could barely be cooler. Thanks for sharing that.


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