Growing Up On Main Street Impacts Consumer Radio Host

Cynthia Rojas

January 13, 2013

(DALLAS, TEXAS)   Listen to consumer advocacy talk radio host Pete Thomson any weekend and you’re likely to hear him bring up his hometown, Charles City, Iowa.   A town of about 8,000 in Northeast Iowa, Charles City is a picturesque river town filled with historic turn-of-the-century homes.  Thomson lived in Charles City, or Chuck Town as the locals call it, in the 1960s.

Many of Pete Thomson’s Charles City comments relate back to his time working at his father’s Ben Franklin Store.   He describes his experience as being able to be in business school while still in grade school.  Thomson added,  “Both of my parents had their own retail businesses.  My mom owned a children’s clothing store and dad had the Ben Franklin.   From a very early age, all of us kids were involved in both stores and had the opportunity to see how the retail business worked from the inside.”

Brothers Pete (L) and Charley Thomson in front of the Ben Franklin Store in Charles City, Iowa

Most of Thomson’s time at The Ben Franklin Store was spent as a bag boy and cashier.  It was during this time that Thomson says he began to develop an interest in studying consumer behavior.   Thomson stated, “At the check out counter I had a chance to observe customers on a number of levels.  You see how they make shopping decisions, how they handle money and how they determined value.   It was an extraordinary opportunity for me to observe consumer behavior at a very young age.”

Customer satisfaction was a priority for both of his parents according to Thomson.  He said, “In a small town you’ve got to take care of the customer.  Both my mom and dad’s stores had very customer friendly return policies.  For the most part it was a no questions asked return policy.   As a result of this policy, customers were very, very loyal.”  Thomson added, “The way that my parents served the customer established a very high standard and expectation for customer service in my life.”

Another aspect of small-town life was availability of quality tradesmen for home repair and construction.  And in Charles City, according to Thomson, it didn’t take long for word to get out if a business was not honest or consumer friendly.  Thomson added, “Small towns were the original social networks.  People talk and word travels fast.  It kept people honest.”

In 1972, Thomson left his position at Ben Franklin to work for the local radio station as an announcer.   At KCHA Radio, Thomson says, he continued to learn about consumerism and consumer behavior.  Thomson said, “Local radio is the voice of small business.  At KCHA, I got a chance to see how marketing and advertising impacted a small business.  I also learned the connection between promises made in advertising and the actual delivery of that promise.”

Even though Thomson’s broadcasting career took him far away from Charles City, he says his small town ‘Main Street’ roots have impacted his broadcasting and consumer journalism career.  Thomson said, “In broadcast sales and marketing, I had a great deal of natural empathy for the small business owner because of my family’s history in business.   As a consumer advocate and radio host, my roots on Main Street set my internal standard bar very high.   Put another way, in small town Main Street America, the consumer-business relationship is special.”

Pete Thomson - The Consumer Team

Pete Thomson’s weekly consumer program, The Consumer Team, is broadcast Saturday’s from 5-7PM Central on KRLD Radio in Dallas, Texas.  KRLD is owned by CBS Radio and is one of the most listened to news stations in the Dallas-Ft. Worth radio market.  The Consumer Team is also one of the most listened to weekly consumer radio programs on the air in the US.   Each week, Thomson brings a series of timely consumer oriented news segments, interviews and features to The Consumer Team talk radio program.   As Thomson puts it, “Our goal on The Consumer Team is to save our listeners time, money and grief in their consumer lives.  From the big ticket items to every day purchases, we talk about improving all aspects of the consumer’s life.”

In addition to regular interviews with writers from Consumer Reports Magazine, who Thomson calls ‘the best in the business’, The Consumer Team features a team of local business owners that contribute to the program.   Thomson said,  “All of our sponsors are thoroughly checked out and vetted.  As a result, when a listeners hears a sponsor expert on the air, they can contact them with confidence.  They are Consumer Team Certified.”

For 2013, Thomson says, The Consumer Team will be focused on a number of core areas.   The first is finding new ways for his listeners to save money in both large and small purchases.   Secondly, Thomson says, The Consumer Team is always looking to expose scams and other danger areas for consumers.   And each week, Thomson says his roots on Main Street in Charles City, remain a foundation for him.  Thomson said, “Small town Main Street is still very consumer friendly.  Every week on The Consumer Team we try to bring those values and ethics to our program.”