There are so few great mistakes made by Wenger or Victorinox that we tend to be fascinated with the few that have gotten out there. Usually when we think about them the AutoTool and SportsRatchet from Victorinox jump to mind, followed by the SwissBeat mp3 players. One that often falls by the wayside but is no less an example of “what the heck were we thinking?” is the Wenger Swiss Business Tool. A few months ago, Alexei gave us his thoughts on the Business Tool, and now we get the enjoyment of seeing what I think of it!
From my point of view, I think it's beautiful- and let me take a moment to explain for those of you that are rolling your eyes at me! I am fascinated by evolutionary processes, and seeing how things develop. The success of anything can be measured not only by the things that work, but the things that didn't, and the things that don't succeed can be as much, if not more telling than the things that do work out. For example, the Tyrannosaurus Rex, King of the Dinosaurs was one of the most perfect predators ever to walk the face of the Earth, and yet was saddled with small, almost completely vestigial arms. Why? No one knows for sure, but logic dictates two facts- they didn't stop the Tyrannosaurus from reaching the top of the food chain, and at some point in the development of this amazing creature, forelimbs had their uses.
How do long extinct reptiles apply to Swiss Army Knives? Simple- evolution. In the same way that animals adapt to survive, so do companies and products. Dead ends like the Business Tool help to shape a company and it's production and designs just as much as successes do. With the failure of the Business Tool, Wenger's hope of entering a more business oriented market died as well, and while I don't have records to verify this, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to gather that this direction was at least part of why Wenger ended up in financial difficulty, which also helped shape the company we know today. If they hadn't had issues, would they have had the ability to roll out as many new designs as they have in the past couple of years? My guess is no.
So what is the Business Tool really like? From the perspective of an archaeologist digging up broken pottery from a lost civilization, it is beautiful, even if it is only slightly more functional that a broken clay bowl.
While the core function is it's stapler, it takes #10 sized staples, which are difficult to find in North America. A stapler with no staples is a bit of a lame duck. If I recall correctly, Wenger even offered Wenger brand staples, and if I could locate a reasonable supply, I think my trusty old Swingline would probably find itself in retirement.
On the backside of the stapler, which really needs to be observed in person to appreciate, is the hole punch, which works quite well, depositing little paper dots into a convenient tray, where they are stored securely until they can be transferred to a trash or recycling bin. It's also a fair size s that's a trip you won't have to make too often.
At it's most basic, it's a SAK, and to be true to that name, it has a few fold out tools. There's a staple remover which I assume was decide on to keep people from using the blade to remove staples, potentially damaging the blade an one's fingers. In true SAK fashion there's a good sized blade inside as well, which locks open, and a set of scissors that look like early front runners to the ones found in the current NewRanger series, showing that while the Business Tool may not have been successful, not all of it's genes were wasted.
As for actual function, if you could find the staples you need, I would imagine that it would perform as well as any other Swiss product, but at the original asking price (about $75 US I believe) it as much more expensive than buying a regular stapler and a decently appointed SAK. Plus, carrying a trusty Swiss Army Knife around with you is likely to raise less eyebrows than carrying a stapler on your next hike!
I was also fortunate enough a few years ago to get a genuine Wenger Business Tool case, which up until now has has my Wenger ToolChest Plus living in it. I don't know if these were available in a package with the Business Tool at any point, but I do know the cases were usually sold separately, and given how few people I know who actually have one, I assume very few people bought the add on, assuming the Business Tool was expensive enough on it's own!
So, congratulations to those who have the Business Tool- I hope you can appreciate it as much as I do!