Haw­era home to bingo em­pire

South Taranaki Star - - PROPERTY - CATHERINE GROENESTEIN

New Zealand’s bingo king doesn’t ac­tu­ally play the game.

Keith Ran­ford has built his ca­reer around the pop­u­lar pas­time, with cus­tomers from Kaitaia to In­ver­cargill, plus the Pa­cific Is­lands, the Chatham Is­lands and Kiri­bati.

Based in Haw­era, South Taranaki, Ran­ford Bingo and Fundrais­ing Sup­plies was sup­ply­ing bingo tick­ets, dab­bers (pens), raf­fle tick­ets and a range of other fundrais­ing sup­plies to far­away cus­tomers by mail or­der for years be­fore on­line shop­ping be­came a thing.

‘‘We’re the biggest sup­plier in New Zealand. It shows you can op­er­ate a good busi­ness from a small town, a na­tion­wide busi­ness.’’

Ran­ford said many of his cus­tomers knew more about Haw­era than peo­ple in the South Taranaki town did about his busi­ness.

‘‘We’ve been go­ing 30 years, but no one knows what we do,’’ he said.

Bingo is pop­u­lar in large and small cen­tres through­out the coun­try, with a par­tic­u­larly strong fol­low­ing in Auck­land.

Some games had a prize pool of $1000 and the game could be­come quite ad­dic­tive, he said.

‘‘When they banned smok­ing ev­ery­one was wor­ried it would go to the wall but it was the op­po­site, it made it bet­ter. More peo­ple started play­ing.’’

There was com­pe­ti­tion be­tween groups, with some afraid to stop over the Christ­mas break for fear their reg­u­lars would go to an­other hall while they were shut.

Changes had come as tech­nol­ogy had re­placed the tra­di­tional hu­man caller in some halls, and some players used dig­i­tal de­vices in­stead of pa­per tick­ets.

But run­ning a reg­u­lar bingo night re­mained a good fundraiser, he said.

The busi­ness was one of the first to get one of the new 0800 num­bers when Tele­com in­tro­duced them in the early 1990s. ’’The 0800 num­ber was our biggest saviour. Be­fore that, peo­ple used to call col­lect. Many peo­ple weren’t too com­fort­able do­ing that and our toll bills were hor­ren­dous.’’

Al­though some cus­tomers used email and on­line or­der­ing, he pre­ferred the tele­phone be­cause of the con­tact it gave with the cus­tomers.

‘‘Peo­ple ring us and we pack up their par­cel straight away and send it away by 4pm, it’s on their doorstep the next morn­ing.’’

CATHERINE GROENESTEIN

Ran­ford Bingo owner Keith Ran­ford and re­cep­tion­ist Chloe Dun­can in Haw­era are well known to bingo or­gan­is­ers around the coun­try by voice if not their faces.

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