“Next morning we sent for the burglar-alarm man and he came up and explained that the reason the alarm did not ‘go off’ was that no part of the house but the first floor was attached to the alarm.” ~ Mark Twain – American Humorist 1835-1910, “The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm”


If you have never read any of the works of Samuel Clemens penned under the name of Mark Twain, then you have cheated yourself out of a cornucopia of fun and Americana. In one sitting on a rainy afternoon you will enjoy more of the purest foundations of American life and business than you can begin to imagine.

And if by chance you have never read the story of “The McWilliamses and the Burglar Alarm” after being involved in this profession, then you have denied yourself the opportunity of a lifetime to laugh as hard as you ever will at our curious profession and ourselves. Twain’s keen sense of awareness as a security consumer and the choices that are left him from the alarm “expert” comprise almost more humor than one can bear in a single reading.

As a summer literary treat, since either do a “Google Search” on your computer by typing in “Mark Twain McWilliamses Burglar Alarm” and then select the story or carefully type in this URL or copy and paste to bring it up:


By all means take the time to carefully and slowly digest the story. Don’t just read it. Try to imagine yourself as the customer and then as the alarm dealer and you will quickly see the irony involved. Even though it comes from a more innocent time and place, the principles of the story are as readily identifiable to us today as alarm contractors as they were in 1910. Unfortunately these same principles apply to the hapless consumer even today.

Sometimes we sell the consumer short and forget to apply the common sense solutions that seem so clear after the fact of an event. We are reluctant to commit to the buyer on the front end the total professionalism that they are seeking from us. Instead we provide them solutions on a piecemeal basis that only engenders frustration and separates the buyer from us further; either because we are afraid we are ‘charging too much’ or they certainly ‘would not buy something that elaborate’.

Do not sell yourself or your profession short. Seek to provide these professional solutions even in a highly competitive market. You will be amazed that the consumer intuitively understands what is really needed as a solution. They simply need the guidance of a knowledgeable professional in this trade to confirm their decision. They will appreciate your candor because that is why they called upon you in the first place. In the mean time have a great laugh reading this short story. Being the ‘alarm expert’, you will still appreciate it over one hundred years after it was originally set to paper.


Bob Neely

Executive Director

Alarm Association of Florida