Conversation Pieces XIII: The Closer

(msstate.edu)
(msstate.edu)

By: Wayne Brown


Today is July 6, 1961. I know that because I just marked it off on the calendar pad that I keep on the nightstand here in this flea-dump motel. I have been here just south of Birmingham, Alabama now for the past three weeks…working. I hate my job. The money is pretty good but that’s the end of it. The rest is nothing but a carnie barker sideshow that I crank up every evening around sundown. I have done it so much I can do it in my sleep. I hate my job.

I work for Knowledge International Inc., one of the leading suppliers of published materials in the United States. The company has launched a new product offering which is made up of a 24 volume deluxe set of informational encyclopedias. These books appear to contain most of the knowledge that is available in the world. At least that is what the company would like the potential buyer to think the moment he or she lays eyes on them. In my position, I am officially described as a Contract Consumer Consultant meaning that I am a free-lance traveling door-to-door salesman representing the Knowledge International product to the potential end buyer. My territory is a five state area here in the southeastern portion of the USA and as you might guess I spend a lot of time on the road, in small towns, and dumpy motels. Since I am a contract worker, my expenses are all on me and are reimbursed to some degree by the company with a less than generous per diem plan; thus shabby motels and cheap meals are the story of my life. I hate my job.

Making cold calls door to door at residences is generally a waste of time during the day. The lady of the house is normally home but she will use the out that she needs to consult with her husband before making the buy and I end up having to come back and make the same pitch all over again when the husband is there. I usually go out right after the dinner hour hoping the catch the families as they are finishing up their meal and settling down for the evening. This is a time when everyone is tired from the work day and they usually want to get things over as fast as possible. That makes them an easier touch. But, it also leaves me with a lot of time on my hands during the day to kill. I sit around this fleabag motel smoking cigarettes and drinking cheap whiskey. By the evening time, I am normally quite mellow and don’t hate my job as much.

Before I go any further, I should tell you more about these books I sell so you can appreciate what I am pedaling. My job is to get in the door and then show the family the features, advantages, and benefits of these fabulous books. As I said before, this is a 24-volume set of books bound in a simulated leather grain cover which comes in either basic black or bright red. In either color the lettering both on the front cover and the roll binder is done in a gold-leaf font which adds a touch of elegance to the appearance of these books. As an added bonus the company offers, free of charge, a beautiful simulated wood-grain library shelf on which to store the books. We do charge a small fee for shipping & handling. There is also an easy payment plan designed to allow the customer to pay out the volumes in just four short years with the additional of some simple interest charges. Of course I cannot carry the entire volume around with me but I do have some sample books in my case along with some glossy photo brochures of the entire set along with the library shelf. As you can see I have quite an attractive package for our customers.

Now, you are quite lucky that you happened by because I will be going out to make a call or two in just a bit. You can come along and observe. My goal is to sell a set of the volumes each day; on good days I sometimes sell two especially if the first one bites early on in the presentation. I have a standard spiel I use for getting my foot in the door. You can tag along but keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking. Once you see how I close these deals, you’ll probably want to get your own territory and sell these encyclopedias yourself. Hell, take my job, I hate it.

Okay, here we are in the car driving around the neighborhoods. I make random calls in and out of neighborhoods so that the news of my arrival doesn’t get there ahead of me via the telephone. What we are looking for here is a home large enough that it likely houses not only a husband and wife but also a couple of kids. The kids will play well into the sell as the guilt factor about a quality education is easily aroused in most parents. Selling them is a whole lot easier than getting tangled up with some old codger and his ugly wife who spend most of my time arguing about whose in charge. There, that house looks like the perfect target. We’ll just pull down the street a bit and park the car then walk back up to the front door. Hang with me, I know this game.

I never ring door bells even if they have them. I simply give a light knock in an attempt show my reservation to intrude. People are like cats…they can’t stand it when somebody knocks. They have to see who it is. As you can see I am aptly dressed in my suit and tie as well as being clean-shaven. Even a door-hole looker will probably open the door to a nice looking guy like me. Here, I’ll just knock.

Good evening maam, so sorry to trouble you at this hour. My name is John Mayer and I am with Knowledge International Company. My friend here and I were scheduled to meet with some folks down at the First Baptist Church for a product demonstration but when I got there no one was about. It seems there has been some confusion on the scheduling. I was wondering if it might be possible that we could come in and use your telephone to contact my company for further instructions. We’ll only be a minute and I will be more than glad to reimburse you for the call. Thank you very much, maam. I didn’t get your name. Yes, Mrs. Mahoney, it’s so nice to meet you. It’s such a pleasure…now about the telephone call… could you please just show us to the phone? Thank you.

Oh my…is this your family here. Oh my goodness so sorry to intrude. You must be Mr. Mahoney. I was just telling your lovely wife here that we have had a mix up down at the First Baptist Church and I am afraid the product meeting we were planning to have for a group of the church parents has been undermined by confusion in the schedule. I have just asked her to use your phone to call my company and explain to them what has happened. Oh I know those wonderful parents will be so disappointed that we could not get this meeting completed. It will at least six months before I can get back into the area. By then the school year will be half over and those children will have lost the use of these wonderful products that I had to show them. Perhaps you and your family were planning to attend the meeting? No, well, so sorry to hear that. You have two beautiful children here, a boy and a girl, who look to me to be quite intelligent and good at their school work. I am so sure that we could have helped them along. Perhaps when we come back in six months you and your wife would reconsider.

What’s that… oh, I ‘m so sorry. I forgot to tell you what my product entails. Perhaps knowing that would arouse your interest to a higher level and you would attend the meeting. Here just let me open my case and get a brochure. I’ll just lay it out here on the coffee table and you can see with your own eyes what I am going to tell you about.

Of course you are both aware of the importance of a strong education for our children. My company is very much aware and in agreement that we must do everything in our power to put knowledge before these young minds. In keeping true to that ambition, Knowledge International is offering a new approach to learning and informational access with a deluxe home edition 24-volume set of the Knowledge Encyclopedia. Each volume is bound in simulated leather grain covers which is offered in either a very chic black or a brilliant red color choice. Each volume is delicately inscribed with gold-leaf font markings to allow easy identification when you are referencing material. Inside each book one can only marvel at the vast array of knowledge arranged in an alphabetical format for easy use. Did I also mention there are both pictures embedded into the subject material in book color and black & white to add a dimension of interest to your reading? Now this entire set is of 24 deluxe books is shipped directly to you with a one-time only shipping charge and should arrive at your front door within two weeks of placing the order. As an added bonus, Knowledge International will send you a beautiful library shelf to store your volumes at no charge. The shelf comes in a beautiful simulated oak grain or you may choose the traditional simulated cherry wood darker finish. Either one would be a simply beautiful addition to your living room. I am sure you friends and relatives will be quite envious when they come over and see this beautiful piece in your home.

Now, tell me Mrs. Mahoney, which finish would you prefer on the shelf? You like the cherry wood. Excellent choice…I’ll just make a note of that on my form here for later reference. Now how about the colored binding…will it be the chic black or the bright red. I think either one would be an excellent choice. Red it is! Wow! It looks like the whole family is in agreement on that choice. I know you will all be happy with it and I’ll just mark it here on my form.

Now there is one last small matter of business that we need to discuss which is always troublesome but quite necessary and that of course is the payment. Now, some folks pay me right up front in cash. Others prefer a check as their record of payment. Both are fine. And certainly we also offer a four year financing program with a reasonable interest charge if you would like to pay for your beautiful volumes over time. This plan would only require a small down payment of 10% of the amount due. Oh I’m sorry Mr. Mahoney; I never told you the price. That is so rude of me but you have to understand that I did not come here on a sales call thus I am not as organized as I would normally be. Normally I would have told you the price right up front. I must have gotten carried away with all the features of these wonderful books. Well, let me assure you that you are getting a real bargain here. This 24-volume set is valued at over $1000 dollars but on our introductory special Knowledge International will make it yours for the small sum of $499 plus applicable taxes. Now how shall I indicate on my form that you would want to handle the transaction? A check…Oh a check would be perfect. Just make that out to me, John Mayer, and I will see the funds are forwarded on to the company along with the orders. Of course you will have your check and a copy of my sale receipt as your record of payment. Might I also add something before you fill in that amount on the check? Thank you very. In order to keep this information in these volumes up to date, Knowledge International will publish an annual refresher volume which will be sent to you each year for the low price of $24.99 plus shipping & handling. Of course, I would need to collect for that first year’s refresher at the time of the sale.

Let’s see, the 24-volume deluxe set with red covers complete with a the cherry wood finish storage shelf at $499 plus $24.99 for the refresher annual then adding in 6% for sales tax here in Alabama, that comes to a total of $555.43 plus a $10 shipping and handling charge gives us a grand total of $565.43 for these lovely books. Now if you will just review the order and sign here Mr. Mahoney, I will be glad to take your check and get the order on its way. You folks are going to be the envy of those folks down at First Baptist when they find out that you already have your books while they are still waiting to see the presentation. You folks are really lucky that I stopped by to make that phone call.

Well, thank you very much. Looks like everything is in order and we are ready to depart. I am sorry to have taken up so much of your evening but when you have the passion for this product that I have Mr. and Mrs. Mahoney, you just cannot stop yourself when someone asks about it. I know that you and the children will so enjoy this wonderful addition to your household and I wish you all the best along the best wishes of everyone at Knowledge International. It has been my pleasure serving you and I bid you a good evening.

Well, that went quite well, don’t you think. Order in hand, money in my pocket and I have reached my goal for yet another day in this Alabama town. Come on; let’s head on back to the car. We’ll drive back over to the motel and I’ll pour you a glass of hooch, then I’ll tell you the story about the biggest sale that I ever made. By the way, did I mention to you how much I hate this job? Okay then, I’ll explain it to you in detail…we got time. Wanna a smoke?

© Copyright WBrown2011. All Rights Reserved.


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Comments 17 comments

FitnezzJim profile image

FitnezzJim 5 years ago from Fredericksburg, Virginia

Days gone by, do folks buy Encyclopedia's anymore?

My parents had a copy of Encyclopedia Brittanica when I was a kid. I loved to read (still do, just not books so much) and I think I scan-read every single page of the set, stopping to read in-depth anything I found interesting. And that song 'Games People Play', when I grew up I'd start humming or singing that song anytime I met someone who was willing to claim an idealistic face while at the same time performing actions they'd really prefer others not know about. It always made me wonder why our childhood heroes wear masks.


Hyphenbird profile image

Hyphenbird 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

I used to work with a guy who could sell heaters in August. Your spiel reminds me of him. I would hate that job too and would need that drink just to get the the hours. You sure brought the feeling alive.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@FitnezzJim...Definitely...Mom still has our original set back at the house. There was a time when you could earn a set of them at the grocery story...just like the dishes they use to offer. Times have changed! WB

@Hypenbird...I have been accused of being able to get eskimos to mail order ice cubes...LOL! Glad you liked it. I tried to approach it from the angle of every hard push salesman I ever knew. WB


Old Poolman profile image

Old Poolman 5 years ago from Rural Arizona

Wayne, if I didn't know better I would think you had taken a whirl at selling Encyclopedia's door to door, but doubt that very much. Great story, and I could feel this guys pain. It is hard enough to earn a living, let alone at a job you hate.


David Warren profile image

David Warren 5 years ago from Nevada

Well written. Brought back memories, thankfully not of encyclopedia selling, lol. I remember the days I thought they were all priceless, loved every encyclopedia I ever got my hands on as a kid.


Truckstop Sally profile image

Truckstop Sally 5 years ago

You had me at very chic black or a brilliant red color. Ha! I am a firm believer in encyclopedias. In school, before we let the kiddos loose on the computer, we use good-old-fashioned print materials. Often - more reliable, and you might be surprised but little ones don't know how to look up info alphabetically!! George Washington is NOT in the G's!! With your perfect 100 score, I'm sure you were a brilliant student - using your encyclopedia and alphabetizing correctly.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Old Poolman...Let's just say that I have BS's my way through a lot of small holes, Mike. LOL! Thanks much! WB

@David Warren...Thank you. Glad I could conjure up some memories. Encyclopedias were certainly a big deal back in the day...I remember going through each volume page by page. WB

@Truckstop Sally...I was all smoke and mirrors for the most part until I found my powers. Then, I could only dream of a return to yesteryear and exercising them! Ha! If I really set my mind to it, I can talk an atheist into buying a Bible. LOL! WB


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

Brought back memories... We had no TV, I read the encyclopedias... Flag up and awesome!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@dallas93444...Wow, we were a generation of hardship and didn't even know it. We probably owe more of our intelligence to the encyclopedia salesment than anyone knows! LOL! WB


dallas93444 profile image

dallas93444 5 years ago from Bakersfield, CA

I did not know we were "poor!"


Becky 5 years ago

My kids still read encyclopedias. At the ages of 24, 22, and 14. Someone gave me a set and they are still hanging around 8 years later.


drbj profile image

drbj 5 years ago from south Florida

I remember a promotion some years ago at a local supermarket where the first volume in a set of enclopedias was onluy 99 cents and then you could buy each of the remaining books in alphabetical order for $1.99 each. That was an easy and painless way to purchase an encyclopedia for the kids.

Now with the internet and Google and Wikipedia, do parents still buy those volumes?

Loved your sales spiel, Wayne, very convincing.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Thanks to a Contract Consumer Consultant I received an encyclopaedia – New Standard A-Z – including Medical Health A-Z and some other most illuminating books for my 17th birthday. I really don’t know who I would have been today, and how little I would have known, if it was not for these books. Internet and especially Wikipedia had changed encyclopaedias into archaic resources. Lovely, amusing hub, Wayne. I’ve done marketing for many years – properties – and I hated the job. Touching a person’s money in any way, is having a peep into his soul. Some, no many souls are dark, cold and scary.


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 5 years ago

Selling door to door has to be the hardest job. When I first moved into my home, I made an appointment with The Kirby Man. He sold really expensive vacuum cleaners that cleaned your floor and styled your hair, not really but they were purported to do a lot of strange things. The guy showed up three hours late. My husband and I were already in bed. He came to the door and we ignored him. The guy went bananas. He ran around the house screaming our name and jumping up and down. Thank God that Kirby wasn't also a gun!


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@Becky...Mom still has ours. I think they have been declared a valuable family heirloom now. The world has really changed since those days. WB

@drbj...I guess if one was not computer literate or had no access to the Internet, they might come in handy. I wonder if anyone still prints them. WB

@MartieCoetser...Sounds like you got the deluxe package, Martie. I hope they threw in that beautiful simulated wood grain shelf! LOL! WB

@breakfastpop...I knew some guys in college who sold Bibles door to door as summer jobs. They made gobs of money and some the families even fed them. One of them married a girl that he met on a sales call! LOL! Sounds like that Kirby guy was teetering on the edge...almost postal! Ha! WB


saddlerider1 profile image

saddlerider1 5 years ago

A great video for a great hub. Man I could remember those days of door to door salesman, I even tried it once myself. I couldn't handle the rejection and doors being slammed in my face. I was trying to sell a cleaning gimmick called AlaKazam.

I think the name gave it away, they Alakazammed my butt off their doorstep. The encylopedia was the first set of anything my parents hand in our flat, I couild remember sitting on the floor as a kid flipping through all those black and white pages and being mesmerized.

A long way from the Internet craze for sure. I enjoyed this scribe Wayne, put a great big smile on my face. Thank you sir.


Wayne Brown profile image

Wayne Brown 5 years ago from Texas Author

@saddlerider1...Glad you liked it Ken! Great product name...AlaKazam! Seems that should have been enough to crate the curiosity to get you in the door. The rejection certainly plays hard on many but there are some in that game that it just rolls off like rain on a duck's back. WB

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