"Richards left me and went into the hotel. I wanted to get him off as quickly as I could because I didn't know but that, any minute, the old gentleman would come out of the bank door. I hit a pretty lively pace to get in where he was. By that time, he had investigated my bonds and found that he wanted them. I took his check and gave him a receipt for it, and then walked with him over to where his horse was. I wanted to get him out of town as quickly as I could and keep my competitor from seeing him, if possible.
"Well, sir, everything worked smooth as a charm. As the old man's buggy was just crossing the bridge, out came Richards from the hotel. I was again sitting in the park.
"'Heavens! you're taking it easy,' said he to me. 'How is it the firm can afford to pay you to go around these towns, sit in parks and smoke cigars, Woody?'
"'Oh, a man has to take a lay-off once in a while,' said I.
"I went over to the bank where the old man had been, and in a few minutes sold them some bonds. Then I came out and again sat down in the park a few minutes, waiting for Richards to get through so that I could go and see the other people where he was dickering. Pretty soon he came out and he was swearing mad. He said, 'I've been wrangling with these people for a couple of hours and I can't get them into anything to save my life. I might just as well have been out here with you all this time, taking the world easy, for all the good I've done.'
"'Well, I guess I'll go over and take a crack at them again,' said I.
"'All right. Go ahead. I guess I'll skip the town,' but he didn't do a thing but get on the trolley which passed out by old man Reidy's house, where he was, of course, too late. I went in where he had not been able to do business, and, now that my mind was easy, I took plenty of time and made a nice sale in there, too.
"About a week afterwards I met Richards, and he said, 'Well, Woody, you've got one coming on me. You weren't so idle as I thought all the time you were out there in the park.'"
"First call for dinner in the dining car," drawled out the white- aproned darkey as Woody finished his story.
"Boys, shall we all go in?" said Woody.
"I'm not very hungry," spoke up Leonard, "I took luncheon pretty late today. I think I'll wait a little bit unless you all are in a hurry."
"You know what you were telling me about running your competitor into a bank around the corner," spoke up a necktie man, "goes to show this: That you must have a man's attention before you can do business with him. I really believe that your friend, Woody, would have done business if he hadn't struck his man at the busy time of day. I know that I can usually do business if I get a man when his mind is easy and I can get him to look at my goods.
"But I bumped into the hardest proposition the other day that I've put my shoulder against for a long time. There's a merchant that I call on, over near Duluth, that is the hardest man to get into a sample room I ever saw. I have been calling on him for several seasons but I couldn't get him away from the store. Once he had a clerk that stole from him and after he got onto this fellow he never leaves the store unless one of his own sons is right there to take his place. Even then, he doesn't like to go out, and he only does so to run up home and back right quickly for a bite to eat. I had sold him a few little jags by lugging stuff in and was getting tired of this sort of business. I wanted either to get a decent order or quit him cold. It is all very good, you know, to send in one or two little jags from a new man, but the house kicks and thinks you are n. g. if you keep on piking with the same man.
"This time, I went into his store and said to myself, 'Well, if I can't get this old codger to go down to my sample room, I'm not going to do any business with him at all.'
"When I went into his store I shook hands with him and offered him a cigar. He said, 'Vell, I vont smoke dis now. I lay it avay.'
"If there is anything on earth that makes me mad it is to offer a cigar to a merchant or a clerk who, in truth, doesn't smoke, and have him put it aside and hand it to somebody else after I have left town; but, you know, you bump into that kind once in a while.
"The old man was back in the office. He shook hands pretty friendly, and said, 'How's peezness?'
"'Best ever,' said I. It's always a good thing to be cheerful. All traveling men who go around the country saying that business is poor ought to be knocked in the head. Even if they are not doing a great deal, they should at least say, even in the dullest of times, that business might be a 'lot worse.' It's these croakers on the road who really make business dull when there is every reason for it to be good. I never kick and I don't think any up-to-date man will.
"Well, sir, when the old man had asked me how business was and I'd told him that it was strictly good, I went right square at him. I said: 'Now, look here, Brother Mondheimer, I have been selling you a few goods right along and you've told me that they were satisfactory, but I haven't been doing either myself or you justice. I want you, this time, to come right down with me and see what a line of goods I really have. My stuff is strictly swell. The patterns are up-to-date and I've styles enough to line the whole side of your house. Now, don't let me run in with just a handful of samples and sell you a little stuff, but come down and give me a square chance at a decent order.'
"'Dot's all ride,' said he, 'but I can't get avay. I must stay hier. Ven cost'mers com in, somebody must be hier to vait on 'em.'
"'That's all right,' said I, 'but all your clerks are idle now. There isn't a customer in the store. Things are quiet just now. Suppose you come on down with me.'
"'No, I can't do dot,' said the old man. 'I'd like to but I can't. Von't you breeng op a leedle stoff?'
"I didn't answer his question directly, but I said, 'Now, look here, Brother Mondheimer, suppose a man were to come into your store and want to buy a good suit of clothes. How much profit would you make?'
"'Aboud fife tollars,' said he.
"'Well, how long would you, yourself, spend on that man, trying to make a sale with him?'
"'Vell, I vood nod led him go until I solt him,' said he.
"'All right,—by the way—', said I. 'Can you give me two tens for a twenty?'
"He handed me out two ten dollar gold pieces.
"'Here' said I, slapping down one of the slugs and shoving it over to him, 'Here's ten dollars for ten minutes of your time. That's yours now,—take it! I've bought your time and I dare you come down to my sample room. If you do, I'll make that ten back in less than ten minutes and you'll stay with me an hour and buy a decent bill of goods.'
"Well, sir, the old man wouldn't take the ten—but he did get his hat and he's been an easy customer ever since!"
"Second and last call for dinner," called the dining car boy again.
"Guess this is our last chance," spoke up one of the boys. Then, stretching a little, we washed our hands and went in to dinner.
TACTICS IN SELLING—II.
After we had finished dinner, all of the party came back to our "road club room," the smoker.
"The house," said the furnishing goods man, sailing on our old tack of conversation, "sometimes makes it hard for us, you know. I once had a case like this: One of my customers down in New Orleans had failed on me. I think his muhulla (failure) was forced upon him. Even a tricky merchant does not bring failure upon himself if business is good and he can help it, because, if he has ever been through one, he knows that the bust-up does him a great deal more harm than good. It makes 'credit' hard for him after that. But, you find lots of merchants who, when business gets dull, and they must fail, will either skin their creditors completely or else settle for as few cents on the dollar as possible.
"Well, I had a man in market, once, when I was traveling out of Philadelphia, who had 'settled' for 35 cents on the dollar. He had come out of his failure with enough to leave him able to go into business again, and, with anything like fair trade, discount all his bills. I knew the season was a fairly good one and felt quite sure that, for a few years anyway, my man would be good. What was lost on him was lost, and that was the end of it. The best way to play even was on the profits of future business.
"But our credit man, a most upright gentleman, wasn't particular about taking up the account again. However, there I was on a commission basis! I knew the man would pay for his goods and that it was money in my pocket—and in the till of the house—to sell it.
"I had seen my man at the hotel the evening before and he'd said he would be around the next morning about ten o'clock. I went down to the store before that time and talked the thing over with the credit man.
"Don't want to have anything to do with that fellow,' he said. 'He skinned us once and it's only a matter of time until he'll do it again.'
"The head man of the firm came by about that time and I talked it over with him. He had told me only the day before that he had some 'jobs' he was very anxious to get rid of.
"'Now,' said I to him, 'I believe I have a man from New Orleans who can use a good deal of that plunder up on the sixth floor if you're willing to sell it to him. He uses that kind of "Drek" and is now shaped up so that he'll not wish for more than sixty day terms, and I'm sure he'd be able to pay for it. He's just failed, you know.'
"Well, let him have it—let him have it,' said the old man. 'Anything to get the stuff out of the house. If he doesn't pay for it we won't lose much.'
"'All right, if you both say so, I'll go ahead and sell him.'
"This was really building a credit on 'jobs,' for I believed that my man would after that prove a faithful customer,—and this has been the case for many years.
"Well, when he came in, I took him up to the 'job' floor and sold him about five hundred dollars. This was the limit that the credit man had placed on the account. Then came the rub. I had to smooth down my customer to sixty day terms and yet keep him in a good humor. He thought a great deal of me—I had always been square with him—and he wasn't such a bad fellow. He had merely done what many other men would have done under the same circumstances. When he had got into the hole, he was going to climb out with as many 'rocks' in his pocket as he could. He couldn't pay a hundred cents and keep doing business, and it was just as much disgrace to settle for sixty cents on the dollar, which would leave him flat, as it was to settle for thirty-five. So he argued!
"I brought him up to the credit window and said to the credit man— Gee! I had to be diplomatic then—'Now, this is Mr. Man from New Orleans. You know that cotton has been pretty low for the past season and that he has had a little misfortune that often comes into the path of the business man. He, you also know, has squared this with everybody concerned in an honorable way,—although on account of the dull times he was unable to make as large a settlement as he wished to—isn't that the case, Joe?' said I. He nodded.
"'Yes, but things are picking up with me, you know,' said he.
"'Yes; so they are,' said I, taking up the thread, 'cotton is advancing and times are going to be pretty good down in the south next season. Now, what I've done,' said I to the credit man, as if I had never spoken to him about the matter before, 'is this: Joe, here, has learned a lesson. He has seen the folly, and suffered for it, of buying so many goods so far ahead. What he aims to do from this time on is to run a strictly cash business, and to buy his goods for cash or on very short terms. We have picked out five hundred dollars' worth of goods—I've closed them pretty cheap—and you shall have your money for this, the bill fully discounted, within sixty days. Then in future, Joe, here, does not wish to buy anything from you or anybody else that he cannot pay for within that time. One bump on the head is enough, eh, Joe?'
"'Yes; you bet your life. I've learned a lesson.'
"'That'll be very satisfactory, sir,' said the credit man, and everything was O. K. You see, I had put the credit man in the position of making short terms and I had tickled Joe and given him something that he needed very badly at that time—credit. This was about the smoothest job I think I ever did. I really don't believe that either the credit man or my customer was fully onto my work. Joe, however, has thanked me for that many a time since. He's paid up my house promptly and used them for reference. They could only tell the truth in the matter, that he was discounting his bills with them. This has given him credit and he's doing a thriving business now, and has been for several years. He is getting long time again from other houses."
"Smooth work all right," said one of the boys, touching the button for the buffet porter.
"Once in a while," said the book man, "you have to pull the wool over a buyer's eyes. I never like to do anything of this sort, and I never do but that I tell them about it afterwards. The straight path is the one for the traveling man to walk in, I know; but once, with one of my men, I had to get off of the pebbles and tread on the grass a little.
"We really sell our publications for less than any other concern in the country. We give fifty off, straight, to save figuring, while many others give 40-10-5, which, added up, makes 55, but, in truth, is less than fifty straight. Once, in Chicago, I fell in on a department store man. I put it up to him and asked him if he would like certain new books that were having a good sale.
"'Yes,' he said, 'but I tell you, John (he knew me pretty well), I can't stand your discounts. You don't let me make enough money. You only give me 50 while others give me 40-10-5.'
"'All right, I'll sell them to you that way,' said I. 'We won't worry about it.'
"'Very good then,' and he gave me his order.
"Next season, when I got around to him, I had forgotten all about the special terms that I had made this man. But after he said he would use a certain number of copies of a book, he jogged my memory on that score with the question:
"'What sort of terms are you going to give me—the same I had last year?'
"'No, sir; I will not,' said I. 'I'm not going to do business with you that way.'
"'Well, if you've done it once, why don't you do it again? Other people do it right along, and your house is still in business. They haven't gone broke.'
"'Yes, you bet your life they're still in business!' said I, 'and they'd make a whole lot more money than they do now if they'd do business on the terms that you ask. Do you know what I did? You wouldn't let me have things my way and be square with you, so I skinned you on that little express order out of just ninety cents, and did it just to teach you a lesson!' I said, planking down a dollar. 'I don't want to trim you too close to the bone.'
"'Well,' said he, after I'd figured out and shown him the difference between 50 off straight and 40-10-5, 'This dollar doesn't belong to me. Come on, let's spend it.'"
"That's pretty good," chimed in the shoe man, who was sitting on a camp stool. The smoking compartment was full. "But it was dangerous play, don't you think? Suppose he'd done that figuring before you'd got around and shown him voluntarily that you skinned him and why. I know one of my customers, at any rate, who would have turned you down for good on this sort of a deal. He is a fair, square, frank man—most merchants, I find, are that way anyhow."
"Yes; you're right," said John.
"I got at the man I speak of this way," said the shoe man. "I had called on him many times. He was such a thoroughbred gentleman and treated me so courteously that I could never press matters upon him. There are merchants, you know, of this kind. I'd really rather have a man spar me with bare 'knucks' than with eight-ounce pillows. This gives you a better chance to land a knock-out blow. But there is a way of getting at every merchant in the world. The thing to do is to find the way.
"As I stood talking to this gentleman—it was out in Seattle—in came a Salvation Army girl selling 'The War Cry.' When she came around where I was, my merchant friend gave her a quarter for one, and told her to keep the change. Do you know, I sized him up from that. It showed me just as plain as day that he was kind hearted and it struck me, quick as a flash, that my play was generosity. People somehow who are free at heart admire this trait in others. When a man has once been liberal and knows what a good feeling it gives him on the inside, to do a good turn for some poor devil that needs it, he will always keep it up, and he has a soft spot in his heart for the man who will dig up for charity.
"I didn't plank down my money with any attempt to make a show, but I simply slipped a dollar into the Salvation Army Captain's hand, and said, 'Sister, the War Cry is worth that much to me. I always read it and I'm really very glad you brought this copy around to me.'
"Now, this wasn't altogether play, boys, you know. If there is any one in the world who is a true and literal Christian, it is the girl who wears the Salvation Army bonnet. And to just give your money isn't always the thing. A little kind word to go along with it multiplies the gift.
"After a while, when I got around to it—I talked with the merchant for some time about various things—I said, as politely as I could: 'Now, you know your affairs a great deal better than I do myself, but it is barely possible that I might have something in my line that would interest you. My house is old established and they do business in a straightforward manner. If you can spare the time, I should be very glad indeed to have you see what I am carrying. I assure you that I shall not bore you in the sample room. I never do this because I don't like to have any one feel I'm attempting to know more of his affairs than he does.'
"'If such were the case,' said my merchant friend, 'why, then, I ought to sell out to you.'
"'Then you are right,' said I. 'Nothing bothers me more, on going into a barber shop when I'm in a rush and wish nothing but a shave, than to have the barber insist on cutting my hair, singing it, giving me a shampoo, and a face massage.'
"'Well, I don't think I'm needing anything just now,' said my merchant friend. 'But as you're here, I'll run down and see you right after luncheon. 'No,' said he, pulling out his watch, 'I might as well go with you right now. It is half past eleven and that will give you all the afternoon free.'
"'Very well,' said I, 'this is kind of you. I am at your service.'
"It was considerate of him to go along with me right then, for the time of a traveling man relatively is more valuable than that of any other man I know of. In many lines he must make his living in four to six months in the year. Every minute of daylight, when he is on the road, means to him just twice that time or more!
"Do you know, I never had in my sample room a finer man. He very quickly looked over what I had and when he said to me, 'Do you know, I'm really glad that I've come down with you. You have some things that strike me. I hadn't intended putting in any more goods for this season, but here are a few numbers that I'm sure I can use. I can't give you a very large order. However, if you're willing to take what I wish, I shall be very glad to give you a small one; but if your goods turn out all right, and this I have no right to question, we shall do more business in future.'
"I took the order, which wasn't such a small one, either, and from that time on he has always been a pleasant customer. He was a gentleman-merchant!"
"He's the kind that always gets the best that's coming," broke in two or three of the boys at once.
"Yes, you bet your life!" exclaimed the shoe man. "If a man wishes to get the best I have, that is the way I like him to come at me. To be sure, I do a one price business; but even then, you know, we can all do a man a good turn if he makes us have an interest in his business by treating us courteously. We can serve him by helping him select the best things in our lines, and by not overloading him."
"Many's the way," said the dry goods man, "that we have of getting a man's ear. In '96 I was traveling in Western Nebraska. That state, you know, is Bryan's home. Things were mighty hot out there in September, and nearly everybody in that part of the country was for him; but when you did strike one that was on the other side, he was there good and hard! Yet, most of those who were against Bryan by the time September rolled around were beginning to think that he was going to win out. I had just left Chicago and had been attending a great many Republican political meetings. I had read the Chicago newspapers, all of which were against Bryan that year, and thought that while there was a good deal of hurrah going on, he didn't stand a ghost of a show, and I was willing to bet my money on it.
"I didn't have a customer in this town. It was Beaver City. You know how the stores are all built around three sides of a public square. I was out scouting for a looker. I dropped into one man's store—he was a Republican, but he said to me, 'Heavens alive! How do you expect me to buy any goods this year? Why, Bryan's going to be elected sure's your born, and this whole country is going to the devil. I'm a Republican and working against him as hard as I can, but I'm not going to get myself in debt and go broke all the same.
"'The only man in this town who thinks Bryan isn't going to win is old man Jarvis across the way. If he keeps on buying and things come out the way I think they will, I'll have one less competitor when things all blow over.'
"I looked in my agency book. As a rule, they're not worth a rap for anything except to give the names of merchants in a town and the sort of business they're in, but when I got down to the J's I saw that Jarvis was rated ten to twenty thousand. I stuck the book in my pocket and made straight for where I saw his name over the door.
"First thing he boned me about was, 'Well, how's the election going in Illinois and back East?'
"'Oh, Bryan will be put under a snow bank so deep he'll never get out,' said I, 'when November gets here.'
"'Good!' said he. 'You're the first man I've seen for a month who's agreed with me. I don't think he'll run one, two, three. These fellows out here in this country are all crazy because Bryan's come from this state; and a few hayseed Populists who've always been Republican heretofore are going to vote for him. Shucks! They don't amount to anything. It's the East that settles an election, and the working man. Why, they're not going to see this country go to the devil because a few of these crazy Pops out here are going to vote the Democratic ticket!'
"The druggist from next door, who overheard the old man, spoke up hotly and said, 'Well, I'm one of them crazy Pops you're talking about. You haven't any money that says Bryan's goin' to lose, have you?'
"'Well, I'm not a betting man,' said Jarvis, 'but if I was, I'd put up my store against yours,—the building and all against your stock.'
"'Well, I wish you were a betting man,' said the druggist. 'You'd better either put up or shut up. I'll jest bet you ten dollars even that Bryan does win.'
"'I'll take that bet, my friend,' said I, knowing that the effect of the wager on Jarvis would be worth more than the bet itself. I reached for my roll of expense money—I had about two hundred dollars on me— and slipped out a 'tenner.' The druggist went in next door and got his money. The old man held the stakes.
"I was the only man who'd been in that town for a long time who was willing to bet on McKinley, and pretty soon a dozen fellows were after me. In about twenty minutes I had put up all I had, and went over to the bank and drew a couple of hundred more. I drew it on personal account as I had plenty of money coming to me from the firm. Soon a couple of fellows came in who wanted to put up a hundred each. I covered their piles, went back to the bank and made another draft—in all, I planked up five hundred dollars before leaving town. Jarvis was my stake holder.
"'Say,' said he, 'young fellow, I've never done any business with you, but, by Heavens! I like your pluck, and I'm going right over to your sample room whether you ask me to or not and give you an order. This is the best time for me to buy goods. All these other fellows around here are croaking about the election and they're not going to have anything to sell these people. Shoes are going to wear out and the sun is going to fade calico, Bryan or no Bryan! I want some goods on my shelves. Come on, let's go now before it gets dark!'
"I never sold a bill so easy in my life. The old man would pick up a bundle of sample cards and say, 'Here, you send me about what you think I ought to have out of this lot,' and while I was writing down the items, he would talk politics. I sold him a nailer."
"Well, you had pretty good luck in that town," spoke up one of the boys, "to get a good bill and also win five hundred dollars."
"Didn't win it, though," said the dry goods man.
"Well, how's that? Didn't McKinley win the election? You were betting on him."
"Yes, but I got back to Chicago about the time that Bryan struck there. I went down to the old shack on the lake front where the Post Office now is, and heard Bryan speak to the business men. It looked to me like the whole house was with him. I heard a dozen men around where I sat say, after the speech was over, that they had intended to vote against him, but that they were sure going to vote for Bryan. That same day I hedged on my five hundred."
"Well, you got a good customer out of the deal anyhow."
"Yes, I did; but I thought I'd lost him. After the election he sent me the thousand and I went down to see him. You know I voted for Bryan."
"Changed your mind, did you?"
"Change? Did you ever hear Bryan speak? When I met the old man I made a clean breast of it, and said, 'I'm mighty sorry to tell you, but I voted for Bryan.'
"'Well, that's all right,' he said. 'So did I.'"
TACTICS IN SELLING—III.
GETTING A MERCHANT'S ATTENTION.
"Seven and nine," said the porter, poking his head into the Pullman smoker, "are all made down."
With this, a couple of the boys bade us goodnight and turned in, but soon two more drifted in and took their places.
"Getting a merchant's attention," said the furnishing goods man, "is the main thing. You may get a man to answer your questions in a sort of a way but you really do not have his attention always when he talks to you. You would better not call on a man at all than go at him in a listless sort of a way. This is where the old timer has the bulge over the new man. I once knew a man who had been a successful clerk for many years who started on the road with a line of pants. He had worked for one of my old customers. I chanced to meet him, when I was starting on my trip, at the very time when he was making his maiden effort at selling a bill to the man for whom he had been working. Of course this was a push-over for him because his old employer gave him an order as a compliment.
"Well, sir, when that fellow learned that I was going West—this was on the Northern Pacific—he hung right on to me and said he would like to go along. Of course, I told him I should be very glad to have him do so, and that I would do for him whatever I could. But here he made a mistake. When a man starts out on the road he must paddle his own canoe. It is about as much as his friend can do to sell his own line of goods, much less to put in a boost for somebody else. And, furthermore, a man who takes a young chick under his wing will often cut off some of his own feed. Still, this fellow had always been very friendly with me and I told him, 'Why, to be sure, Henry; come right along with me.'
"In the second and third towns that we made, he picked up a couple of small bills that just about paid his expenses. He was just beginning to find that the road was not such an easy path to travel as, in his own mind, he had cracked it up to be.
"The next town we struck was Bismarck, North Dakota. We got in there about three o'clock in the morning. It was Thanksgiving Day. To be sure, I went to bed and had a good sleep. A man must always feel fresh, you know, if he expects to do any work.
"It was about eleven o'clock before I breakfasted, opened up, and started across the street. My old customer had burned out there and I, too, had to go out and rustle some man. Just as I started over toward town, I met my German friend Henry coming back. His face looked like a full moon shining through a cloud. I could see that there was trouble on his mind.
"'Well, Henry, how goes it?' said I.
"'Id don't go so goot,' said he. 'But vat can a man expect on Danksgifing? I vent to see von man and he said, "I haf an olt house dat alvays dreats me right, so vat's de use of chanching?" Vell, vat archument could I make against dot? I vent in to see anodder man and he said, "I haf an olt friend dot I buy from," and vat archument could I make against dot? I vent in to see still anodder, and he said, "I haf just bought," so, vat archument could I make against dot? The next man I vent to see said, "Mein Gott, man; don'd you suppose I am going to rest von day in de year? So I t'ought dere vas no use fooling mit him, so I t'ink I vill pack op and eat a goot dinner and take a goot nap and go vest again in de morning.'
"'All right, Henry,' said I; 'but I guess I'll go over and try my luck.'
"The first man that I went to see was the one who had said to my friend Henry that he thought he ought to have one day in the year to rest. He was the biggest merchant in the town in my line. When I reached his store he was putting the key in the door to lock up and go home for his Thanksgiving dinner.
"I couldn't talk to him out there in the cold—we were strangers—so I said to him, 'I should like to buy a couple of collars if you please.' He sold me the collars and then, just for a bluff, I made out that mine was hurting me and took a few minutes to put on another one. I didn't say anything about what my business was and the merchant, in order to have something to say, asked, 'Are you a stranger in town?'
"'Yes, sir,' said I, 'I am. But I hope that I shall not be very much longer. I am out looking for a location.'
"'You are a physician, then?' said the merchant.
"'Yes, sir,—in a way,' said I; 'but I treat diseases in rather a peculiar way, I fancy. I believe in going down to the cause of diseases and treating the cause rather than the disease itself. My specialty is the eye. Now, you see, if the eye looks at bright, sparkling snow, it is strained; but if it looks at a green pasture, that color rests it. In fact, if the eye looks upon anything that is not pleasing to it, it does it an injury. Now, my way of getting down to the root of all this eye trouble is to place before it things that are pleasing to look upon, and in this way, make eye salves and things of that kind unnecessary. In just a word,' said I (I had his attention completely), 'I am selling the prettiest, nobbiest, most up-to-date line of furnishing goods there is on the road. They are so attractive that they are good for sore eyes. Now, the only way I can back up this statement is by showing you what I have. When will it suit you to look at them? The location that I am looking for is a location for my goods right here on your shelves.'
"Well, sir; do you know, that merchant really came down to my sample room on Thanksgiving Day—he hardly took time to eat his dinner—and I sold him.
"I didn't see any more of my friend Henry until the next morning. The train was late and left about seven o'clock.
"'Vell, what luck yesterday?' said Henry.
"As he came up to me in the train where I was sitting with a friend, I said, 'Well, I sold a bill.'
"'Who bought of you?'
"'The clothing man here.'
"'Vell, dot's de feller,' said Henry, 'dot told me he vas going to haf von day in de year for his family. And you solt him? Vell, how did you do id?'
"I briefly told Henry of my experience.
"'Vell, dot vas goot,' said he.
"My advance agent friend, who had sat beside me—Henry had fallen in with us in our double seat—said to Henry, 'Now, that's a good line of argument. Why don't you use that sometime?' A twinkle came into my theatrical friend's eye when Henry did, in fact, ask my permission to use this line of talk. I told Henry, 'Why, sure, go on and use that argument anywhere you want to. I shall not use it again because in every town that I shall strike, from this time on, I have an old established customer. I have no use for that argument. Just go and use it.'
"'You'd better write that down with a pencil, Henry,' said the advance agent—Stanley was his name.
"'No, dere's no use ov writing dot down,' said Henry. 'Dot archurnent vas so clear dot I haf it in my headt!'
"But, sure enough, Henry took out his lead pencil and jotted down the points in the back of his order book. In the next town we struck, one of the merchants was a gruff old Tartar. He was the first man that Henry lit onto.
"Now, an old merchant can size up a traveling man very soon after he enters the door. The shoeman will go over to where the shoes are kept; the hat man will turn his face toward the hat case; the furnishing goods man will size up the display of neckwear; in fact, a merchant once told me that he could even tell the difference between a clothing man and a pants man. A clothing man will walk up to a table and run his hands over the coats while a pants man will always finger the trousers to a suit.
"Well, sir, when Henry walked into this gruff old merchant's store, he found him busy waiting on a customer so up he marched to a clothing table and began to feel of a pile of pants. After the customer went out he went up to the old man and said to him, 'Gootmorning, sir. I am a physician, sir, and I am looking for a logation—'
"'You are no such a —— thing,' said the old man. 'You are selling pants.'
"Henry told me of this experience when he came back to the hotel and he was so broken hearted that he almost felt like going back home. In fact, he didn't last more than about three weeks. He had started too late in life to learn the arts of the traveling man."
"You bet," said the wall paper man who had heard this story. "Attention is the whole cheese. I know I once tried my hardest to get hold of an old Irishman down in Texas. He was a jolly old chap but I couldn't get next. There wasn't any sample room in the town and if I showed my goods to any one, I would have to get his consent to let me bring my stuff into his store. When I struck old Murphy to let me bring my goods in, he gave me a stand-off so hard that another one of the boys who was in the store gave me the laugh. This riled me a little and I said to my friend who thought he had the joke on me, 'I am going to sell that old duck just the same.' 'I'll bet a new hat you don't,' said he. Something flashed across me somehow or other. I got bold and I said, I'll just take that bet.'
"I had to wait in town anyway for several hours so that I couldn't get out until after supper. So I went up to the hotel for dinner. That afternoon I went back to Murphy's store, pulled out a cigar case and, passing it over to the old gentleman, said, 'Take one, neighbor. These are out of my private box.' It was really a good cigar and the old man, giving me a little blarney, said, 'Surre, that cigare is a birrd.' 'I'm glad you like it,' said I. 'I have those sent me from Chicago, a fresh box every week. If you like it so well, here, take a couple more. I have lots of them in my grip.' I laid a couple on the old man's desk and he didn't object.
"'Now, Mr. Murphy,' said I, 'I know you don't wish to look at any of my goods whatsoever, and I'm not the man to ask you the second time. In fact, I am really glad you don't wish to buy some goods from me because it gives me a chance to run through my samples. I've been aiming to do some work on them for several days but really haven't had the time—I've been so busy. But, as there's nobody else here in the town that I care to see (a mild dose of "smoosh," given at the right time and in the right way, never does any harm, you know) and as there's no sample room here I'm sure you'll allow me to have my trunk thrown in your store where I shall not be in your way. I wish to rid myself of "outs."
"'Surre, me b'y; surre me b'y,' said the old man. 'Toike all the room you will but ye know Oime not for lookin' at your goods. Oime waitin' fer a friend, ye know.'
"'Very well, thank you; I promise you faithfully, Mr. Murphy, that I'll not show you any goods. I merely wish to get rid of my "tear- outs" and straighten up my line.'
"When the drayman dumped my trunk into the back end of the store, I opened up on the counter and tore off several 'outs.' I let my samples lie there and went up the street, but came back several times and peeped into the front window to see what the old man was doing. I did this three or four times and finally I saw him and one of the clerks back where my samples were, fingering them over.
"Then I went around to the back door, which was near where my samples were, marched right in and caught the old man in the act."
"Sell him?" spoke up one of the boys.
"Sure," said the wall paper man, "and I made the man who had lost the hat come down and buy one for me from the old Irishman."
"Well, that was a clever sale," said the hat man, "but you have, you know, as much trouble sometimes holding an old customer in line as you do in selling a new one. For my own part, whenever a customer gets clear off the hook, I let him swim. You have a great deal better luck casting your fly for new fish than you do in throwing your bait for one that has got away from you. My rule is, when a man is gone—let him go. But, as long as I have him on the hook, I am going to play him.
"When I was down in New Orleans a few seasons ago, one of my old customers said, 'Look here, I don't see any use of buying goods from you. I can buy them right home just as cheaply as you sell them to me, and save the freight. This freight item amounts to a good deal in the course of a year. See, here is a stiff hat that I buy for twenty-four dollars a dozen that is just as good as the one that you are selling me for the same money. Look at it.' He passed it over to me. I rubbed my hand over the crown and quickly I rapped the derby over my fist knocking the crown clean off it. I threw the rim onto the floor and didn't say a word. This play cost me a new hat but it was the best way I could answer my customer's argument. After that, my customer was as gentle as a dove. He afterwards admitted that he liked my goods better but that he was trying to work me for the difference in freight."
"The clerk can always give you a good many straight tips," spoke up one of the boys.
"Yes, and you bet your life he does his best to queer you once in a while, too!" said the clothing man. "I know I had a tough tussle with one not a great while ago down in Pittsburgh. Last season I placed a small bunch of stuff in a big store there. I had been late in getting around but the merchant liked my samples and told me that if the goods delivered turned out all right he would give me good business this season.
"Now, my house delivers right up to sample. A great many houses do not, and so merchants go not on the samples they look at but according to the goods delivered to them. It is the house that delivers good merchandise that holds its business, not the one that shows bright samples on the road and ships poor stuff.
"I went up to my man's store—this was just a few weeks ago—and asked him to come over with me.
"'My head clothing man,' said my customer, 'does not like your stuff. I might as well be frank with you about it.' 'What objection has he to it?' said I. 'He says they don't fit. He says the trimmings and everything are all right and I wish they did fit because your prices look cheap to me.' 'Well, let's go over and see about that,' said I. 'There's no one in the world more willing and anxious to make things right than I am if there is anything wrong.' I didn't know just what I had to go up against. The man on the road gets all the kicks.
"Once in a while there is a clerk who puts out his hand like the boy who waits on you at table and if pretty good coin is not dropped in it or some favor shown him, he will have it in for you.
"My customer and I walked over to where the clerk was and I came right out, and said, 'Johnny, what's the matter with this clothing you've received from me? Mr. Green (the merchant) here tells me you say it doesn't fit. Let's see about that.'
"The clerk was slim and stoop-shouldered. The tailor to his royal highness could not have made a coat hang right on him.
"'Now, you are kicking so much, Johnnie, on my clothing, you go here in this store and pick out some coats your size from other people and let's see how they fit. Let's put this thing to a fair test.'
"'That's square,' said Green. 'If a thing is so, I want to know it; if it isn't, I want to know it.'
"I slipped onto Johnnie three or four of my competitor's coats that he brought and they hung upon him about as well as they would on a scare- crow.
"'Now, Johnnie, you are a good boy,' said I, 'but you've been inside so long that the Lord, kind as He is, hasn't built you just right. You are not the man who is to wear this clothing that comes into this store. It is the other fellow. My house does not make clothing for people who are not built right. We take the perfect man as our pattern and build to suit him. There are so many more people in the world who are strong and robust and well proportioned than there are those who are not, that it is a great deal better to make clothing for the properly built man than for the invalid. Now, I just want to show you how this clothing does fit. You take any coat that you wish. Bring me half a dozen of them if you will—one from every line that you bought from me, if you wish. I wear a 38. Bring my size and let's see how they look. If they are not all right, I am the man who, most of all, wishes to know it. I can't afford to go around the country showing good samples and selling poor stuff. If my stuff isn't right, I am going to change houses but I want to tell you that you're the first man on this whole trip that has made a single complaint. Those who bought small bills from me last season are buying good bills from me this time. They have said that my goods give splendid satisfaction. Now, you just simply go, Johnnie, and get me ten coats. I sold you ten numbers—I remember exactly—l20 suits—one from every line that you bought, and I want to show you that there isn't a bad fitter in the whole lot.'
"'Yes, do that, Johnnie,' said the merchant. 'His stuff looked all right to me when I bought it. I, myself, have not had time to pay much attention to it and I will have to take your word for these things, but, now that the question is up, we'll see about it.'
"The clerk started to dig out my size but he couldn't find a 38 in but three lots to save his life. I put these on and they fit to a 'T'. I looked in the mirror myself and could see that the fit was perfect.
"'Now, look here, Brother Green,' said I, 'what are you in business for? You are in business to buy the best stuff that you can for your money. Now, you remember you thought when you bought my goods that they were from one to two dollars a suit cheaper and just as good as anything you had seen. Now, if you can buy something from me just as good as another man can give you, and buy it cheaper, you are going to do it, aren't you?'
"'Why, to be sure, Jim,' said Green, warming up.
"'Now, look here, it isn't the opinion of your clerk or your own opinion even that you care a rap for. The opinion that is worth something is that of the man who buys his goods from you. Now, you see very plainly that my stuff is good. Thirty-eight is a size of which you bought many and you haven't that size left in but three lines out of ten. Here you see very plainly that my goods have moved faster than any other clothing you have bought this season; and, as far as the fit is concerned, you see full well, that other stuff didn't fit Johnnie because he isn't built right. You did see—and you do see—I have one of them on right now—that my clothing fits a well-built man.'
"I saw that I had the old man on my side and I knew that Johnnie had dropped several points in his estimation. The truth of the matter was the clerk was knocking on me in favor of one of his old friends. Of course I wouldn't come right out and say this but the old man himself grew wise on this point because that afternoon he came down by himself and bought from me a good, fat bill. The clerk simply killed himself by not being fair with me. No clerk who expects promotion can afford to play favorites."
"It's all right when you can get over the clerk's head and to the merchant himself," chimed in the Boys' & Children's Clothing man, "when there is any graft going around, but it is a hard game to play when you must deal with a buyer who is the supreme judge. I once had an experience with a buyer down in California. I went into one of the big stores down there and jollied around with the buyer in my department. He said he would come over and look at my line. He took the hook so quickly that I ought to have been on to him to start with, but I didn't. He came over to my sample room in the evening. Now that, you know, isn't a very good time to buy clothing. Nothing is as good as daylight for that. He didn't question my price or anything of that sort. He would look at a few things and then stop and talk horse with me for awhile. I don't like to do business with that kind of a fellow. When I do business, I like to do business; when I talk horse I like to talk horse; and I want a man with me in the sample room who is interested in what he is doing. It is the busy man, anyway, that makes you a good customer—not the one with whom business is merely a side issue.
"After monkeying around a couple of hours, I managed to get laid out a pretty fair line of stuff. 'Now,' said the buyer, 'to-night I can only make up a list of what's here. These things suit me pretty well, and in the morning I can submit it to the old man for his O.K.'
"Well, that looked easy to me so we wrote down the order, and when we got through, that fellow was bold enough to come right out and say, 'Now, look here, you're making a pretty good commission on this stuff —here's a good bill, and I can throw it to you if I wish, or I can kill it if I like. I'm not getting any too much over where I am, so don't you think your house can dig up about twenty for me on this bill, and I'll see that it sticks?'"
"Did you dig?" said one of the boys.
"Dig? You bet your life not. This funny business, I won't do. It may work for one bill but it won't last long because it is only a matter of time before the buyer who will be bribed will be jumped and lose his job. I simply told the fellow that I didn't do that sort of business; that unless he wished to do business with me strictly on the square, I wouldn't do business with him at all."
"Well, what did he say to this?" said I.
"Oh, he said to me, 'I'm just joshing with you and I really wanted to see if I couldn't get you down a little and make that much more for the house. I like to do business myself with any one who is on the square.'" "The order stuck then?" asked the wall paper man.
"No, it didn't. That's the worst of it. A few days after I reached home in came a cancellation from the head of the house. At that time, I didn't understand it. I supposed that the head of the house himself had really canceled the order, so the next time I went to that town, I waltzed straight up to the office and asked to see the head of the establishment. I asked him why he had canceled my order and he told me that his buyer really had all of that in charge and that he only followed out his recommendations; that the buyer had told him to cancel that bill and he had done so.
"I saw through the whole scheme. There was just one thing for me to do. I simply came right square out and told the old man that his buyer had wanted to get $20.00 from me to make the bill stick; and I bet him a hundred that the clerk had canceled my order so that he could get a rake-off from somebody else.
"The old man sent for the buyer and told him to get his pay and leave. He thanked me for putting him wise and from that time on, he or some other member of the firm always goes to the sample room."
Now, it must not be thought that every sale that is made must be put through by some bright turn. These stories I have told about getting the merchant's attention are the extreme cases. The general on the field of battle ofttimes must order a flank movement, or a spirited cavalry dash; but he wins his battle by following a well-thought-out plan. So with the salesman. He must rely, in the main, upon good, quiet, steady, well-planned work. Some merchants compel a man to use extraordinary means to catch them at the start. And the all-around salesman will be able to meet such an emergency right at the moment, and in an original way that will win.
Is not the salesman on the road who sells goods to one customer at one price and to another at another price, a thief? Is not the house which allows its salesman to do this an accomplice to the crime of theft?
This is a hot shot, I know; but, if you are a salesman, ask yourself if it is right to get the marked price of an article from a friend who gives you his confidence, and then sell the same thing for a lower price to another man who is suspicious and beats you down. Ask yourself, if you have men on the road, whether or not it is right for you to allow your salesman to do these things, and then answer "Yes" or "No." You will all answer "No, but we can't help ourselves."
You can. A friend of mine, who travels for a large house, way down East, that employs one hundred road salesmen, told me recently of an experience directly in point. I will let him tell the story to you:
"It is the custom in our house, you know, for all of the boys to meet together twice each year when we come in after our samples. After we get our samples marked and packed, and are ready for the road, the 'old gentleman' in the house gives us all a banquet. He sits at the head of the table and is toastmaster.
"He is wise in bringing the boys together in this way because he knows that the boys on the road know how things ought to be and that they can give him a great many pointers. He has a stenographer present who takes down every word that is said during the evening. The reports of these semi-annual meetings are the law books of this house.
"At our last meeting the 'old gentleman' when he first arose to speak, said: 'Look here, boys'—he knew how to take us all—'there is one thing about our system of business that I do not like; it is this cutting of prices. Now, what I would like to do this very season—and I have thought of it since you have all packed up your trunks—is to have all samples marked in plain figures and for no man to deviate in any way from the prices. Of course this is rather a bold thing to do in that we have done business in the old way of marking goods in characters for many years, so I wish to hear from you all and see what you think about it. I shall wish as many of you as will to state in words just what you think on this subject, one by one; but first of all, I wish that every man who favors marking samples in plain figures and not varying from the price would stand up, and that those who think the other way would keep their seats.'
"Well, sir, do you know I was the only man out of that whole hundred to stand up. The others sat there. After standing for a moment I sat down, and the 'old gentleman' arose again.
"'Well, the vote is so near unanimous,' said the 'old gentleman,' "that it seems hardly necessary for us to discuss the matter. Yet it is possible that one man may be right and ninety-nine may be wrong, so let us hear from one of our salesmen who differs from his ninety-nine brethren.'
"With this I stood up, and I made a speech something like this: 'Mr. President, and Fellow Salesmen: I am very glad that our worthy President has given me the right to speak. He has said that one man in a hundred may be right even though ninety-nine do not believe as he does. There is no may be about it. I do not think that I am right. I KNOW IT. I speak from experience. When I first started on the road one of my old friends in the house—I was just a stock boy, you know, going out for the first time, not knowing whether I would succeed or fail—this old friend gave me this advice: Said he, "Billy, it is better for you to be abused for selling goods cheaply than to be fired for not selling them at all." With this advice before me from an old salesman in the house, and knowing that all of the salesmen nearly in greater or less degree slaughtered the price of goods, I went out on the road. The first thing I began to do was to cut, cut, cut. Letters came to me from the house to quit it, but I kept on cutting, cutting, cutting. I knew that the other boys in the house did it, and I did not see any reason why I should not. It was my habit to do this: If a man was hard to move in any way and was mean to me I came at him with prices. If he treated me gentlemanly and gave me his confidence, I robbed him—that is, I got the full marked price, while the other fellow bought goods cheaper than this man. Once I got caught up with. Two of my customers met in market and, as merchants usually do when they meet in market, they began to discuss the lines of goods which they carried. They found that they both carried my line, and my good friend learned that the other fellow bought certain lines cheaper than he did.
"'The next time I went around to his town I wore the same old good smile and everything of that kind but I soon saw that he did not take to me as kindly as before. When I asked him to come over to my sample room, he said to me, "No, I will not go over—I shall not buy any more goods from you."
"'"Why, what is the matter?" I asked.
"'"Oh, never mind, I just don't care to handle your line," said he.
"'"Why, aren't the goods all right?" I asked.
"'"Yes, the goods are all right, and since you have pressed the question I wish to tell you that the reason why I don't care to buy any more goods from you is that you have sold goods to other people for less money than you have to me."
"'I could not deny it, and even when I offered to sell him goods at the same price that I had other people he said to me, "No, sir; you can't sell me goods at any price. I don't care to deal with a man who does business that way."
"'This set me to thinking, and I thought about it so hard that I began to see that I was not doing right and, furthermore, that I was not doing what would help me to build up a permanent business. I saw that I was trying to build business by making many merchants think that I was a cut-throat rather than a man in whom they could place confidence. So I believe in marking goods in plain figures and selling to every one for the same price. And, gentlemen, I even changed territories so I could go into a new one and build a business on the square. Whether or not I have prospered, you all know.'
"The old gentleman arose and said: 'Now, what our good friend has just said, strikes me just right, and if I were a salesman I would follow out his ideas; he has convinced me. But what do you other gentlemen think of this? I would like to hear from you.'
"One by one the boys got up, not all of them, but many. Boiled down, the reasons which they gave for not wishing to mark their goods in plain figures, were these:
"First. That ofttimes one of their customer's patrons might wish to make a special order and if he saw the samples marked in plain figures he would find out just how much profit was being made.
"Second. That often they showed goods in a man's store and people who were standing around would see what the wholesale price was.
"Third. That most merchants like to feel that they are buying goods cheaper than any one else.
"After all of these arguments were made, the old gentleman asked me to reply to them. I did so in these words:
"'Now, as to your first argument about special orders. The man on the road should not try or wish to sell one hat or one pair of shoes or one suit of clothes to some special customer who will take half an hour to make his selection. What he should do is to sell a merchant a good bill—and he can sell a whole bill of goods about as quickly as he can sell one special item. If marking my goods in plain figures would do nothing more than keep away from my sample room these special order fiends which hound every merchant in the country, that alone would lead me to do it.'
"When I said this, several of the boys clapped their hands, and I saw that things were coming my way.
"'Now, as to your second argument regarding showing goods in a merchant's store. If there is anything I detest it is to do this, because when you go to show a man your goods you should have his complete attention. This you cannot get when there are customers present or a lot of loafers around the store cutting into what you are doing. I would rather open up in the office of a burning livery stable than have a whole day in a store. What you want to do, gentlemen,' said I, 'is this: Not to carry your samples to your customer's store, but to take your customer to your store—your sample room. There you get his complete attention, without which no one can make a successful sale.'
"Still more of the boys applauded me and I continued:
"'Now, gentlemen, as to the last point. Several of you have said that some merchants wish to think that they buy from you cheaper than other merchants in neighboring towns. They do not wish to think anything of the kind. What they do wish to think is that they are buying them as cheaply as their neighbors do.' Still more of the boys applauded what I said, and one fellow who traveled down in Missouri yelled like a coon hunter.
"'The basis of love, gentlemen,' I persisted, 'is respect. Some of you have had the good sense to marry. To each of these I say: Before the girl who is now your wife found that she loved you, she discovered that you had her respect and admiration.
"'And there is not a single one of you who has a customer that does not have at least a little confidence in you. Confidence is the basis of business.
"'Now, I want to tell you another thing'—I was getting warm then—'It is impossible to tell a lie so that the man to whom you tell it will believe it is the truth. If a man has a lie in his heart, that lie will be felt and spotted by the men he talks to while he affirms with his lips that he speaks the truth. If a merchant asks you if you are selling him goods as cheaply as you sell them to other people, and you tell him "Yes" and you are really not doing so, he will know that you are telling him a lie, and you will lose his confidence and you will lose his business. The one thing to do then, is to treat everybody alike—to sell them all at the same price.
"Now, it is possible for a man to mark his samples in characters and to do a one-price business, but you can bet your life that the stranger will be leery of you if your goods are marked in characters. But if you mark your goods in plain figures and you say to a merchant when you begin to show them to him that your goods are marked in plain figures and that you do not vary from the price, he will believe you and will not try to beat you down. Then you will gain his confidence and he will have more confidence in you, the plain-figure man, than he will in the character-price man from whom he might have been buying for years.
"'Judgment is scarcely a factor in business; even many good merchants are not judges of goods. They are all free to confess this. The best merchant is the best judge of men. These merchants, therefore, must and do depend upon the salesmen from whom they buy their goods. Here, again, is where confidence comes in. This whole thing is confidence, I say. Many a merchant passes up lines of goods that he thinks are better than those he is handling—passes them up because he does not know their superiority and because he does not trust the man who tries to sell them to him.
"'Merchants themselves—many of them—give baits to their customers. They know this game full well, and they do not care for baits themselves. I remember that I once sold a bill of goods in this way: I had sold this customer regularly for five or six years every season. This time he told me that he had bought. He said to me: "The other fellow gave me his price one morning and then he came over to see me in the afternoon and dropped on the price and I bought the goods then because I knew I had him at the bottom."
"'Now, do you suppose I went to making cuts to get even with that other fellow? Not a bit of it. I first showed my old customer that he did not know the values of goods. Then I told him: "Now, you may buy my goods if you like; but you will buy them no cheaper than I have been selling them to you for the last five or six years. Do you suppose that I would come around here to-day and make an open confession that I have been robbing you for all of these years? No, sir; I try to see that my goods are marked right in the beginning and then I treat everybody alike." Although he had turned me down, this man bought my goods and countermanded the order of the other fellow.
"'And, boys—you who have been so dishonest so long'—said I, 'don't know how happy it makes a fellow feel to know that what he is doing is right, and you cannot beat the right. It is good enough. When you know in your own heart that you are honorable in your dealings with your merchant friends, you can walk right square up to them and look them straight in the eye and make them feel that you are treating them right. They will then give you their confidence, and confidence begets business. Therefore, gentlemen, I don't care what any of you are going to do. I, myself, shall mark my goods in plain figures and sell them at the same price to everyone, and I only wish that I worked for a firm that would compel all their salesmen to be honest.'
"With this, the old man arose. I saw that I had him won over, but I heard one of the boys who sat near me whisper, 'Now, watch the old man give it to him.' But he did not. Instead, he said to me: 'This is surely a case where, although there were ninety-nine against him, the one is right. I hereby issue an order to every salesman to mark his goods in plain figures and to sell his goods at the marked price. I wish you, furthermore, to do another thing. On every sample on which I told you you might make a cut, if necessary, I wish you would make that cut on the start. I have always wished to do business as our one-priced friend has suggested but I have never been strong enough to do so. I had always thought myself honest, believing that business expediency made it necessary to give a few people the inside over others; but I am going to make a frank confession to you—I can say that I have not been honest. "'I feel like a certain clothing manufacturer felt for a long time. I was talking with him at luncheon the other day; he is a man who marks his goods in plain figures. If the salesman, by mistake, sold a ten dollar suit for eleven dollars, the goods when shipped out are billed at ten dollars. He is the one, gentlemen, who put this plain-figure idea into my head. One of his salesmen, as we all sat together at the table, asked him: "Mr. Blank, how many years have you been doing the one-price, plain-figure business?"
"'"A little over four years," said he.
"'"And how old are you?" the salesman asked.
"'"Fifty-five," was the answer.
"'"In other words," said he, "you have been a thief for over half a century."
"'"Yes; you're right," said the clothing manufacturer—and this was the only time I ever heard him agree with anybody in my life!
"'His business philosophy was quaintly summed up in the one word PERVERSE. "Give a man what he wants," he said, "and he doesn't want it." "When you find other people going in one direction, go in the other, and you will go in the right one." He saw nearly every one else in the clothing business marking their goods in characters, and, true to his philosophy—"Perverse"—marked his goods in plain figures, and he is succeeding. Now, gentlemen, I am going to do the same thing.
"'And, another thing—I am not going to mark just part of them in plain figures. Do you know, I called on a wholesale dry goods man the other day—the President of the concern. He told me that he marked a part of their manufactured goods in plain figures and the rest in characters. I said to him, "You confess that you are only partly honest; in being only half honest you are dishonest." So, gentlemen, I am going to mark our goods in plain figures, and I want you to sell them to everybody at the same price; if you do not, I will not ship them.
"'Now, I thought I was through, but one more idea has occurred to me. By selling our goods at strictly one price I can figure exactly how much money I am making on a given volume of business. Before, this matter of "cuts" made it a varying, uncertain amount; in future there will be certainty as to the amount of profits. And another thing, so sure as I live, if all of you go out and make the same increase that the one who stood out against all of us has made, our business will thrive so that we can afford to sell goods cheaper still. Until to- night I never knew why it was that he took hold of what seemed to me a big business in his predecessor's territory and doubled it the second year. His success was the triumph of common honesty, and we all shall try his plan, for honesty is right, and nothing beats the right.'
"When the vote was taken the second time, every man at the table stood up."
"Do I like cancellations? Well, I guess not!" said a furnishing goods friend, straightening up a little and lighting his cigar as a group of us sat around the radiator after supper one night in the Hoffman House. "I'll tell you, boys, I'd rather keep company with a hobo, than with a merchant who will place an order and then cancel it without just cause. I can stand it all right if I call on a man for a quarter of a century and don't sell him a sou, but when I once make a sale, I want it to stick. This selling business isn't such a snap as most of our employers think. It takes a whole lot of hard knocking; the easy push-over days are all over. When a man lands a good order now it makes the blood rush all over his veins; and when an order it cut out it is like getting separated from a wisdom tooth. Of course you can't blame a Kansas merchant for going back on his orders in a grasshopper year; but it is the fellow who has half a notion of canceling when he buys and afterwards really does cancel, that I carry a club for.
"Usually a fellow who does this sort of funny work comes to grief. I know I once had the satisfaction of playing even with a smart buyer who canceled on me.
"I was down in California. I was put onto a fellow named Johnson up in Humboldt County, who wanted some plunder in my line—the boys, you know, are pretty good to each other in tipping a good chance off to one another. I couldn't very well run up to the place—it was a two- day town—so I wrote Johnson to meet me at 'Frisco at my expense. He came down, bought his bill all right, and I paid him his expense. Luckily, I put a clothing man on and we 'divied' the expense. We treated that fellow white as chalk; we gave him a good time—took him to the show and put before him a good spread.
"Do you know that fellow just simply worked us. He wanted to come to 'Frisco, anyhow, and just thought he'd let me foot the bill. How do I know it? Because he wrote the house canceling the order before he started back home. I figured up how long it would take to get a letter to Chicago and back; and he couldn't have gone home and written the firm so that I could get the notification as soon as I did unless he wrote the cancellation the very night we took him to the theater. I never had a man do me such dirt. I felt like I'd love to give him just one more swell dinner, and use a stomach pump on him.
"But didn't I get beautifully even with Brother Johnson!
"The next season, as a drawing card, I had my packer carry on the side, in his name, a greatly advertised line of shoes. It didn't pay a long commission, but everybody wanted it; and it enabled me to get people into my big towns so that I did not have to beat the brush.
"I had failed to scratch Johnson from my mailing list, so he got a card from my packer—as well as a letter from myself—that if he would meet him in San Francisco his expenses would be paid. He did not know that my packer and myself were really the same man.
"Johnson jumped at the advertised shoe line like a rainbow trout at a 'royal coachman.' It's funny how some merchants get daffy over a little printer's ink, but it does the work and the man who advertises his goods is the boy who gets the fat envelopes. I'd rather go on the road to-day with a line of shoes made out of soft blotting paper, if they had good things said about them in the magazines and if flaming posters went with them than to try to dish out oak-tanned soles with prime calf uppers at half price and with a good line of palaver. It's the lad who sticks type that, when you get right down to it, does the biz.
"The letter which Johnson wrote in reply to the card of my packer went something like this: "'My dear sir: In regard to your favor of the 23d inst., I beg to say that I could use about $2000 worth of your line if you could come up here, providing that I would be the only one that you would sell your line to in my town.
"'Hoping to hear from you soon in regard to this matter, I remain, very truly, ———— Johnson.'
"'P.S. If you can't possibly come up, I'll come down.'
"What did I do? Well, I thought the matter over and decided that business was business and, there being no other chance in his town, I would let him come and try to play even on the old score. I wired him to come down, and I thought, as I had him on the run, I'd better put on a pusher. My message read: 'Come down but you must be here to- morrow.'
"Just after my telegram was off—I told the girl to rush it—I called at the office for my mail and, bless me! I had a letter from another man in the same town.
"Now, say what you will, boys, a man's letter reveals his character. If a man has mean blood in his veins he will spread some of it on the paper when he writes to you. I've seen the pugnacious wrinkles of a bull pup's face many a time wiggling between the lines of a letter. And if there's sunshine in a man's heart that also will brighten up the sheet he writes on.
"The other man in the town wrote about like this:
"'Your postal received and I must say I regret exceedingly that I have just sent in a mail order for your goods. I wish I had known that you were coming, for I always save my orders for the boys on the road when I can. Now, the next time you come to 'Frisco, let me know a few days ahead and I will run down to meet you. I want your goods. My business in your line is steadily increasing. When I started in I just kept them for a side line, but your goods give first class satisfaction, and in the near future I shall handle nothing else. It will take a little time to clean out the other makes, but when I do—by next season—I shall have a nice order for you. I hope to hear from you before you get to the next coast—say a month before. Truly yours,
"They say a 'bird in the hand's worth two in the bush,' but that depends upon the kind of a bird you've got hold of. I'll let go of a tough old owl every time to take a chance at catching a spring chicken. Without a second thought, I decided that I'd risk it on the man who wrote me such a gentlemanly letter rather than deal with the fellow who had canceled on me. Furthermore, I had half an idea that Johnson was making me fair promises only to get the line and cut the other fellow's throat and that maybe he would cancel again. So I immediately sent Johnson a second telegram:
"'Cannot place the line with you. Do not come down.'
"He was anxious for the line and he wired back:
"'Write particulars why you cannot sell me your shoes.'
"Well, wasn't this a chance? My clothing friend was with me again. I told him the story. 'Soak him good and wet!' said he. Together we wrote the following letter, and, you bet your sweet life, I mailed it, signing my packer's name:
"'Sir: You wire me to write you "particulars why" I cannot sell you my line of shoes. Two of my friends at present in the hotel inform me that six months ago you met them here at their expense, were royally entertained by them and that after buying bills of them you almost immediately cancelled your orders, and that you have never offered to return to them the $25.00 they spent for your traveling expenses. These gentlemen are reputable; and, to answer your question specifically and plainly, I do not care to place my line with you because in you I have no confidence, sir.'"
"That was getting even with a vengeance," spoke up the furnishing goods man. "In this canceling business, though, sometimes the merchant has just cause for it. I know I once had a case where my customer did exactly the right thing by canceling his order.
"Along the last part of October, I sold him a of ties—this was down in Mississippi. I sent in a little express order for immediate shipment, and for December first a freight shipment which my man wished for the Christmas trade. I also took his spring order to be sent out February first.
"Now, my man's credit was good. For several seasons he had been discounting his bills. He had the personal acquaintance of our credit man and had made a good impression on him. I always like to have my customers acquainted with our credit man. It's a good thing always for the merchant to do and it's also a good thing for the house to know their trade personally. Makes the man out in the country feel that he's not doing business with strangers.
"There was no reason, then, why there should have been any question in the credit department about making the shipment. The little express order went out all right but, by mistake, the credit man placed the February first shipment and the December first order away in the February first shipment file. This was a clear mistake—no excuse for it. Business men should not make mistakes.
"The first I heard about the matter was about New Year. I was struck dumb when I received notice from the Credit Department that my man had canceled his entire order. The credit man told me in the letter which he sent along with the cancellation notice that he had simply made a mistake in filing the December first order away with the February first shipment, and confessed that he had made a mistake and begged my pardon.
"He was a gentleman with three times as much work on his hands as the firm had the right to expect from him for the money they paid him, so, although I was much put out because of the cancellation, I really did not have any resentment toward the credit man. If things move along smoothly in a wholesale house, the man in the office and the salesman on the road must pull in double harness. I couldn't quite agree with my friend in the office, though, when he said that my customer, when he failed to receive an invoice soon after the first of December, should have written in and said so. That wasn't the customer's business. It was the business of the house, if they were unable to make the shipment December 1st, to write the man and tell him so.
"Well, there I was! A good day's work had gone to the bad. My order— and it was a good healthy one, too—was canceled and perhaps all future business with a good friend and solid customer was at an end.
"The house had written my friend—his name was Morris—asking him to reinstate the order; but that was like putting bait before a fish at spawning time. He wouldn't take the hook. I knew if there was any reinstating to be had, I must get it.
"Now, Morris was a bully good friend of mine. I really liked him very much, and he liked me. I remember well the first time that I ever struck him. Really, I went around to see him just for a personal call. 'Look here, old fellow,' I said, 'I haven't come around to do any business with you; but one of my old friends, Jack Persey, has told me what a good fellow you are and I've just dropped in to say hello. Come, let's have a cigar.'
"After we'd lighted our cigars and talked a little, I said, 'Well, I'm sorry to get off in such a rush but I must quit you. I must be packing up. My train leaves in about an hour and a half. Now, really Morris (he was such a whole-souled fellow that I found myself, without any undue familiarity, calling him by his first name, after a very few minutes), I don't want to do any business with you. I don't wish to impose my acquaintance on you, but come on over to my sample room and keep me company while I'm packing.'
"I really didn't intend to do any business with him. Some of the very best friends we all have on the road, anyhow, are those to whom we never sell a sou. Morris saw very plainly that I wasn't trying to work him—you can always pick out, anyway, the ring of truth in words you hear. I started to pack up without showing an item or even talking business. My line was displayed, however, and it was really a bird. Morris himself picked up a few samples and threw them down on the table.
"'Say, dos are pretty ennyvay. Sent me a dotzen of each von of dese in the color dey are dere, ant also in black. I vill just gif you a leetle gomplimentary orter on account of Chack. There is no reeson anyvay vy I shouldn't do beesness mit you. You're de first man on de rote dot efer struck me and didn't ask me to buy goots. I don't like the fellow, anyvay, dot I'm buying ties from and his house is not'ing to me. I vill gif you a goot orter next season.' And, sure enough, Morris did give me a good order next season, and for several seasons after that.
"So you can see how I was put out when I got a letter telling me that Morris had canceled the order. I really cared less about the amount of the order than I did about losing his friendship. So I sat down and dictated a letter to him that ran something like this:
"'"The wordly hope men set their hearts upon Turns ashes—or it prospers—and anon, Like snow upon the desert's dusty face, Lighting a little hour or two, is gone."
"'Our business relationship, Morris, has always been so pleasant that many a time I've hoped it would last always. I cannot forget the kind- hearted and friendly way in which you gave me your first order. I had hoped that the firm I was with would give you the good treatment which your friendship for me deserved; but here they are making a mistake with the very man who, last of all, I would have them offend.
"'Now, Morris, I want you to feel that this is not my fault. I am sure it is not yours. It can be nobody's fault but that of the house. They, like myself, are also really very sorry for this mistake.
"'I enclose you the letter which I received from them in regard to this. Can you not see that they regret this sincerely? Can you not even hear the wail that our office man must have uttered when he dictated the letter? Now, Morris, I really know that my firm holds you in high esteem—and why should they not? You have always patronized them liberally. You have always paid your bills and you have never made yourself ugly toward them in any way.
"'As I say, there is no excuse for this mistake but, if you are willing to pass that all up, Morris, I am sure you would make our credit man, who has made this error, very happy indeed if you would merely wire the house, "Ship my goods as originally ordered."
"'And, after all, Morris, think this thing over and maybe you will conclude that "'Tis better far to bear the ills we have than fly to others that we know not of."
"'"Can't be always sunny Dat's de lesson plain; For ever' rose, my honey, Am sweeter fer de rain." "'Your friend, "'——————'"
"A good deal of poetry for a business letter," spoke up one of the boys. This pricked the necktie man, who flashed back, "Yes, but if there were more poetry in business, it would be lots more pleasant than it is."
"Well, how did it come out?" I asked.
"It so happened that I had to pass through Morris' town about ten days afterwards. I didn't care anything about reinstating the order for the amount of it, but I really did wish to go in and see my old friend and at least square myself. So I dropped off one day between trains at Morris' town, and went up to see him.
"'Hello,' said he, 'How are you, old man? I'm glad to see you. Say, but dot vas a tandy letter. I've ortered a seventy-five-cent vrame for it.'
"'Well, Morris,' said I, 'you know I'm really very glad that a little difficulty of this kind has come up between us as I like you to know just where I stand. Now, I haven't come here to do anything but just see you. Cut the order clear out—I wish you would. It would teach the house a lesson and make them more careful hereafter. Come on down with me now. It's about supper time and we're going to have a little feed.'
"I really meant every word I said. After we had finished a fried chicken or two, we started back to Morris' store.
"'Say,' said he, 'Haf you got the copy of dot orter I gafe you?'
"I said, 'Why no, Morris, I haven't a copy of it. You have one. Don't you remember that I gave you one?'
"'Yes, but ven I didn't get my goots on time—I kapt vaiting, und vaiting, und vaiting, und still dey ditn't com, I took dot copy and I vas so mad dot I tore it op and trew id in der stofe.'
"'Well, if you wish to look over the copy, Morris, I can easily run down to the depot and tear my tissue paper one out of my order book.'
"'Vell, you go down und get it,' said Morris. 'Dere's some off the Gristmas goots it is too late for me to use, but we'll fix op de Spring shipment som vay.'
"When Morris and I looked over my copy, he cut out a few items of the December 1st shipment but added to the February 1st order a great deal more than he canceled from the other one.
"'Say,' said Morris, 'do you know vy I reinsdadet dot orter. It vas dot letter you sent me.'
"'Well, I thank you very much,' said I.
"'You know, I don't care so much aboud dose "vorldly hopes" and dot "sonshine," but vat dit strike me vas vere you saidt: "It's better fair to bear de ilts ve half don vly to odders dot we know not of." Dot means, Vat's de use of chanching 'ouses.'"
"You can handle some men like that," said a hat man friend who sat with us, but I struck one old bluffer out in South Dakota once that wouldn't stand for any smoothing over. He was the most disagreeable white man to do business with I ever saw. He was all right to talk fishing and politics with, and was a good entertainer. He always treated me decently in that way but when it got down to business he was the meanest son of a gun on earth. A fishing trip for half an hour or the political situation during luncheon is a pretty good thing to talk over, but when it comes to interfering with business, I think it is about time to cut it out.