"'No, I don't believe that is exactly business and we don't aim to.'
"'Well, if such is the case,' said I, 'come up and see what I have.'
"'Well, I'll just go you one,' said the shoeman.
"Do you know, I had him walk with me up to the hotel—he was a good jolly fellow—and when I marched into the office with him, I called the children's shoe man over and introduced him.
"He said, 'Well, this is one on me,' and then explained the bet to Hoover and bought the cigars for three instead of two."
Don't put prices on another man's goods!
I once had a merchant pass me out an article he had bought from another man. "How much is that worth?" he asked. "That I shall not tell you," I answered. "Suppose it is worth $24 a dozen. If I say it is worth $30, then you will say to me: 'There's no use doing business with you, this other man's goods are cheaper, you've confessed it.' If I say that it is worth $24 a dozen, then you will say to me that I'm not offering you any advantage. If I say it is worth $18 a dozen, you will believe that I am telling you a lie. Therefore, I shall say nothing."
Don't run down your competitor.
In talking of this point a furnishing goods man once said to me: "When I first went to travel in Missouri and Illinois I was green. I had a whole lot to learn, but still I had been posted by one of my friends who told me that I should always treat my competitor with especial courtesy. When I was on my first trip I met one of my competitors one day at a hotel in Springfield. I was introduced to him by one of the boys. I chatted with him as pleasantly as I could for a few minutes and then went up street to look for a customer.
"After dinner I was standing by the cigar case talking to the hotel clerk. Up came my competitor very pompously and bought a half dollar's worth of cigars. As he lighted one and stuck all the others into his pocket case he said to me in a 'What-are-you?' fashion, 'Oh, how are you?' and away he walked. Heavens, how he froze me! But from that day to this, while I have outwardly always treated him civilly, his customers have been the ones that I have gone after the hardest—and you bet your life that I've put many of his fish on my string."
Don't run down the other fellow's goods!
When a salesman tells merchants that he can sell them goods that are better, for the same price or cheaper than he is buying them, he at once offers an insult to the merchant's judgment. One of my merchant friends once told me of a breezy young chap who came into his store and asked him how much he paid for a certain suit of clothes that was on the table. "This young fellow was pretty smart," said my merchant friend. "He asked me how much I paid for a cheviot. I told him $9. He said, 'Nine dollars! Well, I can sell you one just like that for $7.' 'All right, I'll take fifty suits,' said I.
"About that time I turned away to wait on a customer and in an hour or so the young fellow came in again and said, 'Well, my line is all opened up now, and if you like we can run over to my sample room.' 'Why, there's no use of doing that,' said I. 'You tell me that you can sell me goods just exactly like what I have for $2 a suit cheaper. No use of my going over to look at them. Just send them along. Here, I can buy lots of goods from you.'
"'Oh, they're not exactly like these, but pretty near it,' said he.
"'Well, if they're not exactly like these I don't care for them at all because these suit me exactly.'
"With this the young fellow took a tumble to himself and let me alone."
Don't carry side lines!
You might just as well mix powder with sawdust. If you scatter yourself from one force to another you weaken the force which you should put into your one line. If this does not pay you, quit it altogether.
Don't take a conditional order!
If your customer cannot make up his mind while you can bring your arguments to bear upon him in his presence, you may depend upon it he will never talk himself into ordering your goods. If you can lead a merchant to the point of saying, "Well, I'll take a memorandum of your stock numbers and maybe I'll send in for some of these things later," and not get him to budge any further, and if you lend him your pencil to write down that conditional order, you will be simply wasting a little black lead and a whole lot of good time.
There are many more "Don'ts" for the salesman but I shall leave you to figure out the rest of them for yourself—but just one more:
DON'T be ashamed that you are a salesman!
Salesmanship is just as much a profession as law, medicine, or anything else, and salesmanship also has its reward.
Salesmanship requires special study, and the fact that the schools of salesmanship which are now starting are patronized not only by those who wish to become salesmen but also by those who wish to be more successful in their work, shows that there is an interest awakening in this profession.
There is a science of salesmanship, whether the salesman knows it or not. If he will only get the idea that he can study his profession and profit thereby, this idea in his head will turn out to be worth a great deal to him.
MERCHANTS THE SALESMAN MEETS.
A bunch of us sat in the Silver Grill of the Hotel Spokane where we could see the gold fish and the baby turtles swimming in the pool of the ferned grotto in the center of the room. This is one place toward which the heart of every traveling man who wanders in the far Northwest turns when he has a few days of rest between trips. Perhaps more good tales of the road are told in this room than in any other in the West. There is an air about the place that puts one at ease—the brick floor, the hewn logs that support the ceiling and frame in the pictures of English country life around the walls, the big, comfortable, black-oak chairs, and the open fireplace, before which spins a roasting goose or turkey.
"Yes, you bet we strike some queer merchants on the road, boys," said the children's clothing man. "I ran into one man out west of here and it did me a whole lot of good to get even with him. He was one of those suspicious fellows that trusted to his own judgment about buying goods rather than place faith in getting square treatment from the traveling man. You all know how much pleasure it gives us to trump the sure trick of one of this kind. I don't believe that merchants, anyway, know quite how independent the traveling man feels who represents a first class house and has a well established trade. Not many of the boys, though, wear the stiff neck even though their lines are strong and they have a good cinch on their business. There isn't much chance, as a general thing, for any of us to grow a big bump of conceit. A man who is stuck on himself doesn't last long, it matters not how good the stuff is that he sells. Yet, once in a while he lifts up his bristles.
"Well, sir, a few seasons ago I sold a man—you all know who I mean— about half of his spring bill, amounting to $600. He gave the other half to one of the rottenest lines that comes out of this country. When I learned where my good friend had bought the other half of his bill, I felt sure that the following season I would land him for his whole order; but when I struck him that next season, he said, 'No, I've bought. You can't expect to do business with me on the sort of stuff that you are selling,' and he said it in such a mean way that it made me mad as blazes. Yet I threw a blanket around myself and cooled off. It always harms a man, anyway, to fly off the handle. I wasn't sure of another bill in the town as it was getting a little late in the season.
"After he had told me what he did, he started to wait on a customer and I went to the hotel to open up. Just as I was coming through the office I met another merchant in the town who handled as many goods as my old customer, and I boned him right there to give me a look. 'All right,' said he, 'I will, after luncheon.' Come down about half past one when all the boys are back to the store and I'll run over with you.' You know it sometimes comes easy like this.
"I sold him his entire line, and he was pleased with what he bought because the old line he had been handling, he told me frankly, had not been giving satisfaction.
"Just for curiosity's sake I dropped in on my old man. I wanted to find out exactly what he was kicking about, anyway.
"'Now, what's the matter with this stuff I've sold you?' said I to him.
"'Well, come and see for yourself,' said he. 'Here, look at this stuff,' and he threw out three or four numbers of boys' goods. 'That's the punkest plunder,' said he, 'that I ever had in my house.'
"I at once saw that the goods he showed me were the other fellow's, but I kept quiet for a while. 'Look at your bill,' said I. 'There must be some mistake about this.' He turned to the bill from my house and he couldn't find the stock numbers. 'Well, that's funny,' said he. 'Not at all,' I replied. 'Look at the other man's bill and see if you don't find them.' "Well, sir, when he saw that the goods he was kicking about had come from my competitor's house, he swore like a trooper and said to me, 'Well, I will simply countermand this order I have given and I'll go right up with you and buy yours.'
"'No, I guess not,' said I. 'When I came in this morning you condemned me without giving me a full hearing and you weren't very nice about it, either, so I've just placed my line with your neighbor. I will show you the order I have just taken from him,' said I, handing over my order book."
"Well, that must have made you feel good," spoke up the shoeman. "I had pretty much the same sort of an experience this very season down south here. I had been calling on a fair-sized merchant in the town for a couple of years. The first time I went to his town I sold him a handful. The next time I sold him another handful. The third time I called on him he didn't give me any more business. I had just about marked him down for a piker. You know how we all love those pikers, anyway. These fellows who buy a little from you and a little from the other fellow—in fact, a little from every good line that comes around—just to keep the other merchants in the town from getting the line and not giving enough to any one man to justify him in taking care of the account or caring anything about it. He was one of those fellows who would cut off his nose and his ears and burn his eyes out just to spite his face.
"This trip, as usual, I sold him his little jag. I didn't say anything to him, but thought it was high time I was going out and looking up another customer. I finally found another man who gave me a decent bill—between seven and eight hundred dollars—and he promised me that he would handle my line right along if the stuff turned out all O.K. He said he wasn't the biggest man in the town at that time but that his business was growing steadily and that he had just sold a farm and was going to put more money into the business and enlarge the store. He struck me as being the man in the town for me.
"My piker friend had seen me walking over to the sample room with this other man. When I dropped around, after packing up, to say good-bye, he said to me, 'I saw you going over to your sample room with this man down street here. I suppose, of course, you didn't sell him anything?'
"'To be sure I did,' said I. 'Why, why shouldn't I? You haven't been giving me enough to pay my expenses in coming to the town, much less to leave any profit for me.' "'Well, if you can't sell me exclusively, you can't sell me at all,' said he, rearing back.
"'All right,' said I. 'I won't sell you at all if that's the case. Here's your order. Do with it what you please. In fact, I won't even grant you that privilege. I myself shall call it off. Here goes.' And with this I tore up his order."
"Served him right," said the men's clothing man. "Did you ever know Grain out on the Great Northern?"
"Sure," said the shoe man. "Who doesn't know that pompous know-it- all?"
"Well, sir, do you know that fellow isn't satisfied with any one he deals with, and he thinks that this whole country belongs to him. He wrote me several seasons ago to come out to see him. He had heard one of the boys speak well of my line of goods. I went to his town and first thing I did was to open up. Then I went into his store and told him I was all ready.
"'Well, I've decided,' said he, 'that I won't buy anything in your line this season.'
"'You will at least come over and give me a look, in that I have come over at your special request, will you not?"
"'NO, no! No is no with me, sir.'
"I couldn't get him over there. He went into his office and closed the door behind him. I had hard lines in the town that season. I went up to see another man and told him the circumstances but he said, 'No, I don't play any second fiddle,' and do you know, I didn't blame him a bit.
"I had made up my mind to mark this town off my list, but you know, business often comes to us from places where we least expect it. This is one of the things which make road life interesting. How often it happens that you fully believe before you start out that you are going to do business in certain places and how often your best laid plans 'gang aglee!'
"Another man in this town wrote in to the house (this was last season) for me to come to see him. In his letter he said that he was then clerking for Grain and he was going to quit there and start up on his own hook. Somehow or other the old man got on to the fact that his clerk was going to start up and that he had written in for my line. He was just that mean that he wanted to put as many stones in the path of his old clerk as he possibly could, and I don't know whether it was by accident or design that Grain came in here to Spokane the same day that his old clerk did, or not. At any rate, they were here together.
"Just about the time I had finished selling my bill to Grain's clerk, the old man 'phoned up to my room that he would like to see me. This time he was sweet as sugar. I asked him over the 'phone what he wished. He said, 'I'd like to buy some goods from you. 'Don't care to sell you,' I answered over the wire. His old clerk was right there in the room then and he was good, too. He had got together two or three well-to-do farmers in the neighborhood and had organized a big stock company with the capital stock fully paid up. The whole country had become tired of Grain and his methods, and a new man stood a mighty good chance for success—and you know, boys, what a bully good business he has built up.
"'Why, what's the mater?' 'phoned back the old man.
"'Just simply this: that I have sold another man in your town, and I don't care to place my line with more than one,' I answered. 'Who Is it?' said he. I told him.
"'Well, now, look here,' he came back at me. 'That fellow's just a tidbit. He thinks he's going to cut some ice out there, but he won't last long, and, do you know, if you'll just simply chop his bill off, I'll promise to buy right now twice as much as he has bought from you.'
"If there's a man on the road who is contemptible in the eyes of his fellow traveling men, it is the one who will solicit a countermand; and the merchant who will do this sort of a trick is even worse, you know, boys, in our eyes.
"'What do you take me for?' I 'phoned back.
"I'm very glad to have a chance, sir, to give you a dose of your own medicine. You can't run any such a sandy as this on me,' and I hung up the 'phone on him without giving him the satisfaction of talking it out any further. To be sure, I would not go down stairs to look him up.
"Well, that must have pleased the old man's clerk," said one of the boys.
"Sure it did. He touched the button and made me have a two-bit straight cigar on him."
"You got even with him all right," said one of my hat friends who was in the party; but let me tell you how a merchant down in Arkansas once fixed me and my house."
"Old Benzine?" said the shoeman.
"Sure; that's the fellow. How did you hear about it?"
"Well, my house got it the same way yours did."
"Ah, that fellow was a smooth one," continued the hat man. "He had burned out so often that he had been nicknamed Benzine, but still he had plenty of money and though my house knew he was tricky, they let him work them. I didn't know anything about the old man's reputation when I called on him. He had recently come down into Arkansas—this was when I traveled down there—and opened up a new store in one of my old towns. I didn't have a good customer in the town and in shopping about fell in on Benzine.
"He kicked hard about looking at my goods when I asked him to do so. He knew how to play his game all right. He knew that I would bring all sorts of persuasions to bear upon him to get him started over to my sample room, and just about the time he thought I was going to quit he said, 'Vell, I look but I vont gif you an orter.' Of course that was all I wished for. When a man on the road can get a merchant to say he will look at his goods, he knows that the merchant wishes to buy from somebody in his line and he feels that he has ninety-nine chances in a hundred of selling him.
"That afternoon Old Benzine came over and he was mean. He tore up the stuff and said it was too high priced, and everything of that kind. He haggled over terms and started to walk out several times. He made his bluff good with me and I thought he was 'giltedge.' Finally, though, I sold him about a thousand dollars. The old man had worked me all right. Now he began to put the hooks into the house.
"The same day that my order reached the house came a letter from Benzine stating that he had looked over his copy and he wished they would cut off half of several items on the bill. Ah, he was shrewd, that old guy. He was working for credit. He knew that if he wrote to have part of his order cut off, the credit man would think he was good. My house couldn't ship the bill to him quickly enough, and they wrote asking him to let the whole bill stand. He was shrewd enough to tell them no, that he didn't wish to get any more goods than he could pay for. That sent his stock with the house a sailing. But the old chap wasn't done with them yet.
"About six weeks before the time for discounting he wrote in and said that as his trade had been very good indeed they could ship additional dozens on all the items that he had cut down to half-dozens, and in this way he ran his bill to over $1,300."
"Well, you got a good one out of him that season, all right."
"Yes—where the chicken got the ax. As soon as Old Benzine had run in all the goods he could, he did the shipping act. He left a lot of empty boxes on his shelves but shipped nearly all of his stock to some of his relatives, and then in came the coal-oil can once more."
"Didn't you get any money out of him at all?" one of the boys asked.
"Money?" said the shoeman. "Did you ever hear of anybody getting money out of Old Benzine unless they got it before the goods were shipped? If ever there was a steal-omaniac, he was it, sure!"
With this, one of the boys tossed a few crumbs to the gold fish. The turtles, thinking he had made a threatening motion toward them, quietly ducked to the bottom of the pool. The white-capped cook took the turkey from before the fire. The water kept on trickling over the ferns but its sound I soon forgot, as another hat man took up the conversation.
"Most merchants," said he, "are easy to get along with. They have so many troubles thrown upon them that, as a rule, they make as few for us as they can. Once in awhile we strike a merchant who gets smart—"
"But he doesn't win anything by that," observed the clothing man.
"No; you bet not! I used to sell a man down in the valley who tried a trick on me. I had sold him for two seasons and his account was satisfactory. Another man I knew started up in the town and he was willing to buy my goods from me without the brands in them. I remained loyal to my first customer in not selling the new man my branded goods. In fact, about the only difference between a great many lines of goods is the name, as you know, and a different name in a hat makes it a different hat. In all lines of business, just as soon as one firm gets out a popular style, every other one in the country hops right on to it, so it is all nonsense for a salesman not to sell more than one man in a town when the names in the goods are different, and the merchant, when such is the case, has no kick coming on the man who sells one of his competitors.
"Well, everything was all right until Fergus, customer No. 2, sent in a mail order to the house. They, by mistake (and an inexcusable one— but what can you expect of underpaid stock boys?) shipped out to him some goods branded the same as those my first customer, Stack, had in his house. Fergus wrote in to me and told me about the mistake. He didn't wish to carry the branded goods any more than the other man wished for him to do so, and asked that some labels be sent him to paste over his boxes.
"I was in the house at the time and sent out several labels to Fergus. At the same time I wrote to Stack, very frankly telling him of the mistake and saying that I regretted it and all I could say about it was that it was a mistake and that it would not occur again. Instead of taking this in good faith, he immediately came out with a flaming ad:
EVERY MAN IN THE COUNTY Should appreciate the following: Leopard Hats, $2.00. Sold everywhere for $3.00 and $3.50.
"His goods had really cost him $24 a dozen and he was merely aiming to cut under the other man's throat, but he didn't know how he was sewing himself up. I wrote him:
"'My good friend: I have always believed that you felt kindly toward me, and now I am doubly certain of it. All that I have a right to expect of my best friends is that they will advertise my goods only so long as they keep on carrying them—but you have done me even a greater favor. You are advertising them for the benefit of another customer, although you have quit buying from me. Let me thank you for this especial favor which you do me and should I ever be able to serve you in any way, personally, command me.'
"Well, how did he take that?" I asked.
"Oh, he didn't really see that he was advertising his competitor, and he came back at me with this letter:
"'Your valued favor of the 3Oth to hand. I assure you that you owe me no debt of gratitude as I am always glad to be of service to my friends, and under no circumstances do I wish them to feel under obligations to me. I would be only too glad to sell the Leopards at one dollar each, provided they could be bought at a price lower than that from you. But at present any one can purchase them from me at $2 each, which 'should be appreciated by every man in the county.' With kindest regards, very truly yours.'
"Well, how did you fix him?" said the shoe man.
"Fix him? How did you know I did?"
"Oh, that was too good a chance to overlook."
"You bet it was. When I went into the house a few days afterwards, I picked out some nice clean jobs in Leopards and I socked the knife into the price so that Fergus could sell them at $1.50 apiece and make a good profit. I then sicked him on to Stack and there was merry war. In the beginning, as I fancied he would, Stack got a man in another town to send in to my house and pay regular price for my goods and he continued to sell them at $2 each. After he had loaded up on them pretty well, my other man began to put them down to $1.75, $1.60, $1.50, and forced my good friend to sell all he had on hand at a loss. That deal cost him a little bunch."
"There's altogether too much of this throat-cutting business between merchants. The storekeeper who can hold his own temper can generally hold his own trade.
"Well, sir, do you know a fellow strikes a queer combination on the road once in awhile. I think about the oddest deal I ever got into in my life was in Kearney, Nebraska," said an old-timer.
"When I was a young fellow I went on the road. I had a clerical appearance but it was enforced more or less by necessity. I hustled pretty hard catching night trains and did any sort of a thing in order to save time. I wore a black string necktie because it saved me a whole lot of trouble. Once I sat down and calculated how much my working time would be lengthened by wearing string ties and gaiter shoes, and I'll tell you it amounts to a whole lot, to say nothing of the strain on one's temper and conscience saved by not having to lace up shoes in a berth.
"Well, I struck Kearney late one Saturday night—looking more or less like a young preacher. Going direct to my friend, Ward, he greeted me in a cordial, drawling sort of fashion and with very little trouble (although that was my first time in the town) I made an engagement to show him some straw hats.
"It is rather the custom when one gets west of Omaha to do business on Sunday, and so habituated had I become to this practice that I was rather surprised when my friend, Ward, said to me: 'Now, I'll see you on Monday morning. Yes, on Monday morning. To-morrow, you know, is the Sabbath, and you will find here at the hotel a nice, comfortable place to stay. The cooking is excellent and the rooms are nice and tidy, and I am sure that you will enjoy it. If I can do anything further to add to your pleasure I shall be only too glad to have the opportunity. Perhaps you will come up to our Sunday School to-morrow morning. I am Superintendent and I shall see that good care is taken of you. May we not expect you up?'
"Of course I wanted to get a stand in—I confess it—and, furthermore, I had not forgotten my early training, and you know that boys on the road are not such a bad tribe as we are ofttimes made out to be. So I promised Brother Ward that I would go up the next morning.
"That part of it was all very good but how do you suppose I felt when, after the lessons had been read, I was called upon to address the Sabbath school? I was up against it, but being in I had to make good; and it often happens that, when a fellow is in the midst of people who assume that he is wise, wisdom comes to him.
"The night before I had come in on a freight. I was mighty tired, fell asleep, and was carried past the station about a mile and a half. All at once I woke up in the caboose—I had been stretched out on the cushions—and asked the conductor how far it was to Kearney. 'Kearney?' said the conductor. 'Kearney? We are a mile and a half past.' At the same time he sent out a brakeman who signaled down the train. I was fully two miles from the depot when I got off, lugging a heavy grip. I didn't know it was so far. I had just one thing to do, that was to hoof it down the track. Scared? Bet your life! I thought every telegraph pole was a hobo laying for me, clean down to the station. Luckily there was an electric light tower in the center of the town and this was a sort of guide-post for me and it helped to keep up my courage.
"In the little talk that I had to make to the Sunday School, having this experience of the night before so strong in my mind, I told them of the wandering life I had to live, of how on every hand, as thick as telegraph poles along the railway, stood dangers and temptations; but that I now looked back and that my light tower had always been the little Sunday School of my boyhood days. "When you get right down to it, we all have a little streak of sentiment in us, say what you will, when in boyhood we have had the old-time religion instilled into us. It sticks in spite of everything. It doesn't at any time altogether evaporate.
"Well, sir, I thought that I was all solid with Brother Ward. So the next morning I figured out that, as I could not go west, where I wished to, I could run up on a branch road and sandwich in another town without losing any time. I went to him early Monday morning and asked if it would be just as convenient for him to see me at three o'clock that afternoon.
"'Oh, yes, indeed; that will suit me all the better,' said Brother Ward. 'That will give me an opportunity to look over my stock of goods and see just what I ought to order.'
"I made the town on the branch road and was back at 2:30. When I went into my sample room, a friend of mine, a competitor, had just packed up. 'Hello,' said I, 'how are things going, Billy?'
"'Oh, fairly good,' said he. 'I have just got a nice bill of straw goods out of Ward, here. Whom do you sell?'
"'Well, that's one on me!' I exclaimed. Then I told my friend of my engagement with Ward, and bought the cigars.
"But anyhow I opened up and went over to see Brother Ward. I got right down to business and said: 'Brother Ward, my samples are open and I am at your service.' 'Well, Brother,' said he, 'I have been looking over my stock' (he had about a dozen and a half of fly-specked straw hats on his show case, left over from the year before and not worth 40 cents), 'and I have about come to the conclusion that I'll work off the old goods I have in preference to putting in any new ones. You see if I buy the new ones they will move first and the old goods will keep getting older.'—An old gag, you know!
"I saw that he was squirming, but I thought I would pin him down hard and fast, so I asked him the pat question: 'Then you have not bought any straw hats for this season's business, Brother Ward?' 'Nope, nope,' said he—telling what I knew to be a point-blank lie.
"'Well, Brother Ward,' said I, 'we are both confronted by a Christian duty. A fellow competitor and traveling man told me just a little while ago that he had sold you an out-and-out order of straw hats. Now I know that he is not telling the truth because you, a most reputable citizen of this town and a most worthy Superintendent of the Sunday School, have told me out-and-out that you have not bought any goods. Now, to-night, when you go home, do you not think that it is your duty, as well as mine, to ask the Lord to have mercy on and to forgive the erring brother who has told such a falsehood? I am sure that had he been trained to walk in the straight and narrow path he would not have done so. Your prayers, I am sure, will avail much.'
"When Brother Ward saw that I had him he colored from the collar up, and when I left him and said 'Peace be with thee!' his face was as red as the setting sun."
"I have a customer," said the furnishing goods man, "who beats the world on complaints. Every time I go to see him he must always tell me his troubles before I can get around to doing business with him. If you put business at him point-blank, it isn't very long before he twists the talk. So now I usually let him tell his troubles before I say anything to him about business. The last time I went in to see him—he is Sam Moritsky, in the clothing business down in Los Angeles —I said, 'Hello, Sam, how are you?' He answered:
"'Der Talmud id say "Happy ees de man who ees contentet," but it says in anodder place, "Few are contentet." I'm a seek man. De trobble in dis world ees, a man vants bread to leeve on ven he hasn't got dot. And ven he gets der bread he es sotisfite only a leetle vile. He soon vants butter on id. Ven he gets der butter in a leetle vile he vants meat, and den he vants vine and a goot cigar, and ven he gets all dese t'ings, he gets seek. I am a seek man.
"'Vonce I vanted a house on Cap'tol 'ell (Capitol Hill)—seex t'ousand tollars it costet. Eef I got id feeften 'undret—could haf borrowed dot much—I vould haf bought id, but I couldn't get dot feeften 'undret, and now I am glat. It vould have costet seexty fife tollars a mont to leeve and den I haf to geeve a party and a sopper and somet'ings and I make a beeg show,—a piano for my dotter, a fine dress for my vife, t'eater and all dot, and first t'ing I know, muhulla (I go broke)!
"'Vell, it's all ride eef I wasn't a seek man. Dey say dese ees a goot country. I say no. My fadder's family vants to come to dese country. I say no. In Russia a man he half a goot time. Vriday night he close de store at seex o'glock. He puts on his Sonday clothes, beeg feast all day Sonday, dance, vine, lots of goot t'ings. Veek days he geds down to beesness at eight o'clock—at ten o'glock he has coffee and den in a leetle vile he goes home and eats lonch. Den he takes a nap. De cheeldon, dey valk on der toes t'rough de room. "Papa's asleep," dey say. Seex o'glock he come home, beeg deener, he smokes hees pipe, goes to bet,—and de same t'ing over again.
"'I vork so hard in dese contry. I am a seek man. Here I vork sefen days in de veek from sefen in de morning to elefen at night, and sometimes twelf. Only vonce last year I go to t'eater in de afternoon. Ven I com home I catch 'ell from my vife. She say, "You safe money, Sam, and we get oud of dese bondage," and I say I must haf a leetle recreations. Sunday all day I keep open. Von Sunday night I say I go home and take my vife and my cheeldon and I go to t'eater. Ven I go to put de key into de door here comes a customer een, and I sell 'eem tventy-fife tollars—feeften tollars brofit. I vould haf lostet dot feeften tollars and vat I vould haf paid to go to t'eater eef I had closed op.
"'Besides, here at dis place all de family helps. Even my leetle goil, she goes oud to buy me a cigar von day, and she ask de man dot sells de cigar to buy somet'ing from papa. He vants some boys' shoes. I haf none. She goes across de streedt and buys a pair und sells dem for a tollar—feefty-five cents brofit. I gif my leetle goil a neeckle and I keep de feefty cents. Dots de vay it goes. I could not do dot eef I leefed on Cap'tol 'ell.
"'But den I am a seek man, but I am better off as de man who leefs on Cap'tol 'ell. He is so beesy. He eats his deener in de store. He has so many trobbles because he vants to make hees fortune beeger. Vat's de use? Here I am contentet. I go op stairs and notting botters me vile I eat deener. Now, I say vat de Talmud say ees right. Happy ees de man who ees contentet. Eet vould be all righdt eef I vas not a seek man.'
"When he got through with this speech I chewed the rag with him about business for half an hour, as I always had to do, finally telling him, as a last inducement which I always threw out, that I had some lots 'to close.' This was the only thing that would make him forget that he was 'a seek man.' And when I get right down to it, I believe I get more actual enjoyment out of selling Sam than from any customer I have."
"Speaking of your man Sam," said one of the hat men, "reminds me of a customer I once had with the same name. But my Sam was a bluffer. He was one of the kind that was always making kicks that he might get a few dollars rebate. I stood this sort of work for a few seasons but I finally got tired of it and, besides, I learned that the more I gave in to him the more I had to yield. A few years ago when I was traveling in Wisconsin, I went into his store and before he let go of my hand he began: 'Ah, that last bill was a holy terror. Why doesn't your house send out good goods? Why, I'll have to sell all those goods at a loss, and I need them, bad, too. They aint no use of my tryin' to do no more business with you. I like to give you the business, you know, but I can't stand the treatment that the house is giving me. They used to send out part of their goods all right, but here lately it is getting so that every item is just rotten.'
"I let Sam finish his kick and, as I started out the door I merely said, 'All right, Sam, I'll see you after awhile and fix this up all right. I want to go down and work on my samples a little.'
"As I saw him pass on the other side of the street going home to dinner, I slid up to his store and took all his last shipment from his shelves and stacked them in the middle of the floor. About the time I had finished doing this he came back.
"'Why, what are you doing?' said he.
"'Well, I'll tell you, Sam. I don't want you to have anything in the house that doesn't suit you, and I would a great deal rather than you would fire all this stuff back to the house. Look up and see the amount of freight charges you paid on them. Meantime I'll run down to the hotel and get my book and make you out a check for whatever it comes to. Come on down to the corner with me anyway, Sam. Let's have a cigar and take the world easy. I'm not going out tonight.'
"Sam went down to the corner with me. In a few minutes I returned to the store with my check book in hand. As I went into his store Sam was putting my goods back on the shelves.
"'Got your samples open?' he said.
"'Sure, Sam,' said I. 'Did you suppose I was going to let you bluff me this way?' And that was the last time he ever tried to work the rebate racket on me."
"So long as a bluffer is warm about it," said the shoe man, "it's all right; but I do hate to go up against one of those cold bloods, even if he isn't a bluffer."
"That depends," said the clothing man. "There's one man I used to call on and every time I went to see him I felt like feeling of his pulse to see if it were beating. If I had taken hold of his wrist I would not have been surprised to find that the artery was filled with fine ice. Gee! but how he froze me. Somehow I could always get him to listen to me, but I could never get him to buy.
"One day, to my surprise, the minute I struck him he said, 'Samples open?' And when I told him 'Yes' he had his man in my department turn over a customer that he was waiting on, to another one of the boys, and took him right down to the sample room. I never sold an easier bill in my life, so you see a cold blood is all right if he freezes out the other fellow."
The goose that had twirled so long before the pine log blaze was now put before us. The Spanish Senor with his violin started the program, and our tales for the evening were at an end.
HIRING AND HANDLING SALESMEN.
To hire and handle salesmen is the most important work of the head of the house. When a man goes out on the road to represent a firm, his traveling expenses alone are from five to twenty-five dollars a day, and sometimes even fifty. His salary is usually as much as his expenses, if not more. If a salesman does not succeed, a great portion of his salary and expenses is a dead loss, and, further, the firm is making a still greater loss if he does not do the business. In fact, if a poor man, succeeding a good one, falls down, his house can very easily lose many thousands of dollars by not holding the old trade of the man whose place he took. If all the wholesale houses in Chicago, say, which have a good line of salesmen were, at the beginning of the year, to lose all of those salesmen and replace them with dummies, three-fourths of these firms would go broke in from six months to three years. This is how important the salesman is to his firm.
I put hiring and handling of salesmen before having a strong line of goods, because if the proper salesmen are hired and are handled right, they will soon compel the house to put out the right line of goods. Just as a retail merchant should consult with his clerks about what he should buy, so, likewise, should the head of the wholesale house find out from his men on the road what they think will sell best. The salesman rubs up against the consumer and knows at first hand what the customer actually wants.
When the head of a house has a man to hire, the first man he looks for is one who has an established trade in the territory to be covered—a trade in his line of business. A house I have in mind which, ten years ago, was one of the top notchers in this country, has gone almost to the foot of the class because the "old man" who hired and handled the salesmen in that house died and was succeeded by younger heads not nearly so wise.
The still hunt was the old man's method. When he needed a salesman for a territory he would go out somewhere in that territory himself and feel about for a man. He would usually make friends with the merchants and find out from them the names of the best men on the road and his chances for getting one of them. The merchants, you know, can always spot the bright salesmen. When they rub up against them a few times they know the sort of mettle they are made of. The merchant appreciates the bright salesman whether he does business with him or not and the salesman who is a man will always find welcome under the merchant's roof. Salesmen are the teachers of the merchant, and the merchant knows this. Whenever he is planning to change locations, build a new store, move to some other town, put in a new department, or make any business change whatsoever, it is with traveling men that he consults. They can tell him whether or not the new location will be a good one and they can tell him if the new department which he is figuring on starting is proving profitable over the country in general. And, on the other hand, when the traveling man is expecting to make a change of houses, he often asks the advice of the merchant.
One of the biggest clothing salesmen in the United States once told me how this very old man hired him. Said Simon, "When I started out on the road my hair was moss. I almost had to use a horse comb to currie it down so I could wear my hat. Heavens, but I was green! I had been a stock boy for a kyke house and they put me out in Colorado. Don't know whether I have made much progress or not. My forefathers carried stuff on their backs; I carry it in trunks. Although changing is often bad business, the best step I ever made was to leave the little house and go with a bigger one. I had been piking along and while I was giving my little firm entire satisfaction, I was not pleasing myself with what I was doing. I could go out in the brush with my line, riding on a wagon behind bronchos, where a first-class man wouldn't, and dig up a little business with the yocles, but I couldn't walk into a mocher (big merchant) and do business with him. Yet, when I first started out I was fool enough to try it and I made several friends among the bigger merchants of Denver. But this did me no harm.
"One day, when I went in to see one of these big men in Denver, he said to me, 'Look here, Simon, you're a mighty good fellow and I'd like to do business with you, but you know I can't handle any goods from the concern you represent. Why don't you make a change?' I said to him, 'Well, I'm really thinking about it, but I don't know just where I can get in.' He said, 'I think I can give you a good tip. Old man Strauss from Chicago is out here looking for a man for this territory. He was in to see me only yesterday and told me he was on the lookout for a bright fellow. He's stopping up at the Windsor and I'd advise you to go over and get next if you can.'
"'Thank you very much,' said I; and I went over to the Windsor—I was putting up there—and asked the head clerk, who was a good friend of mine, where Strauss was.
"'Why, Simon,' said he, 'he's just gone down to the depot to take the D. & R. G. for Colorado Springs, but you will have no trouble finding him if you want to see him. They're not running any sleepers on the train. It's just a local between here and Pueblo. He wears gold-rimmed spectacles, is bald, and smokes all the time.'
"I called a cab, rushed down to the depot, checked my trunks to Colorado Springs, and jumped on the train just as she was pulling out. I spotted the old man as I went into the coach. He was sitting in a double seat with his feet up on the cushions. I got a whiff of his 'Lottie Lee' ten feet away. Luckily for me, all the seats in the car except the one the old man had his feet on, were occupied, so I marched up and said, 'Excuse me, sir, I dislike tol make you uncomfortable,' and sat down in front of him.
"The old man saw that I was one of the boys and, as he wanted to pump me, he warmed up and offered me one of his Lotties. I shall never forget that cigar. Smoke 'em in Colorado,—smell 'em in Europe! I managed to drop it on the floor in a few minutes so that I could switch onto one of mine. I pulled out a pair of two-bit-straights and passed one over, lighting the other for myself.
"'Dot vas a goot seecar,' said the old man. 'You are on der roat?'
"'Yes,' said I.
"'Vat's your bees'ness?'
"'I'm selling clothing.'
"'Vat? Veil, I am in dot bees'ness myself.'
"'Who do you travel for?' said I, playing the innocent.
"'I'm not on de roat,' said the old man. 'I am just out on a leetle trip for my healt. I am a monufacturer. Who do you trafel for?'
"I told him and then tried to switch the conversation to something else. I knew the old man wouldn't let me do it.
"'V'ere do you trafel?' said he.
"'Oh, Colorado, Utah, and up into Montana and Wyoming,' I answered.
"The old man took his feet off the cushions and his arms from the back of his seat. I thought I had him right then.
"'Dot's a goot contry,' said he. 'How long haf you been in deese beezness?' 'Five years,' said I. 'Always mit de same house?' 'Yes,' said I, 'I don't believe in changing.' The old man had let his cigar go out and he lit a match and let it burn his finger. I was sure that he was after me then.
"I didn't tell him that I had been a stock boy for nearly four years and on the road a little over one. It is a good sign, you know, if a man has been with a house a long time.
"'How's beezness this season?' said he.
"'Oh, it's holding up to the usual mark,' I said like an old timer.
"'Who do you sell in Denver?' said he.
"That was a knocker. 'Denver is a hard town to do business in,' said I. 'In cities, you know, the big people are hard to handle and the little ones you must look out for.' That was another strong point; I wanted him to see that I didn't care to do business with shaky concerns.
"'Vell,' said he after a while, 'you shouldt haf a stronger line and den you could sell de beeg vons.'
"'Yes, but it is a bad thing for a man to change,' said I. I knew that I was already hired and I was striking him for as big a guaranty as I could get, and my game worked all right because he asked me to take supper with him that night in the Springs and before we left the table he hired me for the next year.
"I came very near not fulfilling my contract, though, because after I had promised the old man I would come to him he said, 'Shake and haf a seecar,' and I had to smoke another Lottie Lee."
It is on the still hunt that the best men are trapped. Experienced salesmen—good ones—always have positions and are not often looking for jobs. To get them the wholesaler must go after them and the one who does this gets the best men. Hundreds of applications come in yearly to every wholesale house in America. These come so often that little attention is paid to them. When a wise house wishes salesmen, they either put out their scouts or go themselves directly after the men they want. And the shrewd head of a house is not looking for cheap men; he knows that a poor man is a great deal more expensive than a good one. Successful wholesalers do not bat their eyes at paying a first-class man a good price.
Recently I knew of one firm that had had a big salesman taken from them. What did they do to get another to take his place? The manager did not put out some cheap fellow, but he went to another man who, although he was unfamiliar with the territory, was a good shoe man, and guaranteed him that he would make four thousand dollars a year net, and gave him a good chance on a percentage basis of making six thousand. The experienced man in a line, although he has never traveled over the territory for which the wholesaler wishes a man, stands next in line for an open position. Houses know that a man who has done well on one territory in a very little while will establish a trade in another. One house that I know of has, in recent years, climbed right to the front because it would not let a thousand dollars or more stand in the way of hiring a first-class man. The head of this house went after a good salesman when he wanted one.
This is the way in which the head of a marvelously successful manufacturing firm hired many of their salesmen: They have this man talk to four different members of the firm single-handed; these men put all sorts of blocks in the way of the man whom they may possibly hire. They wish to test the fellow's grit. One successful salesman told me that when they hired him he talked to only one man, and only a few minutes; this man took him to the head of the house and said,
"Look here; there's no use of your putting this man through the turkish bath any longer; he is a man that I would buy goods from if I were a merchant."
"Well, I'll take him, then," said the president.
If I may offer a word of advice to him who hires the salesmen I would say this: Try to be sure when you hire a man to hire one that has been a success at whatever he has done. While it is best to get a man who is acquainted with your line and with the territory over which he is to travel, do not be afraid to put on a man who knows nothing of your merchandise and is a stranger to every one in the territory you wish to cover. If he has already been a successful salesman he will quickly learn about the goods he is to sell, and after one trip he will be acquainted with the territory.
The main thing for a salesman to know when you hire him is not how the trains run, not what your stuff is—he will soon learn this—but how to approach men! and gain their confidence! And it is needless for me to say that the one way to do this is to BE SQUARE!
A house does not wish a man like a young fellow I once knew of. He had been clerking in a store and had made application to a Louisville house for a position on the road. When he talked the matter over with the head of the house—it was a small one and always will be—they would not offer him any salary except on a commission basis, but they agreed to allow him five dollars a day for traveling expenses. He was to travel down in Kentucky. Five dollars a day looked mighty big to the young man who had been working for thirty dollars a month. He figured that he could hire a team and travel with that, and by stopping with his kin folks or farmers and feeding his own horses, that he could save from his expense money at least three dollars a day.
His territory was down in the Coon Range country where he was kin to nearly everybody. He lasted just one short trip.
A young fellow who once went to St. Louis is the sort of a man that the head of a house is looking for. When this young fellow went to call he put up a strong talk, but the 'old man' said to him:
"Come in and see us again. We haven't anything for you now."
That same afternoon this fellow walked straight into the old man's office again, with a bundle under him arm.
"Well, I am here," said he, "and I've brought my old clothes along. While I wish to be a salesman for you, put me to piling nail kegs or anything you please, and don't pay me a cent until you see whether or not I can work."
The old man touched a button calling a department manager and said to him:
"Here, put this young man to work. He says he can pile nail kegs."
In a couple of days the department manager went into the office again and said to the head of the house, "That boy is piling nail kegs so well that he can do something else."
That same young fellow went from floor to floor. In less than two years he was on the road and made a brilliant record for the house. To-day he is general salesman for the state of Texas for a very large wholesale hardware house and is making several thousand dollars each year.
If a wholesaler cannot find a man who is experienced in his line in the territory that he wishes to cover, and cannot get a good experienced road man at all, the next best ones he turns to are his own stock boys. In fact, the stock is the training school for men on the road.
A bright young man, wherever he may be, if he wishes to get on the road, should form the acquaintance of traveling men, because lightning may sometime strike him and he will have a place before he knows it. A gentleman who is now manager of a large New York engraving house once told me how he hired one of his best salesmen.
"When I was on the road my business used to carry me into the colleges. Our house gets up class invitations and things of that kind. Now I got this man in this way," said he: "I especially disliked going to the Phillips-Exeter Academy at Exeter, New Hampshire, owing to the poor train service and worse hotel accommodation.
"The graduating class at this academy had a nice order to place, and I called with original designs and prices. The committee refused to decide until they had received designs and prices from our competitors, so there was nothing else to do but bide-a-wee. When I called I made it a point to make friends with the chairman, who hailed from South Dakota and was all to the good. He was bright and distinctly wise to his job. By a little scouting I found out when the last competing representative was to call and speak his little piece.
"The next day I took a 'flyer,' that is, called without making an appointment. I arranged to arrive at my man's room in the afternoon when his recitations were over. His greeting was characteristic of the westerner,—as if we had known one another all our lives. He was a runner and did the one hundred yards dash in ten seconds flat and was the school's champion. I talked athletics to beat the band and got him interested. He was unable to get the committee together until seven o'clock that evening, which meant that I would have to stay in the town over night, as the last train went to Boston around 6:30 o'clock. There was nothing else to do but stay, as you naturally know what bad business it would be to leave a committee about to decide.
"I saw a platinum photograph of myself sleeping in that third-class hotel. I kept on talking athletics, however, and the chairman was good enough to ask me to dine with him. After dinner we played billiards and he beat me. At 6:45 we adjourned to his room. He and his committee excused themselves to hold their meeting in a room on the floor below. I was smoking one of the chairman's cigars, and was congratulating myself that things looked encouraging. The cigar was a good one, too. In half an hour the committee returned. The fellows lined up on the sofa, side by side, while the chairman straddled his chair and addressed me as follows:
"'Well, Mr. Rogers, we have discussed the matter thoroughly and as impartially I think as any committee of fellows could do, who had the interest of their class seriously at heart. In a way we regret that you took the trouble to call, because, to speak frankly, we would rather write what we have to say, than to be placed in the somewhat embarrassing position of telling you orally.'
"My cigar, somehow or other, no longer tasted good, and I was holding it in an apathetic sort of a way, not caring whether it went out or not. The bum hotel loomed up in front of me also. Continuing, the chairman said:
"'We have received something like six other estimates from different firms, and I must say some of their designs are "peaches." There are two firms whose prices are lower than yours, too. We like your designs very much, but I think if you place yourself in our position you will see we have no other alternative but to place the order with another house.
"He shifted his position uneasily and added with that final air we know so well, 'I want to thank you for your interest and trouble and we certainly appreciate the opportunity of seeing what you had to offer.'
"This was a nice sugar coat on a bitter pill, but I didn't want to take my medicine. I stood up, prepared to make a strong and expiring effort and to explain what an easy thing it was for a firm to quote a low price, etc., when the chairman came over quickly with extended hand and said, 'Now, we understand how you feel, old man, but there is no use prolonging this matter, which I assure you we regret more than we express. However,' turning to the other fellows, 'I think we are all agreed on one thing, and that is we are willing to make an exception in this case, and,'—here the corners of his mouth twitched and his eyes brightened up, 'we will give you the order on one condition.' I quickly asked what the condition was. 'And that is,' all the other fellows were standing up, smiling, 'we will give you the order if you'll take us to the show to-night!'
"It was well done and a clever piece of acting.
"The show, by the way, held in the town opera house, was a thrilling melodrama, and positively, it was so rotten it was good. The heroine was a girl who sold peanuts in one of the Exeter stores, and the villain was the village barber; I have forgotten who the hero was, but he was a 'bird.' The best part of the play was near the end. The villain was supposed to have murdered the hero by smashing him on the head with an iron bar and then pushing him into the river. At a critical stage, the hero walked serenely on the scene and confronted the villain. The villain assumed the good old stereotyped posture and shouted out with a horrified expression, 'Stand back, stand back, your hands is cold and slimy!' That busted up the show, as the audience, composed largely of the Academy boys, stood up as one and yelled. They finally started a cheer, 'Stand back, stand back, your hands is cold and slimy!' They repeated this cheer vigorously three times, and then crowded out of the house. That cheer can be heard at the Academy to- day.
"My chairman friend insisted upon putting me up for the night in a spare room in the dormitory; this saved my life.
"The next morning I joined the boys in chapel, and was very much surprised to find the entire student body and faculty clapping their hands when I became seated. This was certainly a new one on me. I turned to my chairman friend; he was grinning broadly as if he enjoyed the situation. What was I expected to do, for Heaven's sake—get up and make a speech? My mind was relieved by the President addressing the boys about alien topics. I learned afterwards that it was an old custom with Phillips-Exeter to applaud when a stranger entered the chapel. This is especially appropriate in the case of an old 'grad' returning, but certainly disturbing to an outsider.
"I did further business with my friend, also, when he was at Harvard. He did such a smooth job on me that when I became manager of my house I sent for him when we had the first opening on the road. I asked him how he would like to come with us. He came. He has been with our company now for two years and is getting on fine."
College boys as a rule are not looking for positions on the road, but if more of them would do so there would be more college graduates scoring a business success and more traveling men with the right sort of educational equipment. But they should begin young. While traveling on the road they would find many opportunities for self-advancement. The traveling man who will try can make almost anything he wishes of himself.
The head of the house must be on the lookout for the floater. In every city there are many professional job finders. About the only time they ever put up a good, strong line of conversation is when they talk for a job. After they get a good guaranteed salary they go to sleep until their contract is at an end, and then they hunt for another job. These are the chaps that the "old man" must look out for with a sharp eye.
When it is known that a good position in a house is open, scores of applications, by mail and in person, come in for the place from all kinds of men. I knew of one instance where a most capable head of a house thought well of one salesman who applied by letter. Before fully making up his mind about him, however, he sent a trusted man to look him up. He found that the man who made the application, while a capable salesman and a gentleman, was unfortunately a drunkard and a gambler.
Of this kind of man there are not so many. A man on the road who "lushes" and fingers chips does not last long. To be sure, most men on the road are cosmopolitan in their habits and they nearly all know, perhaps better than any other class of men, when to say, "no."
No less important than hiring salesmen is the handling of them. The house spoils for itself many a good man after it gets him. The easiest way is by writing kicking letters. The man on the road is a human being. Generally he has a home and a family and friends. He is working for them, straining every nerve that he may do something for the ones he cherishes. He takes a deep and constant interest in his business. He feels that he is a part of the firm he works for and knows full well that their interest is his interest and that he can only succeed for himself by making a success for the firm. When, feeling all of this within himself, he gets a kicking letter because he has been bold enough to break some little business rule when he knows it should have been done, he grows discouraged.
And, alas, for the comfort of the traveling man! there are too few houses that have due respect for his feelings. The traveling man is on the spot. He knows at first hand what should be done. His orders should be supreme. His work for a year should be considered as a whole. If, at the end of his contract, what he has done is not satisfactory, let him be told so in a lump. Continual petty hammering at him drives him to despair.
For example: I know of one firm in the wholesale hat business, that raised hob in a letter with their best man because he would, in selling dozen lots to customers, specify sizes on the goods that his customer wished,—a most absurd thing for the house to do. The merchant must, of course, keep his own stock clean and not become over-stocked on certain sizes. If he has been handling a certain "number" and has sold out all of the small sizes, only the large ones remaining, it would be foolish for him to buy regular sizes and get in his lot the usual proportion of large ones. All he needs and will need for several months, perhaps, will be the smaller run of sizes. Now, the salesman on the spot and the merchant know just what should be ordered, and if the house kicks on the salesman on this point, as did this house, they act absurdly.
Not only do too many houses write kicking letters to their men on the road, but fail to show the proper appreciation for their salesmen's efforts to get good results. When a salesman has done good work and knows it, he loves to be told so, craves in the midst of his hard work a little word of good cheer. And the man handling salesmen who is wise enough to write a few words of encouragement and appreciation to his salesmen on the road, knows not how much these few words help them to succeed in greater measure. It is a mistake for the "Old Man" to feel that if he writes or says too many kind words to his salesmen, he will puff them up. This is the reason many refrain from giving words of encouragement. The man on the road, least of all men, is liable to get the swelled head. No one learns quicker than he that one pebble does not make a whole beach.
Another way in which a house can handle its salesmen badly is by not treating his trade right. Many firms that carry good strong lines persistently dog the customer after the goods have been shipped. Whenever a house abuses its customers it also does a wrong to its salesmen. I know of one firm, I will not say just where, that has had several men quit—and good salesmen, too—in the last two or three years, because this firm did not treat its salesmen's customers right. For this reason, and this reason only, the salesmen went to other firms, that knew how to handle them and their customers as men. With their new houses they are succeeding.
Too many heads of wholesale firms get "stuck on themselves" when they see orders rolling in to them. They fail to realize the hard work their salesmen do in getting these orders. I know of one firm that almost drove one of the best salesmen in the United States away from it for the reasons that I have given. They dogged him, they didn't write him a kind word, they badgered his trade, they thought they had him, hard and fast. Finally, however, he wrote to them that, contract or no contract, he was positively going to quit. Ah, and then you should have seen them bend the knee! This man traveled for a Saint Louis firm. His home was in Chicago, and when he came in home from his trip his house wrote him to come down immediately. He did not reply, but his wife wrote them—and don't you worry about the wives of traveling men not being up to snuff—that he had gone to New York. Next morning a member of the firm was in Chicago. He went at once to call upon their salesman's wife. He tried to jolly her along, but she was wise. He asked for her husband's address and she told him that the only address he had left was care of another wholesale firm in their line in New York,—she supposed he could reach her husband there. Then the Saint Louis man was wild. He put the wires to working at once and telegraphed: "By no means make any contract anywhere until you see us. Won't you promise this? Letter coming care of Imperial."
Then he was sweet as pie to the salesman's wife, took her and her daughter to the matinee, a nice luncheon, and all that. In a few days the salesman I speak of went down to Saint Louis. The members of his firm took off their hats to him and raised his salary a jump of $2,400 a year.
How much trouble they would have saved themselves, and how much better feeling there would have been if they had only handled this man right in the beginning!
There are some heads of firms, however, who do know how to handle their salesmen. One of the very best men in the United States is head of a wholesale hardware firm. He has on the road more than a hundred men and they all fairly worship him. I remember many years ago seeing a letter that he had written to the boys on the road for him. He had been fishing and made a good catch. He sent them all photographs of himself and his big fish and told the boys that they mustn't work too hard, that they were all doing first rate, and that if they ever got where there was a chance to skin him at fishing, to take a day off and that he would give prizes to the men who would out-catch him. This is just a sample of the way in which he handles his men. Occasionally he writes a general letter to his men, cheering them along. He never loses a good man and has one of the best forces of salesmen in America. They have made his success and he knows it and appreciates it.
Another head of a firm who handles his salesmen well is in the wholesale shoe business. Twice each year he calls all of his salesmen together when he is marking samples. He asks them their opinion about this thing or that thing and listens to what his men have to say. He has built up the largest shoe business in the United States. After the marking of samples is all over, he gives a banquet to his men and has each one of them make a little speech. He himself addresses them, and when they leave the table there is a cordial feeling between the head of the house and his traveling men.
He also puts wonderful enthusiasm into his men. Here are some of his mottoes: "Enthusiasm is our great staple," "Get results," "No slow steppers wanted around this house," "If this business is not your business, send in your trunks," "All at it, always at it, brings success." He has taught his salesmen a college yell which runs like this: "Keep-the-qual-ity-up." Only a few years ago the watchword of this house was: "Watch us—Five millions" (a year). Now it is: "A million a month," and by their methods they will soon be there.
This same man has the keenest appreciation of the value of a road experience. Some time ago he was in need of an advertising manager. If he had followed the usual practice he would have gone outside the house and hired a professional "ad manager." But he had a notion that the man who knew enough about salesmanship and about his special goods to sell them on the road could "make sentiment" for those same goods by the use of printers' ink. Therefore he put one of his crack salesmen into the position and now pays him $6,000 a year. And the man has made good in great shape.
Nor does he stop with promoting men from the ranks of his organization. If a salesman in his house makes a good showing, he fastens him to the firm still tighter by selling to him shares of good dividend-paying stock.
He knows one thing that too few men in business do know: That a man can best help himself by helping others!
HEARTS BEHIND THE ORDER BOOK.
With all of his power of enduring disappointment and changing a shadow to a spot of sunshine, there yet come days of loneliness into the life of the commercial traveler—days when he cannot and will not break the spell. There is a sweet enchantment, anyway, about melancholy; 'tis then that the heart yearns for what it knows awaits it. Perhaps the wayfarer has missed his mail; perhaps the wife whom he has not seen for many weeks, writes him now that she suffers because of their separation and how she longs for his return.
I sat one day in a big red rocking chair in the Knutsford Hotel, in Salt Lake. I had been away from home for nearly three months. It was drawing near the end of the season. The bell boys sat with folded hands upon their bench; the telegraph instrument had ceased clicking; the typewriter was still. The only sound heard was the dripping of the water at the drinking fount. The season's rush was over. Nothing moved across the floor except the shadows chasing away the sunshine which streamed at times through the skylight. Half a dozen other wanderers— all disconsolate—sat facing the big palm in the center of the room. No one spoke a word. Perhaps we were all turning the blue curls of smoke that floated up from our cigars into visions of home.
The first to move was one who had sat for half an hour in deep meditation. He went softly over to the music box near the drinking fount and dropped a nickel into the slot. Then he came back again to his chair and fell into reverie. The tones of the old music box were sweet, like the swelling of rich bells. They pealed through the white corridor "Old Kentucky Home." Every weary wanderer began to hum the air. When the chorus came, one, in a low sweet tenor, sang just audibly:
"Weep no more, my lady, "Weep no more to-day; "We will sing one song, for my old Kentucky home, "For my old Kentucky home far away."
When the music ceased he of meditation went again and dropped in another coin. Out of the magic box came once more sweet strains—this time those of Cayalleria Rusticana, which play so longingly upon the noblest passions of the soul.
The magic box played its entire repertoire, which fitted so well the mood of the disconsolate listeners. The first air was repeated, and the second. This was enough—too much. Quietly the party disbanded, leaving behind only the man of meditation to listen to the dripping of the fount.
Not only are there moments of melancholy on the road, but those of tragedy as well. The field of the traveling man is wide and, while there bloom in it fragrant blossoms and in it there wax luscious fruits, the way is set with many thorns.
During the holidays of 1903 I was in a western city. On one of these days, long to be remembered, I took luncheon with a young man who had married only a few months before. This trip marked his first separation from his wife since their wedding. Every day there came a letter from "Dolly" to "Ned"—some days three. The wife loves her drummer husband; and the most loved and petted of all the women in the world is the wife of the man on the road. When they are apart they long to be together; when they meet they tie again the broken threads of their life-long honeymoon.
As we sat at the table over our coffee a bell boy brought into my friend letter "97" for that trip. His wife numbered her letters. Reading the letter my friend said to me: "Jove, I wish I could be at home in Chicago to-day, or else, like you, have Dolly along with me. Just about now I would be going to the matinee with her. She writes me she is going to get tickets for to-day and take my sister along, as that is the nearest thing to having me. Gee, how I'd love to be with her!"
After luncheon we went to our sample rooms, which adjoined. Late in the afternoon I heard the newsboys calling out: "Extra! Extra! All about the * * *" I know not what. My friend came into my room.
"What is that they are calling out?" he said.
We listened. We heard the words: "All about the Great Chicago Theater Fire."
Three steps at a time we bounded down stairs and bought papers. When my friend saw the head-lines he exclaimed: "Hundreds burned alive in the Iroquois Theater. Good God, man, Dolly went to that theater to- day!"
"Pray God she didn't," said I.
We rushed to the telegraph office and my friend wired to his father: "Is Dolly lost? Wire me all particulars and tell me the truth."
We went to the newspaper office to see the lists of names as they came in over the wire, scanning each new list with horrified anxiety. On one sheet we saw his own family name. The given name was near to, but not exactly, that of his wife.
May a man pray for the death of his near beloved kin—for the death of one he loves much—that she may be spared whom he loves more? Not that, but he will pray that both be spared.
Back to the hotel we ran. No telegram. Back to the newspaper office and back to the hotel again.
A messenger boy put his hand on the hotel door. Three leaps, and my friend snatched the message from the boy. He started to open it. He faltered. He pressed the little yellow envelope to his heart, then handed it to me.
"You open it and pray for me," he said.
The message read: "All our immediate family escaped the horrible disaster. Dolly is alive and thankful. She tried but could not get tickets. Thank God."
All do not escape the calamity of death, however, as did my friend Ned. The business of the man on the road is such that he is ofttimes cut off from his mail and even telegrams for several days at a time. Again, many must be several days away from their homes utterly unable to get back. When death comes then it strikes the hardest blow.
A friend of mine once told me this story:
"I was once opened up in an adjoining room to a clothing man's. When he left home his mother was very low and not expected to live for a great while; but on his trip go he must. He had a large family, and many personal debts. He could not stay at home because no one else could fill his place on the road. The position of a traveling man, I believe, is seldom fully appreciated. It is with the greatest care that, as you know, a wholesale house selects its salesmen for the road. When a good man gets into a position it is very hard—in fact impossible—for him to drop out and let some one else take his place for one trip even. Of course you know there isn't any place that some other man cannot fill, but the other man is usually so situated that either he will not or does not care to make a change.
"My clothing friend was at Seattle on his trip. His home, where his mother lay sick, was in Saint Louis—nearly four days away. The last letter he had received from home told him that his mother was sinking. The same day on which he received this letter a customer came into his room about ten o'clock—and he was a tough customer, too. He found fault with everything and tore up the samples. He was a hard man to deal with. You know how it is when you strike one of these suspicious fellows. He has no confidence in anybody and makes the life of us poor wanderers anything but a joyous one.
"Under the circumstances, of which he said nothing, my clothing friend was not in the best mood. He could not help thinking of home and feeling that he should be there; yet, at the same time, he had a duty to do. He simply must continue the trip. He had just taken on his position with a new firm and needed to show, on this trip, the sort of stuff in him. He had been doing first rate; still, he must keep it up.
"I happened to drop in, as I was not busy for a few minutes, while he was showing goods. I never like to go into a man's sample room while he is waiting on any one. Often a new man on the road gets in the way of doing this and doesn't know any better. Selling a bill of goods, even to an old customer, takes a whole lot of energy. No man likes to be interrupted while he is at it. When it comes to persuading a new man to buy of you, you have, frequently, a hard task. There are many reasons why a customer should not leave his old house. Maybe he is still owing money to the firm he has been dealing with and needs credit. Maybe the salesman for that firm is a personal friend. These are two things hard to overcome—financial obligations and friendship.
"At any rate, my clothing friend was having much difficulty. He was making the best argument he could, telling the customer it mattered not what firm he dealt with, that firm was going to collect a hundred cents on the dollar when his bill was due; and that any firm he dealt with would be under obligations to him for the business he had given to it instead of his being under obligations to the firm. He was also arguing against personal friendship and saying he would very soon find out whether the man he was dealing with was his friend or not if he quit buying goods from him. He was getting down to the hard pan argument that the merchant, under all circumstances, should do his business where he thought he could do it to best advantage to himself.
"The merchant would not start to picking out a line himself, so my friend laid on a table a line of goods and was, as a final struggle, trying to persuade the merchant to buy that selection, a good thing to do. It is often as easy to sell a merchant a whole line of goods as one item. But the merchant said no.
"Just as I started out of the room, in came a bell boy with a telegram. My clothing friend, as he read the message, looked as if he were hitched to an electric wire. He stood shocked—with the telegram in his hand—not saying a word. Then he turned to me, handed me the message and, without speaking, went over, laid down on the bed, and buried his face in a pillow. Poor fellow. I never felt so sorry for anybody in my life! The message told that his mother was dead.
"I asked the stubborn customer to come into the next room, where I showed him the message.
"'After all, a "touch of pity makes the whole world akin",' the merchant said to me:
"'Just tell your friend, when he is in shape again to talk business, that he may send me the line he picked out and that I really like it first rate."
Sometimes the tragedies of the road show a brighter side. Once, an old time Knight of the Grip, said to me, as we rode together:
"Do you know, a touching, yet a happy thing, happened this morning down in Missoula?
"I was standing in my customer's store taking sizes on his stock. I heard the notes of a concertina and soon, going to the front door, I saw a young girl singing in the street. In the street a good looking woman was pulling the bellows of the instrument. Beside her stood two girls—one of ten, another of about fourteen. They took turns at singing—sometimes in the same song.
"All three wore neat black clothes—not a spark of color about them except the sparkling keys of the concertina. They were not common looking, poorly clad, dirty street musicians. They were refined, even beautiful. The little group looked strangely out of place. I said to myself: 'How have these people come to this?'
"How those two girls could sing! Their voices were sweet and full. I quit my business, and a little bunch of us—two more of the boys on the road having joined me—stood on the sidewalk.
"The little girl sang this song," continued my companion, reading from a little printed slip:
"Dark and drear the world has grown as I wan-der all a-lone, And I hear the breezes sob-bing thro' the pines. I can scarce hold back my tears, when the southern moon ap-pears, For 'tis our humble cottage where it shines; Once again we seem to sit, when the eve-ning lamps are lit, With our faces turned to-ward the golden west, When I prayed that you and I ne'er would have to say 'Good-bye,' But that still to-gether we'd be laid to rest.
"As she sang, a lump kind of crawled up in my throat. None of us spoke.
"She finished this verse and went into the crowd to sell printed copies of their songs, leaving her older sister to take up the chorus. And I'll tell you, it made me feel that my lot was not hard when I saw one of those sweet, modest little girls passing around a cup, her mother playing in the dusty street, and her sister singing,—to just any one that would listen.
"The chorus was too much for me. I bought the songs. Here it is:
"Dear old girl, the rob-in sings a-bove you, Dear old girl, it speaks of how I love you, The blind-ing tears are fall-ing, As I think of my lost pearl, And my broken heart is call-ing, Calling you, dear old girl.
"Just as the older sister finished this chorus and started to roll down the street a little brother, who until now had remained in his baby carriage unnoticed, the younger girl came where we were. I had to throw in a dollar. We all chipped in something. One of the boys put his fingers deep into the cup and let drop a coin. Tears were in his eyes. He went to the hotel without saying a word.
"The little girl went away, but soon she came back and said: 'One of you gentlemen has made a mistake. You aimed, mama says, to give me a nickel, but here is a five-dollar gold piece.'
"'It must be the gentleman who has gone into the hotel,' said I.
"Then I'll go find him,' said the little girl. 'Where is it?'
"Well, sir, what do you suppose happened? The little girl told the man who'd dropped in the five, how her father, who had been well to do, was killed in a mine accident in Colorado and that although he was considerable to the good, creditors just wiped up all he had left his family. The mother—the family was Italian—had taught her children music and they boldly struck out to make their living in the streets. It was the best they could do.
"The man who had put in the five was a jewelry salesman from New York. While out on a trip he had lost his wife and three children in the Slocum disaster. He just sent the whole family,—the mother, the two sisters, and the baby—to New York and told them to go right into his home and live there—that he would see them through.
"I was down at the depot when the family went aboard, and it was beautiful to see the mother take that man's hand in both of hers and the young girls hug him and kiss him like he was their father."