The salesman knows nothing of what he is selling save that he is charging a great deal too much for it. –Oscar Wilde
WHEN THIS WORLD CATCHES FIRE
BOOK THREE: SAVAGE NOXTOWN
CHAPTER TEN: PART SEVENTY-NINE: KINGDOM COME
“I don’t know when the damned idea first struck me,” said Count Justin Victor, “to swindle the midget who was the show-runner at the Red and Black Carnival. I knew he carried close to 10 big ones in his grouch bag which he had hung around his neck. And I was in a dry spell, so I was determined to get my hands on that pile, come hell or water high. Colonel Germ was his name. I guess that actually was his alias. Who knows what his real name was. Best to never ask. Carny folk don’t give out the gen unless they’ve known you for twenty years or more, and often not even then.
“You would think that the hardest thing in the world would be to swindle a swindler. But I’m telling you that eleven times out of twelve, it’s a cake walk. Cazarny folk are all with it and for it, but, like most people, they are actually putty in the hands of a smooth salesman.
“There is a certain magic to be seen in the way a salesman weaves his spell. ‘Bug ’em ’til they buy or die’–that’s their motto. Even if you walk into their dump with no money and not intending to buy anything, a good salesman sees you as a sucker and can nearly always send you home to raid the cookie jar for your hoarded pelf. They are especially good at mesmerizing womenfolk, I have noticed. A natty dresser with a slick line of patter will always make the lady-folk swoon. I can’t account for it, but I have seen it happen a dozen times.
“Why, I’ve seen a strong salesmen in action who was so good that he was actually disappointed to close the sale too soon! He actually wanted the customer to wriggle on the hook a little more before reeling them in! Because, lets face it: Most people–I’d say just about all people save for a select few–they don’t know what they want. They need to be told. And if you think you can’t be sold, you’re very likely to be the biggest fish of all.
“The drummer nearly always has a hard row to hoe. He’s the yob who has to go from door to door and sweet-talk the tin-horn chiselers, one by one, or else there’s hell to pay at the front office. Some of those old grocers in their general stores are mean-minded individuals, the lot of them. They squeeze their own customers for every last half cent, so why wouldn’t they squeeze the salesman, too? Turns out you have to bribe the old geezers just to get them to take a look at your line, never mind buy. Getting those old pinch-pennies to part with so much as a nickel is an epic journey in itself. It’s many a poor drummer who has cause to lament the fact that he wasn’t born rich. It seems that when you’re a drummer, half your money is spent on clothes. Especially shoes. Nobody wants to buy from a yellof who looks like he’s been through the mill. No–you must look as though you’ve just stepped out of a band box, if you want to make it in the selling game. Especially your shoes. Many of shine boy at the railroad depot has profited from this fact.
“Selling to farmers is even worse. And the farmer’s wife! Nine times out of ten she’s a pinch-faced hag who will hold on to a dollar until the eagle screams. Small wonder that the traveling salesman takes it out in trade, usually with the farmer’s daughter. It’s a young man’s game, for a surety. Particularly when you have to outrun an angry farmer. Because there are some things you just can’t talk your way out of, and deflowering a farm maiden is one of them. But no drummer worth his salt has ever had to agree to a shotgun wedding.
“Anyway, the life of a drummer was never the life for me. Inside sales is the place to be. It’s a lead-pipe cinch by comparison. It’s where any potential grifter worth his salt can learn his trade when he’s still as green as a pea. The basics are these: You got to get them to swallow their dreams. And then you have them by the short and curlies. My friends, I have never known it to fail. You’ve got to talk to them like a Dutch Uncle. Persuade them. Say to them, ‘Think of how happy you’ll be when you walk down the street in your new frock coat and all the girlies practically faint dead away–they notice these things my friend–and all the men wonder where you acquired such a handsome garment.’ You just tell them a cute little story, see? It’s just as simple as that. You just pound away with all these starry-eyed notions and similar and you pound away good and hard; for I have given you cause to apprehend that the mass of men are sheep–have I not?–and they will follow the old ram to perdition in nearly every single case. Just look at the success of the comic strips in the funny papers. People are morons and easily amused. Tell them a funny joke, and they will think you are a fine fellow and will want to help you out.
“I tell you that selling any proposition at all can sometimes be that simple: Fill their noggins with some benign horse-apples and you’ll have them in the palm of your hand in no time.
“I’m not saying that the life of a salesman is always so easy. Oh, no. Far from it. Not even inside sales. Getting tightwads to part with their dough is no picnic lunch with Toulouse-Lautrec. But, least-ways, if they have wandered into your store, they must be in some kind of a mood to buy. Nobody goes into a whorehouse fixing to look but not touch. And so it is with customers. If you can persuade them to get the feel of the item in their hands, they’re more than half yours.
“After all: Monkey see, monkey do.”