Charles N. Crewdson.

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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.

[Illustration: "Shure, that cigare is a birrd"]

"'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.




CHAPTER XI.

CUTTING PRICES.


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:


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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 10 of 19)