Charles N. Crewdson.

Tales of the Road online

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up. So he said to me, 'Vell, Maircus, you can wride down der orter,
and eef dot sun shines before we get t'rough, you can sheep der

"This was the first time that I ever played a game against the Powers
That Be. I started in and the sky grew darker and darker. I monkeyed
along for an hour and a half, and, just to kill time, tried to switch
the old man from patterns he had selected to others that I 'thought
would be a little better.' But the Powers were against me, and when I
finished writing down the order it was cloudier than ever - and nearly
night, too.

"Then an idea struck me. 'Now, Sam,' said I, 'I've had a cinch on you
all the time. You told me you were going to take this bill if the sun
was shining when we got through writing down this order. Don't you
know, Sam,' said I, laughing at him, 'the sun does shine and must
shine every day. Sometimes a little cloud comes between it and the
earth but that, you know, will soon pass away, and, cloud or no cloud,
the sun shines just the same.'

"'Vell, Maircus,' said the old man, 'I cannod see any sunshine out der
vindow, but dere's so much off id in your face dot you can sheep dot
bill.' 'Well, Sam,' said I, 'if that's the case, I guess I will buy
you that box of cigars.'"

Another thing: _Don't beef!_

There is a slight difference between the "grouch" and the "beef." The
man may be grouchy without assuming to give a reason therefor, but
when he "beefs" he usually thinks there is cause for it. I knew a man
who once lost a good customer just because he beefed when a man to
whom he had sold a bill of goods countermanded the order. The merchant
was stretching his capital in his business to the limit. Things grew a
little dull with him and he figured it out, after he had placed all of
his orders, that he had bought too many goods. He used the hatchet a
little all the way around. I had some of my own order cut off, but
instead of kicking about it, I wrote him that he could even cut off
more if he felt it was to his advantage; that I did not wish to load
him up with more than he could use; that when the time came that I
knew his business better than he did it would then be time for me to
buy him out. But a friend of mine did not take this same turn.
Instead, he wrote to the man - and the merchant thought a good deal of
him, personally, too - that he had bought the goods in good faith, that
expense had been made in selling the bill and that he ought to keep

"Well, now, that was the very worst thing he could have done because
it went against the customer's grain. He let his countermand stand and
since that time he has never bought any more goods from his old
friend. He simply marked him off his list because it was very plain to
him that the friendship of the past had been for what there was in

_Don't fail to make a friend of your fellow salesman!_

This can never do you any harm and you will find that it will often do
you good. The heart of the man on the road should be as broad as the
prairie and as free from narrowness as the Egyptian sky is free of
clouds. One of my friends once told a group of us, as we traveled
together, how an acquaintance he made helped him.

"I got into Dayton, Washington, one summer morning about 4:30," said
he. "Another one of the boys - a big, strong, good-natured comrade -
until then a stranger to me - and myself were the only ones left at the
little depot when the jerk-water train pulled away. It was the first
trip to this town for both of us. There was no 'bus at the depot and
we did not know just how to get up to the hotel. The morning was fine
- such a one as makes a fellow feel good clear down to the ground. The
air was sweet with the smell of the dewy grass. The clouds in the
east - kind of smeared across the sky - began to redden; they were the
color of coral as we picked our way along the narrow plank walk. As we
left behind us the bridge, which crossed a beautiful little stream
lined with cotton woods and willows, they had turned a bright
vermillion. There was not a mortal to be seen besides ourselves. The
only sound that interrupted our conversation was the crowing of the
roosters. The leaves were still. It was just the right time for the
beginning of a friendship between two strangers.

"'Isn't this glorious!' exclaimed my friend.

"'Enchanting!' I answered. I believe I would have made friends with a
crippled grizzly bear that morning. But this fellow was a whole-souled
prince. We forgot all about business, and the heavy grips that we
lugged up to the hotel seemed light. All I remember further was that
my friend - for he had now become that to me - and myself went out to
hunt up a cup of coffee after we had set down our grips in the hotel

"The next time I met that man was at the Pennsylvania Station at
Philadelphia, ten years afterward, at midnight. We knew each other on

"'God bless you, old man,' said he. 'Do you know me?'

"'You bet your life I do,' said I. 'We walked together one morning,
ten years ago, from the depot at Dayton, Washington, to the hotel.'
'Do you remember that sunrise?' 'Well, _do_ I?' 'What are you doing
down here?' 'Oh, just down on business. The truth is, I am going
down to New York. My house failed recently and I'm on the look-out for
a job.'

"And do you know, boys, that very fellow fixed me up before ten
o'clock next morning, with the people that I am with today, and you
know whether or not I am getting on."

_Don't fall to be friendly with any one who comes in your way._

Another of the boys in the little group that had just listened to this
story, after hearing it, said: 'You bet your life it never hurts a
fellow to be friendly with anybody. Once, when I was going down from a
little Texas town to Galveston, the coach was rather crowded. The only
vacant seats in the whole car were where two Assyrian peddler women
sat in a double seat with their packs of wares opposite them. But as I
came in they very kindly put some of their bundles into the space
underneath where the backs of two seats were turned together, thus
making room for me. I sat down with them. A gentleman behind me
remarked, 'Those people aren't so bad after all.' 'Yes,' I said, 'you
will find good in every one if you only know how to get it out.'

"I had a long and interesting talk with that gentleman. He gave me his
card and when I saw his name I recognized that he was a noted

"Well, what good did that do you?" said one of the boys who was not

"Good? Why that man asked me to come to his home. There I met one of
his sons who was an advertising man for a very large firm in
Galveston. He, in turn, introduced me to the buyer in his store and
put in a good word with him for me. I had never been able to really
get the buyer's attention before this time but this led me into a good
account. You know, I don't care anything for introductions where I can
get at a man without them. I'd rather approach a man myself straight
out than to have any one introduce me to him, but there are cases
where you really cannot get at a man without some outside influence.
This was a case where it did me good."

But, with all this, _don't depend upon your old friends!_

A salesman's friends feel that when he approaches them he does so
because they are his friends, and not because he has goods to sell
that have value. They will not take the same interest in his
merchandise that they will in that of a stranger. They will give him,
it is true, complimentary orders, charity-bird bills, but these are
not the kind that count. Every old man on the road will tell you that
he has lost many customers by making personal friends of them. No man,
no matter how warm a friend his customer may be, should fail, when he
does business with him, to give him to understand that the goods he is
getting are worth the money that he pays for them. This will make a
business friendship built upon confidence, and the business friend may
afterward become the personal friend. A personal friendship will often
follow a business friendship but business friendship will not always
follow personal regard. Every man on the road has on his order book
the names of a few who are exceptions to this rule. He values these
friends, because the general rule of the road is: "Make a personal
friend - lose a customer!" _Don't switch lines!_

The man who has a good house should never leave it unless he goes with
one that he knows to be much better and with one that will assure him
of a good salary for a long time.

Even then, a man often makes a mistake to his sorrow. He will find
that many whom he has thought his personal friends are merely his
business friends; that they have bought goods from him because they
have liked the goods he sold. It is better for a man to try to improve
the line he carries - even though it may not suit him perfectly - than
to try his luck with another one. Merchants are conservative. They
never put in a line of goods unless it strikes them as being better
than the one that they are carrying, and when they have once
established a line of goods that suits them, and when they have built
a credit with a certain wholesale house, they do not like to fly
around because the minute that they switch from one brand of goods
that they are carrying to another, the old goods have become to them
mere job lots, while if they continued to fill in upon a certain
brand, the old stock would remain just as valuable as the new.

One of my old friends had a strong personality but was a noted
changer. He is one of the best salesmen on the road but he has always
changed himself out. He was a shoe man. I met him one day as he was
leaving Lincoln, Nebraska. "Well, Andy," said I, "I guess you got a
good bill from your old friend here."

"Ah, friend?" said he. "I thought that fellow was my friend, but he
quit me cold this time. Didn't give me a sou. And do you know that
this time I have a line just as good as any I ever carried in my life.
I got him to go over to look, but what did he say? That he'd bought.
And the worst of it is that he bought from the house I have just left
and from the man that I hate from the ground up. Now, he's not any
friend of mine any more. The man's your friend who buys goods from
you." I didn't have very much to say, for this man had been loyal to
me, but when I went to Lincoln again I chanced to be talking to the
merchant, and he said to me:

"Do you know, I like Andy mighty well. I tried to be a friend to him.
When I first started with him I bought from him the "Solid Comfort."
He talked to me and said that Solid Comforts were the thing, that they
had a big reputation and that I would profit by the advertising that
they had. Well, I took him at his word. I used to know him when I was
a clerk, you know, and bought from him on his say-so, the Solid
Comfort. I handled these a couple of years and got a good trade built
up on them, and then he came around and said, 'Well, I've had to drop
the old line. I think I'm going to do lots better with the house I'm
with now. The "Easy Fitter" is their brand. Now, you see there isn't
very much difference between the Easy Fitters and the Solid Comforts,
and you won't have any trouble in changing your people over.'

"Well, I changed, and do you know I was in trouble just as soon as I
began to run out of sizes of Solid Comforts. People had worn them and
they had given satisfaction and they wanted more of them. Still, I
didn't buy any at all and talked my lungs out selling the Easy

"Well, it wasn't but a couple of years later when Andy came around
with another line. This time he had about the same old story to tell.
I said to him, 'Now, look here, Andy, I've had a good deal of trouble
selling this second line you sold me instead of the first. People
still come in and ask for them. I have got them, however, changed over
fairly well to the Easy Fitters, and I don't want to go through with
this old trouble again.'

"'Aw, come on,' said he, 'a shoe's a shoe. What's the difference?'
And, out of pure friendship, I went with him again and bought the
"Correct Shape." I had the same old trouble over again, only it was
worse. The shoes were all right but I had lots of difficulty making
people think so. So when Andy made this trip and had another line, I
had to come right out and say, 'Andy, I can't do business with you. I
have followed you three times from the Solid Comfort to the Easy
Fitter, and from the Easy Fitter to the Correct Shape, but now I have
already bought those and I can't give you a thing. I am going to be
frank with you and say that I would rather buy goods from you, Andy,
than from any other man I know of, but still Number One must come
first. If you were with your old people, I would be only too glad to
buy from you, but you've mixed me up so on my shoe stock that it
wouldn't be worth fifty cents on the dollar if I were to change lines
again. I will give you money out of my pocket, Andy,' said I, 'but I'm
not going to put another new line on my shelves."

_Don't fall on prices!_

The man who does this will not gain the confidence of the man to whom
he shows his goods. Without this he cannot sell a merchant
successfully. A hat man once told me of an experience.

"When I first started on the road," said he, "I learned one thing - not
to break on prices when a merchant asked me to come down. I was in
Dubuque. It was about my fourth trip to the town. I had been selling
one man there but his business hadn't been as much as it should, and I
kept on the lookout for another customer. Besides, the town was big
enough to stand two, anyway. I had been working hard on one of the
largest clothing merchants, who carried my line, in the town. Finally
I got him over to my sample room. I showed him my line but he said
tome, 'Your styles are all right but your prices are too high. Vy,
here is a hat you ask me twelf tollars for. Vy, I buy 'em from my olt
house for eleven feefty. You cannot expect me to buy goods from you
ven you ask me more than odders.'

"I had just received a letter from the house about cutting, and they
had given it to me so hard that I thought I would ask the prices they
wanted for their goods, and if I couldn't sell them that way, I
wouldn't sell them at all. I hadn't learned to be honest then for its
own sake; honesty is a matter of education, anyway. So I told my
customer, 'No; the first price I made you was the bottom price. I'll
not vary it for you. I'd be a nice fellow to ask you one price and
then come down to another. If I did anything like that I couldn't walk
into your store with a clear conscience and shake you by the hand.
I've simply made you my lowest price in the beginning and I hope you
can use the goods at these figures, but if you can't, I cannot take an
order from you.' Well, he bought the goods at my prices, paying me $12
for what he said he could get for $11.50.

"A few days after that I met a fellow salesman who was selling
clothing. He said to me, 'By Jove, my boy, you're going to get a good
account over there in Dubuque, do you know that? The man you sold
there told me he liked the way you did business. He said he tried his
hardest to beat you down on prices but that you wouldn't stand for it,
and that he had confidence in you.'

"And, sure enough, I sold that man lots of goods for many years, and I
thus learned early in my career not to fall on prices. If a man is
going to do any cutting, the time to do it is at the beginning of his
trip when he marks his samples. He should do this in plain figures and
he should in no way vary from his original price. If he does, he
should be man enough to send a rebate to those from whom he has
obtained higher prices. If a man will follow out this method he will
surely succeed."

_Don't give away things!_

This same hat man told me another experience he met with on that same
trip. Said he, "I went in to see a man in eastern Nebraska. He was the
one man on that trip who told me when I first mentioned business that
he wanted some hats and that he would buy mine if they suited him.
This looked to me like a push-over. Purely out of ignorance and good-
heartedness, when he came to my sample room (I was a new man on the
road), because he had been the first man who said he wanted some
goods, I offered him a fine hat and do you know, he not only would not
take the hat from me but he did not buy a bill. I learned from another
one of the boys that he turned me down because I offered to make him a
present. This is a rule which is not strictly adhered to, but if I
were running a wholesale house I should let nothing be given to a
customer. He will think a great deal more of the salesman if that
salesman makes him pay for what he gets."

A salesman may be liberal and free in other ways, but when he gets to
doing business he should not let it appear that he is trying to buy
it. Of course it is all right and the proper thing to be a good fellow
when the opportunity comes about in a natural kind of way. If you are
in your customer's store, say, at late closing time on Saturday night,
it is but natural for you to say to him: "Morris, I had a poor supper.
I wonder if we can't go around here somewhere and dig up something to
eat." You can also say to the clerks, "Come along, boys, you are all
in on this. My house is rich. You've worked hard to-day and need a
little recreation." But such courtesies as these, unless they fit in
gracefully and naturally, would better never be offered.

_Don't think any one too big or too hard for you to tackle._

If the salesman cannot depend upon his friends, then he must find his
customers among strangers. I remember a man selling children's shoes,
out in Oregon, who had not been able to get a looker even in the town.
He was talking to a little bunch of us, enumerating those on whom he
had called. The last one he spoke of was the big shoeman of the town.
He said, "But I can't do anything with that fellow; why, his brother,
who is his partner, sells shoes on the road."

"I'm all through with my business," spoke up a drygoods man, "but I'll
bet the cigars that I can make Hoover (the shoeman) come and look at
your stuff. That is, I'll make out to him that I'm selling shoes and I
bet you that I'll bring him to my sample room."

"Well, I'll just take that bet," said the shoeman.

About this time I left for the depot. The next time I saw the drygoods
man I asked him how he came out on that bet.

"Oh, I'd forgotten all about that," said he. "Well, I'll tell you.
Just after you left I went right down to the shoeman's store. I found
him back in his office writing some letters. I walked right up to him
- you know I didn't have anything to lose except the cigars and their
having the laugh on me - and I said, 'You are Mr. Hoover, I am sure.
Now, sir, you are busy and what little I have to say I shall make very
short to you, sir. My house gives its entire energy to the manufacture
of foot covers for little folks. My line is complete and my prices
are right. If you have money and are able to buy for cash on delivery,
I should be glad to show you my line.'

"'I have bought everything for this season,' said Hoover.

"'Perhaps you think you have, Mr. Hoover, but do you wish to hold a
blind bridle over your eyes and not see what's going on in your
business? Do I not talk as if my firm were first class? I have come
straight to you without any beating around the bush. I don't intend to
offer any suggestions as to how you should run your business, but ask
yourself if you can afford to pass up looking at a representative
line. You've heard of my firm, have you not? And I made up some firm
name for him.

"'No, I have not. I'm not interested in any new houses.'

"'Not interested in any new houses!' said I. 'The very fact that you
don't even know the name of my firm is all the greater reason why you
should come and see what sort of stuff they turn out.'

"'Yes, but I've bought; what's the use?' said he.

"'At least to post yourself,' I replied.

"'Well, I might as well come out and tell you,' said the shoeman,
'that my brother owns an interest in this business and that we handle
his line exclusively.'

"'Then you mean to tell me that for your store here you are picking
from one line of goods and are trying to compete with other merchants
in this town who have the chance of buying from scores of lines. Now,
your brother is certainly a very poor salesman if he can't sell enough
shoes to make a living on aside from those that he sells to his own
store. Should he not let his wholesale business and his retail
business be separate from one another? You yourself are interested in
this concern and ought you not to have something to say? To be sure,
when it comes to an even break you should by all means give your
brother and his firm the preference; but do you believe that either
you or he should have goods come into this house from his firm when
you are able to get them better from some other place?'

"'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

_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

_Don't carry side lines!_

You might just as well mix powder with sawdust. If you scatter

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 15 of 19)