Charles N. Crewdson.

Tales of the Road online

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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

_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.



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

"'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-

"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

"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

"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

"Well, that must have pleased the old man's clerk," said one of the

"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

"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

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

"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

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 16 of 19)