Charles N. Crewdson.

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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

"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

"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.



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

"'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

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

"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

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

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 17 of 19)