Charles N. Crewdson.

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common, everyday, drummer appearance.

"I got your address from a fellow wayfarer here just minute ago. My
train goes soon. I am writing you care of your house as I'm a little
leery of sending it care of your friend McPherson.

"Your order for the four now reposes in the inside pocket of my vest
amongst my firm's cash and will stand as an I. O. U. against me until
I hear from you. Even as I write, my friend Dickey, who sits at my
left, keeps singing into my ear:

"'If I should die tonight and you should come to my cold corpse and

"'"Here, Bill, I've brought you back that four,"

"'"I'd rise up in my white cravat and say: "What's that?" And then
fall dead once more.'

"Beseechingly yours,

"W. L. Mason, "Denver, Box - ."

Although I sent Mason a check, it seemed that I was ever doomed to be
in error with him. I wrote him insisting that he wear a new hat on me
and asked him to send me his size.

He wrote back that he was satisfied to get the four dollars; but,
since I pressed the matter, his size was seven and one-fourth.

I wrote my hatter to express a clear beaver to Mason. But somehow he
got the size wrong, for Mason wrote back:

"Dear Brother: Everything that I have to do with you seems at first
all wrong, but finally wiggles out all right. For example, while I
stated that my size was seven and one-fourth your hatter sent a seven
and one-half - two sizes too big under ordinary circumstances. But I
was so tickled to get the unexpected four and a new lid besides that
my head swelled and my bonnet fit me to a T."



Salesmanship has already been defined as the art of overcoming
obstacles, of turning defeat into victory by the use of tact and
patience. Courtesy must become constitutional with the drummer and
diplomacy must become second nature to him. All this may have a very
commercial and politic ring, but its logic is beyond question. It
would be a decided mistake, however, to conclude that the business
life of the skilful salesman is ruled only by selfish, sordid or
politic motives.

In the early nineties, I was going through Western Kansas; it was the
year of the drought and the panic. Just as the conductor called "All
aboard" at a little station where we had stopped for water, up drove
one of the boys. His pair of bronchos fairly dripped with sweat; their
sides heaved like bellows - they had just come in from a long, hard
drive. As the train started the commercial tourist slung his grips
before him and jumped on. He shook a cloud of dust out of his linen
coat, brushed dust off his shoes, fingered dust out of his hair, and
washed dust off his face. He was the most dust-begrimed mortal I ever
saw. His ablutions made, he sat down in a double seat with me and
offered me a cigar.

"Close call," said I.

"Yes, you bet - sixteen miles in an hour and thirty-five minutes. That
was the last time I'll ever make that drive."

"Customer quit you?"

"He hasn't exactly quit me, he has quit his town. All there ever has
been in his town was a post office and a store, all in one building;
and he lived in the back end of that. It has never paid me to go to
see him, but he was one of those loyal customers who gave me all he
could and gave it without kicking. He gave me the glad hand - and that,
you know, goes a long ways - and for six years I've been going to see
him twice a year, more to accommodate him than for profit. The boys
all do lots of this work - more than merchants give them credit for.
His wife was a fine little woman. Whenever my advance card came - she
attended to the post office - she would always put a couple of chickens
in a separate coop and fatten them on breakfast food until I arrived.
Her dinner was worth driving sixteen miles for if I didn't sell a sou.

"But it is all off now. The man was always having a streak of hard
luck - grasshoppers, hail, hot winds, election year or something, and
he has finally pulled stakes. When I reached there this time it was
the lonesomest place I ever saw, no more store and post office, no
more nice little wife and fried chicken - not even a dog or hitching
post. My friend had gone away and left no reminder of himself save a
notice he had lettered with a marking brush on his front door. Just as
a sort of a keepsake in memory of my old friend I took a copy. Here it

"'A thousand feet to water!
A thousand miles to wood!
I've quit this blasted country
Quit her! Yes, for good.
The 'hoppers came abuzzin'
But I shooed them all away,
Next blew the hot winds furious;
Still, I had the grit to stay.
There's always something hap'ning;
So, while I've got the pluck -
Think I'll strike another country
And see how runs my luck.
God bless you, boys, I love you.
The drummer is my friend.
When I open up my doors again,
Bet your life, for you I'll send.'

"Wouldn't that cork you? Say, let's get up a game of whist." With this
my friend took a fresh cigar from me, and, whistling, sauntered down
the aisle hunting partners for the game. The long drive, the dust and
the loss of a bill no longer disturbed him.

The man who grieves would better stay off the road. The traveling man
must digest disappointments as he does a plate of blue points, for he
swallows them about as often. One of the severest disappointments for
a road man is to have the pins for a bill all set and then have some
other man get the ball first and knock them down.

A clothing salesman told me this story:

"I have been chasing trunks for a long time but last season I got into
the worst scrape of all my life on the road. I was a little pushed for
time, so I wrote one of my irregular country customers that I would
not be able to go to his town, but that I would pay his expenses if he
would come in and meet me at Spokane.

"When he showed up he brought along his wife; and his wife rolled a
young baby into my sample room. It was a pretty little kid, and struck
me as being the best natured little chap I had ever seen. Of course,
you know that to jolly up my customer a little I had to get on the
good side of the wife, and the best way to do this was to play with
the baby. After I had danced the little fellow around for a while I
put him back into the buggy and supposed that I was going to get down
to business. But the father said he thought he would be in town for a
week or so and that he thought he would go out and find a boarding

"As we were talking, a friend of mine dropped in. He directed my
customer to a boarding house, and then, just for fun, said: 'Why don't
you leave the baby here with us while you're making arrangements. Mr.
Percy has lots of children at home, and he knows how to take care of
them all right.' Imagine how I felt when my country friends fell in
with the shoe man's suggestion!

"Both of us got along first rate with the baby for a while. I really
enjoyed it until my friend left me to go down the street, and a
customer I was expecting came in. I thought the baby would get along
all right by himself, and so I started to show customer No. 2 my line
of goods. But the little chap had been spoiled by too much of my
coddling and wouldn't stand for being left alone. At first he gave a
little whimper. I rolled him for a minute or two with one hand and ran
the other over a line of cheviots and told my customer how good they
were; but the very minute I let go of the buggy, out broke the kid
again. I repeated this performance two or three times, but whenever I
let go the buggy handle the baby yelled. In a few minutes he was going
it good and strong, and I had to take him out and bounce him up and
down. Now, you can imagine just how hard it is to pacify a baby and
sell a bill of clothing. Try it if you don't. I soon began to walk the
floor to keep the kid from howling, and presently I decided I would
rather keep that child quiet than sell a bill of goods. Finally,
customer number two went out, saying he would see me the next morning;
and there I was left all alone with the baby again.

[Illustration: "Whenever I let go the buggy handle the baby yelled"]

"I tried to ring a bell and get a chambermaid to take care of him, but
the bell was broken. Then I began to sing all the songs I knew and
kept it up until I nearly wore out my throat. It seemed as if the
baby's mother never would come back, but I had the happy satisfaction
of knowing, though, that the baby's mother and father would certainly
have to come back and get the little fellow, and I felt sure of
getting a good bill of goods.

"Well, what do you think happened? After two hours the mother came
back and got the baby and I never saw her husband again! A competitor
of mine had 'swiped' him as he came in the hotel office and sold him
his bill of goods."

Although my friend Percy who rolled the baby carriage back and forth
lost out by this operation, I would advise my friends on the road to
roll every baby buggy - belonging to a possible customer - that they
have a chance to get their hands on. When the merchant gives the
traveling man an opportunity to do him some sort of a favor outside of
straight business dealing, he then gives the drummer the best possible
chance to place him under obligations which will surely be repaid
sometime. But don't go too far.

Down in Texas in one of the larger towns, just after the Kishinef
horror, the Hebrew clothing merchants held a charity ball. If you were
to eliminate the Hebrew from the clothing business the ranks of
dealers in men's wearing apparel would be devastated. One of my
friends in the clothing business told me how he and a furnishing goods
friend of his made hay at that charity ball:

"The day that I struck town, one of my customers said to me, 'We want
you to go to the show tomorrow night and open the ball with a few
remarks. Will you?'

"Just for fun I said, 'To be sure I will, Ike.' I did not think I
would be taken in earnest, but the next day I received a program, and
right at the head of it was my name down for the opening speech. Well,
I was up against it and I had to make good. You may take my word for
it that I felt a little nervous that night when I came to the big hall
and saw it full of people waiting for the opening address. I needed to
have both sand on the bottoms of my shoes and sand in my upper story
to keep from slipping down on the waxed floor! But, as I was in for
it, I marched bravely up and sat down for a few minutes in the big

"Then the first thing I knew I was introduced. Now I was really in
sympathy with the purpose of this gathering and I felt, sincerely, the
atrocity of the Kishinef massacre. Consequently, I was able to speak
from the heart in telling my audience how every human being, without
regard to race, was touched by such an outrage. Had I been running for
Congress there, I would have received every vote in the house. The
women sent special requests by their husbands, asking the honor of a
dance with me.

"Remember that the traveling man must not overlook the wife of his
customer. Generally a man's nearest and truest friend is his wife. The
business man feels that she is his best counselor. If you can get the
good will of the 'women folks' of your customer's household you may be
sure you will be solid with him for keeps.

"But I must not overlook my furnishing goods friend. He had been
trained for an opera singer and would have made a success of it had he
kept up with that profession. His business, however, prospered so well
that he could never go and look the prompter in the face. He had a
rich, full, deep voice which, when he sang the Holy City, made the
chandeliers fairly hum. There is something in the melodious human
voice, anyway, that goes away down deep into the heart. My friend won
everybody there with a song. He with his music and I with my speech
had done a courtesy to those merchants which they and their wives
appreciated. You know you can feel it, somehow, when you are in true
accord with those you meet.

"We really did not think anything about the business side that night.
I forgot it altogether until, upon leaving the hall, my friend Ike
said to me: 'Tonight we dance, tomorrow we sell clot'ing again.' Both
of us did a good business in that town on the strength of the charity
ball, and we have held our friends there as solid customers. I say
'solid customers' but actually there is no such thing as a 'solid
customer.' The very best friend you have will slip away from you
sometime, break out your corral, and you must mount your broncho,
chase him down and rope him in again."

A mighty true saying, that! It is a great disappointment to call upon
a customer with whom you have been doing business for a long time and
find that he has already bought. Ofttimes this happens, however,
because when you become intimate with a merchant you fail to continue
to impress upon him the merits of your merchandise. However tight a
rope the salesman feels that he has upon a merchant, he should never
cease to let him know and make him feel that the goods he is selling
are strictly right; for if he lets the line slacken a little the
merchant may take a run and snap it in two.

One of my hat friends once told me how he went in to see an old
customer named Williams, down in Texas, and found that he had bought a

"When I reached home," said he, "I handed my checks to a porter,
slipped half a dollar into his hand and told him to rush my trunks
right up to the sample room."

This is a thing that a salesman should do on general principles. When
he has spent several dollars and many hours to get to a town he should
bear in mind that he is there for business, and that he cannot do
business well unless he has his goods in a sample room. The man who
goes out to work trade with his trunks at the depot does so with only
half a heart. If a man persuades himself that there is no business in
a town for him he would better pass it up. When he gets to a town the
first thing he should do is to get out samples.

"When I had opened up my line," continued my friend, "I went over to
Williams' store. I called at the window as usual and said, 'Well,
Williams, I am open and ready for you at any time. When shall we go

"'To tell the truth, Dickie,' said he, 'I've bought your line for this
season. I might just as well come square out with it.'

"'That is all right, Joe,' said I. 'If that is the case, it will save
us the trouble of doing the work over again.' In truth, my heart had
sunk clear down to my heels, but I never let on. I simply smiled over
the situation. The worst thing I could have done would be to get mad
and pout about it. Had I done so I should have lost out for good. The
salesman who drops a crippled wing weakens himself, so I put on a
smiling front. This made Williams become apologetic, for when he saw
that I took the situation good-naturedly he felt sorry that he could
not give me business and began to make explanations.

"'I tell you,' said he, 'this other man came around and told me that
he could sell me a hat for twenty-one dollars a dozen as good as you
are selling for twenty-four, and I thought it was to my business
interest to buy them. I thought I might as well have that extra
twenty-five cents on every hat as your firm.'

"There! He had given me my chance! 'Williams,' said I, 'you bought
these other goods on your judgment. Do you not owe it to yourself to
know how good your judgment on hats is? You and I have been such good
friends - Heaven knows I have not a better one in this country, Joe -
that I never talk business to you and George, your buyer. Now, I'll
tell you what is a fair proposition. You and George come over to my
sample room this afternoon at 1:30 - I leave at four - and I will find
out how good your judgment and George's is when it comes to buying
hats.' Williams said: 'All right, 1:30 goes.'

[Illustration: "To-night we dance. To-morrow we sell clothes again."]

"I immediately left, having a definite appointment. I went to my
sample room and laid out in a line twelve different samples of hats,
the prices of which ranged, in jumps of three dollars per dozen, from
nine dollars to twenty-seven dollars. In the afternoon I went back to
the store and got Williams and George. As we entered the sample room,
I said: 'Now, Williams, we are over here - you, George and myself - to
see what you know about hats. If there is any line of goods in which
you should know values, certainly it is the line you have been
handling for six years. You have fingered them over every day and
ought to know the prices of them. Here is a line of goods right out of
the house from which you have been buying so long. The prices range
from nine dollars to twenty-seven dollars a dozen. Will it not be a
fair test of your judgment and George's for you to examine these goods
very carefully - everything but the brands - for these would indicate
the price - and lay out this line so that the cheaper hats will be at
one end of the bunch and the best ones at the other? Very well! Now
just straighten out this line according to price.'

"'Well, that looks fair to me,' said Williams.

"He and George went to work to straighten out the goods according to
price. They put a nine dollar hat where a twelve dollar hat should
have been, and vice versa. They put a twenty-four dollar hat where a
twenty-four dollar hat belonged, and an eighteen dollar hat right
beside it, indicating that the two were of the same quality. The next
hat I handed them was one worth sixteen dollars and a half a dozen. It
contained considerable chalk that made it feel smooth. After examining
the 'sweat,' name and everything they both agreed that this was a
twenty-seven dollars a dozen hat. When they did this, I said:

"'Gentlemen, I will torture you no longer. Let me preface a few
remarks by saying that neither one of you knows a single, solitary,
blooming thing about hats. Here is a hat that you say is worth twenty-
four dollars a dozen. Look at the brand. You have it on your own
shelves. You have been buying them of this quality for six years at
eighteen dollars a dozen. And, what is worse still, here is a hat the
price of which you see in plain figures is sixteen dollars and a half,
and you say it is worth twenty-seven dollars a dozen.'

"The faces of Williams and George looked as blank as a freshly
whitewashed fence. I saw that I had them. Then was the time for me to
be bold. A good account was at stake, and at stake right then.
Besides, my reputation was at stake. When a salesman loses a good
account the news of it spreads all over his territory, and on account
of losing one customer directly he will lose many more indirectly; for
merchants will hear of it and on the strength of the information, lose
confidence in the line itself. On the other hand, if you can knock
your competitor out of a good account it is often equal to securing
half a dozen more. I did not wish to lose out even for one season, so
I said: 'Now look here, Williams, you have bought this other line of
goods, and perhaps you feel that you have enough for this season and
that you will make the best of a bad bargain. You are satisfied in
your own mind, and you have told me as plainly as you ever told me
anything in your life, that my goods are better than those that you
have bought. I am going to tell you one thing now that I would not say
in the beginning: that you have bought from a line of samples the
goods of which will not equal the samples you have looked at. It is
not the samples that you buy but it is the goods that are _delivered_
to you. Those which will be delivered will not be as good as those
which you looked at. You know full well that my goods have always come
up to samples. You know that they are reliable. Why do you wish to
change? If you wish to change for the sake of making an additional
twenty-five cents on each hat instead of giving it to my firm, why did
you not take the hat which I have been selling you all the time for
$18 a dozen and sell it for three dollars, the price you have always
been getting for my twenty-four dollars a dozen hats? In that way you
would make an additional twenty-five cents. Be logical! If that's not
profit enough, why not sell a $15 or a $12 a dozen hat for $3? Be
logical! If that's not enough, why not hire a big burly duffer to
stand at your front door, knock down every man who comes in so that
you can take all the money he has without giving him anything. You
could bury him in the cellar. Be logical.'

"''Fraid they'd put me in the "pen",' said Williams.

"'If I were a judge and you were brought before me charged with
selling the twenty-one dollars a dozen hat that you have bought to
take the place of mine (for which I charge you twenty-four dollars a
dozen) I would give you a life sentence. Let me tell you, Williams, a
man who is in business, if he expects to remain in the same place a
long time, must give good values to his customers. In the course of
time they will find out whether the stuff he gives them is good or
poor. Go into a large establishment with a good reputation and you
will find out that they give to the people who come to buy merchandise
from them good values. Now, the goods I have sold you have always
given your trade satisfaction. Your business in my department is
increasing, so you say, and the reason is because you are giving to
your customers good values. Why not continue to pursue this same
policy? I am in town to do business and to do business today. I cannot
and I will not take a turn down. If you want to continue to buy my
goods you must buy them and buy them right now, even if you do have to
take them right on top of the other stuff that you have bought. I
shall make no compromise. My price is $1,000 - more than you ever
bought from me before.'

"'George,' said Williams, turning to his buyer, 'I guess Dickie has
us. Give him an order for $1,000 and don't let's go chasing the end of
a rainbow in such a hurry any more.'"



The man who believes that on every traveling man's head should rest a
dunce cap will some fine day get badly fooled if he continues to rub
up against the drummer. The road is the biggest college in the world.
Its classrooms are not confined within a few gray stone buildings with
red slate roofs; they are the nooks and corners of the earth. Its
teachers are not a few half starved silk worms feeding upon green
leaves doled out by philanthropic millionaires, but live, active men
who plant their own mulberry trees. When a man gets a sheepskin from
this school, he doesn't need to go scuffling around for work; he
already has a job. Its museum contains, not a few small specimens of
ore, but is the mine itself.

Let your son take an ante-graduate course of a few years on the road
and he will know to what use to put his book learning when he gets
that. I do not decry book lore; the midnight incandescent burned over
the classic page is a good thing. I am merely saying that lots of good
copper wire goes to waste, because too many college "grads" start
their education wrong end first. They do not know for what they are
working. If I were running a school my way and the object was to teach
a boy _method_, I'd hand him a sample grip before I'd give him a
volume of Euclid. Last night a few ideas struck me when I thought my
day's work was done. I jumped out of bed seven times in twenty minutes
and struck seven matches so I could see to jot down the points. The
man on the road learns to _"do it now."_ Too many traveling men
waste their months of leisure. Like Thomas Moore, in their older days
they will wail:

"Thus many, like me, who in youth should have tasted
The fountain that flows by philosophy's shrine,
Their time with the flowers on its margin have wasted
And left their light urns all as empty as mine."

Yet many improve their hours of leisure from business; if they do not,
it is their own fault. I met an old acquaintance on the street
yesterday. "My season is too short," said he. "I wish I could find
something to do between trips." I asked him why he did not write for
newspapers or do a dozen other things that I mentioned. "I'm
incapable," he replied. "Well, that isn't my fault," said I. "No," he
answered, _"it's mine!"_

I know one man on the road who found time to learn the German
language. And, by the way, he told me how it once served him a good

"Once," said he, "when I was up in Minnesota, a few years ago, I got a
big merchant to come over and look at my goods. That, you know, was

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 3 of 19)