Charles N. Crewdson.

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it and take sizes on what stock we have. Then you can get your supper
and see me at eight o'clock and I'll be ready for you. I want to buy a
pretty fair order. I've had a bully good hat trade this season. I've
been sending mail orders into your house - must have bought over four
hundred dollars from, them in the last three months. I s'pose you got
credit for it all right.'

"Well, this was news to me. The house hadn't written me anything about
having received the mail orders and I'll say right here, that the firm
that doesn't keep their salesmen fully posted about what's going on in
his territory makes a great big mistake. If I'd known that this man
had been buying so many goods, I wouldn't have overlooked him. As it
was, I came very near passing up the town. And I'll tell you another
thing: A man never wants to overlook what may seem to him a small bet.
This fellow gave me that night over seven hundred dollars - a pretty
clean bill in hats, you know, and has made me a first-class customer
and we have become good friends.

"But I'm getting a little ahead of my story! After supper, that night,
I dropped into Andrews' store again. The suspender man was still
there. He had taken my tip and brought in some of his samples. While
Andrews was over at the dry goods side for a few minutes, the
suspender man said to me:

"'I don't believe I can sell this fellow. He says he wants to buy some
suspenders but that mine don't strike him somehow - says they're too
high prices. I've cut a $2.25 suspender to $1.90 but that doesn't seem
to satisfy him, and I'll give you a tip, too - you've been so kind to
me - I heard him say to his buyer that he wasn't going to look you
over. He said to let you come around a few times and leave some of
your money in the town, and then maybe he'd do business with you. I
just thought I'd tell you this so that you'd know how you stood and
not lose any time over it.'

"'Thank you very much,' I said. Now, this sort of thing, you know,
makes you whet your Barlow on your boot leg. I did thank the suspender
man for the tip but I made up my mind that I was going to do business
with Andrews anyway. You know there's lots more fun shooting quail
flying in the brush than to pot-hunt them in a fence corner.

"After I'd sold my other man that night, I sat down in the office of
the hotel. Andrews was still in the sample room, just behind the
office, looking over goods. I knew he'd have to pass out that way, so
I sat down to wait for him. It was getting pretty late but I knew that
he was a night-hawk and if he got interested he would stay up until
midnight looking at goods. After a little bit out came Andrews, his
buyer and my other traveling man friend. He asked me up with them to
have cigars. He was wise. Only that morning we'd had to double up
together in a sample room in the last town. We were pretty much
crowded but were going to 'divvy' on the space. The boys, you know,
are mighty good about this sort of thing; but when I went down the
street I learned that my man was out of town - I sold only one man in
that place. So I went right back up to the sample room and rolled my
trunks out of his way so that my friend could have the whole thing to
himself. There's no use being a hog, you know. This didn't hurt me
any, and it was as much on account of this as anything else that I was
asked up to take a cigar where I could get in a word with Andrews.

"As the clerk was passing out the cigars, Andrews took off his hat. As
he dropped it on the cigar case, he rubbed his hand over his head and
said, 'Gee! but I've got a headache!'

"I picked up his hat. Quick as a flash I saw my chance. It was from my
competitor's house. I could feel, in a second, that it was a poor one.
Getting the brim between my fingers, I said to Andrews, 'Why, you
shouldn't get the headache by wearing such a good hat as this. Why,
this is a splendid piece of goods!'

"With this, I tore a slit in the brim as easily as if it had been
blotting paper. Then I gave the brim a few more turns, ripping it
clear off the crown. In a minute or two I tore up the brim and made it
look like black pasteboard checkers.

"'The cigars are on me!' said Andrews, as everybody around gave him
the laugh.

"I went up to my room soon leaving Andrews that night to wear his
brimless hat. But I knew then that I could get his attention when I
wanted it, next morning, about nine o'clock, - for my train and his
left at 11:30. This would give plenty of time to do business with him
if we had any business to do, as he was a quick buyer when you got him
interested. I went into his store with two hats in my hand. They were
good clear Nutrias and just the size that Andrews wore. I'd found this
out by looking at his hat the night before.

"'I don't want to do any business with you, Andrews,' said I, 'but I'm
not such a bad fellow, you know, and I want to square up things with
you a little. Take one of these.'

"The hats were 'beauts.' Andrews went to the mirror and put on one and
then the other. He finally said, 'I guess I'll hang onto the brown
one. By Jove, these are daisies, old man!'

"'Yes,' said I, striking as quickly as a rattlesnake, 'and there are
lots more where these came from! Now, look here, Andrews, you know
mighty well that my line of stuff is a lot better than the one that
you're buying from. If you think more of the babies of the man you are
buying your hats from than you do of your own, stay right here; but if
you don't, get Jack, your buyer, and come up with me right now. I'm
going out on the 11:30 train.' This line of talk will knock out the
friendship argument when nothing else will.

"'Guess I'll go you one, old man,' said Andrews.

"He bought a good sized bill and, as I left him on the train where I
changed cars, he said, 'Well, good luck to you. I guess you'd better
just duplicate that order I gave you, for my other store.'"

"That," spoke up one of the boys, "is what I call salesmanship. You
landed the man that didn't want to buy your goods. The new man let him
slip off his hook when he really wanted to buy suspenders."

"I once landed a $3,400 bill up in Wisconsin," said a clothing man as
we lighted fresh cigars, "in a funny way. I'd been calling on an old
German clothing merchant for a good many years, but I could never get
him interested. I went into his store one morning and got the usual
stand-off. I asked him if he wouldn't come over and just _look_ at my
goods, that I could save him money and give him a prettier line of
patterns and neater made stuff than he was buying.

"'Ach! Dat's de sonk dey all sink,' said the old German. 'I'm
sotisfite mit de line I haf. Sell 'em eesy und maig a goot brofit.
Vat's de use uf chanching anyvay, alretty?'

[Illustration: In big headlines I read, "GREAT FIRE IN CHICAGO."]

"I'd been up against this argument so many times with him that I knew
there was no use of trying to buck up against it any more, so I
started to leave the store. The old man, although he turned me down
every time I went there, would always walk with me to the front door
and give me a courteous farewell. In came a boy with a Chicago paper
just as we were five steps from the door. What do you suppose stared
me in the face? In big head lines I read: GREAT FIRE IN CHICAGO in big
type. The paper also stated that flames were spreading toward my
house. I at once excused myself and went down to the telegraph office
to wire my house exactly where I was so that they could let me know
what to do. As I passed to the operator the telegram I wrote, he said,
'Why, Mr. Leonard, I've just sent a boy up to the hotel with a message
for you. There he is! Call him back!' The wire was from the house
stating, 'Fire did us only little damage. Keep right on as if nothing
had happened.'

"My samples were all opened up and I had to wait several hours for a
train anyway, so an idea struck me. 'I believe I'll fake a telegram
and see if I can't work my old German friend with it.' I wrote out a
message to myself, 'All garments on the second floor are steam heated.
They are really uninjured but we will collect insurance on them. Sell

"Armed with this telegram I walked into the old German's store again.
'Enny noos?' said he.

"'Yes; here's a telegram I've just received,' said I, handing over the
fake message.

"'Sdeam heatet,' said the old man, 'Vell dey gan be bresst oud, nicht?
Veil, I look ad your goots.'

"He dropped in right after dinner. I had laid out on one side of the
sample room a line of second floor goods.

"Among them were a lot of old frocks that the house was very anxious
to get rid of. When I got back to the old man's store, he was pacing
the floor waiting for me to come. He had on his overcoat ready to go
with me.

"'Vell,' said he, before giving me a chance to speak, 'I go right down
mit you.'

"He was the craziest buyer I ever saw. It didn't take me more than
twenty minutes to sell the $3,400."

"But how did you get on afterwards?" asked one of the boys.

"Don't speak of it," said Leonard. "The joke was so good that I gave
it away to one of the boys after the bill had been shipped, and do you
know, the old man got onto me and returned a big part of the bill. Of
course, you know I've never gone near him since. Retribution, I
suppose! That cured me of sharp tricks."

"A sharp game doesn't work out very well when you play it on your
customer," spoke up one of the boys who sold bonds, "but it's all
right to mislead your competitor once in a while, especially if he
tries to find out things from you that he really hasn't any business
to know. I was once over in Indiana. I had on me a pretty good line of
six per cents. They were issued by a well-to-do little town out West.
You know, western bonds are really A-1 property, but the people in the
East haven't yet got their eyes open to the value of property west of
the Rockies.

"Well; when I reached this town, one of my friends tipped me onto one
of my competitors who, he said, was going to be in that same town that
afternoon. There were three prospective customers for us and we were
both in the habit of going after the same people. Two of them were
bankers, - one of them was pretty long winded; the other was a retired
grain dealer who lived about a mile out of town. He was the man I
really wished to go after. His name was Reidy and he was quite an old
gentleman, always looking for a little inside on everything. I didn't
wish to waste much time on the bankers before I'd taken a crack at the
old man. I knew he'd just cashed in on some other bonds that he had
bought from my firm and that he was probably open for another deal. I
merely went over and shook hands with the bankers. One of them - the
long winded one - asked me if I had a certain bond. I told him I didn't
think I had, - that I'd 'phone in and find out. I got on the line with
my old grain dealer friend and he said he'd be in town right after
dinner. I would have gone out to see him but he preferred doing his
business in town. By this time I knew my competitor would reach town
so I ate dinner early and took chances on his still being in the
dining room when Reidy would drive in. I knew that my competitor, if
he got into town, would go right after the old gentleman just as
quickly as he could.

"After dinner I sat down out in the public square smoking, and
apparently taking the world at ease, - but I was fretting inside to
beat the band! My competitor saw me from the hotel porch. He came over
and shook hands - you know we're always ready to cut each other's
throats but we do it with a smile and always put out the glad hand.

"'Well, Woody,' said he, 'you seem to be taking the world easy.
Business must have been good this week.'

"'Oh, fair,' I answered, - but it had really been rotten for several

"'Come and eat,' said he.

"'No, thanks, I've just been in. I'll see you after. I'll finish my

"My competitor went in to dinner. About the time I knew he was getting
along toward pie, I began to squirm. I lighted two or three matches
and let them go out before I fired up my cigar. Still no Reidy had
shown up. Pretty soon out came my competitor over into the park where
I was. I knew that if he got his eyes on Reidy I would have to
scramble for the old man's coin. So I managed to get him seated with
his back toward the direction from which Reidy would come to town. The
old man always drove a white horse. As I talked to my competitor I
kept looking up the road - I could see for nearly half a mile - for that
old white horse.

"'Well, have you left anything in town for me, Woody,' said he

"About that time I saw the old man's horse jogging slowly but surely
toward us.

"'Well, now, I'll tell you,' I said to him, 'I believe that if you'll
go over to the bank just around the corner, you can do some business.
I was in there this morning and they asked me for a certain kind of
paper that I haven't any left of. If you can scare up something of
that kind, I think you can do some business with them there. I'll take
you over, if you like.'

"I didn't want him to turn around because I knew that he, too, would
see that old white horse and that I'd never get him to budge an inch
until he had spoken with Reidy if he did, - and the old horse was
coming trot! trot! trot! - closer every minute.

"'Well, say, that'll be good of you. I hate to leave you out here all
alone resting and doing nothing,' said he.

"'Oh, that's all right. Come on,' - and with this I took him by the arm
in a very friendly manner, keeping his back toward that old white
horse, and walked him around the corner to the bank where I knew that
he would be out of sight when the old man reached the public square.

"Just as I came around the corner after leaving my competitor Richards
in the bank, there came plodding along the old man. Luckily he went
down about a block to hitch his horse. I met him as he was coming back
and carried him up to my room in the hotel. I laid my proposition
before him and he said:

"'Well, that looks pretty good to me, but I'd like to go over here to
the bank and talk to one of my friends there and see what he thinks of
the lay-out.'

"'Which bank?' thought I. Well, as luck would have it, it was the
other bank. 'Very well,' I said, 'I'll drop over there myself in a few
minutes and have the papers all with me. We can fix the matter up over
there. I'm sure the people in the bank will give this their hearty

"As the old man walked across the park, two or three people met him
and stopped him. My heart was thumping away because, even though the
banker around the corner was long winded, it was about time for him to
get through with Richards; but the old man went into the bank all
right before Richards came out. Then I went over and sat down in the
park. In a few minutes Richards came over where I was.

[Illustration: "Well, Woody," said he, "you seem to be taking the
world pretty easy."]

"'Say, that was a good tip you gave me, Woody, I think I'll be able to
do some business all right. I want to run into the hotel a few
minutes, if you'll excuse me, and get into my grip. Say; but you're
taking things easy! I wish I could get along as well as you do without

"Richards left me and went into the hotel. I wanted to get him off as
quickly as I could because I didn't know but that, any minute, the old
gentleman would come out of the bank door. I hit a pretty lively pace
to get in where he was. By that time, he had investigated my bonds and
found that he wanted them. I took his check and gave him a receipt for
it, and then walked with him over to where his horse was. I wanted to
get him out of town as quickly as I could and keep my competitor from
seeing him, if possible.

"Well, sir, everything worked smooth as a charm. As the old man's
buggy was just crossing the bridge, out came Richards from the hotel.
I was again sitting in the park.

"'Heavens! you're taking it easy,' said he to me. 'How is it the firm
can afford to pay you to go around these towns, sit in parks and smoke
cigars, Woody?'

"'Oh, a man has to take a lay-off once in a while,' said I.

"I went over to the bank where the old man had been, and in a few
minutes sold them some bonds. Then I came out and again sat down in
the park a few minutes, waiting for Richards to get through so that I
could go and see the other people where he was dickering. Pretty soon
he came out and he was swearing mad. He said, 'I've been wrangling
with these people for a couple of hours and I can't get them into
anything to save my life. I might just as well have been out here with
you all this time, taking the world easy, for all the good I've done.'

"'Well, I guess I'll go over and take a crack at them again,' said I.

"'All right. Go ahead. I guess I'll skip the town,' but he didn't do a
thing but get on the trolley which passed out by old man Reidy's
house, where he was, of course, too late. I went in where he had not
been able to do business, and, now that my mind was easy, I took
plenty of time and made a nice sale in there, too.

"About a week afterwards I met Richards, and he said, 'Well, Woody,
you've got one coming on me. You weren't so idle as I thought all the
time you were out there in the park.'"

"First call for dinner in the dining car," drawled out the white-
aproned darkey as Woody finished his story.

"Boys, shall we all go in?" said Woody.

"I'm not very hungry," spoke up Leonard, "I took luncheon pretty late
today. I think I'll wait a little bit unless you all are in a hurry."

"You know what you were telling me about running your competitor into
a bank around the corner," spoke up a necktie man, "goes to show this:
That you must have a man's attention before you can do business with
him. I really believe that your friend, Woody, would have done
business if he hadn't struck his man at the busy time of day. I know
that I can usually do business if I get a man when his mind is easy
and I can get him to look at my goods.

"But I bumped into the hardest proposition the other day that I've put
my shoulder against for a long time. There's a merchant that I call
on, over near Duluth, that is the hardest man to get into a sample
room I ever saw. I have been calling on him for several seasons but I
couldn't get him away from the store. Once he had a clerk that stole
from him and after he got onto this fellow he never leaves the store
unless one of his own sons is right there to take his place. Even
then, he doesn't like to go out, and he only does so to run up home
and back right quickly for a bite to eat. I had sold him a few little
jags by lugging stuff in and was getting tired of this sort of
business. I wanted either to get a decent order or quit him cold. It
is all very good, you know, to send in one or two little jags from a
new man, but the house kicks and thinks you are n. g. if you keep on
piking with the same man.

"This time, I went into his store and said to myself, 'Well, if I
can't get this old codger to go down to my sample room, I'm not going
to do any business with him at all.'

"When I went into his store I shook hands with him and offered him a
cigar. He said, 'Vell, I vont smoke dis now. I lay it avay.'

"If there is anything on earth that makes me mad it is to offer a
cigar to a merchant or a clerk who, in truth, doesn't smoke, and have
him put it aside and hand it to somebody else after I have left town;
but, you know, you bump into that kind once in a while.

"The old man was back in the office. He shook hands pretty friendly,
and said, 'How's peezness?'

"'Best ever,' said I. It's always a good thing to be cheerful. All
traveling men who go around the country saying that business is poor
ought to be knocked in the head. Even if they are not doing a great
deal, they should at least say, even in the dullest of times, that
business might be a 'lot worse.' It's these croakers on the road who
really make business dull when there is every reason for it to be
good. I never kick and I don't think any up-to-date man will.

"Well, sir, when the old man had asked me how business was and I'd
told him that it was strictly good, I went right square at him. I
said: 'Now, look here, Brother Mondheimer, I have been selling you a
few goods right along and you've told me that they were satisfactory,
but I haven't been doing either myself or you justice. I want you,
this time, to come right down with me and see what a line of goods I
really have. My stuff is strictly swell. The patterns are up-to-date
and I've styles enough to line the whole side of your house. Now,
don't let me run in with just a handful of samples and sell you a
little stuff, but come down and give me a square chance at a decent

"'Dot's all ride,' said he, 'but I can't get avay. I must stay hier.
Ven cost'mers com in, somebody must be hier to vait on 'em.'

"'That's all right,' said I, 'but all your clerks are idle now. There
isn't a customer in the store. Things are quiet just now. Suppose you
come on down with me.'

"'No, I can't do dot,' said the old man. 'I'd like to but I can't.
Von't you breeng op a leedle stoff?'

"I didn't answer his question directly, but I said, 'Now, look here,
Brother Mondheimer, suppose a man were to come into your store and
want to buy a good suit of clothes. How much profit would you make?'

"'Aboud fife tollars,' said he.

"'Well, how long would you, yourself, spend on that man, trying to
make a sale with him?'

"'Vell, I vood nod led him go until I solt him,' said he.

"'All right, - by the way - ', said I. 'Can you give me two tens for a

"He handed me out two ten dollar gold pieces.

"'Here' said I, slapping down one of the slugs and shoving it over to
him, 'Here's ten dollars for ten minutes of your time. That's yours
now, - take it! I've bought your time and I dare you come down to my
sample room. If you do, I'll make that ten back in less than ten
minutes and you'll stay with me an hour and buy a decent bill of

"Well, sir, the old man wouldn't take the ten - but he did get his hat
and he's been an easy customer ever since!"

"Second and last call for dinner," called the dining car boy again.

"Guess this is our last chance," spoke up one of the boys. Then,
stretching a little, we washed our hands and went in to dinner.



After we had finished dinner, all of the party came back to our "road
club room," the smoker.

"The house," said the furnishing goods man, sailing on our old tack of
conversation, "sometimes makes it hard for us, you know. I once had a
case like this: One of my customers down in New Orleans had failed on
me. I think his _muhulla_ (failure) was forced upon him. Even a tricky
merchant does not bring failure upon himself if business is good and
he can help it, because, if he has ever been through one, he knows
that the bust-up does him a great deal more harm than good. It makes
'credit' hard for him after that. But, you find lots of merchants who,
when business gets dull, and they must fail, will either skin their
creditors completely or else settle for as few cents on the dollar as

"Well, I had a man in market, once, when I was traveling out of
Philadelphia, who had 'settled' for 35 cents on the dollar. He had
come out of his failure with enough to leave him able to go into
business again, and, with anything like fair trade, discount all his
bills. I knew the season was a fairly good one and felt quite sure
that, for a few years anyway, my man would be good. What was lost on
him was lost, and that was the end of it. The best way to play even
was on the profits of future business.

"But our credit man, a most upright gentleman, wasn't particular about
taking up the account again. However, there I was on a commission
basis! I knew the man would pay for his goods and that it was money in
my pocket - and in the till of the house - to sell it.

"I had seen my man at the hotel the evening before and he'd said he
would be around the next morning about ten o'clock. I went down to the
store before that time and talked the thing over with the credit man.

"Don't want to have anything to do with that fellow,' he said. 'He
skinned us once and it's only a matter of time until he'll do it

"The head man of the firm came by about that time and I talked it over
with him. He had told me only the day before that he had some 'jobs'
he was very anxious to get rid of.

"'Now,' said I to him, 'I believe I have a man from New Orleans who
can use a good deal of that plunder up on the sixth floor if you're

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 8 of 19)