Charles N. Crewdson.

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willing to sell it to him. He uses that kind of "Drek" and is now
shaped up so that he'll not wish for more than sixty day terms, and
I'm sure he'd be able to pay for it. He's just failed, you know.'

"Well, let him have it - let him have it,' said the old man. 'Anything
to get the stuff out of the house. If he doesn't pay for it we won't
lose much.'

"'All right, if you both say so, I'll go ahead and sell him.'

"This was really building a credit on 'jobs,' for I believed that my
man would after that prove a faithful customer, - and this has been the
case for many years.

"Well, when he came in, I took him up to the 'job' floor and sold him
about five hundred dollars. This was the limit that the credit man had
placed on the account. Then came the rub. I had to smooth down my
customer to sixty day terms and yet keep him in a good humor. He
thought a great deal of me - I had always been square with him - and he
wasn't such a bad fellow. He had merely done what many other men would
have done under the same circumstances. When he had got into the hole,
he was going to climb out with as many 'rocks' in his pocket as he
could. He couldn't pay a hundred cents and keep doing business, and it
was just as much disgrace to settle for sixty cents on the dollar,
which would leave him flat, as it was to settle for thirty-five. So he

"I brought him up to the credit window and said to the credit man -
Gee! I had to be diplomatic then - 'Now, this is Mr. Man from New
Orleans. You know that cotton has been pretty low for the past season
and that he has had a little misfortune that often comes into the path
of the business man. He, you also know, has squared this with
everybody concerned in an honorable way, - although on account of the
dull times he was unable to make as large a settlement as he wished
to - isn't that the case, Joe?' said I. He nodded.

"'Yes, but things are picking up with me, you know,' said he.

"'Yes; so they are,' said I, taking up the thread, 'cotton is
advancing and times are going to be pretty good down in the south next
season. Now, what I've done,' said I to the credit man, as if I had
never spoken to him about the matter before, 'is this: Joe, here, has
learned a lesson. He has seen the folly, and suffered for it, of
buying so many goods so far ahead. What he aims to do from this time
on is to run a strictly cash business, and to buy his goods for cash
or on very short terms. We have picked out five hundred dollars' worth
of goods - I've closed them pretty cheap - and you shall have your money
for this, the bill fully discounted, within sixty days. Then in
future, Joe, here, does not wish to buy anything from you or anybody
else that he cannot pay for within that time. One bump on the head is
enough, eh, Joe?'

"'Yes; you bet your life. I've learned a lesson.'

"'That'll be very satisfactory, sir,' said the credit man, and
everything was O. K. You see, I had put the credit man in the position
of making short terms and I had tickled Joe and given him something
that he needed very badly at that time - credit. This was about the
smoothest job I think I ever did. I really don't believe that either
the credit man or my customer was fully onto my work. Joe, however,
has thanked me for that many a time since. He's paid up my house
promptly and used them for reference. They could only tell the truth
in the matter, that he was discounting his bills with them. This has
given him credit and he's doing a thriving business now, and has been
for several years. He is getting long time again from other houses."

"Smooth work all right," said one of the boys, touching the button for
the buffet porter.

"Once in a while," said the book man, "you have to pull the wool over
a buyer's eyes. I never like to do anything of this sort, and I never
do but that I tell them about it afterwards. The straight path is the
one for the traveling man to walk in, I know; but once, with one of my
men, I had to get off of the pebbles and tread on the grass a little.

"We really sell our publications for less than any other concern in
the country. We give fifty off, straight, to save figuring, while many
others give 40-10-5, which, added up, makes 55, but, in truth, is less
than fifty straight. Once, in Chicago, I fell in on a department store
man. I put it up to him and asked him if he would like certain new
books that were having a good sale.

"'Yes,' he said, 'but I tell you, John (he knew me pretty well), I
can't stand your discounts. You don't let me make enough money. You
only give me 50 while others give me 40-10-5.'

"'All right, I'll sell them to you that way,' said I. 'We won't worry
about it.'

"'Very good then,' and he gave me his order.

"Next season, when I got around to him, I had forgotten all about the
special terms that I had made this man. But after he said he would use
a certain number of copies of a book, he jogged my memory on that
score with the question:

"'What sort of terms are you going to give me - the same I had last

"'No, sir; I will not,' said I. 'I'm not going to do business with you
that way.'

"'Well, if you've done it once, why don't you do it again? Other
people do it right along, and your house is still in business. They
haven't gone broke.'

"'Yes, you bet your life they're still in business!' said I, 'and
they'd make a whole lot more money than they do now if they'd do
business on the terms that you ask. Do you know what I did? You
wouldn't let me have things my way and be square with you, so I
skinned you on that little express order out of just ninety cents, and
did it just to teach you a lesson!' I said, planking down a dollar. 'I
don't want to trim you too close to the bone.'

"'Well,' said he, after I'd figured out and shown him the difference
between 50 off straight and 40-10-5, 'This dollar doesn't belong to
me. Come on, let's spend it.'"

"That's pretty good," chimed in the shoe man, who was sitting on a
camp stool. The smoking compartment was full. "But it was dangerous
play, don't you think? Suppose he'd done that figuring before you'd
got around and shown him voluntarily that you skinned him and why. I
know one of my customers, at any rate, who would have turned you down
for good on this sort of a deal. He is a fair, square, frank man - most
merchants, I find, are that way anyhow."

"Yes; you're right," said John.

"I got at the man I speak of this way," said the shoe man. "I had
called on him many times. He was such a thoroughbred gentleman and
treated me so courteously that I could never press matters upon him.
There are merchants, you know, of this kind. I'd really rather have a
man spar me with bare 'knucks' than with eight-ounce pillows. This
gives you a better chance to land a knock-out blow. But there is a way
of getting at every merchant in the world. The thing to do is to
_find the way_.

"As I stood talking to this gentleman - it was out in Seattle - in came
a Salvation Army girl selling 'The War Cry.' When she came around
where I was, my merchant friend gave her a quarter for one, and told
her to keep the change. Do you know, I sized him up from that. It
showed me just as plain as day that he was kind hearted and it struck
me, quick as a flash, that my play was generosity. People somehow who
are free at heart admire this trait in others. When a man has once
been liberal and knows what a good feeling it gives him on the inside,
to do a good turn for some poor devil that needs it, he will always
keep it up, and he has a soft spot in his heart for the man who will
dig up for charity.

"I didn't plank down my money with any attempt to make a show, but I
simply slipped a dollar into the Salvation Army Captain's hand, and
said, 'Sister, the War Cry is worth that much to me. I always read it
and I'm really very glad you brought this copy around to me.'

"Now, this wasn't altogether play, boys, you know. If there is any one
in the world who is a true and literal Christian, it is the girl who
wears the Salvation Army bonnet. And to just give your money isn't
always the thing. A little kind word to go along with it multiplies
the gift.

"After a while, when I got around to it - I talked with the merchant
for some time about various things - I said, as politely as I could:
'Now, you know your affairs a great deal better than I do myself, but
it is barely possible that I might have something in my line that
would interest you. My house is old established and they do business
in a straightforward manner. If you can spare the time, I should be
very glad indeed to have you see what I am carrying. I assure you that
I shall not bore you in the sample room. I never do this because I
don't like to have any one feel I'm attempting to know more of his
affairs than he does.'

"'If such were the case,' said my merchant friend, 'why, then, I ought
to sell out to you.'

"'Then you are right,' said I. 'Nothing bothers me more, on going into
a barber shop when I'm in a rush and wish nothing but a shave, than to
have the barber insist on cutting my hair, singing it, giving me a
shampoo, and a face massage.'

"'Well, I don't think I'm needing anything just now,' said my merchant
friend. 'But as you're here, I'll run down and see you right after
luncheon. 'No,' said he, pulling out his watch, 'I might as well go
with you right now. It is half past eleven and that will give you all
the afternoon free.'

"'Very well,' said I, 'this is kind of you. I am at your service.'

"It was considerate of him to go along with me right then, for the
time of a traveling man relatively is more valuable than that of any
other man I know of. In many lines he must make his living in four to
six months in the year. Every minute of daylight, when he is on the
road, means to him just twice that time or more!

"Do you know, I never had in my sample room a finer man. He very
quickly looked over what I had and when he said to me, 'Do you know,
I'm really glad that I've come down with you. You have some things
that strike me. I hadn't intended putting in any more goods for this
season, but here are a few numbers that I'm sure I can use. I can't
give you a very large order. However, if you're willing to take what I
wish, I shall be very glad to give you a small one; but if your goods
turn out all right, and this I have no right to question, we shall do
more business in future.'

"I took the order, which wasn't such a small one, either, and from
that time on he has always been a pleasant customer. He was a

"He's the kind that always gets the best that's coming," broke in two
or three of the boys at once.

"Yes, you bet your life!" exclaimed the shoe man. "If a man wishes to
get the best I have, that is the way I like him to come at me. To be
sure, I do a one price business; but even then, you know, we can all
do a man a good turn if he makes us have an interest in his business
by treating us courteously. We can serve him by helping him select the
best things in our lines, and by not overloading him."

"Many's the way," said the dry goods man, "that we have of getting a
man's ear. In '96 I was traveling in Western Nebraska. That state, you
know, is Bryan's home. Things were mighty hot out there in September,
and nearly everybody in that part of the country was for him; but when
you did strike one that was on the other side, he was there good and
hard! Yet, most of those who were against Bryan by the time September
rolled around were beginning to think that he was going to win out. I
had just left Chicago and had been attending a great many Republican
political meetings. I had read the Chicago newspapers, all of which
were against Bryan that year, and thought that while there was a good
deal of hurrah going on, he didn't stand a ghost of a show, and I was
willing to bet my money on it.

"I didn't have a customer in this town. It was Beaver City. You know
how the stores are all built around three sides of a public square. I
was out scouting for a looker. I dropped into one man's store - he was
a Republican, but he said to me, 'Heavens alive! How do you expect me
to buy any goods this year? Why, Bryan's going to be elected sure's
your born, and this whole country is going to the devil. I'm a
Republican and working against him as hard as I can, but I'm not going
to get myself in debt and go broke all the same.

"'The only man in this town who thinks Bryan isn't going to win is old
man Jarvis across the way. If he keeps on buying and things come out
the way I think they will, I'll have one less competitor when things
all blow over.'

"I looked in my agency book. As a rule, they're not worth a rap for
anything except to give the names of merchants in a town and the sort
of business they're in, but when I got down to the J's I saw that
Jarvis was rated ten to twenty thousand. I stuck the book in my pocket
and made straight for where I saw his name over the door.

"First thing he boned me about was, 'Well, how's the election going in
Illinois and back East?'

"'Oh, Bryan will be put under a snow bank so deep he'll never get
out,' said I, 'when November gets here.'

"'Good!' said he. 'You're the first man I've seen for a month who's
agreed with me. I don't think he'll run one, two, three. These fellows
out here in this country are all crazy because Bryan's come from this
state; and a few hayseed Populists who've always been Republican
heretofore are going to vote for him. Shucks! They don't amount to
anything. It's the East that settles an election, and the working man.
Why, they're not going to see this country go to the devil because a
few of these crazy Pops out here are going to vote the Democratic

"The druggist from next door, who overheard the old man, spoke up
hotly and said, 'Well, I'm one of them crazy Pops you're talking
about. You haven't any money that says Bryan's goin' to lose, have

"'Well, I'm not a betting man,' said Jarvis, 'but if I was, I'd put up
my store against yours, - the building and all against your stock.'

"'Well, I wish you were a betting man,' said the druggist. 'You'd
better either put up or shut up. I'll jest bet you ten dollars even
that Bryan does win.'

"'I'll take that bet, my friend,' said I, knowing that the effect of
the wager on Jarvis would be worth more than the bet itself. I reached
for my roll of expense money - I had about two hundred dollars on me -
and slipped out a 'tenner.' The druggist went in next door and got his
money. The old man held the stakes.

"I was the only man who'd been in that town for a long time who was
willing to bet on McKinley, and pretty soon a dozen fellows were after
me. In about twenty minutes I had put up all I had, and went over to
the bank and drew a couple of hundred more. I drew it on personal
account as I had plenty of money coming to me from the firm. Soon a
couple of fellows came in who wanted to put up a hundred each. I
covered their piles, went back to the bank and made another draft - in
all, I planked up five hundred dollars before leaving town. Jarvis was
my stake holder.

"'Say,' said he, 'young fellow, I've never done any business with you,
but, by Heavens! I like your pluck, and I'm going right over to your
sample room whether you ask me to or not and give you an order. This
is the best time for me to buy goods. All these other fellows around
here are croaking about the election and they're not going to have
anything to sell these people. Shoes are going to wear out and the sun
is going to fade calico, Bryan or no Bryan! I want some goods on my
shelves. Come on, let's go now before it gets dark!'

"I never sold a bill so easy in my life. The old man would pick up a
bundle of sample cards and say, 'Here, you send me about what you
think I ought to have out of this lot,' and while I was writing down
the items, he would talk politics. I sold him a nailer."

"Well, you had pretty good luck in that town," spoke up one of the
boys, "to get a good bill and also win five hundred dollars."

"Didn't win it, though," said the dry goods man.

"Well, how's that? Didn't McKinley win the election? You were betting
on him."

"Yes, but I got back to Chicago about the time that Bryan struck
there. I went down to the old shack on the lake front where the Post
Office now is, and heard Bryan speak to the business men. It looked to
me like the whole house was with him. I heard a dozen men around where
I sat say, after the speech was over, that they had intended to vote
against him, but that they were sure going to vote for Bryan. That
same day I hedged on my five hundred."

"Well, you got a good customer out of the deal anyhow."

"Yes, I did; but I thought I'd lost him. After the election he sent me
the thousand and I went down to see him. You know I voted for Bryan."

"Changed your mind, did you?"

"_Change?_ Did you ever hear Bryan speak? When I met the old man I
made a clean breast of it, and said, 'I'm mighty sorry to tell you,
but I voted for Bryan.'

"'Well, that's all right,' he said. 'So did I.'"




"Seven and nine," said the porter, poking his head into the Pullman
smoker, "are all made down."

With this, a couple of the boys bade us goodnight and turned in, but
soon two more drifted in and took their places.

"Getting a merchant's attention," said the furnishing goods man, "is
the main thing. You may get a man to answer your questions in a sort
of a way but you really do not have his attention always when he talks
to you. You would better not call on a man at all than go at him in a
listless sort of a way. This is where the old timer has the bulge over
the new man. I once knew a man who had been a successful clerk for
many years who started on the road with a line of pants. He had worked
for one of my old customers. I chanced to meet him, when I was
starting on my trip, at the very time when he was making his maiden
effort at selling a bill to the man for whom he had been working. Of
course this was a push-over for him because his old employer gave him
an order as a compliment.

"Well, sir, when that fellow learned that I was going West - this was
on the Northern Pacific - he hung right on to me and said he would like
to go along. Of course, I told him I should be very glad to have him
do so, and that I would do for him whatever I could. But here he made
a mistake. When a man starts out on the road he must paddle his own
canoe. It is about as much as his friend can do to sell his own line
of goods, much less to put in a boost for somebody else. And,
furthermore, a man who takes a young chick under his wing will often
cut off some of his own feed. Still, this fellow had always been very
friendly with me and I told him, 'Why, to be sure, Henry; come right
along with me.'

"In the second and third towns that we made, he picked up a couple of
small bills that just about paid his expenses. He was just beginning
to find that the road was not such an easy path to travel as, in his
own mind, he had cracked it up to be.

"The next town we struck was Bismarck, North Dakota. We got in there
about three o'clock in the morning. It was Thanksgiving Day. To be
sure, I went to bed and had a good sleep. A man must always feel
fresh, you know, if he expects to do any work.

"It was about eleven o'clock before I breakfasted, opened up, and
started across the street. My old customer had burned out there and I,
too, had to go out and rustle some man. Just as I started over toward
town, I met my German friend Henry coming back. His face looked like a
full moon shining through a cloud. I could see that there was trouble
on his mind.

"'Well, Henry, how goes it?' said I.

"'Id don't go so goot,' said he. 'But vat can a man expect on
Danksgifing? I vent to see von man and he said, "I haf an olt house
dat alvays dreats me right, so vat's de use of chanching?" Vell, vat
archument could I make against dot? I vent in to see anodder man and
he said, "I haf an olt friend dot I buy from," and vat archument could
I make against dot? I vent in to see still anodder, and he said, "I
haf just bought," so, vat archument could I make against dot? The next
man I vent to see said, "Mein Gott, man; don'd you suppose I am going
to rest von day in de year? So I t'ought dere vas no use fooling mit
him, so I t'ink I vill pack op and eat a goot dinner and take a goot
nap and go vest again in de morning.'

"'All right, Henry,' said I; 'but I guess I'll go over and try my

"The first man that I went to see was the one who had said to my
friend Henry that he thought he ought to have one day in the year to
rest. He was the biggest merchant in the town in my line. When I
reached his store he was putting the key in the door to lock up and go
home for his Thanksgiving dinner.

"I couldn't talk to him out there in the cold - we were strangers - so I
said to him, 'I should like to buy a couple of collars if you please.'
He sold me the collars and then, just for a bluff, I made out that
mine was hurting me and took a few minutes to put on another one. I
didn't say anything about what my business was and the merchant, in
order to have something to say, asked, 'Are you a stranger in town?'

"'Yes, sir,' said I, 'I am. But I hope that I shall not be very much
longer. I am out looking for a location.'

"'You are a physician, then?' said the merchant.

"'Yes, sir, - in a way,' said I; 'but I treat diseases in rather a
peculiar way, I fancy. I believe in going down to the cause of
diseases and treating the cause rather than the disease itself. My
specialty is the eye. Now, you see, if the eye looks at bright,
sparkling snow, it is strained; but if it looks at a green pasture,
that color rests it. In fact, if the eye looks upon anything that is
not pleasing to it, it does it an injury. Now, my way of getting down
to the root of all this eye trouble is to place before it things that
are pleasing to look upon, and in this way, make eye salves and things
of that kind unnecessary. In just a word,' said I (I had his attention
completely), 'I am selling the prettiest, nobbiest, most up-to-date
line of furnishing goods there is on the road. They are so attractive
that they are good for sore eyes. Now, the only way I can back up this
statement is by showing you what I have. When will it suit you to look
at them? The location that I am looking for is a location for my goods
right here on your shelves.'

"Well, sir; do you know, that merchant really came down to my sample
room on Thanksgiving Day - he hardly took time to eat his dinner - and I
sold him.

"I didn't see any more of my friend Henry until the next morning. The
train was late and left about seven o'clock.

"'Vell, what luck yesterday?' said Henry.

"As he came up to me in the train where I was sitting with a friend, I
said, 'Well, I sold a bill.'

"'Who bought of you?'

"'The clothing man here.'

"'Vell, dot's de feller,' said Henry, 'dot told me he vas going to haf
von day in de year for his family. And you solt him? Vell, how did you
do id?'

"I briefly told Henry of my experience.

"'Vell, dot vas goot,' said he.

[Illustration: You'd better write that down with a pencil," said

"My advance agent friend, who had sat beside me - Henry had fallen in
with us in our double seat - said to Henry, 'Now, that's a good line of
argument. Why don't you use that sometime?' A twinkle came into my
theatrical friend's eye when Henry did, in fact, ask my permission to
use this line of talk. I told Henry, 'Why, sure, go on and use that
argument anywhere you want to. I shall not use it again because in
every town that I shall strike, from this time on, I have an old
established customer. I have no use for that argument. Just go and use

"'You'd better write that down with a pencil, Henry,' said the advance
agent - Stanley was his name.

"'No, dere's no use ov writing dot down,' said Henry. 'Dot archurnent
vas so clear dot I haf it in my headt!'

"But, sure enough, Henry took out his lead pencil and jotted down the
points in the back of his order book. In the next town we struck, one
of the merchants was a gruff old Tartar. He was the first man that
Henry lit onto.

"Now, an old merchant can size up a traveling man very soon after he
enters the door. The shoeman will go over to where the shoes are kept;
the hat man will turn his face toward the hat case; the furnishing
goods man will size up the display of neckwear; in fact, a merchant
once told me that he could even tell the difference between a clothing

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Online LibraryCharles N. CrewdsonTales of the Road → online text (page 9 of 19)