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- Tales of the Road - 3/44 -
one. When I went in the old gentleman was tickled to see me and told me to open up--that he wanted a 'right smart' bill. I thought that meant about $75.
"I had to leave my trunks outside--the store was so small--so I brought in at first only a couple of stacks of samples, thinking that they would be enough. I pulled out a cheap hat and handed it to him.
"'That's a good one for the money,' said I, 'a dollar apiece.' I used to always show cheap goods first, but I have learned better.
"He looked at my sample in contempt and, pulling a fine Stetson hat off his head, said: 'Haven't you got some hats like this one?'
"'Yes, but they will cost you $84 a dozen,' I answered, at the same time handing him a fine beaver quality Stetson.
"'The more they cost the better they suit us cattlemen; we are not paupers, suh! How many come in a box?'
"'Two?' said he. 'You must be talking about a pasteboard box; I mean a wooden box, a case.'
"'Three dozen come in a case, Colonel.'
"'Well, give me a case.'
"I had never sold a case of these fine goods in my life, so I said to him: 'That's lots more, Colonel, than I usually sell of that kind, and I don't want to overload you; hadn't we better make it a dozen?'
"'Dozen? Lor', no. You must think that there's nobody in this country, that they haven't any money, and that I haven't any money. Did you see that big bunch of cattle as you came in? They're all mine--mine, suh; and I don't owe the bank a cent on them, suh. No, suh, not a cent, suh. I want a case of these hats, suh--not a little bundle that you can carry under yo' arm.'
"I was afraid that I had made the old gentleman mad, and, knowing him by reputation to be worth several thousand dollars, I thought it best to let him have his way. I went through the two stacks with him and then brought in the rest of my samples. He bought a case of a kind right through--fine hats, medium hats and cheap hats for greasers; he bought blacks, browns and light colors. I was ashamed to figure up the bill before his face. But just as soon as I got out of sight I added up the items and it amounted to $2l00--the best bill I took on that trip.
"I sent the order in, but I thought that I would not have to call there again for a long time. The house shipped the bill, and the old gentleman discounted it.
"Next trip I was intending to give that point the go-by. I really felt that the old gentleman not only needed no more goods, but that he would shoot me if I called on him. But when I reached the town next to his, my customer there, who was a friend of the Colonel's, told me that the old gentleman had sent him word that he wished to buy some more goods and for me to be sure to come to see him.
"When I came driving up to the Colonel's store the back end of it looked peculiar to me. He had got so many goods from me that he had been obliged to take the wooden cases they were shipped in and make out of these boxes an addition to his store. Lumber was scarce in that country. The Colonel came out and shook hands with me before I was out of my wagon. I was never greeted more warmly in my life.
"'Look heah,' he began, 'I owe you an apology, suh; and I want to make it to you befo' you pass my threshol', suh. When you were heah befo' I fear that I allowed my indignation to arise. I am sorry of it, suh, sorry! Give me yo' hand and tell me that you will pahdon me. I can't look you square in the face until you do.'
"'Why, Colonel, that's all right,' said I, 'I didn't want to abuse your confidence, but I fear that I myself was impertinent in trying to show you that I knew more about your business than you did. I want to beg your pardon.'
"'No pahdon to grant, suh; and I want you to accept my apology. The truth is the cowboys in this country have been deviling me to death, nearly--ever since I started this sto'--to get them some good hats-- good ones, suh. They told me that they couldn't get a decent hat in this whole country. I promised them that I would buy some of the best I could find. When yo's came some of the boys saw the wagon bound for my store, ten miles out of town. They fo'med a sort of a procession, suh, and marched in with the team. Every one of these boys bought one of those finest hats you sold me. They spread the news that I had a big stock and a fine stock, all over this country; and, do you know, people have come two hundred miles to buy hats of me? Some of my friends laughed at me, they say, because I bought so many that I had to use the cases they came in to make an addition to my sto'. But the more they laughed, suh, the more necessary they made the addition. If you can only get people to talking about you, you will thrive. Believe me in this, suh: If they say something good about you, that is good; if they say something bad about you, that is better--it spreads faster. Those fool merchants did not know, suh, that they were helping my business every time that they told about how many hats I had bought, until one day a fellow, when they were laughing about me, said: "Well, if that's the case I'll buy my hat from him; I like, anyway, to patronize the man who carries a good stock." Now you just come back and see how empty my addition is.'
"I went back into my addition and found that the Colonel's hats were nearly all gone. He had actually sold--and out of his little shanty-- more of my goods than any other customer I had. When I started to have my trunks unloaded the Colonel said to me: 'Now just hol' on there; that's entirely unnecessary. The last ones sold so well, you just duplicate my last bill, except that you leave out the poah hats. Come, let's go up to my house and have a julep and rest a while.'"
Although a man's friends will not buy from him if he does not carry the goods, he will yet get their patronage over the other fellow if he has the right stock. Here's where a man's personality and adaptability are his stock in trade when he is on the road; and the good salesman gets the business over his competitor's head just by being able to turn the mood of the merchant he meets. The more moods he can turn, the larger his salary.
One of my musician road friends once told me how he sold a bill to a well-known old crank, now dead, in the state of Montana.
"When I used to work at the bench, years ago," said he, as we sat in the smoker, "evenings when I was free, for relaxation, I studied music. Our shop boys organized a brass band. I played the trombone, and learned to do so fairly well. I never thought then that my music would fatten my pocket-book; but since I have been on the road it has served me a good turn more than once--it has sold me many a bill.
"You've heard of the 'Wild Irishman of Chinook,' haven't you?"
"Old Larry, the crank?" said I.
"Yes, old Larry, the great."
[Illustration: "Larry let business drop entirely and danced a jig."]
"Well, sir, the first evening I ever went into Larry's store, I hadn't been in a minute until he said to me: 'Oi'm all full up; Oi've got plinty of it, I doon't give a dom pwhat ye're silling.'
"I paid no attention to him, as I had heard of him; instead of going out I bought a cigar and sat down by the stove. Although a man may not wish to buy anything from you, you know, he is always willing to sell you something, even if it is only a cigar. I've caught many a merchant's ear by buying something of him. My specialty is bone collar buttons--they come cheap. I'll bet that I bought a peck of them the first time I made a trip through this country.
"I had not been sitting by the stove long until I noticed, in a show case, a trombone. I asked Larry to please let me see it. 'Oi'll lit ye say the insthrumint,' said he, 'but pwhat's the good of it? Ye can't play the thromboon, can ye? Oi'm the only mon in this berg that can bloo that hairn. Oi'm a mimber of the bhrass band.'
"I took the horn and, as I ran the scale a few times, Larry's eyes began to dance. He wouldn't wait on the customer who came in. The instrument was a good one. I made 'Pratties and fishes are very foine dishes for Saint Pathrick in the mairnin'' fairly ring. A big crowd came in. Larry let business drop entirely and danced a jig. He kept me playing for an hour, always something 'by special rayquist'--'Molly Dairlint,' 'Moggie Moorphy's Hoom' and everything he could think of. Finally he asked me for 'Hairts Booed Doon.'
"As I played 'The Heart Bowed Down,' tears came to the old Irishman's eyes. When I saw these, I played yet better; this piece was one of my own favorites. I felt a little peculiar myself. This air had made a bond between us. When I finished, the old man said to me: 'Thank ye, thank ye, sor, with all my hairt! That's enoof. Let me put the hairn away. Go hoom now. But coom aroond in the mairnin' and Oi'll boy a bill of ye; Oi doon't give a dom pwhat ye're silling. If Oi've got your loine in my sthore Oi'll boy a bill; if I haven't, Oi'll boy a bill innyway and stairt a new depairtmint. Good noight, give me yer hand, sor.'
"Not only did Larry give me a good order, but he went to two more merchants in the town and made them buy from me. He bought every dollar's worth of his goods in my line from me as long as he lived."
CLERKS, CRANKS AND TOUCHES.
Many a bill of goods is sold on the road through the influence of the clerk. The traveling man who overlooks this point overlooks a strong one. The clerk is the one who gets next to the goods. He checks them off when they come in, keeps the dust off of them every day, sells them to the people and often he does the selecting of the goods in the first place. A merchant usually buys what pleases the clerks in order to get them interested. In this way he puts a sort of responsibility upon them. If the business man neglects his clerks, they neglect his business; if the traveling man ignores the clerks, they ignore the traveling man.
But in this matter the salesman must go just so far and no farther, for the moment that the merchant begins to think the traveling man is
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