Monday, September 23, 2013

Stuff for Sale

Just got a call that I have been dreading. A neighbor’s son had contacted me weeks ago about a “project” he was working on. Could I give him a few minutes of my time? Certainly! I’m all for imparting some of my wisdom to the younger generation! I imagined a school assignment that required interviewing a person old enough to remember Herman’s Hermits (moi).

Nay! Turns out the lad has a different agenda. He’s out to sell me Cutco knives. I flinch, because I’ve been down that road many times before. My premiere foray into the world of razor sharp kitchen implements was a presentation by a young actor who was working for us, and still, surprisingly, falling short of making a decent living. So he shilled for Cutco. Next came the daughter of a woman I hadn’t seen, no joke, in 20 years. She, too, arrived on my doorstep with an assortment of cutlery. More recently, our dear young friend Hannah came a calling. She had a refreshing attitude: just let me cut some rope in your kitchen, blurt out my spiel, and we can all go back to our lives. Halfway through her Cutco speech, her cell phone rang. It was the offer of a better job! Hannah literally threw her knives in the bag and then and there called it a career.

For the record: my knives are old, and probably not as sharp as they could be (but then, neither am I). I am emotionally attached to each one of them—paring, chef’s, serrated—and have no intention of adding to my collection. But Cutco pays for every booking, even if nothing is sold, so why not listen to the kid?

My father was a furniture salesman, and not a very good one. He made a modest living selling Danish Modern sofas and tables to stores. We ended up furnishing our various homes with his samples, our living room adorned with chairs of black leather and chrome that you’d need a crowbar to get out of, and Rya rugs so thick that you wanted to mow them. I watched him come back from many a road trip, tired and defeated, and I vowed never to sell anything.

But here I am, selling myself at every turn. Buy my books! Book me as a speaker! I loathe this part of the business and wish I could hire someone to take my place. It gets really old. I wish I had a better product to offer. I lack the confidence to pound on doors, to cold-call, to do what I know it takes to successfully hawk wares. It’s a hard-knock life, being a salesman, and I applaud those brave enough to attempt it.

The Cutco Kid will be here any minute, showing me how his butcher knife saws through wood. I doubt I’ll buy, but I give him lots of credit for trying. I will sit, listening patiently, as I wish others had sat for my dad, long ago.

Tom Cunningham, salesman

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