Looking Back

Salesmanship: from youth to adulthood

During the course of our lives most of us have played the role of a “sales person” even if it wasn’t by choice at times.

For many of us it began in our elementary school days when we sold items for fundraisers.

When you were “peddling your goods” you often went with a friend. That sometimes went really well for both of you because the person answering the door didn’t want to choose one child over the other so you both got a sale. But at times it went badly because the person decided it was easier to buy nothing when confronted with the two of you!  Keep in mind that parents didn’t worry about sending their children from house to house on nearby streets back in the ’50s. People pretty much knew their neighbors “back in the day.”

Girl Scout cookies were an annual “door-to-door” sales item. We had a sheet on which to enter the type of cookies that were ordered and the quantity. When they arrived we brought them to each house and collected the money. That experience provided a lesson in both salesmanship and math!

Although I never sold candy when I was a child, I remember children ringing our doorbell over the years and asking us to buy some. And who can refuse a kid who is offering you chocolate? I always “did my duty” and bought a few of those!

Fall is the time for children to sell holiday wrapping paper and bows. Since we all have Christmas presents to wrap you know your purchase will be put to good use.

Whether it’s cookies, candy or wrapping paper you will probably perform double duty when you are part of the work force. Co-workers take orders for their children and the neighborhood kids ring your doorbell selling the same items. You don’t want to be rude or considered cheap so you buy from anyone whose feelings you don’t want to hurt. The calories will pile on from the cookies and candy and you will have enough wrapping paper for a couple of Christmas seasons! But you made the kids happy when they got a sale!

I remember children coming around selling magazine subscriptions. They would leave a list of available magazines and return to pick up your order in a few days. One of our choices was always the TV Guide magazine. It came every week and without it you didn’t know what shows were playing and what they were about. There was no “Guide” on your TV screen like there is today.

Selling items at parties held in the homes of friends and co-workers was popular especially during the ’80s and ’90s. For the person hosting the party it meant cleaning the house from top to bottom and for the person attending it meant buying “something”, even if it was one of the least expensive items. 

Two popular types of parties were those where candles or Tupperware were sold. Attending the parties was actually enjoyable for me as I have always loved scented candles, especially in the winter. Tupperware offered lots of handy options. My storage containers for sugar and flour have had many years of use. I have also gotten my money’s worth out of various size microwave containers. The quality is worth the price. I heard on TV recently that the Tupperware company may no longer exist as we have known it but Target might carry their items. Guess those parties will come to an end.

And sometimes you are expected to be a salesperson when you least suspect it. That happened to me back in the ’70s when I became a customer service representative for New England Telephone. The position began with taking orders for phone installations along with some collection duties and answering billing inquiries. All was going well until the ’80, when we were expected to sell services and actual phones. Purchasing a phone outright was not an option offered by the company originally. Once I found out that keeping my job depended on my sales it was time to change to another facet of the business world.

I think my disdain for selling people something that they really don’t want makes random marketing calls that I receive these days even more annoying. However, they are a part of our daily lives and I suppose that people have to make a living somehow.

The moral of this story could be, buy something from children and make them happy. Hang up on telemarketers and make yourself happy!

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