Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Step Right Up, Let's Make a Deal

Natalie called me from the "advertising" office first thing this morning. She had a contagious excitement about my "second interview" and she wanted to make sure I was awake and as stoked as everyone else in the office. I got dressed and went. After I signed a paper saying my participation for the next 9 hours was voluntary and that I had no expectation of being paid, I met my direct competitor. He was looking sharp in a full suit and tie. I was wearing a polo shirt but Natalie said that would be fine. My competitor was pleasant. He was surprised that I learned about the job from the newspaper as opposed to being referred to the job by "Rich" who, apparently was very successful at this work, but closed up his local office to seek greener pastures.

Then the door to a meeting room burst open and tens of sharp dressed go-getters sprang forth. They pulled my competitor into the room and matched him up with a "top-performer" and wished him luck in beating the pants off me. "There can be only one," they said. Not really, but close enough. Then they took me in and gave the exact same pep talk. They said Josh was last weeks most successful seller and I would be following him (That's right, Sales. Gordon called it. That boy's wicked smahrt). They said 90% of the decision to hire me would be based on Josh's assessment of me. I said, "So I need to slip him some money?" Everyone laughed, good and hard, and I knew I would never have any respect for any of them.

We carpooled in a clunky Buick. There's something about being in a crowd of smartly dressed people racing away in a parade of hoop-d cars that makes your stomach hurt. Josh quizzed me about my sales knowledge. Where do you think is a good place to reach potential customers? Hmm, the shopping malls? I asked. Where else, would you think? It depends on what you're selling, I said. We were nearly to Provo when he said, Let me show you. Then he pulls from a green backpack a thick book of discount coupons. I almost started laughing right in his face. I already felt at a disadvantage as I am not a wheelchair basketball player, like the people that have come to my door selling these. Are we going door to door with these? I asked. Yes. I knew they wouldn't turn the car around for me so I tried to roll with it. I mentioned that Natalie had said we would be meeting "clients" and "regrouping" for lunch. Josh said that "clients" were the people at their houses and lunch consisted of getting some french fries while we filled the car with gas.

We drove past a strip mall housing many of the coupon providers and chose a neighborhood not far away. I was amazed to see the seriousness these coupon peddlers attributed their station in life. Josh told me that as last weeks top seller, he brought in over $900 for the period. He also told me they worked 9 hours a day, 6 days a week. I asked about "benefits" and he genuinely looked as though he had never thought about it.

As we drove, Matt pointed to a house and said, "I spoke to the person in that house and they said they wanted two books. $40 each." I asked, "do you guys do phone sales, too?" Matt said, "I was joking." Will said, "I work with you a lot and hardly knew you were joking. You need to spice that shit up." Matt and Will dropped us off in a church parking lot under a deluge of freezing rain and blustery wind. They said under the special circumstances of Josh having an "interview" today (me), we would take an umbrella. The first lady unfortunate enough to be outside by her car was kind and donated an old broken umbrella with Seurat's Grand Jatte printed atop it to our wonderful cause so we wouldn't need to share one. Mostly old people are home during the day. Everyone was relatively nice. A lot of people wanted to share their sob stories, to which Josh interjected "thank you!" and practically ran off the porch. There was a tense moment when we approached a house at the same time as a group of Jehova's Witnesses. Double whammy! They asked us if we were missionaries. I had a feeling if we gave the wrong answer there would be a rumble for the turf.

It was about an hour of walking in the rain before I told Josh that the company had not been upfront about what the work was and that it was a waste of time for me to be tagging along with him. I called my wife and instructed her to drive to some vague coordinates in Provo (as I had no idea where we were). I'm sure there was talk at the office, long after dark, about how I couldn't hack it. Be my guest. You are indeed a special breed. If I were to be the entrepreneur they wanted, I would probably assemble my own book of coupons, give 8% of the profit to a nonprofit organization and hire my own group of dream-fed youngsters to do the dirty work. But I don't like to treat people like dirt. Any good entrepreneur sells a good product and doesn't show up unannounced on people's doorsteps. My last job wore me down and I no longer place any value in empty promises, like promotions, like career college, dating phone lines, anything featured in an informercial and so forth.

I've been talking to my mother's cousin, who owns a construction company. It has been in the family for years. Coincidentally, at the time I quit my job, he fired an office manager. He would like to hire someone in the family. It pays substantially more than my last job. The main dilemma is that it may start right away, meaning I would need to move to California right away. My family is not quite prepared for that. We will have to wait and see how things pan out.


Gordon said...

That is AWESOME. I was way too generous in assuming an actual product would be sold. Coupon books! Oh, the humanity.

Native Minnow said...

Not quite a gorilla suit, but a very humorous story to tell nonetheless. I'm hoping that your future job opportunities turn out to be much better.