What I Learned from Door-to-Door Sales

This month, the topic for the What I Learned From … Group Writing Project at Middle Zone Musings is What I Learned from Odd Jobs.

This project is a two-for-one: High Callings Blogs is also hosting a similar group writing project, and this post is an entry in it as well.

Today is the deadline for Middle Zone Musings, but there isn’t a deadline for High Callings. If you’d like to write a post for this group writing project, read the instructions in the post on The High Callling of Our Daily Work.

My strangest – and shortest-lived – job was selling magazines door-to-door during a summer break from college. It was the only job I could find when the semester ended, but, fortunately, I got another job after a few weeks. I don’t think I couldn’t have sold magazines door-to-door all summer!

Our crew were all college students working under the supervision of one manager. He dropped us off in a neighborhood at the beginning of the day and picked us up when the day was over. The details about lunch escape me – perhaps he picked us up at lunch, too, but I just don’t remember.

This was back in the mid-60s, and many women were at home during the day. I doubt this kind of operation could succeed today – the salespersons could probably go around the entire block without anyone answering the door.

Folks did answer the door back then, but they often slammed it shut faster than they opened it.

On one occasion, a lady answered the door and said, “Quit ringing the doorbell. My son just got to sleep, and you’re going to wake him up.”

Thinking I had come up with the perfect opportunity to make a sale, I answered, “Oh, if you have a son, you need to look at our children’s magazines. How about Highlights for Children?”

“My son,” the woman replied in a huff, “is 43 years old! I’m going to call the police on you!”

And call the police she did. By the time they arrived, I was several houses down the street. The officer called me over to the squad car and asked me a lot of questions.

It seems our manager drove around the neighborhood checking on us while we were out selling. He arrived shortly after the policeman did. He answered questions and showed the officer the company’s soliciting permit. The policeman left, satisfied that I was not harassing anyone and that our crew had the legal right to solicit in the neighborhood.

We were paid $5.00 per subscription, and my goal was to sell one subscription per day – a goal that I seldom met. I learned that on the rare occasions that a man answered the door, I was likely to make a sale. When a woman answered the door, the odds went down considerably.

Was I ever glad when I got the call that I was hired for the government job I’d applied for earlier!

I certainly didn’t earn much money on this job, but I did learn a few valuable lessons:

  • Making assumptions can be dangerous. Just because the woman’s son was sleeping and she didn’t want the doorbell to wake him didn’t mean he was a small child.
  • It’s important to following all laws and regulations, even if they seem silly. If the company had not obtained the soliciting permit from the suburb we were working, we could have penalized (probably fined) when the angry woman called the police.
  • One “YES” can make up for a lot of “NOs.” One week my total income was $20 – all from one sale.
  • People buy for reasons that have nothing to do with the product. The $20 sale was to a man who spent a lot of time talking to me and asking me questions about the job. Later, I realized he probably had no interest in magazines. Either he just liked talking to an impressionable young girl or he was doing his good deed for the day.
  • Direct sales is NOT the way I want to make a living!

You can learn a lot in three weeks that seem like a lifetime.

[tags]lessons from odd jobs[/tags]

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