A sales story

The Hankster Meets A Gangster


Hi, it’s me Henry. I’m a door-to-door salesman and this happened one day while I was out making a sales call. It’s 10:00 a.m. and already getting hot out. I should tint these windows, I think as I rummage through the lead cards looking for my first call of the day. ‘Joseph and Mary’ the card reads, a couple living outside Eagle Point. The noise of the tires is prominent through the floor of the Taurus, as is the wind noise through one of the rear windows. Someone tried to break in to my car one night and that window has never quite been the same. I feel a bit nervous, as I often do first thing in the morning. Why am I doing this? I often think about my love-hate relationship with this work. I should get a regular 9 to 5 and stop this madness. I’d be happier if I just punched a clock and didn’t have to think. At that moment I remember that I did do that kind of work for 25 years and don’t care to go back to that either.


I start to shuffle around with the map and see that I’m getting closer. Why do they keep making this print smaller and smaller? Where are those glasses? I shuffle with the map a bit more. Jesus, why don’t people put their addresses on the mailbox or at the beginning of the driveway? What if they had a fire? Their home would goup in flames while the fire department was still looking for the place!


I turn in at #1545 and pull up the long dirt driveway,dodging potholes for about a half a mile until I see the home, a long single-wide lime green trailer with white trim. There’s tin foil on the windows facing the sun, it’s somewhat dilapidated. Off to one side there’s a camp trailer that’s at least 30 years old. Great! These are my kind of people–simple, no-frills, working people. I think I’m going to like my first call.


Knock–Knock-Knock!! I can see Mary through the large gap where the door should be. In its place stands a slab of wood that doesn’t quite fit the space it’s intended for. “WHO IS IT!” I hear her demand, more a statement than a question. “Ma’am,I’m Hank and I’ve stopped by in regards to this card you sent in requesting information. I was in your neighborhood and wanted to swing by to explain it to you, to see if you qualify.” “WHAAAT? WHO?” This time it’s a man and he sounds even less patient than Mary. “It’s Hank and I’m here to talk to you about this card you sent in.” “We didn’t send any cards in anywhere!” I hear from the other side of the makeshift door. “Well, it’s got your handwriting and personal mailing label on it.” “Shut up, Joe!” I hear Mary say, then the click-clank-click of different locks and latches being turned. It sounds a bit like Fort Knox.


The door swings open and my eyes land upon Mary’s deeply wrinkled face. Hard times have carved their way in, telling a story I understand the moment I see her. I can tell she’s a tough woman. I give her a smile and have only a few seconds to make this work. In my business, this is where the relationship starts. “Hello… Mary? Can I use your first name?” “Yes,it’s my name. You may as well use it.” “Well, I’m still Hank,” I say as I step inside, trying to add a little humor; Mary doesn’t laugh. My eyes immediately start the job of picking out details around the home–family photos, art or a collection–anything that I can comment on in a positive way, to break the ice.


“Wow, that’s an amazing Elvis collection you have there!” It’s a pretty common thing for people of her era to collect. I can also make a pretty good guess that it belongs to her; Joe doesn’t look like the Elvis type. “Thanks,” Mary says,warming up to me slightly. “I’ve been collecting him for years.” I notice Mr.Wonderful behind her, holding a can of Bud. I look at my watch and it reads just past 10:00 a.m. My mind jumps ahead as I try to figure out which of the two is the decision-maker. After observing them interact for a moment, my intuitiveness tells me that he will do what she says. I must sell her and then let her sell him, if need be. And so I start, “Where can we sit? A kitchen table?” Always best to go to the kitchen table or a desk, that’s where people make decisions, never the couch.


“We aren’t buying anything!!” Joe barks. “Well, that’s perfect because I’m not selling anything. I’m only here to give you information.” “We can sit outside on the porch.” I see a small table and four worn out plastic chairs. Joe is clearly giving me the message that he’s not buying. Not a good sign. Little does he know, though, that I’ve made sales on the hood of cars, in parking lots and even in the video section of a Ray’sMarket. We all sit down. I begin the sales pitch, hitting all the high points and making sure my voice fluctuates at all the right times, while also monitoring if they are paying attention to me. Mary is leaning towards me, a good indicator that she’s interested. Joe, on the other hand, is sitting with arms folded and a clinched look on his very red face. About halfway through my pitch, Joe gets up and walks abruptly into the house. I stop and look at Mary.She says nothing. What? Did he not like what I was saying? Did I make him mad?


I’m a bit dumbfounded and wonder whether I should continue.I’d decided earlier that if I could sell Mary, she could sell her husband so…I continue. When I’m about three-quarters of the way through, out walks Joe. In his hand is a 7.5” long barrel, stainless steel 45 revolver, like the one ClintEastwood uses in Dirty Harry. Is this guy nuts? He says nothing, sits down and looks me in the eye. He has a can ofbeer in one hand, gun in other. He lays the gun down on the table, barrel end pointing my way, and I can see the lead of the bullets through the holes at the end of the cylinder. Think fast and don’t look nervous. Without saying anything, I pick up the gun, flop the cylinder open, take all six bullets out and set the gun back down. I mumble something like “Hope you don’t mind” and continue with my sales presentation,not skipping a beat. Although my heart is racing and my mind spinning, I do the only thing I know how to do and that’s to keep selling what I’m there to sell.


Again, Joe stands up, giving me a glare. He grabs the gun and the beer, and walks back into the house. Holy Cannoli, now what? Should I get out of here while I still can? No! I refuse to let this guy intimidate me! Not the brightest thing I’ve ever done but, at this point, all I can focus on is getting the sale. It’s in my bones to sell the stuff, and sometimes the drive ends up taking over. I have no choice but to stay!


A few minutes later Joe returns with the beer and the gun;he’s reloaded it. I can see the bullets in the revolving chamber as he sets the gun back on the table. I choose continue and ignore the gun, as I finish up my sales pitch. Joe looks over at his wife and says, “I LIKE him. Most of them are gone by now!” This guy is plum crazy or drunk. Either way, it’s not good. I ask Joe,“Are we going to shoot that thing or what?” He looks at me with glossy eyes,a twisted smile and nods. In some strange way, I can tell that Joe has come to like me, and that I’ve earned his respect.

The guy living in the small trailer comes over, looking like he’s just rolled out from under a rock. “That’s Charlie,” Mary says. Joe grabs another Bud, and one for Charlie, and the two wander off. I finish the sell with Mary. BOOM!-BOOM!-BOOM! I jump three feet out of my chair. That’s the loudest darn thing I’ve ever heard! Holy moley, that scared the bajeezus out of me!!! “Ha! He gottcha!” Mary says. My heart pounds as I get up, walk over to Joe–who is reloading–and put out my hand. “My turn,” I say.He points to something way out in the field that looks like an old tractor or the frame of a rusted out truck. “See that black thing down there?” “Uh-huh.”“See if you can hit it.” I raise the nearly foot long mini cannon, take aim and BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!!! I unload the chamber, hitting the target 1 or 2 times, and hand the gun back to Joe. He looks at me with newfound admiration. I look at him with newfound concern. Sure hope he finds a 12-Step program before someone gets hurt.

I ask him to wait until I get all the way out of the driveway before shooting the gun again. He says something and, as I watch his mouth move, all I can hear is this loud, mad ringing. Let’s hope he’s agreeing because I’m not sure I trust his aim as I drive out. I say goodbye and drive off as fast as I can. At the end of the driveway, I look at myself in the mirror and think, I’m not sure which one of us is more crazy–him for getting the gun out, or me for staying and pushing through to make the deal!

I visit Joseph and Mary one additional time and it’s equally as exciting. I’m a die-hard salesman but, in the end, I decide that my life is worth more than the sale…but that’s another story.


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