Twenty Years of Hus'ling - novelonlinefull.com
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We spent a few days pleasantly at home, then returned to Chicago and to business.
I continued to travel over the same territory, visiting my old customers, whom I soon became better acquainted with, and secured as regular patrons. I visited them about once every sixty days, and at the same time worked up as much new trade as possible.
I will here tell how I made my first sale to a merchant who was notorious for "firing agents out," and who has been my customer ever since.
I was traveling through Minnesota, and when at the hotel in a small town, became engaged In conversation with several drummers, who were all loud in their condemnation of one of the leading merchants there, who had never treated any one of them civilly. I remarked that I believed I could sell him a bill of goods. One of them said if I could he would buy me a new hat.
I went out on the street and stepped up to the first country fellow I met, and handing him a two-dollar bill, said:
"I want you to go down to Mr. ----'s store and wait till I come in, and as I am about to leave the store, you ask me to sell you a finger ring, and when I offer to do so you select one and pay for it with this money, and I will give you the ring for your trouble."
He agreed to my proposition and immediately went over to the store.
With my two cases I followed directly after him, and setting them down stepped up to the proprietor and asked permission to show my goods. He was very gruff, and refused to listen to me at all. I picked up my cases saying, "Good-bye sir," when my country friend stepped up and said: "Mister, you are selling jewelry, I see. Can't you sell me a ring?"
"Well, yes, I can if Mr. ---- is willing to let me show it to you in his store."
The merchant said he had no objection, as he had no jewelry to sell and never expected to have.
I then opened the case that contained all of my carded goods, and spread all the trays out on his counter. Not finding any rings in that case, I was obliged to open the other; and as the rings were at the very bottom I was compelled to take out every tray before reaching them. These I also spread out on his counter, and finally sold the young man a ring.
In the meantime nearly all of his customers--and the store was crowded--were looking at my goods and handling them over. I stepped up to the merchant, and thanking him for his kindness handed him one dollar, merely mentioning the fact very quietly that I had only one price, and that I had sold the ring at just twice the wholesale price, and the dollar belonged to him. He cried out, as he took the money:
"Good gracious! I hope you didn't charge the man that much profit."
I a.s.sured him that such a thing was a very common occurrence; and to further satisfy him I made several sales right then and there, and in each instance gave him half the receipts.
Again thanking him for his kindness, I began packing up when he said:
"Just wait a moment," and stepping to the stair-way, opened the door and called to his wife to come down. She did so, and in less than two hours I had sold and delivered to them nearly three hundred dollars worth, and had the cash in my pocket.
When I reported this sale to the traveling men at the hotel they could hardly believe me, and were not wholly convinced till they called at the store and saw the jewelry.
My trade continued to be first-cla.s.s during the holidays, clearing me considerable money.
I lost no time after the holidays, but kept on traveling while other drummers were laying off for the dull season, and succeeded well.
When the following spring trade opened, my business increased, and continued to be good till late in the summer, when I began to think some of opening an office in Chicago, and buying direct from the manufacturers, who are almost exclusively located at Providence, Rhode Island, and Attleboro, Ma.s.sachusetts.
In July I was at Escanaba, Michigan, and happened to meet Mr. Weil, of Henry Weil & Co., wholesale jewelers of Chicago; and after half an hour's conversation with him he showed me a line of gold rings, and sold and delivered to me right on the spot, nearly five hundred dollars'
worth on four months' time.
I then made known to him my anxiety to open an office in Chicago, and buy direct. He said he could and would help me to do so, and offered me desk room in his office till I could afford to rent a room of my own.
The following month I visited the city and called on him, and he gave me a letter of recommendation to the eastern manufacturers. I also procured letters from several others, with whom I had had either a business or social acquaintance, and started for New York, where the manufacturers all had representatives.
On my way there I stopped at Bronson, Michigan, and at Clyde, Ohio, and paid all of my old debts, with eight per cent. per annum interest for the whole time I had owed them. I paid one man two hundred and nine dollars for a note of one hundred and forty dollars, and another man one hundred and seventy-five dollars for a note of one hundred and twenty-two; and still another ninety dollars for a note of fifty, besides various open accounts for merchandise bought, and for borrowed money; in all amounting to nearly one thousand dollars.
One gentleman I called on had almost forgotten me as well as the debt I owed him, and when I said:
"I believe you have an account against me," he looked up over his spectacles and remarked, as though he considered me foolish to refer to it:
"Yes, but it has been outlawed for some time."
"Did the law balance your books?" I asked.
"No sir, but it canceled the debt."
"Indeed it did not, so far as I am concerned; and for once I'll prove myself more powerful than the law by balancing up your books, which is something it can't or at least won't do."
So saying I produced a roll of bills, and after figuring up and adding eight per cent. per annum for the entire time the account had been running, paid the amount over to him.
He said he had often censured himself for having trusted me to so much; but he was now only too sorry that it hadn't been a great deal more, as it was the first and only money he had ever drawn interest on, and in consequence had never realized how fast it acc.u.mulated.
After settling everything up in full, I let Mr. Keefer have, at his request, one hundred and fifty dollars, and proceeded on to New York. I called at my uncle's store immediately, for the first time since my three weeks' stay with him when a boy. He was away on a business trip, but "the old stand," with all its fixtures, looked exactly as they did the day I left, seventeen years before.
There seemed to be no necessity, however, for any change, as trade appeared to be more brisk than ever. I was anxious to meet my uncle and have him go with me to the manufacturers' offices and introduce me, but as he would not be home for a couple of days I considered life too short to wait, and concluded to introduce myself.
I went down town, and the first man I met in Maiden Lane was a traveling agent, a Mr. Medbury, who visited Chicago regularly, and who recognized me while I was standing on the corner, reading signs and looking for numbers. He came up and asked if I wasn't the fellow who carried off the bulk of Mr. Streicher's store in my endeavor to establish a credit. I told him I was. He then took me into the office of his firm, S. & B.
Lederer, and after introducing me, went on to recount what Mr. Streicher used to say whenever I visited his store.
This man, Streicher, was a little sharp Hebrew, who was always looking for the best end of the bargain, but would sell goods cheaper than any other wholesaler in the country. I saw his nature at once, and immediately became as aggressive as possible, and always ready to take my own part. The result was, it seems, that I succeeded in making it very unpleasant for him. The boys used to relate that whenever my name was mentioned, he would throw up both hands and say:
"Oh, mine Gott! Every time dot fellow come in mine store he drive me crazy. I lose my head. He carry off all my nice goods and tell me to charge; and when I say I don't do it, he say, 'I trow you out dot tree-story window;' and if my clerks don't suit him he discharge them and hire new ones; if I don't buy to suit him when agents call, then he buy to suit himself and charge to me. To the devil with such a man!"
After receiving an introduction to this firm, I presented my letters, and explained what I wanted.
They a.s.sured me that my reference was perfectly satisfactory, and they would be glad to sell me all the goods I needed in their line, and thereupon sold me the first bill of goods I purchased from the manufacturers.
During the interview I mentioned that Johnston the jeweler, on the Bowery, was an uncle of mine. One of the firm replied that that was in my favor. Thereafter I did not forget to mention him to every manufacturer I called upon; and soon learned that his original scheme of buying "Duplicate Wedding Presents" had made him widely known. I was then ready to forgive him for not having made any changes in his store during my seventeen years' absence.
I found no difficulty in buying all the goods I needed on credit, amounting to several thousand dollars' worth, to be shipped at once, and to be paid for in from sixty days to four months.
After receiving my stock from New York, I opened up with headquarters at Mr. Weil's office, Number 57 Washington street, and was ready to start out on the nineteenth of September. Now came the necessity for greater hus'ling than ever, as I must be prompt in the payment of my bills, if I expected to establish myself in the confidence of the manufacturers.
With this thought uppermost in my mind I worked almost day and night, and I believe I sold as many, if not more, goods in my special line in one month than was ever sold by any one man before or since. At any rate, later on, when I had seven agents on the road, not a single one of them ever sold as many goods in a whole year as I sold the first month I traveled, after establishing business for myself.
The result was, that before my bills were due I had paid up half of my indebtedness, and when the balance came due I had the money to pay up in full, and did so. Thereafter my trade was catered for by the best of manufacturers.
To give the reader a better understanding of the hard work put in by me during that first month, I will relate one instance in which I called one of my customers out at a very dubious hour and sold him a bill of goods.
It was at Boyne City, where I had arrived at one o'clock in the morning, after having worked hard all the day and evening before in selling a couple of very large bills. On reaching there I learned that the only boat leaving for Charlevoix within the next twenty-four hours was to leave at six o'clock in the morning; and as I must make that town next, I determined to rout my Boyne City customer up at once, sell him what he needed, and take the first boat.
He lived over his store, and as there was an outside stair-way, I went up and called and rapped loudly on the door.
The dog barked furiously, and judging from the noise, must have knocked the cook-stove down, and the cat got covered up in a tin boiler and made a terrible racket; the children began screaming, and my customer's wife shouted "murder!" at the top of her voice. I stood my ground, and kept rapping. He grabbed the old shot-gun and yelled:
"Who is there?"