I've decided to participate in Tova Darling's "Totally Awkward Tuesdays" event this week. For the rules, as well as Tova Darling's story of the week, go here.
First, a little background:
When I was in high school, I had a paper route. I delivered the Washington Post to about 100 houses in my neighborhood. It was a short route -- around my block and the next block, plus all the little courts and half streets and cul-de-sacs off of both blocks. Just about everyone took the Post, and I found it easier to remember which houses didn't take the paper than to think about which ones did. It was easy work, folks tipped well, and I made a decent amount of money working just about one hour per day.
In college, "registration day" was a big event. This was before the internet revolution, and we had to go to the University's big arena and stand in lines to register for each class we wanted; it took several hours, and there were lots of vendors set up outside the arena.
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So in 1984, I attended the University's big registration day event. Political candidates were giving away buttons and bumper stickers ("Geraldine Ferraro" button, anyone?); vendors were demonstrating their newest boom boxes with am/fm radio and cassette decks (dang I feel old); other vendors were giving free samples of various products and coupons; and the Wall Street Journal had a booth, giving out free papers and hawking subscriptions.
So, being the enterprising young woman that I was, I wandered over to the Wall Street Journal table and asked if they needed a paper carrier.
The man running the booth, "Bob," said he'd consider hiring me if I could show that I could not only deliver, but also sell papers, and asked if I'd consider a fifteen minute "interview" by selling a few papers while he went to get a soda and hit the restroom. I said ok.
So he showed me how to have folks fill out the forms and where to put them in case I sold any, and then he left and I began my sales pitch to the passers-by: "Try the Wall Street Journal for free today, and subscribe now for only $x.xx per month!"
Several minutes later, I hadn't had any takers, and I could see Bob returning across the plaza. I was determined to make at least one sale by the time he returned, so I stepped up my sales pitch: "Free paper! Yes that's right, free today! And only $x.xx per month if you'd like to continue to receive the best paper in the country! You won't beat that deal anywhere!"
So a college kid stopped and asked, "How much did you say it costs?" And I told him, and explained that he didn't have to pay anything today, he just had to sign up, and then they'd send him a bill, and he could cancel anytime within the first month without owing a dime. He looked through the paper and then said he'd prefer to get the local news, so he could have tv listings and such.
I said, "Oh, come on, it's the best newspaper available, and it's only $x.xx per month! Plus, you know you want to get the comics every day!" The kid said, "Well, maybe you're right..." and signed up.
I began my pitch again, and just as the next sucker ... er, I mean, potential subscriber ... was hesitating, Bob returned. I repeated my new-found, very effective "closing line," "Oh, come on, it's the best newspaper available, and it's only $x.xx per month! Plus, you know you want to get the comics every day!"
Bob said, "Uh yeah ... there are no comics in the Wall Street Journal."
* * *
And thus ended my career as a Wall Street Journal saleswoman.
(Bob did, however, hire me to deliver the Journal and the New York Times on campus. I guess he figured I didn't need to know anything about the papers just to deliver them...)