So Mr. Barnes, what’s it going to take to get you into this KIA today?
Turn it into a Porsche 911 Turbo and don’t adjust the price.
Salesmen. I have always found salesmen to be dirty. Cheap. Douchey. And I have always associated the art of the sale with the art of the rouse. The sleight of the hand. The swindle.
I remember when I was a teenager, sitting next to my Dad as he finalized the purchase of a new/used Barnes Family Wagon. The scene reminiscent of Ralphie’s dad haggling like an Arab trader for the price of a tree in A Christmas Story. Pappy Barnes and Toyota Tom had more less agreed on the price, but each alpha male was desperately trying to have the final word.
Tom: Ok, Mr. Barnes. I’ll come down to $9,900 if you leave those golf clubs in the trunk of your trade in? I’ve got a Par 3 tournament coming up this weekend and am looking for some irons.
Pappy: Top off the tank with gas and you’ve got yourself a deal.
Tom leaned back in his chair, pursed his lips as he stared out the window towards the broken lamppost in the parking lot of his used car kingdom…as if 8 gallons of $0.89 cent gas was really going to set him back. Then, probably after realizing his breath was as bad we thought it was, he a cracked a smile, leaned forward, reached across the desk and shook my dad’s hand.
I stayed silent until I hopped in the passenger seat and dad started the car.
Oscar: Jeezus, what a slimeball! What was that?
Pappy: Easy Son. Sales is a hard job. Tom takes pride in his work. We should respect him.
Oscar: No way. Mark my words, Pappy…I will never be a salesman! And by the way, thanks for giving away my golf clubs.
Flash Forward 10 Years
I’m a mid-level manager making $37,000 working at the corporate HQ of The Box! America’s Largest Electronics Retailer, accumulating what I call, Political Capital. I know the hamsters who move the wheel, I occasionally have conversations with the all-powerful executives. But for the life of me, I cannot seem to get a raise. It’s not in the budget, they always said. So, I am living in a Garden Level apartment in St. Paul (a basement apartment, home to all the garden’s centipedes…and me) driving the Barnes Family Wagon (which served me well through college but now only had 3 wheels and no transmission). Basically on paper I am a loser with no girlfriend, no discretionary income, and OMD (Obsessive Masturbation Disorder).
As my career progressed and my network grew, it was common to see a colleague leave the company on a Friday (carrying his cubicle belongings and single serve packets of hot sauce and salad dressing in a cardboard box) only to show up on Monday as a National Sales Director, calling on us, his friends, to buy the product of the company that hired him (think Samsung, Sony, etc…). Over the weekend his salary doubled. His Dockers became Brooks Brothers suits His Kia became a Porsche. His masturbation habit turned into a 6ft blond.
I lost a lot of respect for these people, not so much because they left The Box!. We were a business team after all, not a bunch of frat boyzzz. People should come and go as they pleazzz.
I lost respect for them because they became Toyota Toms. Sure they took me out to business dinners at restaurants I couldn’t afford. Sure they brought me to strip clubs and stuffed cash in my hand so I could fail miserably (but at least try) with every 2nd rate stripper in Minneapolis in order to cure my OMD. But they, salesmen & strippers, all felt very cheap.
Flash Forward Another 10 Years
I stayed at The Box! for a decade in total. I rose through the ranks by working hard and occasionally pushing people out of the proverbial window (there are only so many duckets in the ‘conomy says my boy Ray Dalio, and if you need more cheddar to make your nachos, no one will give it to you. So you better take it.) But eventually all good things, as well as soul-crushing & spirit-grinding jobs, come to an end. My team was let go. My job was eliminated. So I packed up my box, with my hot sauce and salad dressing, my wooden ruler, and my stainless steel Streamline stapler, and left the building.
It wasn’t two weeks before iWidgets called. You know iWidgets. Remember, they used to be called eWidgets but then Tiger Woods screwed all of those waitresses so it led to the billion dollar name change. Anyhoo…they make the stuff that your kids stare at until they become autistic, or artistic. One or the other. Or both. Good luck with that.
The call was unsolicited. They knew I had political capital. They knew I was smart (sometimes) and funny (meh). I knew their VP from his days at The Box!.
Him: Do you want to be our National Sales Director?
Me: No. Sales is a cheap job and I won’t whore out my principals. I’m a snob, donchya know?
Him: You’ll get to work from home.
Him: And we will pay you six figures.
Him: Once per quarter you’ll travel to NYC and Seattle. You can stay where you want and your expense account will be sick!
Me: Well, I like New York & Seattle. And I love food.
Him: What do you say, Oscar?
Me: Don’t you mean, Mr. Director?
And that’s all it took to turn me. A bit of money. A bit of travel. Some great food. I am Toyota Tom. I am the roose. I am the sleight of hand. Watch your back, Jack!
I know you had higher hopes for OB. I did too. I thought I was out of Corprit ‘Merca for good. But there was a death at my fly fishing lodge, and the idea of a staying in a Chilean prison is on par with having to watch a Ryan Phillipe movie marathon. No thanks, amigo.
When we become the person we hate, we often do it for S&M (Sex & Money). No different here. If you’ve read my book, I never said I was a hero. But I would be happy to take a hero to dinner and expense it.