I remember when Joe hired me, being told that he didn’t think I would make it, but he would give me a chance. I asked him why not, I was an accomplished salesman, young and eager. Joe said, “That’s just it, you think you know it all. To sell tools, you can’t act like you’re selling, you have to make ’em believe your just trying to give it away. We are selling the sizzle, not the steak.” He went on to say that everyone has it inside of them but refuse to do what it takes. He also said that I needed to do exactly like he told me, “Get out and go hustle,” go door to door, don’t read the signs, just ask for the boss. Your job is to get ’em on the phone to the factory. If they make an offer, Rita will close them out, if not just go next door and ask for the boss. He told me that if I got up every morning and went out and hustled, worked my tail off, that I would make some money. The trick he said, is to act like you just trying to give it away.
The first town I moved to with the crew was Orlando. The crew stayed at the Days Inn on the Orange Blossom Trail. I was broke when I left Jacksonville. My truck was running on fumes when I got there. The first night, I slept on the floor of one of the other “new guy’s” motel room. The next morning I stiffed a “7-11” for five bucks worth of gas, then went to work my “territory.” Territories were areas drawn up on a map in squares and tacked to the wall of the motel room in Joe’s room, dividing the town up in sections, so that everyone can sign out for a particular area and not have to worry about someone else “riding and raping” your territory.
I signed out for the area right next to the motel, so I wouldn’t have to drive very far to get to work. I hit five businesses in a row before I started getting any interest. The first place was a Day Care, no luck the boss wasn’t in yet. The second place was a parts house, they just laughed at me. The next place the boss man asked me all kind of questions about the bandsaw. I told him “Don’t start me to lying, I just drive a truck.” He told me to come back after lunch and gave me his card. We called this a “lead.” They were usually worthless.
I remembered that Joe said, “don’t read the signs, just go door to door.” By then I started to get a little toasty brown. I pulled out a note pad and wrote down the response on my first couple of calls, thinking that I could read them over and find the error of my ways. By number ten, things got better. Number ten seemed interested, I was so broke and desperate that I told the boss man that if he wouldn’t get me fired and give me a twenty for gas, I would call up my boss and tell him, “The equipment had been damaged by the fork motor, some parts seem to be missing, if you’ll help me, I’ll help you.” Joe had told us that, “A liar is a buyer, if you can get him on the phone to lie to your boss, he’ll buy.” I had to put him through the book about a half a dozen times before he finally bought the whole truck load for $2,200.00. I made $200.00 profit, plus a twenty for gas. Only 10 am. I got Wilbur to load my truck again. The “boss man” that I had spoken with earlier about the band saw had asked me to come back after lunch. When I got there I was half afraid he would have the cops waiting for me but no, he wanted to know where I’d been. He said that he’d been waiting for me. He wanted to know everything I knew about that metal cutting band saw. I told him that, “It cuts north and south or east and west and will spit oil on the blade.” When he got Rita on the phone and made his offer, the first thing she asked was if he had been drinking. When he said no, she asked, “What about my driver?” He ended up getting the saw for a thousand bucks and gave me $20 dollars to get some beer.
It was just after lunch, I wasn’t broke anymore. I got Wilbur to load the truck back up for me, one more time. Wilbur Scarborough was Joe’s brother in law. Wilbur had a unique knack of being able to load the trucks by himself, feeling guilty, I would try to give him a twenty dollar tip, but most times he refused, but he would let me buy him a drink at the bar. Since I was still riding on the five dollars worth of stolen gas and had money to buy more, I drove up and down the “Trail,” looky looing at all the street walkers, topless bars, pool halls and tattoo parlors. There was even one club that had an air plane sticking out of the wall.
I realized that it was getting late in the day. I didn’t want to go back to the motel with this load still on my truck. I drove back by the guy that had bought my load earlier in the day, just to see if any of his friends might be interested. Surprisingly he wanted to buy the second load. I told him this equipment came from a guy that wrote a bad check, that the boss won’t believe that this equipment is all damaged too, so he paid a little more. I made $700.00 but no beer money. Wow, a whopping $1,100 for the day, (plus some beer money). The next morning I went back to the “7-11” and told the clerk that after I had driven off yesterday that I realized I forgot to pay for my gas. That night, I had my own room.
Joe came by my room; he said that he wanted to take me out to eat. I thought that he wanted to “Welcome me to the club.” Yeah, right. It was just me, Joe and Old George. George was a nervous sort of older fellow that seemed to like to wash his hands a lot. We went to an Oyster House a couple miles down the road, on the Orange Blossom Trail. After about my third or fourth dozen oysters, Joe got up to go use the bathroom, soon after, George said he had to go wash his hands. I waited and waited but they didn’t come back.
Joe backed his hotrod Ford Super Cab to the front door, racing the motor, then he started spinning the tires. I knew what time it was then. I had over a thousand dollars in my pocket, made three sales that day and here was Jumping Joe, wanting to know if I had enough guts to stiff a restaurant or if I was going to break weak and pay for every one’s meal. I stood up and quickly walked to the door, left the restaurant in a hurry and dove into the back of the truck as he was peeling out, kicking gravel and dust up against the glass windows as we left.
Joes was fired up that night. He started driving down the Orange Blossom Trail about 70 miles an hour. He was in a blaze of glory until that motorcycle cop flashed his lights, then Joe hit the nitrous switch and took off. His truck had one of those genuine “Bittendorf” racing engines from California. The bike cop couldn’t catch us. No way. I was terrified, riding in the back of the truck, on top of a pile of pallets, but I wouldn’t let on, besides,no one could have heard me if I had screamed my head off.
Joe was so far ahead of the motorcycle cop racing down Highway 441 the main drag, that he stopped to pick up two guys in a navy uniforms that looked like they were in the middle of being mugged by a group of black thugs at a bus stop. I hollered at them, they just jumped into the back of the truck with me. Then here came the bike cop, siren wailing, catching up to us. Joe took off again, driving over a hundred miles an hour, around cars, over the center section divider, in the emergency lane, the traffic signs just seemed to whiz past, the street lights were just a blur. The two sailors were all for it, lying on their sides holding onto a pallet with one hand and flipping the bike cop the finger with the other, whooping it up. They acted like they were pretty drunk. If it hadn’t of been for that darn helicopter, we probably would have made it. They were waiting for us, right before we hit the overpass on the Beeline Expressway. Joe told the patrolmen that he never saw the bike cop; he told the officers that we were just trying to help the Navy dudes out of a tight spot. Even though they backed our story up, Joe went to jail. Before they cuffed his hands behind his back, he handed me his roll. I never counted it. He went in front of a judge the next morning and got time served I gave Joe back his wad of cash just the same way he handed it to me. If this was suppose to be a test, well then, I reckon I passed.
A gal named Marie, had hired on with the crew in Jacksonville. She said she had previous car selling experience, I don’t know why Joe hired her. Selling tools was a man’s game. It was well after midnight when she knocked on my door. Marie said she was broke and wanted to know if she could sleep on my floor. I think I knew what she had in mind, but I was bushed.
Trying to pump her up, I told her the next morning that everyone has what it takes to make it, if she would get up off her ass and hustle, go door to door, just go work her tail off, she could make herself some money. I guess she took my advice, later on that night I saw her walking up and down the “Trail.” What you wanna bet, she wasn’t trying to give it away.