Monday, May 14, 2007

Good Job...Bob!

As a college student I worked for two summers at a mid-market NBC affiliate. The station was big enough to offer me an internship, yet small enough to let me try a lot of things. I was the floor director for the evening newscasts, I watched and logged sports highlights (and got paid!) for the sports anchor, and I was a segment producer for other live broadcasts. I was 19 years old. It was a great experience and even though I left the TV business for the film business, the internship was incredibly valuable because I learned professionalism and how to tell a story on a tight deadline. However, this tale is not about working at that TV station, it is about the cruddy job I had to endure before getting the internship.

I came home from my freshman year of college in mid-May of 1983. My TV job wasn’t going to start until early June and I needed to get out of the house and make some money. I saw an ad in the paper for motivated people looking to earn a good wage. The job offered a paid week of training and no experience was necessary. It said to meet in a Holiday Inn conference room. So, with nothing to lose I went.

About 20 people showed up at the Holiday Inn and after awhile a squat man in a cheap suit and a turquoise studded watch walked to the front of the room. And like any salesman he proceeded to tell us how we too could have the suit, the watch and a car like his Cadillac in the parking lot. The golden calf that would get us these riches- a Kirby vacuum cleaner.

The deal was this. If you made it through a week of training, you would get $250 cash (my internship was going to pay $200 pre-tax). If you didn’t last the week you’d get nothing. So with nothing to lose I became a Kirby Vacuum cleaner sales trainee for a week.

The 1983 model of the Kirby vacuum was an impressive machine. Not only could it do all the normal vacuuming duties, but it could- as Tom Waits sings, “filets, it chops, it dices, slices, never stops.
Lasts a lifetime, mows your lawn, and it picks up the kids from school. It gets rid of unwanted facial hair. It gets rid of embarrassing age spots. It delivers a pizza….”

You get the idea.

I made it through the first four days of training fairly well. By then the original 20 had dwindled to three. On the fifth day of the week Mr. Turquoise Watch announces we are going on a road trip to “sell.” We pile into a couple of vans and take off for Princeton, IL, maybe 60 miles from home. That afternoon I proceed to watch a Kirby sales “executive” sell a $900 vacuum cleaner to a family that had no carpeting in their home. Their income was $10,000 a year if they were lucky, yet, he convinced them to buy the vacuum on the installment plan- 18 percent interest. It’s now a $1500 vacuum cleaner for a house without a rug.

About 6pm we returned to the van. Instead of going home we “reconnoitered” at the local Pizza Hut. A few sales executives felt they could close the deal after the man of the house came home. So we hung around town for another few hours as Turquoise Watch showed us how to close. Finally, about 10pm we were done, but instead of going home we returned to the Pizza Hut to “celebrate.”

CUT TO: 2am. Turquoise Watch pulls out “The Kirby Song Book.” Seriously they (I?) began singing inspirational songs about Kirby Vacuums to the tune of “You’ll be Coming ‘round the Mountain.” About 2:30a.m. the Pizza Hut manager, Bob, really insisted we needed to leave. At that point Turquoise Watch turned to page 18 of the Kirby Song book and encouraged us to sing,” Yippee I-Ay, Yippee I-Oh (hold) Good Job, Bob!”

Bob said he’d keep the Pizza Hut open until 3am.

About 5:30 in the morning I stagger home. Every light in my parents house is on. They have called the cops, the state police, hospitals, everything looking for their little vacuum cleaner salesman. I had no explanation. Good Job Bob was my only alibi.

I slept for about an hour. Took a shower and showed up at the Kirby office. They gave me my $250 cash and a “demo” vacuum and told me to practice the pitch over the weekend. On Monday I returned to vacuum and told them I got a job at the TV station.

No moral here except, you gotta do what you gotta do.

PeterH

1 comment:

Beth said...

I can laugh with you - my husband did the exact same thing for about three weeks. You have my sincerest sympathy...