This section of dialog from Office Space comes close to nailing my state of mind. I'm not sure I'll be going into work Thursday...
JOANNA So, where do you work, uh, Peter?
JOANNA And, uh, what do you do there, Peter?
PETER I sit in a cubicle and I update bank software for the 2000 switch.
JOANNA [NODS] WHAT'S THAT?
PETER You see, they wrote all this bank software and to save space, they put 98 instead of 1998. So I go through these thousands of lines of code and uh, it doesn't really matter. I, uh, I don't like my job. I don't think I'm gonna go anymore.
JOANNA You're just not gonna go?
JOANNA Won't you get fired?
PETER I don't know. But I really don't like it so I'm not gonna go.
JOANNA [LAUGHS] SO YOU'RE GONNA QUIT?
PETER No, no, not really. I'm just gonna stop going.
JOANNA When did you decide all that?
PETER About an hour ago.
PETER Oh, yeah.
JOANNA Ok. So, so you're gonna get another job?
PETER I don't think I 'd like another job.
JOANNA [LAUGHS] SO WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT MONEY AND BILLS?
PETER Y'know, I never really liked paying bills? I don't think I'll do that either.
JOANNA [LAUGHS] SO WHAT DO YOU WANT TO DO? ---o0o---
I took the job as a salesman and writer as sort of a Hail Mary. . .I quit one bad job (doing data entry) for what ended up as another bad job. Things were tough in Seattle in 1983. I took the job working for an old college friend. My friend wanted a literary pal around, which he did not have with his squad of salespeople. What he did not take into account was my fundamental abnd utter unsuitability for a sales job. While the job was a nightmare, it has provided me with many years of laughter, and an enduring appreciation of the world portrayed in Glengarry Glen Ross.
While I am in transit on my vacation, I will be reprin This is a story from the very week I started this blog. From All This Is That, Friday, November 19, 2004.
In 1983, I let an old college friend--McGoo--talk me into coming to work for him. I didn't last long. It was one of the most painful and hilarious experiences of my life. We were a magazine for construction professionals with a plan center (where they could view blueprints and create bids for various open-bid projects). Our job: to sell subscriptions and advertising in the magazine.
McGoo tried for a short period to not allow anyone to leave the boiler room until they had "an order." You were not allowed to take a whiz until you got an order. "For the good of the order" was our watchword. I never quite knew if that meant for us, the brother- and sister-hood of salespeople, or just for the order itself.
Of the five salespeople under McGoo, I was the only one whose salary/draw was not garnished.
LeadsIn sales, it's all about the leads (as you know from seeing or reading Glenngarry Glen Ross). Of course, McGoo got the cream of the crop, and only so many would come in per week; the rest were continually recycled.
When you called the marks, you wrote down on the cards how they responded. McGoo would erase what you wrote, and nothing would happen. Then the card would be handed back out on two weeks later on Monday as one of your 20 "free" leads for the week. I would call someone at a construction company and their wife would answer and tell me that her husband had died last week. I would apologize and write on the card—remove from lead pool, customer died. And then the card would be handed out again that week as part of out precious leads (after that you were on your own, which basically meant calling everyone you knew in construction (for me that was approximately no one). Or, you hit the yellow pages which were even more fruitless than the worthless leads Mcgoo handed out. After he cherry-picked any choice ones that happened to fall in there.
Someone would call the poor widow every Monday morning. One guy told me that if we ever called him again he would come down and break our faces. I wrote that on the card. And I called him a couple weeks later.
The cards came back again and again. Finally, one really brain damaged guy came down with steam coming out of his ears and McGoo had to do some mighty fast dancing (natch', blaming it all on "those fuckin' morons in the boilerroom"). When you wrote TD on a lead, it meant you had been seriously turned down. In theory, the lead would lay fallow for a couple of months. But not under the McGoo system. A turndown was merely a moment of temporary insanity on the part of a recalcitrant customer, coupled with gross salesman incompetence. So you would end up calling the same guy every Monday and he'd tell you "nothing has changed. I still don't want the magazine, creep. Now don't call me again."
Your twenty precious leads would almost always dwindle down to maybe three real. if remote, possibilities. By this time, with a stack of turndowns, you were so desperate to get McGoo off your ass, you didn't try to sell them the real ripoff. . .you sold them the lowball subscription ($100). A lot of the guys were so desperate to salve Mcgoo that they would write up a fake sale. That took the heat off. But a couple weeks later when the cancelled subscription meant there was hell to pay. . .McGoo got his commissions early, so a cancellation meant they would actually dock him too.
Meanwhile, of course, McGoo's stack of leads were from people who sent in the fallout cards saying "Yes, I am interested in subscribing. Please contact me." So by the time we rolled in Monday morning (McGoo having arrived early to shuffle and cherrypick the fresh leads), McGoo would have four or five orders on the boards, and we would be in the hole. I forget what term he used for someone who didn't yet have an order, but it was something like shithead.
"Jack get a godamned order on the books. Be a man."
"Christ, I'm trying, Jim."
"That's the difference between me and the rest of you shitheads. You're trying. You're dyin'. I'm doing. While you’re flogging the old salami, I’m soaking my hose in prime Grade A cooch."
"I'm going to lunch, Jim."
"J'get a fucking order yet Jack?"
"No, but I'm hungry."
"Get back on the phone. Hungry salesmen make the best salesmen. No one cares whether shitheads eat or not. Get a fawkin' order and I'll buy you a fuckin' T-bone!"
Bill RyanA second generation Irishman, who drove about a 1966 Cadillac convertible. Didn’t go to college. Black sheep of his family. About a week after I started at Construction Data, his salary was garnisheed by some credit card company. One thing Bill needed was that monthly cash infusion to keep things juggled. . .he worked his debtors in some sort of bizarre pyramid scheme. He had a volcanic temper and was endlessly tailed by bill collectors, repo men, and rumpled private detectives. He thought Keelin was way too hot for a non-Irishman.
He made Willy Loman look like a superhuman dynamo. “I had some fucking scores, I tell you Jack. I was salesman of the year twice, got a new Buick once and a trip to Hawaii another time. And here I sit with a sick wife, a fuckin' basket of picked over leads and a fuckin' punk kid tellin' me what to do and insulting me. Life is the green-apple shits, Jack."
My First Day On The Job
I rolled into the office at 8:30. McGoo, was, of course, glad to see me, chatting me up, introducing me around and he was truly happy to have some sort of lit brother working with him. After maybe an hour, he tossed me a pile of stuff to read. I read it in ten minutes.
“OK John, you’re ready to go.”
He handed me a freshly printed stack of lead cards.
“Well, it’s about time to get you on the books today. I want you to close one of these before lunch.”
“Jim, I’d really like to listen to some of the other guys do this for a while. I don’t know what to say to these people.”
“John, you can do it. You’re selling something they want that will make them money, and in return they give you theirs. You can listen to the rest of us all fawking night and it ain’t going to help you a bit. You’ve got to start working those taps and coming up with a magic script. It’s not really all that different from sex. You get them interested, you talk to them, you woo them. And then when things have heated up, you close. An’ you know what? Every time you close it feels every bit as good as when you finally get to stick the old salami in the jellyroll.”
My First Telephone Call“I’ve told every one of you sonofabitches that I didn’t want your goddamned magazine. EVER! I’ve told you never to call me. AND YOU CALL EVERY FUCKING WEEK.”
“I’m, sorry, Sir, but I was working with some information that said you might be interested in knowing more about Construction Data. Possibly I could send you a free copy of our magazine. Maybe you would like to come down here and tour our plan center facility.”
“I’m going to come down there and tour your heads if I hear from you assholes again.”
“Sorry you feel that way. If you ever do decide. . ." [CLICK]. Turndowns
I started to write notes on the card—saying don’t call this guy back. McGoo grabbed the card from my hand.
“What the fuck are you doing?”
“Making notes. “
“You don’t need to write anything on that card, John. Just a note. This was a soft turndown, so you write STD on the card, date it, and put it on the bottom of your stack. We send the leads back in to the main office every Friday night.”
Under the McGoo system, a turndown was merely a moment of temporary insanity. You had to call back fairly soon. . .in McGoo’s theory, if you called back often enough, eventually the mark might think “Hey, these guys are persistent. They must have something good going here.”
McGoo plunged on with my indoctrination.
“So he says no Johnnie. Simply mark it STD. We’ll turn that piece of dog shit sooner or later. He’ll bare his sphincter and beg us to give him a poke. He will crumble and eventually beg for a solid rodgering at top dollar!”
“If he doesn’t come down and cave our heads in first. . .”
“Ah, you missed it. These guys are more hot air than salesmen. And that’s why we eventually triumph. These guys are construction people, we’re pros. Ok. You’ve plunged in. Now, you gotta start with the lingo."
"They say you called them last month, ok, fine. You tell them you are calling back because they did seem interested and you are in a position this week to offer them significant price breaks on Construction Data, if they are able to act quickly.”
“I can’t say that. . .you know. . .it just doesn’t fall off the tongue. Significant price breaks sound phony.”
“Johnnie, me boy. There is no shame in making money. One thing you’ve got to get over is feeling self-conscious or embarrassed. Feel embarrassed at being a goddamned shithead!"
“But I feel like I’m running some scam on them. It’s hard to do…”
“The only people in this room who should be embarrassed are the people who don’t get an order. Now, I want you to get started again. Would a drink help? I’ve got five bucks. Let’s go across the street, I’ll have a club soda and you can have. . .what do you like to drink?”
So we went for a drink, McGoo, recently hooked up with AA, telling me all the while that I would make the breakthrough.
Some Advice from Mcgoo
“Once you get that first order. . .Johnnie me boy. . . you will become an inhuman selling dynamo.”
“I’m not quite there yet.”
“Johnnie, me boy, you don’t even need to sell this thing. . .it sells its fucking self. You are barely even a salesman! All you have to do is punch in a few numbers and start writing orders. You are going to get on the books big time.”
Back at the office, I glumly stare at my pathetic short stack of leads. OK. Number two.
“Like I said the last time, my husband died last year. I’m 75. Why would I need a five hundred dollar construction magazine?”
So I wrote STD on the card and put it at the bottom of the deck.
“John, my boy, you aren’t taking them all the way. You get their pants down around their ankles, and you don't stick it in! If you need a little hand on these, I’ll be your closer.”
The Business Cards, or, How I became Jack BrummetThe next day, McGoo handed me business cards.
“Jack Brummet. Circulation marketing and feature article writer?”
“I like that, yeah, Jack. John is a pussy name. Jack’s the name of a man's man. These are constuction guys. ”
I became Jack. And I still am.
My First Order
Later that day I closed my first order. I sold one year at the “full boat” price. I was “on the books” and flying high. 1 year= $549. 6 mos= $299. 6 mos=$100.
I was on the books and on top of the boilerroom board, until McGoo closed three in a row to remove me from my perch. I was on my second day. McGoo put the heavy pressure on Bill Ryan.
“Jaysus, Bill, Jack, a total frigging rookie comes in here and closed on a full boat. What have you done for me today?”
Within two hours, Bill had closed two big orders, put his name at the top of the board for the day, and departed work. The two orders were utterly bogus. Bill just signed up a couple of his leads for subscriptions.
"We'd Like To Put An Article About You In Our Publication"
As a fellow lit-brother to McGoo, I was ahead of the other salespeople in one regard. One regard I was never much able to capitalize on: we would write articles for our magazine, if we could get the contractors or suppliers to buy a large subscription or ad schedule. I would write absurd puff pieces on these various dimwits that they could pass around to their friends and family. Alas, my heart was in that even less than in selling overpriced subscriptions and advertisements.
Cancellations and deadbeats
Every two weeks, in came an accounting from the main office of people you sold to who had cancelled. Or who were deadbeats. Your commission was then deducted from your account, and you were in the hole. The Deadbeats, you called yourself.
It was always agony and explosions of anger on cancellation day. And whenever you lost a commission, McGoo lost his sales manager cut too. By the time half these cancellations rolled in, people had forgotten they had faked them in the first place. Bill Ryan specialized in writing up phony orders for corporations. The companies would actually pay the subscription about half the time. It was always a dark on cancellation day--especially for those of us who never made the nut, and were always underwater on our commissions.
Pat Sherwin, probably about 65 or so, was the hardest hit. He had an invalid wife and was just barely holding it all together. When he got cancelled, he was utterly gripped with panic and fear. And McGoo felt that those twin emotions were the best sales motivational tool ever developed. Pat would nearly be crying, having just lost $500 in commissions. McGoo would always offer to buy you a drink and tell you his solution to the problem. The solution was invariably "sell more!"
“Ain’t nothing going to happen here boys, ain’t nothing going to happen until I hear those phones dialing Dialing DIALING!!! I’ve walked in here about five times this morning and no one is on the motherfucking phone.
"NO ONE IS ON THE PHONE!!! What the fuck do you think? You think the fuckin’ customers are just going to call in and throw money at you? I’ll listen to you The Fuckin' Sales Force complain just as soon as I see they are actually working. I got three orders this morning while you were shaking off your goddamned hangovers!"
"I want every phone nigger in this room to book at least $250 by lunch. The orders are out there. The only question is are you men enough to close them? Or are you going to stand here all day blubbering about a bunch of goddamned cancellations?"
"You could be halfway out of the hole if you just got on the phones. Dial for dollars, boys, starting now. " ---o0o---