The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Salesman Par Excellence

By R. C. Loyd, Jr. © 1992

Issue: February, 1992

"Rufe, my truck is getting a flat tire, and I need to get the weight of this Kelvinator off until I can get it fixed. Could I put it on your back porch and come back for it later today or tomorrow?"

This was in the late thirties, shortly after we had gotten electricity through the REA. As yet the only benefit we were enjoying was lights and possibly a radio. It should be mentioned that in that day and time, you didn't have a refrigerator - it was either a "Kelvinator" or a "Fridgedaire."

There was no way of knowing, although we later suspected that Press W. had pulled one of his innocent tricks, by letting most of the air out of the tire on his A Model pickup that he peddled furniture from.

"As long as it is here, let's plug it in an send the kids to the spring house for your milk and butter. And fill up the ice trays, so this thing can pay rent until I come for it."

He didn't come back for about five days. By then there was no way Mom was about to give it up. So Dad had to work out a deal for it. It later became known that Press used the same ploy to sell at least one other refrigerator in the neighborhood.

This was only one of the many ways that Press could have taught present day hotshot sales people valuable lessons. There is no doubt among those who knew him that he understood people, and used that knowledge to break down their resistance.

But no one claimed that his tricks caused harm to come to anyone. On those rare cases that hurt anyone, it was brought about by the greed of those he manipulated, rather than by his manipulation.

A good case in point was when he kindled the fires of jealousy by telling someone, "I just came from your brother-in-law's house, and he told me I was wasting my time coming here, because you couldn't afford this nice washer."

At various times he sold Bibles, furniture, and many other things, but it was in promoting water-less cook-ware that he scored his crowning victory. He was perhaps among the first generation of party plan salesmen.

His sales pitch was to offer to cook an entire meal in the one utensil. This was nothing more than a large aluminum pot equipped with racks and dividers. Most of the country ladies would decline his offer of a demonstration, preferring rather to rely on his guarantee of a refund if they failed to appreciate its utility.

We will call the recipients of his most outrageous trick Farmer and Mrs. Brown. Stopping at the home of the Browns, Press was informed by the lady of the house that she would like the cooker. However, she could not make the decision to spend eleven depression dollars without consulting her husband, who was working in the field nearby.

Press assured her that if she would take it he would go by the field and talk to the husband. If it was not satisfactory, he would return and pick the merchandise up. So the deal was done.

When he found Farmer Brown plowing he reported Mrs. Brown's hesitance, but somehow failed to mention that she had bought and paid for one on approval. Farmer Brown was anxious to please his wife, and bought one on the spot in hopes of doing so.

Press left and went to the local country store, where he stopped to eat lunch and perhaps drum up some more business.

Meanwhile, Farmer Brown stopped plowing and proudly carried his purchase to the house. Learning that they had been duped and suspecting his destination, one of them telephoned the country store and asked for the cookware salesman.

Paying strict attention, and answering respectfully, Press responded "Yes sir . . . No sir . . . , I'll do that sir," and hung up.

Of course Farmer Brown was demanding that one of the units be picked up and their money refunded. But Press knew that he would be long gone.

He told the proprietor of the store, "Farmer Brown was in the field when I went by, so I couldn't get them together to make the sale. He now says they want it, and that I can leave it here. Oh yes, he says for you to pay me, and he will repay you when he picks it up."