Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Have I Got A Deal For You!

I spent the summer before my freshman year of college doing telephone sales. I know, I’m not proud of it, but it did help pay my tuition. Back then, telephone sales was relatively new field; heck, if you’ve been reading this blog right along, then you know telephones had only been around for a year or two when I graduated from high school.

Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration; phones weren’t THAT new, but I know our household had only used the rotary dial phone for four or five years. Prior to that, you picked up the earpiece, held it to your ear, and when the operator said, “Number please,” you said “Mayfair 2-5677” or something similar. That was my sister’s long distance number—she lived about 20 miles away. The old Saturday Night Live skits with Lily Tomlin playing Ernestine, the snorting telephone operator, were right on the money! It was not unusual for the operator or someone else to listen in on your phone conversations--we had party lines--which is probably the reason phone sex never took off until after direct dial came in.

My phone number was 754J. Don’t ask me how I remember; I just do. It’s one of those old people things. You can’t remember something that happened last week, but your old phone number from 50 years ago is right there in your memory, clear as a bell! But I digress.

My parents were opposed to my attending college, and refused to help me financially. A girl was only going to get married and have kids, so what would be the point? Plus, to my straight-laced, religious parents, an unmarried girl did not live away from her parents unless she was married or a harlot. This was another reason for not subsidizing my ticket to Hades. As a result, I had to work and earn the “ticket” money myself!

I landed a job as a carhop at an A & W Root Beer Drive In (which my mother also regarded as one step from harlotry—after all, you approached men sitting in their cars and who knew what they might say or do to you). My hours were from 6:00 PM to midnight, which left my days free, so I took a second job from 9:00 AM to noon—selling magazines by phone.

It was a really strange situation. After I was interviewed and hired, I never saw another co-worker again. I would let myself in, using the key that was under the doormat, make phone calls for three hours, let myself out, lock the door, and replace the key under the doormat. My paycheck would be on my desk each Friday.

I wish I could remember the hourly pay; that escapes me. I know it was a higher hourly rate then I received as a carhop—that was $0.50 per hour. Of course, if you were efficient and pleasant, you could take in $15 or $20 in tips on a good night. So the phone sales must have paid $1.50 or $1.75 per hour. If you actually made a sale, you were paid a $5.00 bonus, for each sale. Posted on the wall in front of me were all sorts of possible customer objections and suggested statements to overcome those objections. “You can’t afford ten cents a day? How can you afford NOT to stay informed with magazines like Time and Life?” or “You don’t read? Well, just think of the fun you and the kids will have looking at the pictures!” Yadda, yadda, yadda.

One day, towards the end of the summer, I calculated the cost to the buyer of the magazines I was pedaling. I remember being shocked that what I was asking people to do was to commit to a $320 contract to subscribe to 5 or 6 magazines for 3 years. Now in 1963, $320 was BIG bucks! I felt very guilty, and from that day forward, made the required calls but no longer pushed to make sales! I did make enough cash from the two jobs to pay my first year tuition, but I didn’t return to that job the following summer.

I managed to get through college, and didn’t become a harlot, although, had I known then what I know now, I might have given that career serious consideration… at least as a leisure activity, if not as a means of support. You know what they say, “We’re too soon old, and too late smart!”


Brown-Eyed Girl said...

I remember when Coke came in glass bottles & to get a new one, you just had to bring 10 empties to the store.

I remember when candy was a penny a piece.

I remember when a phone call was a dime at a pay phone.

I remember when the bus cost 25 cents.

I remember when my breasts didn't require assistance to stay upright.

I remember when I remembered things.

Oh, the good ol' days!

Emily said...

Wow! $320 these days is big bucks too! Thanks for stopping by my blog. I've just discovered SITS. It's great!

Vodka Logic said...

Wow you are old. just kidding. I remember black and white tv and no night programming.


Peterson Family said...

I grew up in the country and we still had rotary phones when I moved to the city in 1993! (And the phone was mounted on the wall so there was no escaping to another room to talk privately either!!!)

Trudy said...

Hi Eva, I think 3 is just a good number, don't you? Congratulations on 26 years!

I also worked as a telemarketer while in college and had to quit before long because morality took over...we more or less preyed on the less fortunate with grand schemes of really was quite criminal.

Perhaps it's not too late to give a go at harlotry now?

Steven Anthony said...

Love this story..... I remember going from 8 tracks to tapes, then to cds....Im old too I think , heheh thanx for the smiles:)

Tamela said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I admire you for being a telemarketer, I am not persuasive enough.

glnroz said...

oh my ,, youth is wasted on the young aint it? I am not sure I got any smarter though,,lol..i definately got older

McVal said...

My sister-in-law did that type of work during college and if someone hung up in the middle of what she was saying, she'd call them back. "I'm sorry, I think we were cut off. Now, like I was saying..." They didn't usually hang up the second time. I think they admired her spunk!
She was selling phone services I think.

Sarah @ When two becomes three... said...

Hi Eva!

Thanks for stopping by my blog and for the birthday wishes!

My Mom and Dad totally used to go to the A&W on their dates.

It's nuts isn't it when you think about inflation and the price difference from then to now.

Adventures of an Innkeeper said...

Hello and thanks for stopping by my blog :)
Interesting life you have, heehee

A Dreams-Teller said...

Hi Eva, thanks for visiting mine and adding me as a friend. Any time you finally remember a dream be sure to tell me about it for an answer to its meaning.

Concerning the topic of sales and selling: nothing happens in this world until someone sells something.

Jen said...

You are sssssssssoooooooo right about many things, mostly the phone.....I remember carrying on a conversation with the operater....{ no not like that!!!}.times sure were slower, we didn't hurry to get from one place to the other!!!!If we only knew then....maybe not!

one sassy girl said...

I take so much for granted. To be told college wasn't worth the bother! I can't even imagine. Not only did I go to college, but I went to medical school and, even now, I'm tempted to go back for a residency or some other such form of mental torture. Without college, I'd be a totally different person. Not because of what I'd know or not know, but because I spent SO many years in that environment.
I loved reading about the path you took and the wages (if we can even call them that) you received. Fascinating!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Fabulous story! And YES, youth is wasted on the young :-)
A&W rootbeer and car hops was a happy flashback to my younger days.

MiMi said...

Sad thing is I couldn't commit to 320 even now. : )

Midlife Mama said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog! I loved this post and I'll be back! And heck, $320 is a lot of money NOW. :)

Jo said...

I have an award for you to 'pick up' on my blog post titled "Splish-SPlash". ;)


Peace, love and happiness,
"Diary Of A Sad Housewife"

marlynn said...

what a fun post down memory lane! Thanks for visiting my blog via SITS. I'll be back! :)