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Concerning Credit Men
by [?]

The credit man was the subject of our talk as a crowd of us sat, one Sunday afternoon, in the writing-room of the Palace Hotel at San Francisco. The big green palm in the center of the room cast, from its drooping and fronded branches, shadows upon the red rugs carpeting the stone floor. This was a peaceful scene and wholly unfitting to the subject of our talk.

“I would rather herd sheep in a blizzard,” blurted out the clothing man, “than make credits. Yes, I would rather brake on a night way- freight; be a country doctor where the roads are always muddy; a dray horse on a granite-paved street; anything for me before being a credit man! It is the most thankless job a human being can hold. It is like being squeezed up against the dock by a big steamship. If you ship goods and they’re not paid for, the house kicks; if you turn down orders sent in, the traveling man raises a howl. None of it for me. No, sir!”

“I have always been fairly lucky,” spoke up the hat man. “I’ve never been with but two houses in my life and I’ve really never had any trouble with my credit men. They were both reasonable, broad-minded, quick-witted, diplomatic gentlemen. If a man’s credit were doubtful in their minds, they would usually ask me about him, or even wire me, sometimes, if an order were in a rush, to tell them what I thought of the situation. And they would always pay attention to what I said.”

“Well, you are one in a hundred,” spoke out the clothing man. “You ought to shake hands with yourself. You don’t know what a hard time I’ve had with the various men who’ve made credits on the goods I have sold.

“The credit man, you know, usually grows up from office boy to cashier, and from cashier to bookkeeper, from bookkeeper to assistant credit man and then to credit man himself. Most of them have never been away from the place they were born in, and about all they know is what they have learned behind the bars of their office windows. You couldn’t, for all sorts of money, hire a man who has been on the road, to be a credit man. He can get his money lots easier as a salesman; he has a much better chance for promotion, too. Still, if the salesman could be induced to become a credit man, he would make the best one possible, because he would understand that the salesman himself can get closer to his customer than any one else and can find out things from him that his customer would not tell to any one else and, having been on the road himself, he would know that really about the only reliable source of information concerning a merchant is the salesman himself.

“When a merchant has confidence enough in a man to buy goods from him –and he will not buy goods from him unless he has that confidence–he will tell him all about his private affairs. He will tell him how much business he is doing, how much profit he is making, how much he owes, what are his future prospects, and everything of that kind. The credit man who was once a salesman would also know that these commercial agency books–the bibles of the average credit man–don’t amount to a rap. For my own part, I wish old Satan had every commercial agency book on earth to chuck into the furnace, when he goes below, to roast the reporters for the agencies. A lot of them will go there because a lot of reports are simply outright slander. Commercial agencies break many a good merchant. The heads of the agencies aim to give faithful reports, but they haven’t the means.

“Now, just for example, let me tell you what they did to a man who did one of my customers when he first started in business. This man had been a clerk for several years in a clothing store over in Wyoming. He was one of the kind that didn’t spend his money feeding slot machines, but saved up $3,500 in cold, hard cash. This was enough for him to start a little clothing shack of his own.