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Cutting Prices
by [?]

Is not the salesman on the road who sells goods to one customer at one price and to another at another price, a thief? Is not the house which allows its salesman to do this an accomplice to the crime of theft?

This is a hot shot, I know; but, if you are a salesman, ask yourself if it is right to get the marked price of an article from a friend who gives you his confidence, and then sell the same thing for a lower price to another man who is suspicious and beats you down. Ask yourself, if you have men on the road, whether or not it is right for you to allow your salesman to do these things, and then answer “Yes” or “No.” You will all answer “No, but we can’t help ourselves.”

You can. A friend of mine, who travels for a large house, way down East, that employs one hundred road salesmen, told me recently of an experience directly in point. I will let him tell the story to you:

“It is the custom in our house, you know, for all of the boys to meet together twice each year when we come in after our samples. After we get our samples marked and packed, and are ready for the road, the ‘old gentleman’ in the house gives us all a banquet. He sits at the head of the table and is toastmaster.

“He is wise in bringing the boys together in this way because he knows that the boys on the road know how things ought to be and that they can give him a great many pointers. He has a stenographer present who takes down every word that is said during the evening. The reports of these semi-annual meetings are the law books of this house.

“At our last meeting the ‘old gentleman’ when he first arose to speak, said: ‘Look here, boys’–he knew how to take us all–‘there is one thing about our system of business that I do not like; it is this cutting of prices. Now, what I would like to do this very season–and I have thought of it since you have all packed up your trunks–is to have all samples marked in plain figures and for no man to deviate in any way from the prices. Of course this is rather a bold thing to do in that we have done business in the old way of marking goods in characters for many years, so I wish to hear from you all and see what you think about it. I shall wish as many of you as will to state in words just what you think on this subject, one by one; but first of all, I wish that every man who favors marking samples in plain figures and not varying from the price would stand up, and that those who think the other way would keep their seats.’

“Well, sir, do you know I was the only man out of that whole hundred to stand up. The others sat there. After standing for a moment I sat down, and the ‘old gentleman’ arose again.

“‘Well, the vote is so near unanimous,’ said the ‘old gentleman,’ “that it seems hardly necessary for us to discuss the matter. Yet it is possible that one man may be right and ninety-nine may be wrong, so let us hear from one of our salesmen who differs from his ninety-nine brethren.’

“With this I stood up, and I made a speech something like this: ‘Mr. President, and Fellow Salesmen: I am very glad that our worthy President has given me the right to speak. He has said that one man in a hundred may be right even though ninety-nine do not believe as he does. There is no may be about it. I do not think that I am right. I KNOW IT. I speak from experience. When I first started on the road one of my old friends in the house–I was just a stock boy, you know, going out for the first time, not knowing whether I would succeed or fail–this old friend gave me this advice: Said he, “Billy, it is better for you to be abused for selling goods cheaply than to be fired for not selling them at all.” With this advice before me from an old salesman in the house, and knowing that all of the salesmen nearly in greater or less degree slaughtered the price of goods, I went out on the road. The first thing I began to do was to cut, cut, cut. Letters came to me from the house to quit it, but I kept on cutting, cutting, cutting. I knew that the other boys in the house did it, and I did not see any reason why I should not. It was my habit to do this: If a man was hard to move in any way and was mean to me I came at him with prices. If he treated me gentlemanly and gave me his confidence, I robbed him–that is, I got the full marked price, while the other fellow bought goods cheaper than this man. Once I got caught up with. Two of my customers met in market and, as merchants usually do when they meet in market, they began to discuss the lines of goods which they carried. They found that they both carried my line, and my good friend learned that the other fellow bought certain lines cheaper than he did.