Find this Story

Print, a form you can hold

Wireless download to your Amazon Kindle

Look for a summary or analysis of this Story.

Enjoy this? Share it!

Tricks Of The Trade
by [?]

The man who believes that on every traveling man’s head should rest a dunce cap will some fine day get badly fooled if he continues to rub up against the drummer. The road is the biggest college in the world. Its classrooms are not confined within a few gray stone buildings with red slate roofs; they are the nooks and corners of the earth. Its teachers are not a few half starved silk worms feeding upon green leaves doled out by philanthropic millionaires, but live, active men who plant their own mulberry trees. When a man gets a sheepskin from this school, he doesn’t need to go scuffling around for work; he already has a job. Its museum contains, not a few small specimens of ore, but is the mine itself.

Let your son take an ante-graduate course of a few years on the road and he will know to what use to put his book learning when he gets that. I do not decry book lore; the midnight incandescent burned over the classic page is a good thing. I am merely saying that lots of good copper wire goes to waste, because too many college “grads” start their education wrong end first. They do not know for what they are working. If I were running a school my way and the object was to teach a boy method, I’d hand him a sample grip before I’d give him a volume of Euclid. Last night a few ideas struck me when I thought my day’s work was done. I jumped out of bed seven times in twenty minutes and struck seven matches so I could see to jot down the points. The man on the road learns to “do it now.” Too many traveling men waste their months of leisure. Like Thomas Moore, in their older days they will wail:

“Thus many, like me, who in youth should have tasted
The fountain that flows by philosophy’s shrine,
Their time with the flowers on its margin have wasted
And left their light urns all as empty as mine.”

Yet many improve their hours of leisure from business; if they do not, it is their own fault. I met an old acquaintance on the street yesterday. “My season is too short,” said he. “I wish I could find something to do between trips.” I asked him why he did not write for newspapers or do a dozen other things that I mentioned. “I’m incapable,” he replied. “Well, that isn’t my fault,” said I. “No,” he answered, “it’s mine!”

I know one man on the road who found time to learn the German language. And, by the way, he told me how it once served him a good turn.

“Once,” said he, “when I was up in Minnesota, a few years ago, I got a big merchant to come over and look at my goods. That, you know, was half of the battle.”

And so it is! When a merchant goes into a drummer’s sample room, he is on the field of Liao Yang and, if he doesn’t look out, the drummer will prove himself the Jap!

“It was my first trip to the town,” continued my friend. “The first thing my prospective customer picked up after he came into my room was a sample of a ‘Yucatan’ hat. You know how it goes–when a merchant comes into your sample room for the first time he picks up the things he knows the price of. If the prices on these are high, he soon leaves you; if they seem right to him he has confidence in the rest of your line and usually buys if the styles suit him. The way to sell goods is either to have lower prices or else make your line show up better than your competitor’s. Even though your prices be the same as his, you can often win out by displaying your goods better than your competitor does. Many a time he is too lazy to spread his goods and show what he really has; and his customer thinks the line ‘on the bum’ when, in truth, it is not.