Desperation Breeds Salesmanship

I recently told this story to some labmates over lunch and promptly realized that it’s going to make an interesting chapter in my memoir some day. Now that my semester’s academic obligations are out of the way, I’ve got some time to get it down before the details start to fade.

This is the story of my worst job ever.

Soon after Terry and I moved to Orlando in 2011, we found ourselves desperately in need of cash we didn’t have. We were staying in a hotel after our initial housing plans fell through, so he was asking around at school for people we could stay with temporarily. I took to Craigslist, signing up for paid medical research studies and applying for basically any job that wasn’t scrubbing toilets or flipping burgers. Eventually Terry landed on a job with a company named something vague and innocuous like Sunset Deliveries. It was up in Tavares, close to Mt. Dora, which was nearly an hour and a half away. We were skint broke though and decided we could spare the gas to get out there to interview at least. Terry interviewed first and for some reason couldn’t hack it, but they suggested that I have a go as well. They must have sensed the desperation, looked past the terrible social awkwardness, and decided that I’d be hired on as a driver and trainee. I’d have a training period where I’d receive $50 a day for a few days and then be purely commission afterwards.

And that’s how I unintentionally because a door-to-door meat salesperson. There were big boxes of beef, chicken, and pork in the giant walk-in freezer in the HQ; every morning we’d select our wares for the day, put them into the big white freezer vans, and go cold-call at the doors of likely-looking homes.

I started out driving “Doug” around. He seemed like a sleazy salesman in the most stereotypical sense of the word. Charismatic, but seedy. He preferred not to start knocking on doors until after 10am, so after having driven almost two hours to get to work on time my first day at 8am, I ended up sitting around on the side of the road with Doug for another two hours.  I’d never driven anything so big and was rather nervous. Doug suggested I nap, but I was wound up from being at a new job that I wasn’t sure how to do yet, and Doug kind of gave me the creeps anyways. On the second day of work, I brought a book with me and had it nearly finished by the time Doug was ready to get rolling.

Over the course of the next few days, I started seeing more and more red flags about both the people and the company itself. Though the steaks were delicious, the boss “Bill” invited me into his house where he and “Crystal” another female employee, while on the clock, smoked pot and played pool for the better part of an hour. I was 19 and had never even seen marijuana in person before so I just kind of silently freaked out in the corner. They made fun of me when the realized I was so innocent. On another occasion, Doug told me to stay in the van and went into the home of a woman he seemed to know very well and stayed for almost two hours.

While on a training day with Crystal, she told me outright not to bother trying to sell anything in predominately black neighborhoods because she didn’t like to talk to black people. On that same day, she also manipulated a very elderly blind man into purchasing almost four hundred dollars worth of steaks. She also, on my second day of work, directly informed me that I should quit school to be a salesperson full time after I told her that my shifts would have to be abbreviated once the fall semester started.

Doug was strangely talkative about the very things that made him creepy. While we drove around the outskirts of Apopka, he made very loud, unabashed phone calls to his attorney to discuss his statutory rape case, and later informed me that I had to drive him around because he had permanently lost his driver’s license after his third DUI earlier that year. After these conversations, I was careful to take my knife with me to work each day. I also bought myself a severance package of discounted steaks and got back on Craigslist. Door-to-door meat sales lasted about three more days.

On what was to be my final day at work, Doug and I drove around a very well-to-do neighborhood with what seemed to be very small, misplaced English manor houses surrounded by horse ranches. While attempting to back up a narrow driveway, I scraped a tree with the side of the van. Doug shouted at me and implied that I was about ninety-nine types of incompetent.  I cried. He seemed very abashed and didn’t say another word to me for the rest of the day aside from brusque driving directions. The commission period had started, so I went home with empty pockets after failing to close any sales myself.

While driving back to the southern edge of Orlando later that afternoon, I finally got a call back about a job I’d applied for. Bookbinding, nearly 45 minutes closer to home, with an hourly wage that wasn’t based on steak commissions. I jumped on it immediately, promptly calling Bill to tell him I wouldn’t be able to come in the next day due to “an appointment”. When I called the next day to formally quit, he cussed me out and said “he knew I wasn’t worth anything”. For the first time in my life, I hung up on someone mid-sentence.

The whole job had lasted less than two weeks.