The ad in the paper said “Entry Level Sales – No Experience Required!!!”. Straight out of high school and with no idea what to otherwise do with my crappy life, this sounded pretty good to me. A few days later, I started my life as a door to door salesman, working for commission only – for the next month, my income would depend on an ability to sell useless crap to equally useless people. In hindsight, the 'intense!!!!!' level of exclamations featured in the job advert should have been some sort of warning. They should have been like the aposematic stripes on a mangrove snake, but I failed to take heed. The fact that I was working for a company quite possibly named after GI Joe villians (Cobra Corporation) should have given me a clue as the the desperation and hollow eyed, blank faced weeks that were going to follow. What I did find out is that to succeed in the world of “direct marketing”, you pretty much require two things – a bunch of energy, and a total lack of self respect. Sadly, they don't mention this in the job ads, and the period of time it takes for this fact to drop on you is about equal to the expected staff turnover rate.
After a few hours every morning learning how to better defraud people of their hard earner money in order to pay our rent, we were sent out into the suburbs with our product. What followed was eight hours spent penny-pounding the pavement, knocking on doors and convincing people (using techniques distilled from the latest in “REAL PSYCHOLOGY!!!”) of the fact that everyone they knew already had what we were selling, our product offered meaning and purpose in their otherwise completely devoid lives, and that only some sort of additional-chromosome mouth breather would turn down such an amazing offer. Or something like that. The fact that the exact opposite of what we said was true was never a consideration.
Wandering the streets all day with nothing for company but your own thoughts (mp3 players were banned), your mind can start to go down some interesting paths. Some kind of free roaming cabin fever type mental disaster. We spent days coming up with freestyle raps to diss co-workers with after the shift was over. Everyone contemplated the easy career change to doin' some burgs (burglary), and the weight of moral argument necessary for this flowed. From the sales role, you got all the angles. Sometimes the effort to offer the necessary smile at the next door you knocked on was as much mental activity as I could manage. Sidewalks can be a drag.
Most of the houses you'd visit were so generic that they quickly blurred into one jumbled mass of “fuck yeah that local sports team mate” middle class Christchurch. But, occasionally you'd come across the sort of twisted fuck-up or heartbreak that for about ten minutes seemed to make the job somehow more tolerable. Everything was a surrealists dream. I walked down one driveway and came to a man, pants down and whacking off, sitting on a mini motorbike with the front door wide open. He told me to come back later. I knocked on a door and met an old man with so much mildew rotted newspaper stacked up that the only visible floorspace was a path from the door to the kitchen. A Summerhill Stone duplex somewhere in Cashmere is home to a widow who shared tea, biscuits and her life story. I owe these people a massive debt, for killing the monotony.
Obviously the most disappointing thing about working door to door sales is the complete failure of the job to live up to the expectations created by the pornography industry. Never before has it been such a letdown to be invited inside for a drink by a complete stranger and receive just that. This is of course symptomatic of every shitty job ever worked – reality rarely lives up to expectations. You walk or you sit, you sell or you buy or you type or you file – either way, soon enough you're banging your head against walls, literally punching clocks, spitting and swearin' you're gonna quit. Find something new. I did this after a month selling useless crap, and in hindsight it was the worst decision of my life. I could have been something by now, damn it.