The Wanderlust Lady and the Door to Door Salesman - 3
I was starting to get worried. Why was I in the back of this white
van on my own, and where was this woman taking me? It didn't make
sense. Suddenly the van pulled off the road, and stopped and when I
was let out I could see we'd pulled in at the Hare and Hounds, high on
"How about I shout you a beer and some food," said the woman.
"I thought you were just taking me back to the pick up point in
Hyde. Why are we here?"
"Relax, kid. Nothing bad is going to happen to you. I just like to get
to know my employees better, so I had Walter pick up all the other
guys, so that I could get a chance to talk to you a bit - find out what
you're all about - things like that. You can call me Sadie, by the way,"
she said putting out her hand to shake.
"But I know that you're the one in charge, so you should know all
about me from my application form before I got this job."
"But that's just words on paper. You can't get to know somebody
from reading words about them on paper. Don't worry. This isn't going
to hurt. I take it you do like beer?"
"Yeah, sure I do."
"Well, let's go in then. The fish and chips here are really good. Can
I shout you an order?"
"Well, why not, as long as we're here. I take it when we’ve eaten,
you'll be taking me back to the pick up point."
"Oh yeah. This is maybe an hour or so of your time - and since I'm
giving you a meal and a drink or two, it's almost like you're being paid
So we went into the pub, found an empty table, and Sadie who
obviously was well known to the bar staff, gave them a wave.
"Hi Mac, how're ya doing? A couple of pints here please and two
orders of fish and chips for me and my friend."
The beer came over in a few minutes and I had to admit that I was
ready for it. It had been a hard first week at the job, and I don't mind
saying I was more than a bit nervous about the whole thing.
"So, how many sales did you make today, kid?"
"Six or so, I think. I must've gone to 100 houses, but mostly the
people weren't in, or they wouldn't even talk to me. Some shut the door
in my face and shouted. It isn't an easy job, you know."
"It'll get easier as you go along. You get to know which houses look
like nobody is in, so there's no need to even bother knocking. You
have to be really observant in this job. Tell me a bit about those sales
you made today. Who did you last sell to?"
"Well she was an old lady. She was kind of friendly and I don't
think she really understood what it was all about. I told her what we
were doing, and how it was better to sell stuff than to live off the
"What was the address?"
"I can't remember."
"Did she invite you in?"
"Could you tell anything about her at all? Do you think she was
living on her own?"
"I don't know."
"You say she was old. Just how old do you think she was?"
"Seventy maybe. I'm not good with age. Could be older I suppose."
"So describe her to me."
"She had mostly white hair and was a little pudgy."
"Did she walk with a limp - or have a cane?"
"No. She walked normal."
"Do you think she lived alone?"
"I got the impression she did, but I don't know. Her house was big
enough for more than one, that's for sure. She never mentioned anyone
"Was her furniture and stuff nice? Did you notice?"
"When she went off to get her purse, I stepped inside, thinking if I
could see a downstairs toilet I'd ask her if I could take a leak, and had a
quick look around, but it looked pretty ordinary to me - nothing fancy."
"Was there a downstairs toilet?"
"Not that I could see."
"Did you ask her if you could use her toilet?"
"No, I could see she was eager to get rid of me, so I thought I could
wait a bit more. But while we're on the subject, I'll just go and make
use of the facilities."
I got up and went to the men's room. When I got back Sadie had got
some papers out of her bag and put them down beside her on the pub
"Did you notice if she had any ornaments in the window ledge or on
tables, stuff like that?"
"I didn't notice, but I expect she did. Old people like stuff like that."
"So, when you popped inside did you see a computer or a TV?"
"I think there was a TV - a modern big one, but I couldn't see much.
Just some big white couches. The room was pretty full of furniture -
not much space between stuff."
Now the fish and chips had arrived and we got to work. I was really
hungry, and it sure smelled good. I splashed vinegar and sauce all over
"You seem to be a really observant young man," said Sadie.
"Oh, I don't know."
"I think you are. You remember lots about that lady, and if you'd
been trying to see things and remember you would've done even better.
I wonder if you'd be interested in doing a sort of second job for us -
you'd get paid extra of course."
"Well let's see - you say you sold six things today - how much did
you take in total?"
"£50, one lady bought a few things and that added up. Mostly it was
stuff for £5-6."
"So out of that £50 worth, your cut is £20, so you need to give me
the rest of your cash."
"Do you want it right now?"
"You can wait until we get to the library, after the meal. But what I
am getting at is that £20 a day - six days a week doesn't mean a whole
lot of money, does it?"
"I'll probably get more next week."
"You might, or you might get less. A lot depends on the weather.
People don't want their doors left open when it's raining outside -
although some of them might invite you in to get out of the rain - and
then once you're inside their houses, they tend to spend more. But you
have to make sure they aren't nervous of you. You said that last lady
today was nervous. Do you know why?"
"I guess it was just because she didn't know what to expect. Mostly
people have had somebody like me at the door before, and I don't have
to go through the whole spiel."
"Did she offer you cash?"
"She did after she looked at the stuff in my bag, and didn't really
want any of it. But I told her, like I'm supposed to, that we aren't
charity cases - we don't want handouts. We want to put in an honest
day's work for an honest day's wage."
"Anyway, let me explain a bit about this extra part of the job. Say
that you went into 10 houses in an ordinary day. Maybe more, maybe
less, but that's a nice round number to work on. Say you take £100
from the sales - again - I'm just talking round numbers here."
"Okay. I get it."
"Well, because we in our job go into a lot of houses where people
probably normally aren't much in contact with agencies, there are
groups who would like to know more about them, for statistical
purposes. It used to be that they sent questionnaires by post, but most
of those didn't get returned. Then they used to phone people up, but so
many people now a days put a stop on phone calls from anyone they
don't know or suspect to be selling things. This isn't to sell - this is to
just find out information - and still they're very nervous about it - and
don't want to answer anybody's questions. So these companies - who
want this information - thought that it would be a good thing if our
sales people, who after all are going to and into these same people's
houses who won't tell them the information they need, might be able to
get it for them."
"I don't see what I'm supposed to do. Am I supposed to ask them to
fill out a questionnaire?"
"No, nothing like that. That would make them suspicious. You just
pick the houses that you think would be of interest to our other
employers, and after you've been in, you do a sort of check list."
Sadie showed me the form she'd got out earlier. "For everyone of
these you do, if it's absolutely complete, I give you a fiver. Here, have
a look at this - nothing bad about it - just general questions about their
style of living."
On the form it said:
Address of Property
Car/s in the driveway - what make and year.
Size of house - large/medium/small
TV - size
Ornaments of value
General rating of quality of furnishings - great, good, fair, poor
What else did you notice?
Clothes hung out on line?
Well tended garden?
I looked at the form and said, "That looks easy enough. But
sometimes I won't know the answers. Her washing might be hung out
at the back and I wouldn't see it. What's to stop me making it all up?"
"We keep these forms, and other guys will have been to this house
before and filled out a form on it, so if yours looks very different from
theirs, it'll be easy to spot. Once you get good at it, it'll hardly take you
any time, as you'll know what you're looking for in advance."
"I can't just fill in out in front of her. She'd get suss."
"The idea of asking to use the toilet is a good one. Most people
won't say no if somebody asks if they can use it. So while you're in
there, just jot down the basic details, even if you don't have to use it.
Make sure to flush at the end, though."
"A fiver is a lot for this sort of information. When they used to
phone at our house, my ma would talk to them, and she never got a
penny for it."
"Well, things have changed since then. Some information is worth
paying for. It all comes down to how much the lady (or gent but
usually it's ladies we're dealing with here) trusts you and how you can
get her chatting and put things casually into the conversation. For
instance, if she said she'd been watching something on TV, you could
ask her if she has Sky - or say something about how you like watching
the football but can't afford a set - something to get her to feel sorry for
"She isn't going to ask me in to watch the footie, is she?"
"No, but it's all a way of getting her to feel comfortable so she tells
you stuff about her house and life without you having to ask it. If it
was raining, you could ask her if she got her wash in before the clouds
came up. Nobody is going to resent a question like that."
We'd both finished our meals and Sadie walked to the bar to pay the
We went back out to the van together. "So what do you think, kid?
Are you in?"
"Sure, I'll give it a try."
"Good lad. I'll give you a pad of these forms to take with you
tomorrow, and get them from you tomorrow night when you finish up.
If Walter is picking you up, you can give it to him."
"And you or he'll pay me for that then."
"No payment on these till we have time to process them and see
how much useful information they contain - but that extra payment
will come as a bonus at the end of the month - and you can really look
forward to that bit extra if you play your cards right."
Back in the car, this time Sadie let me sit up front with her, and we
were soon back at Hyde Library, where I'd expected to be dropped off
an hour and a half before.
"See ya kid," said Sadie. "Now give me the thirty quid from what
you sold today. Are you sure you only sold the £50? That doesn't really
sound like you tried very hard."
"Yeah. I'm not holding back. You can check my bag for what's
missing if you don't believe me."
"Okay. I'll trust you. Remember, in this job, you have to keep your
wits about you and your eyes open all the time. Look at every house as
a virtual gold mine of information."
"Okay, sure. See you."