By RICHARD PLINKE
Editor’s Note: This is the sixth installment in a 10-part series of excerpts from Richard A. Plinke’s upcoming book, “How to Sell the Plague (Without Being a Rat and Other Cheeky Musings of an Unrepentant Salesman).” The series humorously explores how Plinke ended up in sales, the last place he ever thought he’d be and what he learned during those early days that carried over through his 35-year sales career. Subsequent installments will be posted each Monday. If you missed the first parts, you can go back to the beginning here: http://www.salesandmarketing.com/article/dancing-jaws-dragon
Let the Good Times Roll, Part 3
To set the stage, I hitchhiked to Aspen from New York City with about $100 in my pocket. I didn’t know anybody when I got to Aspen and had no plan other than to get a job for the season and ski. However, I didn’t go to a single business looking for work because I knew the chances of success with that approach would be extremely low, and I surely wasn’t interested in schlepping around, following the fatalistic flock of lemmings on there frantic way to nowhere. Instead, I spent my time getting acquainted with the local color and learning the lay of the land, which was best accomplished in the abundant pubs and cowboy-like watering holes that dotted the old mining town. It was tough, challenging duty, but I was up to the task.
My plan was to unearth the hidden and unexpected opportunities from the concealed crevices where the mangled masses never roamed as they manically ran around tripping over each other in there collective haste to fail miserably. I, on the other hand, was waiting for that special destiny to come knocking, looking for the right man at the right place at the right time.
I didn’t hear it at first. It took about two weeks and a confluence of coincidences to put me at the right place at the right time to hear that knocking on my door, and when it came, it was disguised as a problem, which, I would come to learn, is how most opportunities are packaged.
I wasn’t in town long before I heard the rumbling. I was in a bar one night conducting research when I overhead a couple of guys talking about some toad from New York who wanted them to clean the kitchen of his new restaurant for 50 cents an hour. They were insulted and outraged that such a belittling offer should be proffered to men of such high moral fiber, being restless searcher for truth on a crusade across the land to spread peace and harmony and absolute narcissistic self-involvement.
In 1971, the minimum wage was $1.60 an hour, but many folks in Aspen worked for less so that they could be part of the crusade, but 50 cents was an affront to most of the brethren, even by Aspen standards.
I was staying at a boarding house called The Little Red Ski House, where they charged about two bucks a night in the off-season. It was an old Victorian home built during the silver mining heyday, painted red, of course, and full of young people like myself, hoping to catch a glimpse of the sacred cloth of cool, looking for employment and eager to find a way to stay on for the season. It was a fun place to be in September, much like a college dorm, everybody hopped-up on the excitement and promise of the new semester, before the reality of term papers and tests and GPAs started crowding out the short-lived euphoria. And it wasn’t a bad place to meet girls.
The story about the greasy-walls cleaning job had spread throughout the small town, and that wildfire eventually reached The Little Red Ski House. One splendid, late summer evening, we were sitting around the parlor chewing the fat and swapping lies when a fellow named Nash from Jefferson City, Mo., (who was named after the brand of car he was conceived in, according to one of his lies) told us that the restaurant was to be called the Old Dublin, and it was owned by a man from New York named Neal Weisberg. You could tell from Nash’s thick accent of disdain just what he was talking about: a New York City hustler in the middle of Colorado, here to chisel us out of one thing or another.
Nash regaled the group with his stories of confrontation with Mr. Neal Weisberg, toe to toe, trying to negotiate a fair deal to clean his disgusting walls. According to Nash, the place used to be a Chinese restaurant, so the walls had been splattered with grease and sauce and other mysterious, noxious, oriental ingredients, and it was thick and sticky and smelled bad. It was a nightmare of a job, and 50 cents an hour was downright inhumane. Nash was so disturbed by this ruthless, cold-blooded, opportunistic, abusive, human usury that he had been back three times to face Mr. Neal Weisberg with his patriotic, land-of-the-free logic, but to no avail. Mr. Neal Weisberg wouldn’t budge. He was a hard, heartless, interfering carpet bagger, as Nash put it, and added that things just aren’t done that way out here, although how he knew how things were done out here, having been in Colorado for only a couple of weeks, was a mystery to me. I suppose “out here” to Nash was anywhere that was not New York.
Nash told us he was going back and give it another try, much like the dog on a long chain staked to the ground, running with all his might until the chain snapped him back, practically breaking his neck, and then repeating the same fruitless exercise over and over again, as if some how the thick, metal chains would miraculously break and free him to run headlong into the bordering fence. Into the fray, the brave, young Nash was venturing once more, right after breakfast in the morning.
Next Week: Let the Good Times Roll, Part 4
During breakfast, all talk was of the Old Dublin and Mr. Neal Weisberg and just what kind of man was he, anyway. If Nash was becoming a latter day Tom Joad, then Mr. Neal Weisberg had become The Man, and all the bad stuff that stood for back in the Woodstock's-gone-but-not-quite-over era. So we're schlepping across the rugby field on our way to the gun fight at the OD corral, six of us strong, me slightly in the rear, not wanting to miss Nash repeat the history he refuses to learn from.
Learn more about Richard Plinke and read his blog here: http://www.howtoselltheplague.com/Home.aspx.