My "Jobs and Chores" story
- JOBS AND CHORES
Back in the late fifties (or perhaps the early sixties), I took a job
with the Prudential Life Insurance Company as an insurance salesman.
As a trainee, I worked with one of the senior salesmen out of the
local office. My trainer was a highly-successful salesman, and in my
youthful enthusiasm, I tried to emulate himeven to the point of
smoking (or rather, trying to smoke!) his brand of cigars! A suit and
tie were, of course, required, even though we were working from an
office that was not open to the public.
My first few weeks were heady: I sold enough insurance to make several
thousand dollarsa huge sum in those daysat least to me!
Even though I appeared to be making a successful go of it, company
policy required that I spend at least half the day, every day, making
"cold calls"that is, dialing my way through a phone book, trying to
sell life insurance to the person who answered the phone. I hated it
with a passion. I am not the sort of person who feels comfortable
making that kind of callwhen I receive one, I hang up as soon as I
identify it as a sales call. My appeals to my boss went unheeded, and
my frustration grew as my list of completed (and largely unsuccessful)
calls grew longer.
I had been on the job about a month, still making good money from
those calls where I was able to make appointments to meet a prospect
through referrals from friends and relatives, when I made my last
"cold call." I had dialed my way through about twenty or thirty
numberswith no success. The office was air-conditioned, but the day
outside was hot.
I dialed the next number reluctantly. My frustration-level was high;
my reluctance was even higher. The voice on the other end was clearly
that of a very young child, so I asked, "May I speak with your mommy,
"Just a minute," piped the small voice. "Mommy! Mommy..." the voice
disappeared into the distant recesses of the house. After some silence
I heard the growling and cursing voice of the lady of the house as she
came closer to the phone.
"I'm sorry to take so long," she said when she picked up. "I was up on
the roof, cleaning out the gutters. Who is this, please?"
I started my spiel, "I am really, really sorry. My name is Cliff
Bohnson. I'm with the Prudential Life Insurance.."
Her scream of rage cut me off in mid-sentence. Then she did what I
would have done in her place: she slammed down the phone.
The crash of her receiver echoing in my ears, I stared at my phone for
a long time, the dial tone replacing the noise. Then I gathered up my
personal papers and placed them in my attaché case. After neatly
stacking the various company manuals and information packets on my
desk, I went over to my boss's office and entered without knocking.
"Bobyou know how I've been asking about not having to do "cold calls"
"Yeah?" he looked up, annoyed at the interruptionand my daring to go
back to what he considered a settled question.
"Well, I don't have to make any more of them. I'm not going to make
any more of them!"
"Yes you will! As long as you work here, you will make cold calls
until I tell you otherwise!"
"Ah, Bobthat's just the point," I said. "I don't have any intention
of making any more cold calls, because I don't have any intention of
working here any longer. A small percentage of your precious cold
calls may result in salesbut the much larger percentage of them
result in seriously-annoyed people who will probably never want
anything to do with Prudential ever again! In this case, I'm one of
them. I quit!"
Bob stood up and blustered a bit, but I was gone long before he
finished. I went back to working for my uncle as an electrician. I
didn't make as much money, but I made the people at whose homes I
worked happywhich in turn made me happy at work. It was a
life-changing moment. Ever since, I have only done work that I
enjoyed. It turned out that none of the work I enjoyed paid very well
(at various times I worked as a church organist; nurse's aide; school
teacher; church secretary; composer)but I have felt richer anyway!
- Cliff Bohnson