Birth (and Death) of a Salesman.


The New Grad

A recent Chalmers University graduate, Quinn studied Marketing, earning a 3.7 cumulative GPA.  He completed a cooperative education internship, too, which led to his procuring a full-time job 1 month prior to graduation.  Quinn works in sales.

It’s Friday, a little after 10am, nearly 86 degrees and sunny.  Quinn revels in the air-conditioned company car, GPS effortlessly guiding him to 1312 Oak Grove Rd.  Rush brawnily penetrates New World Man through the swank 12-speaker Maelstrom® stereo.  Quinn is confident—his employer, GD Financial, conducted a rigorous training program.

“He’s wise enough to win the world
 but fool enough to lose it…

He’s a New-World-Man…”

Stepping out of the car, Quinn plants his feet firmly on the near molten driveway.  Standing, he buttons the top 2 buttons on his 3 button tailored summer suit.  “Always be closing” he chants to himself, a GlenGarry Glen Ross (1992) devotee.  Adjusting his sunglasses solely for effect, Quinn makes his way to the front door of a “Mr. and Mrs. Charles F. Burns.”  He pushes the doorbell, noting the home’s tastefully modest architecture.

A concerned “Ahhm, …yes, Hello?” greets him.

“Good morning.”  His smile is coquettish which flatters Mrs. Burns.   “I’m Quinn Chazen, with GD Financial.”

Yes.  Please come in Quinn.  Cha-ruhls?  Charles.  Quinn Chazen is here?”  Mrs. Burns finds herself excited by having this young man in her home.

The robust Charles enters his foyer with The New York Times folded under one arm and black-rimmed bifocals forced into position on a wrinkle-ridden forehead.  The two exchange a textbook handshake, hit it off like frat buddies and Quinn completes the sale, lucrative enough to call it a day.  He hits the links.

That evening Quinn celebrates victory by hitting a familiar haunt and, as is customary, engages in binge drinking.  His friends slap him 5 while he pushes drugs on them.  The field of sales is not new to Quinn—he paid for his college degree by dealing.  Quinn ends up spending the night with a young lady whom he met at the bar only hours before.  The pick-up line that had her laughing all the way to his car?

“You must be Irish, because my dick is Dublin.”

The Morning After

Quinn rises early and heads out to the supermarket.  While pushing the shopping cart he begins to think about how easy it is to make a sale.  By the time he hits the checkout line Quinn has become, in his mind, a formidable CEO.  He finds his apartment empty upon arrival, save for a Post-it® note on the fridge:

Thanks Quinn  BTW—my name is Dana not Donna 732-525-2974

He thinks her penmanship is poor.  While putting her number with the others, Quinn pushes dreams of wealth and prestige further into consciousness.  Forget the BMW, the Mercedes—why not an Aston Martin?  Everything seems feasible.

Although mostly sunny, showers fall intermittently that Saturday afternoon.  Quinn welcomes this occasional coolant.  He partially suns himself on the porch while reading a crusty, well-read copy of American Psycho (1991).  Drinks, long-winded poker games and clothes shopping round out the weekend.

Back to Work

For many, Monday can be a horrifying day.  Very new to the traditional workplace, Quinn sees his Monday as an opportunity: push yourself to become a better salesman.  He has a goal, an objective, something that feeds meaning.  Quinn contacts the Career Development Center at Chalmers and registers with their Alumni Mentoring Network.  He joins the National Association of Sales Professionals and leverages the social media power of meetup.com and Linkedin.com.  A networking fiend, Quinn attends numerous trade conferences.  He becomes a GD Financial seminar instructor, specializing in High Probability Selling.  Within a year he’s earned numerous sales awards and bonuses.  Erudite, cocky and popular, Quinn’s reputation grows exponentially.

At the office, Quinn is seen as social and hard-working.  Emailing from his paper-thin laptop, slipping into reverie, Quinn is reminded of how his father hunched over that old IBM Selectric.

Quinn Sr. is now pushing 70.  He’s known for offering unsolicited life advice, more than anyone could ever require.  His birthday rapidly approaches, which is made known to anyone within earshot, always followed by a deep, chest-swelling breath.  Quinn Jr. is well aware that he needs to buy his father a gift.  During lunch, he fires up Safari on his iPad and goes shopping, settling on a pair of Oliver Peoples sunglasses, AERO 57s for $450.00.  At checkout, he increases the quantity: 2.

A New Direction

Financially, life is very good to Quinn until a lull in the economy drops consumer confidence.  People begin to buy less, of everything.  Predatory lending dominates the housing market, one of the many forces fueling what will become The Great Recession.  His personal portfolio erodes, the Aston Martin blurs into vapor.  Desperation has him ravenous for change.  On a whim, he picks up The Culture of Fear by Barry Glassner.  He doesn’t read this book to see why we fear, but what we fear.  Darkly, Quinn uses this book to understand, and ultimately make use of, fear mongering.

The following work week, Quinn finds his schedule miraculously lined-up with 3 house calls.  He begins pitching fear, like an emotional crowbar.  Client #1 is an easy mark: meek with money.  This emaciated man sits, glued to the frenetic headlines screaming from his Samsung’s 5 Series 63″ Flat Panel Plasma TV. . ..   .     .

“Two men were arrested for assaulting a sales clerk…”
.        . ..       ..         .   .     .      .
“A fatal shooting occurred today in the once quiet town of…”
.        .  ..    ..           .. . .    .           .
“Federal agents battled a well-known arms dealer…”
.        .      . . …  . ..  ..      .

Jittery, and apparently suffering from ADHD, this client immediately succumbs, investing fully in the fear campaign.  Client #2 proves to be a somewhat harder sell.

Met with resistance to fear, Quinn painstakingly outlines the long-term benefits of his products, how amply they’ll provide for his family in the event of his untimely death.  Father begins to wither–the left eye twitches, his tell.  Quinn recognizes weakness.  He launches into a empirically based tsunami revolving around death rates for men his age and lifestyle.  Thinking of his family, his heart, Client #2 begins buying products only a Timber Cutter would need.

Client #3, a single male, immediately gets under Quinn’s skin.  He constantly interrupts Quinn’s fear-saturated sales pitch.  Switching tactics, Quinn becomes deferent and agrees with everything the client says.

Yes.  I wholeheartedly agree with you—you’re absolutely right.  You’re well aware of how all this works.”

Quinn pushes on, is borderline obsequious, but nothing.  All attempts to flatter or scare end in frustration.  Quinn comes to a decision: insult the client.

“I am tired of playing dumb with you, you stu—pid fuck.  You know why you’re alone here, here in this big house, don’t you?!  Because you’re a total asshole.  A gaping asshole!”

Grabbing his briefcase, heading toward the door, Quinn forces “Dolt!” through his grinding teeth.  The client is outraged and yells threats from the front porch.  Quinn doesn’t even hear him.  He has completely moved on by the time he reaches the company car.

Aside from client #3, Quinn begins making more sales.  His strategy continues within the same vein—he doesn’t think about consumer needs, only the fear behind sales.  Pushing clients around with fear mongering becomes very lucrative.  The bank account begins to swell again.  Quinn’s popularity soars.  Work becomes an amusement in human manipulation.

Monday’s continue to be good days despite The Great Recession.  While they love him, Quinn’s colleagues can’t fathom how he does it.  They continue to struggle, humiliated by cutting coupons over lunch, ashamed by the need to cut corners.  Quinn sees their desperation, passing around brightly colored plastic scissors, looking like overgrown pre-schoolers.  Heading out, Quinn mentions his plans to spend the remainder of the next 2 weeks in The Hamptons.

“A new client today, Dr. William Kemper–Flavorist at SynthCorp, that food technology lab.  Should be good.  Later.”

The Kemper Home

Quinn occupies 1 of the 8 enveloping seats at the Kemper’s dining room table.  Hiding his admiration, he quietly marvels the carved mahogany.  The home’s open floor plan offers unobstructed views of what appears to be the entire 1st floor.  Unknown to Quinn, this portion of the Kemper home was recently photographed for Architectural Digest’s Homes and Spaces.

Genuinely interested, Quinn asks, “Dr. Kemper, I’m unfamiliar with your occupation.  What does a Flavorist do?”

“I blend isolated chemicals to create the taste and smell of particular foods.”  He’s preparing lunch on a sprawling granite island.  His knife skills rival an Iron Chef.

“Very interesting.”

Looking up, smiling, still cutting, “I think so, too.”

The two establish a magnetic rapport.  Their communication mirrors the relationship between a college professor and eager student.  Julia, Dr. Kemper’s wife, overhears them discussing food science.  She wonders if this salesman named Quinn will be a part of their lunch.  She gently questions, “Will our guest be staying, dear?”

“I hope so.”  Dr. Kemper looks to Quinn.

“I’d love it Dr. Kemper.”

With a quiet grace, Dr. Kemper tells Quinn to call him Bill.

Julia takes over lunch preparation, while Dr. Kemper discusses the systemic relationship between food science and its various disciplines.

“You see Quinn, food science encompasses a great deal.  My work takes into account many fields, including biology, chemistry, engineering, psychology, physics…  functioning within these curricula is both an art and science.”

“Incredible Bill.  Truly.” Quinn finds himself fascinated and is, for once, completely uninterested in making a sale.

“What’s more is I’m able to telecommute a great deal of the time.  I was awarded one of the DOEs Buxton Science grants, which allowed me to construct a fully funded home lab.”

“DOE?”

‘The Department of Energy.  The DOE is run by the Office of Science and Technology in Washington.”

“So you have a lab here in your home?”

“Yes.”

“I’d love to see it.”

“My pleasure.”

The two get up and Dr. Kemper gestures toward the 6 paneled door leading to the basement.

“Where’s the light, Bill?”

“It’s here.”  Dr. Kemper absently forces Quinn down the steps, an unemotional step in his process.  Reeling, Quinn finds himself at the bottom of a dimly lit, squalid concrete floor.  Shock begins as the circulatory system fails to feed organs.  Smell becomes a sour mixture of Febreze® and rotting flesh.  Quinn finds himself unable to move.  Dr. Kemper’s wife hears the clamor.  She asks if everything is alright.

“Everything is fine, Julia.”

Dr. Kemper makes his way down crimson dappled steps.  The radio is on, 103.6 Light FavoritesChairmen of the Board are on, chorus in full-swing, pleading…

Give me just a little more time, and our love will surely grow…”

Quinn is dragged by his exposed femur to the center of the basement.  He goes unconscious from the pain.  He’ll never wake again.  If he had, Quinn would have seen that Dr. Kemper does in fact have a lab in his home, a controlled Chernobyl unknowingly funded by the DOE.

Julia is aware of her husband’s insanity and what he defines as “Skin Chemistry.”  She simply chooses to ignore his madness.  Hoping to make existence bearable, she habitually self-medicates by downing barbiturate cocktails.

Quinn’s remains eventually drape a mannequin.  Dr. Kemper is a living, breathing Buffalo Bill, paying homage to his hero, Ed Gein.

Missing Person

Subject to an exhaustive search, life on the South Fork of Long Island is completely interrupted.  The LIRR, Montauk Highway and Hampton Jitney routes reveal nothing.  Summer fun is tainted by continuous reports of a failed search.  One of Quinn’s colleagues intentionally feeds the media firestorm, casually mentioning that he saw Quinn at Sole East, Montauk’s surf hipster hotspot.  The press squeezes every centimeter of story from this false soundbite.

Common law dictates that 7 years have to pass before a missing person can be declared dead in absentia.  Eventually, Quinn the salesman will be dead.  Until then, caveat emptor.

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3 Responses to Birth (and Death) of a Salesman.

  1. Excellent! You had me all the way! HF

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