I have been selling for as long as I can remember. When I was really young, my cousin and I would ask our grandma to cook egg-in-the-hole toast. It was a slice of bread with the center cut out, and a sunny side up egg fried in its place. Then, we would sell them to our neighbors. They were delicious, and I had the itch to sell so bad that I recall taking orders before my grandma even finished cooking. I still remember my uncle saying, “Hey! I paid for eggs and toast, and half my toast is missing!”
A few years after selling eggs on the street corner I was ready to move on to more lucrative business propositions. Actually, my next attempt at being a salesman was inspired at a gas station. When I was 11 years old I was riding bikes with my friend when we decided to stop at a local service station. Little did I know, we were about to hit the jackpot!
Inside the mini store there was an old, blue milk crate – filled with PayDay candy bars. Attached was a paper sign that read, “10¢ each.” I had about 50¢ on me, so I bought 5. When I got home, you guessed it, I sold them to my family for a quarter each. Needless to say, I pedaled right back up to the unsuspecting gas station with my friend in tow.
BOY SCOUT’S HONOR
At that point things got tricky. We traveled around the neighborhood and went door to door selling 50 cent PayDay’s. A full-sized candy bar delivered to your door for half a dollar wasn’t such a bad deal. But then, greed got a hold of me. I think it was about the point I realized that certain elderly women were willing to pay upwards of a dollar for a candy bar, especially if I told them I was a Boy Scout. Yes, I actually did that, and no, I wasn’t a Scout.
As the day drew to an end, after multiple trips to the gas station, my friend and I cruised home with a paper bag full of cash. It was probably only a little more than $20, but it seemed like a fortune since I started out with less than a dollar to my name. We stopped at an intersection, and as I stood next to my bike, getting ready to bid my friend farewell he popped the question. “Where’s my money?” he said expectantly.
I was shocked! I knew he helped, but it was my start-up funds and clever planning that had gotten us that far. After a few seconds I decided to do the only thing that seemed right. I jumped on my bike and started to race home. My buddy must’ve expected my escape, as he reached out and snagged the bag. It tore in two, spilling our hard earned cash all over the sidewalk.
I learned a hard lesson that day: Don’t lie to old people. In all seriousness though, lying and cheating to make a buck is so common in our day and age that it can seem totally normal. Especially when lying takes the form of exaggeration. Just think, have you ever upsold your product to make a quick sale? I know I have.
In the end it is better to be honest about what we are selling and continue to try to better ourselves and our products as we go. I am an author and I have read many books sprinkled with errors (here and there). That didn’t stop me from learning from them and enjoying them. I don’t mind an imperfect product. What I do mind (something that really steals my enthusiasm for a book as well as other products) is if the author told me the book was life changing, knowing it was merely a good read.
My friend and mentor, Dennis Heber, has said, “The more you stretch the truth, the more people can see right through it.” Be honest. Don’t short change your gift, but don’t praise yourself. Let others do that for you.