17 November 2006

A sales nightmare

The worst job I ever had was in sales. Not telemarketing, although I always thought that would be like hell on earth. This was worse. Much, much worse.

It was 2003, the summer that I finished my master's degree. I was determined to stay in Amsterdam, but without an EU passport it was practically impossible to find legal work. So I decided to try my hand at distributing Boom Chicago's "Boom!" newsletter in prominent tourist locations.*

I think the reason I was allowed to do this job was because we didn't get paid. Well, we only got paid if someone a) took the newsletter from us, b) decided to go to one of Boom Chicago's comedy shows, and c) remembered to give that exact copy of the newsletter to the ticket office in order to receive a discount (the newsletters each had a stamp unique to the individual distributors). If and only if these three conditions were met, we would receive a few euros for each ticket sold.

Have you ever seen people in the street holding papers and trying to make eye contact with you? What do you do? Avoid them at all costs, of course. And now I was the person with the paper. Trust me, it's not good for one's self esteem to have people climbing over obstacles or crossing the road in order to avoid you. And the ones that I did manage to sucker into taking the newsletter would glare at me as if I was handing them an eviction notice. Sometimes they'd even throw it in the nearest trash bin, glancing back at me contemptuously in case I wasn't yet aware of my place in the food chain.

The ultimate goal, of course, was to convince the tourists - right there on the street - to attend the comedy show that night. Then I could call Boom Chicago's ticket office (on my own mobile phone minutes) and sign them up, thus getting an instant commission. Ha. The best connection I ever made was enthusiastically giving directions to fellow Americans, while scores of potential money-makers rushed by.

I did this job for a total of 15 hours before I quit. How much did I make? Nine euros. I guess it's safe to say I'm not cut out for sales.

*One of these locations was in front of the Anne Frank House. That's right folks - learn all about the horrors of the Holocaust, experience the heart-wrenching story of Anne Frank and her family, and upon your exit, there's the Boom Chicago promotional crew, ready to brighten your day with an invitation to pay for a night of comedy! I found this combination slightly immoral. Thank goodness I never had to work this location.

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