Thursday, April 5, 2012

My Training To Be A Kirby Vacuum Salesman

This post is about the time I was, briefly, hired by the Kirby Vacuum company.
I'm fairly certain that in previous posts I have mentioned the fact that upon migrating to Washington in the fall of 2010, I spent a few months unemployed and living in a trailer on the driveway of my future in laws home. During this time, I followed any job lead I could find. This consisted of turning in countless applications, souring job posting websites, newspaper listings, and shopping centers for the possibility of finding work. I even bought 15 dollar paper to print my short, but impressively formatted, resume on.
I was desperate. While browsing the job listing section of craigslist I would write down numbers and addresses, then head out with a book full of references, and a folder full of resumes and apply to any place that was hiring. While in the parking lot of the local Ross, I called up one of the listings I had seen on craigslist that was labelled as a “sales position” A few rings later a man answered the phone, I informed him that I was interested in the position. He, without hesitation, informed me that he would see me in an hour for an interview. As I said, I was parked in front of Ross, so I hopped out, bought a white shirt and red tie, and proceeded to drive to the per-determined location.
I struggled to locate the building that seemed to accessible only through narrow back alleys. As I parked my black 86 Audi I was borrowing from my future father in law, I was certain that this had to be the wrong place. The building was two stories and looked very rundown. Very few cars adorned the lot and the inside looked fairly dark. But I was determined to get this job. I verified the address with the one I had written down. With all the confidence I could muster, I strolled through the door, my new shirt with the standard fold lines that come with a garment worn fresh out of it's packaging.
The inside was grungy and not well lit. I asked if this was where the job interview was, to which the answer was an old clipboard with an application attached to it thrust into my chest. I filled out the application and sat waited. After some time, I small man entered the room, he held a very bloody paper towel around his left thumb. He greeted me and shrugged off the, what appeared to be mortal, injury as a paper cut.
He was the interviewer, and he filled me in with how great a company this was, and how, in dollar amounts, the man who owned the company was just bellow Bill Gates in worth. An interesting fact, considering the current state of this building. He went on to inform me that I could become fabulously wealthy. The interview commenced and he inquired about my scholastic and professional background, taking notes on my resumes that appeared to be squiggly doodles to my untrained eye, the whole time he applied pressure to his oozing thumb.
After ten minutes, I realized I had been given the job, a job that I still knew very little about. I was to report for training in a few days.
What passed the next couple of days was little less than elation. I had found a job, and I was going to be trained that same week as a member of the elite sales force of the Kirby Vacuum cleaner company. However that joy turned to cautious skepticism. After reading online testimonials about the same position I was applying for, I found it was not going to be as easy as the little man (seriously, he had to have been about 100 pounds) had let on. Namely the reports were of having been left in strange neighborhoods, not being paid until spending at least two hours demonstrating the product to a house, various things like that. But I was not in despair yet.
The day of training arrived, and I had no idea what to expect. I put on a nice shirt and some slacks and headed to the shabby building. I was in store for an eight hour training session (without pay, I later found out) that consisted of two points 1. This vacuum cleaner is the best thing in any of the infinite number of parallel universes, and 2. The company we were going to be working for was awesome and would make you extremely rich, and give you lots of free vacations, and cure cancer and stuff (paraphrasing).
Upon entering the building I was told to go into the next room. On the other side of the door sat five other individuals, all eager for work. The room itself was small and the carpet dirty and dank, a foreboding sign for this line of work. A raised area about 10x6 feet and 4 inches off the ground was directly in front of the six seats that had been set up in an awkward square in the center of the room. Blaring directly in front of us on the wall was a DVD that looped Michael Jackson music videos while we waited. To my right were a series of vacuum cleaners, all worn and old, except for the one immaculate Kirby that sat at the head of the line.
Before I could even comprehend what was going on, the man that had interviewed me was on the small, raised platform and dancing along to “Beat It” He introduced himself and basically spent the entire introduction telling us not to make fun of his size. He failed to acknowledge his laugh, which throughout the course of 8 hours became far more noticeable and irritating than his stature. He rambled on about the awesomeness of the company and how other vacuum cleaners sucked (or didn't suck, I guess). I think what struck me most was how unprofessional the entire presentation was. The perks of the job mostly consisted of being invited to parties where everyone got drunk on the companies dime.
Everything else aside, forget unprofessionalism, dingy building, and the nail-on-chalkboard laugh, the product itself was solid. The Kirby vacuum was designed to last, it did a variety of jobs and it did them all well. The best part of the demonstration was when the other man running the presentation (it was a tag team ordeal) put two pieces of gun in between two filters, vacuumed up some dirt, and then pulled that gum out of the machine and chew on it, then he made one of the guys in the front chew the other one.
Then came the price. This thing cost over $1,300. It sucked up a lot of dust, but at the end of the day, that's all it did, and they expected me to go hawk these things door to door, every day with that price tag on. On top of that, at the end of the session they wanted me to write down eight appointments to demonstrate, and try to sell the product to, friends and family.
In the end, I came to the realization that I was not cut out for this type of work. I called that night and informed them and never looked back.