East Coast Guy
I worked at NuLine for one day. It didn’t take much to get hired. I showed up on time to two interviews. The first one was just one of those get to know you type of deals. The second one involved watching this guy, Anthony, sell product on the street. Then I asked John, the manager, if he needed to check any of my references. He told me not to worry about it. I was an “East Coast Guy.”
I remember heading into the cafe on the ground floor of the World Trade Center in Long Beach. It was eight floors below NuLine’s office. John, my boss, happened to be there standing by the deli. I went up to him.
“Looks like I already found where everyone goes before work,” I told him.
“You got it buddy.”
“I bet you don’t even need to tell the cook what you want.”
He laughed for a moment, “Ready to start the day, Mark?”
“Ready to go”
“Good man.” He said and headed off with his coffee and breakfast sandwhich.
My dad called. I picked up and told him I couldn’t talk. He still wanted to know how much I was getting paid. I told him two hundred a week plus commission. He told me that was slave labor and asked me about benefits. I told him there was none. He asked me if I signed anything. I told him I hadn’t.
“Thank God for that,” He said.
“Dad, what am I supposed to do?”
“Come home and look for work.”
“And what,” I said, “Keep looking for work on the West Coast? I’m already here.”
“You have no expenses here..”
Lately all our conversations would be about home and getting me there. If he didn’t use expenses then it was about my mother and how she misses me.
I told him I’d talk about everything later and hung up. I looked around to see if John, or any other co-worker for that matter, was around. No one was. I then grabbed a coffee and headed towards the building elevators.
George was there. He was fat, had a goatee, black curly hair and tan skin. His pants were enormous. His shoulders sagged and were completely messed from getting hit by a car as a kid. He also smoked an electronic cigarette which he kept attached to a chain that he wore around his neck.
“George! I said getting into the elevator, “How you doin?”
“Couldn’t be better. You good?”
“Ready for your first day?”
“Ready to go.”
“Good man” He said.
We got off the elevators and I followed George to a room I hadn’t been in before. It was a large carpeted space with no windows and a couple tiny offices. It was filled with people talking and there was music blasting on a stereo. George walked into this cacophony like it was nothing. He took me through the crowd of people and brought me to a cubbie storage system that looked like it came out of a kindergarten classroom.
“This is where crap goes,” George said, “We used to put are stuff over by the door but it just piled up and wasn’t working.”
As I was about to put my bag away I felt a slap on the back of my shoulder..
“Mahhhkie!” It was Anthony, “How you doin’ buddy?”
“I’m good, man. How you doin?”
“Fantastic. Ready to do this thing?”
“Ready to go.”
Anthony was from Boston and the only other guy I knew in the company besides George and John. He was thirty, about my height but chubbier. He had hazel eyes, a Boston accent and walked faster than anyone I had ever seen in my life.
I remember he called his girlfriend, Crystal, who he had met two weeks before, to come pick us up and drive us over to a different part of Sunset Boulevard. On the way she mentioned that she was planning to go China.
“Nah ya’ not,” Anthony said
“I might.” She said.
“Well just let me know when you’re goin’ beforehand.”
“And why’s that?”
“So I can start forgettin’ about ya’.”
“Why are you going to China?” I asked her.
“To dance.” She said.
“How did you find out about it?”
“I get all my gigs through L.A. casting.”
“How much do you get paid?
“Two thousand a month.”
“That’s Chinese money.” Anthony said.
“Two thousand US dollars.” she said.
I could tell Anthony was a bit aggravated by the subject so I just stayed in the back and kept my mouth shut listening to the rest of their conversation until we got to Sunset Boulevard.
The more I watched Anthony sell the more I admired his ability to take a hundred No’s and still not give a shit. He told me the guy who gets the most No’s is the guy who gets the most sex. Even Crystal herself told him not to worry about all the No’s because for all the No’s he got he still made eight to ten girls a day cream their pants.
“Hey Laaadies, you get one of these gifts yet? No? Whyyyyyyy not?”
“Look at these pretty ladies. Prettiest girls I’ve seen all day! You get one of these gifts yet?
“Hey ladies, I brought some gifts for ya’. You girls like make-up?”
“Hey guys! Where are all the ladies at? I brought em’ some gifts.”
“No ladies? Surely you got a girlfriend then.
So I worked on Anthony’s pitch that evening and continued to recite it in my head on the bus ride over to Long Beach.
I went with Anthony to an open part of the room where I could practice the pitch in front of him. He handed me the sales supplies and I began.
“Hey ladies!” I said, “How you doing? Did you get one of these gift sets yet? You didn’t? How can that be? You like make-up? Of course you do. Check it out. We’re in the area running a promotion on a new line of rare mineral makeup featured in the January edition of Cosmopolitan Magazine. So we put together some starter-kits for all the ladies.”
Then I showed the magazine ad that we had printed out and laminated.
“This is the brand. You’ve probably heard of it. Macy’s sells it and in a couple of weeks so will Sephora. Now, if you went on the website right now it would cost you one-hundred and forty dollars. But because of the promotion we’re giving away everything for thirty bucks. You don’t need to sign-up for anything. We’ll even give you a thirty-day money back guarantee. If you like it, awesome. If you don’t, no worries. It’s my job to show it to you.”
Then I showed the demo-kit. It looked like a big, messy wallet. The problem for me was opening the thing without having all the makeup fall onto the ground.
“First you get the sunrise pallet. Which gives you the blush, bronzer, lip gloss and eye-shadow. Then you get the sunset pallet, which is the same pallet but with different colors and a highlighter. The makeup is all natural, and gluten free. So you could eat if you want but I wouldn’t recommend it. You then get the mascara, lip and eye liner. You get the top-of-the-line eye shadow palette which features the five mystic eye colors. Then you get the top seller on the website, bar-none, the full-body shimmer brush.”
I would have continued on but I got cut off.
“Hey guys!” Someone yelled.
“Hey what!” Everyone yelled back but me.
Everyone stopped what they were doing, grabbed a notebook and pen and stood in a horseshoe around the room’s big whiteboard. Jayson, the owner of NuLine Los Angeles, and the owner of seven other branches around the country, stepped front and center.
I had heard about Jayson. Anthony talked about him a couple times, once when he was outlining how NuLine made money. Every time one of our makeup kits were sold, seven bucks went to the person who sold it, seven bucks went to the owner of the branch, Jayson, and the rest went back to NuLine HQ. Each branch, on average, sold a thousand of those makeup kits a week.
“Business isn’t good these days,” Jayson said and looked around the room, “What’s up?”
“It’s been slow out there.” Anthony said.
“It sure has.” Jayson said.
“I think we’ve taken our eyes off the goal,” Someone else said, “I know me personally have been selling day by day, not selling with any long term goals in mind.”
“Ok.” Jayson said.
“I think we’ve just been going to same areas for too long,” Another person said, “We’re just going into the same places we’ve already been with the same product.”
“Ok.” Jayson said.
“I think we’re not ‘WOW’d’ by the product anymore.” A woman’s voice said, “I remember when we originally got the make-up we were all excited about selling it. It was new. But now I think we’re used to it and the novelty has worn off.”
“Ok, but that’s not the reason.” Jayson said, “The reason is is that we’re not working hard enough. You guys think you work hard but you don’t. Sure, this job isn’t easy. Even if you work at half-speed you’re still working harder than 95% of people. But that doesn’t mean you’re working hard.”
Jayson turned towards the whiteboard.
“The first kind of motivation is FEAR.”
Everyone jotted this down in their notebooks.
“If I told you guys that if you didn’t go out and sell all of your product before five o’clock in the afternoon you wouldn’t have a job at the end of the day, what would you do?” Jayson waited for a response.
“We’d sell all of our product.” Anthony spoke up.
“You’re damn right you would,” Jayson said. “You would go out and sell all of your product because if you didn’t you might as well not come back to the office at the end of the day. Now, what’s the problem with this type of motivation? Well, it wouldn’t be long before you started to hate your jobs.”
Jayson tuned towards the whiteboard again.
“The second type of motivation is INCENTIVE. If I told you guys the people who sell out of their product today would get a two-hundred and fifty dollar bonus, what would happen?”
Jayson looked back but didn’t give us time to respond.
“You’d go out and sell all of your product. Why? Because you want the money. Now, what’s the problem with this type of motivation? Well, it wears out. Eventually the reward is going to lose its appeal.”
Jayson turned towards the whiteboard again.
“The third type of motivation is INTERNAL.”
Jayson turned back towards us, “What does this mean? Well, internal motivation is self-motivation. When I started with this company ten years ago I was doing just what you guys are doing. But I didn’t work for me. I worked for Jeff”
I already knew a bit about Jeff from Anthony. Jeff was apparently the greatest NuLine employee to ever go through the system, working his way to eventually becoming the president of the company. As president his income was generated from a percentage of the total sales of every single Nuline branch across the country. Anthony told me that when his five million dollar home burnt to the ground, he washed away his tears by buying seven new cars.
Jayson continued, “After about a year Jeff came up to me and asked me why my sales were so low. I didn’t know what to say. So Jeff told me he would go out with me the next day to work on my pitch. He picked the area we would go but what he didn’t know was that I had just gone to the area the day before. Now, I didn’t tell him this.”
“Because I wanted to see him fail. That way Jeff would have nothing to say to me ever again,” He paused. “That day we sold out of all of our product. Why? Because Jeff worked harder than me. He was in his forties and I was in my early twenties but by the end of the day I was the one exhausted. I watched Jeff go into the same businesses that I had gone into the day before and talk to the same people I had talked to and sell them the same crappy dartboard that I was trying to sell them. So what happened? Was this because Jeff had more confidence than me? No. He had more confidence in the product. Jeff sold his product like it was the best product in the world because he believed it to be. And from that day on I did the same thing. I took that crappy toy dartboard and went right up to everyone on the street, handed them a dart, took a few steps back and told them to take a shot.”
“If you don’t put meaning into what you do you are never going to be good at. This is something I’m still trying to tell my eight year old son. A few days ago I went to his baseball game. The score was tied and I see that the second baseman is dicking around. Then my son starts dicking around with him. Eventually they lose the game. After the game my son gets in the car and he still has this smile on his face. I asked him what he was smiling about. I asked him why he was laughing on the field. He just lost the game. I asked him why he even played baseball if he wasn’t going to take it seriously. I remember when I played baseball if we lost a game I nearly cried. I nearly fucking cried. Winning was everything to me because I cared about winning. I cared about winning because I cared about life.”
“My parents barely had any money and we had a car that didn’t have reverse. I remember growing up we used to park in our neighbor’s driveway because it had a slope. That way when we needed to go somewhere we just pushed it back to get it rolling. I knew that whenever I had kids I never wanted them to know about this.”
“Now, we just hired a guy who’s been living in China for the last eighteen months. Went over there taught English and learned Chinese. A white guy who knows Chinese. That’s pretty amazing. He’s from the East coast but when he came back from China he didn’t go back there. He came here. I haven’t asked him why he chose to do that yet but I don’t need to. I bet he took a look at his situation, saw his life back on the East coast, saw his parents there and didn’t want to be stuck there doing something that his Dad wants him to be doing. Before you know it you’re thirty-two and still not in control of your life.”
Then Jayson left the room with the whiteboard pen in his hand. The office was silent for a few seconds as he left.
M.R. – Spring of 2013