Trying to make a life-changing sale |

Trying to make a life-changing sale

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Ever try to sell $2,000 vacuums by knocking on doors while the residents are eating dinner? I have.

I lasted five days and didn’t make a cent. The experience of prostituting myself as a human advertisement, however, was priceless and humbling.

Five of us would pile into a beat-up minivan and drive all over Montana in search of rich-looking homes. When residents opened their doors we were trained to shove a box of baking soda into their hands.

While grandma or whoever stood there dumfounded, we would race back to the van and return to the door with the Kirby vacuum. If we were lucky, we bullied our way inside and a rigorous, two-hour demonstration ensued.

We immediately dumped the baking soda on the carpet to prove the resident’s cleaning device was inadequate. Of course the Kirby never failed to pull all of the soda up, proving its worth as the suckiest machine in existence (that’s a good thing in the vacuum world).

And just when we began to pack up, giving our captives hope of freedom, the haggling would ensue: “How much would you pay to have me leave right now? How about now?” Or at least it was something along those lines.

The most obtrusive, commanding and unapologetic salesmen are the ones who win at this game. I realized I am none of those things, so I quit.

I made up my mind in the last house I visited, which had a Halloween feel even though it was just after Christmas. There was something about it that gave it a creepy, orange glow compared to the other homes in the cul-de-sac. Once inside, I noticed a variety of ceramic skulls decorating corners of the room. The family of four was weird but nice.

My sales partner, Troy, snapped parts on and off, yapping about the $2,000 machine in his own way. His words faded into fuzz as I stood in the background, contemplating my contribution to society.

Essentially we were beggars, spending 12 hours a day, seven days a week, trying to talk our way into some money. A sale for us meant groceries and rent. Sales didn’t come easy or often, and a day off meant no sales. Kirby was sucking my life away ” I felt it as Troy vacuumed the baking soda out of the shag, burnt-orange carpet.

The dad had dark, wavy hair that looked greasy and went perfectly with his pencil-thin mustache. He smelled like cigarettes and had a weird enthusiasm for the Kirby.

“Hey, come check out my monitor lizard!” he said, bringing me over to a large terrarium.

I pressed my face to the smudged glass for a peek when a five-foot snake with legs and retractable claws darted for my face. Jaws that swallowed rats whole snapped for my nose in an angry kind of hunger. It was like the lizard wanted to slash my eyes out just for looking at him.

“He’s getting too big,” the man said. “Tried to give ‘im to the zoo, but they won’t take him.”

The van ride home was a long one. The driver insisted on listening to one album of heavy metal at top volume, over and over. I thought of the lizard, clawing and snapping, which is what I wanted to do in that vehicle.

I concluded I have a better chance of making money as a freelance writer than I do selling vacuums. It has been my big dream, after all. For the moment, I’ve filled out every imaginable job application, and there are no options beyond typing on the computer while waiting for employers to call back.

I try to tell myself it’s a blessing to have the free time to develop such a craft as writing. However, I sit at the keyboard, staring at the blank page full of possibility, and all I can think about is how foolish I am to keep at it while my Mastercard runs out with the groceries.

Every word I write is overruled by my brain. “You think you’re going to get a paycheck from that rubbish?” it screams. I delete and start over.

The irony is awesome: Now that I have the time to write everything I ever wanted, the pressure is overwhelming my ability. Adding to the irony is the fact that I’ve received as much outside encouragement as I could hope for, including a recent award for my column writing, yet I’m struggling more than ever to produce something of substance. Apparently I have to learn to be a salesman ” and make the toughest sale of all by convincing myself I can accomplish what I have set my sights on. After all, self-doubt sucks my will stronger than any other vacuum.

Derek Franz would like to thank Charlie Wertheim at the Post Independent for his undying patience. Derek can be contacted at

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