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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Garvey stampers and pay phones: Grocery peddling in the 1960s

I'm glad I am not out beating the bushes looking for a job. It's highly competitive today and you better know all there is to know about current technology if you want any chance to succeed.

According to Dilemma #1 on the CareerBuilder list, you need to have your name showing up in search engines like LinkedIn while making sure you are carefully leveraging the site. You also need to be on additional social networking sites like Plaxo, XING, or Viadeo and be sure you are on Facebook for professional networking. Don’t forget social media sites like Twitter and be sure to create a blog using a platform that will sync to your LinkedIn profile.

I don’t understand what a lot of that even means. My first job after college in 1969 was with Lever Brothers Company calling on drug and grocery headquarter and retail accounts in Kansas City selling products like Dove Soap, Imperial Margarine, Close-Up Toothpaste, Pepsodent, and many other items.

Nothing listed in the second paragraph was heard of yet so I went to the want ads in the Kansas City Star newspaper. Want ads are extinct now but they were a good way to find a job in the 1960s. I saw the ad from Lever for a salesman and made a call on a ten cent pay phone for an appointment.

Since the appointment was a few days off, I had to type a resume to submit to the interviewer. I got a book from the library about resumes, and typed one up on my 1955 Smith-Corona typewriter.

When I arrived for the interview, I felt that I was ready although I was pretty nervous. I had my checklist covered: shined black shoes, dark blue suit, conservative white shirt and tie, good haircut, close shave, no political or religious buttons, nothing weird hanging out of my nose, and hopefully a polished, professional demeanor.

The interview went well and after one more interview I got the job. I don’t know if I was great or the other guys interviewed were a bunch of stiffs and I didn’t care. I had a $140 a week job and a 1968 Ford company car. Combined with my wife’s teaching job we were pulling in a cool $13,500 a year; not bad in 1969 dollars where two steaks and a bottle of wine went for about $10!

I can still hear my boss who trained me my first week: “When you call on a store, park away from the front door. Those good spaces are for customers! Be sure to pick up all damage and watch out for union stores where they won’t let you stock a shelf! Br sure to face up the shelves! Know the difference between calling on a chain or an independent! Sell displays!”

In retrospect, those were fun days to be young and sell to the food and drug trade. There were no answering machines, scanners, UPC codes, or faxes and we kept in touch through pay phones. If we had to price products we used the old Garvey stampers with the purple ink.

Checkers wore dresses and usually had the week’s ad taped to their registers which were gigantic machines with large buttons. All sacking was done in paper and department items would have stickers like “ring on produce” so they would receive their credit. Many stores had an area where you would return your glass returnable deposit bottles. Cigarettes were sold by the pack at the check stand and seeing customers smoke while shopping wasn’t unusual. Most sales were paid for in cash and if by check, the check had to be approved.

I have no problem with today’s technology; it is what it is. Today you need all the items mentioned in paragraph two to even have hope of an interview. I got mine with one call and when I typed my resume, I don’t think there was even liquid paper to correct mistakes. We had no fax machines or phone answering machines but somehow got by always having a pocketful of dimes for the pay phones. It was hard work but very satisfying.

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