The one thing you didn’t want to get caught doing when you were a door-to-door salesman for The Book Club was signing up Shadies. A shady was someone who looked as though they might not pay for the expensive books that the company sent them after they’d joined. You didn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to work out who may or may not be a shady. They had a well-established profile so the company guidelines stated that anyone exhibiting shady characteristics should not be signed up. You had to use your own judgement, so that should you be in a house where the occupier was cutting up the skirting boards for firewood then your sixth sense should’ve been alerted somewhat.
There were company safeguards against desperate salespeople signing up 'any old s****' just to get a sale for the day without any concern as to the quality of that sale.
1. The new member should preferably had a home phone number. This indicated that they were used to paying a quarterly bill.
2. Live in a house that was not a pigsty.
3. Have £2 in their pocket (the cost of the joining fee) when our salespeople signed them up, thus suggesting that finding even a small amount of cash at short notice did not present an insurmountable obstacle.
4. No members who were unemployed or on benefits.
Your team manager would personally visit (PV) members to double check you had not signed up a shady. As these visits were random you’d have no way of knowing which member you’d signed up would be visited.
However, not all team mangers were above being bribed not to visit a member that you, in your heart of hearts, had some doubts about. See, teams were allowed approx. 15% of bad payers as the company considered it unrealistic to have no bad debt at all. So, if the team quota of shadies was low, you and your team manager both knew there was some leeway - and you both felt the presence of the spectre of the daily sales target poised behind you with a f****** great scythe at all times. Depending on the priority, our team manager, Big Al, might 'intimate' that he might not have time to do any PVs that week. This was a green light to sign up 'anything that moves' and blame it on the area when the shit hit the fan months later after books, reminders and then final reminders had been sent to some addressee that was probably using the pages for roll ups.
Your team manager would take all membership forms from you at night before you exited the team car. These membership forms were called Blues, due to the company copy of the membership form being blue. Now, before you handed in a Blue, you had to be certain that (a) the member had paid their two pounds membership fee or (b) had been suitably briefed to lie that they had paid said membership fee should they ever be visited by a conscientious team manager. The company thinking was, that if they did not have £2.00 then it was not a wonderful indicator of future payment behaviour. Luckily for us, our team manager was Big Al who was, at best, intermittently conscientious.
We were the Satellite team, posted further north than any man had gone before, any man from our company at least. We were so far north that we felt we were almost a different species than those who slavishly followed the Wembley Head Office company line. We were far up river, like in Apocalypse Now and Big Al was our very own Colonel Kurtz. He’d broken every company record for sales and every rule in the book too. He was both revered and despised in equal measure by the disciplined corporate head office-types above him. He did things they couldn’t do. At a conference once, some uni-educated southern f*** made the mistake of publically questioning Big Al’s methods only to be told, “You can teach me how to run a team of door knockers once you’ve knocked on one, just one ****** door!” There was even applause. Big Al called these uni-types The Men Without Hats after a popular pop group of the time.
By Bob Smith who has worked in sales for more than 30 years, works as an experienced recruiter, trainer & motivator and is also a published author of both children’s and adult titles.