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 Texas : Features : Columns : Spunky Flat and Beyond :

THE TURN ABOUT

by George Lester
George Lester
At the beginning of my job in Texarkana I was on the air for only a couple of hours, spending the rest of the day drumming up sales. The manager reasoned that because I was from nearby New Boston I should have no problem bringing in a lot of revenue from there. I learned quickly there is a big difference between being a customer and a seller. The first business I called on was a grocery store where my mother and I had shopped for years. The manager greeted me with a big smile and asked where I had been for so long. I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. Wrong. After the customary small talk I got down to brass tacks and told him why I was there. It was like a Jekyll and Hyde transformation. His cherubic smile was instantly replaced by an expression of utter contempt.

Everything I tried to tell him was interrupted with complete negativity. Absolutely nothing appealed to him and he made no bones about it. I kept my cool for a long time and tried to ignore his animosity. I was proud of my self control, for I must confess that I can be quite combative if provoked. He finally went too far when he started picking our station apart and then even got down to personal remarks about me. It was almost as if he was testing me to see how far he could go before I blew up. He found out.

Without warning I cracked. I slammed down my brief case and leaned over the counter with my face only inches from his. The verbal assault I inflicted on him was a classic. The main point I made was that if he wouldn't even listen to what I had to say the least he could do was to keep a civil tongue in his mouth. I added that if he didn't want to buy air time on our station that was fine with me but he had damn sure better quit bad mouthing a place of business that I was proud of. I also told him what he could do with his store and not to expect me or my mother to ever set foot in his place again. I knew then that I was not cut out for sales work.

After that little episode I was almost afraid to return to the radio station. I expected the boss to be waiting at the door for me after receiving a scathing phone call from the New Boston grocer. Nothing happened that day to my relief. In fact, he never did get that call I dreaded so much. After I got up my nerve I approached the program director about the possibility of getting out of sales completely and devoting full to announcing. He was delighted and informed me that he had been hoping I would do just that. Traditionally, the big money in radio is in sales but I knew I could never face another client without fear of a repeat of what had happened a few days earlier.

The next time I went to visit my mother in New Boston she told me, among other news, that she had gone to the store and the manager had told her what a fine son she had and she should be proud of him. He even said he hoped I that would drop in more often. I never did figure that one out. Maybe it was like Lou Grant said to Mary Tyler Moore. "You got spunk kid!".
George Lester
Spunky Flat and Beyond - A Memoir >

January 15, 2007 column
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This page last modified: January 22, 2007