Security Professionals

Each epoch offers its own particular opportunities for an enterprising young man looking to make a start. If I’d come of age in turn of the century Liverpool, I’d have been a hard working dock laborer; in 1960’s Texas, a young oilman. In turn of the century Provo, Utah, there was but one choice for a self-starting take-charge young buck in need of summer work: door-to-door sales. In the spring of 1998, the pest control game was in decline and there were some new hotshots making waves around town. My hardscrabble friends and I checked out the ProtectAmerica Security Systems Informational Pizza Party that year, and our lives were never the same.

knocker

The numbers on offer were impressive, though never very easy to precisely nail down. We took it as evidence of our own naiveté that we couldn’t figure out whether your 12% super-seller escrow bonus kicks in between your gold and platinum level merit awards, or after your management star upgrade. But Oliver and Becton always had answers, the kind of answers that penetrate you with good sense and then instantly evaporate into the pepperoni air. Regardless, the bottom line numbers were easy to understand: If you had disfiguring acne and the kind of demeanor that causes young mothers to draw their children closer, you were looking at around $100,000 for the summer. For a group of impressive, charming young strivers like us . . . well, Ollie and Becton will let you do the math.

So one morning in early summer, four of us caravanned out of Farmington in four different cars, each packed with a few small possessions and unbounded optimism. No prospector ever headed west with higher hopes than we took with us on the high road to Denver, and no product bore more promise than our ProtectAmerica Basic Package with optional key fob and added glass break detection upgrades. We could almost hear those Colorado criminals making their relocation plans as the mile high skyline appeared on the horizon (A skyline that benefits greatly from being the next stop on the line from Cheyenne, by the way). Just kidding. I have no clue about the criminals. All anyone thought during the whole 10 hour drive was whether they’d save any of the $100,000 in summer commissions, or blow it in a month.

Our apartment was waiting for us. We had to arrange the cable TV for ourselves (NBA playoffs were the primary logistical concern), but everything else had been previously arranged by our super-competent manager, Jason. Some training was given, some glossy one-sheets passed around, and then we sacked out to rest for the work of the coming day.

Pounding pavement and knocking doors in the name of commerce and ambition is more invigorating than you might think. We were an energized group, fed on motivational chestnuts and a stew of sketchy crime statistics. We invaded those neighborhoods not only as salesmen, but as experts—educators partnering with our neighbors to cast out the criminals and take our communities back. “Just having this sign in your yard reduces your chances of a burglary by 20 percent, ma’am,” we’d say, “but of course only the full system is going to stop those committed criminals. And that’s the only way to get the free key fob too, but I don’t know if you’re the type of person who uses a set of keys . . .”

ProtectAmerica

Every day, five hours or more, you knock the doors, looking for that perfect neighborhood. You try a rich area, then a poor one, then one that is exactly the middlest middle class neighborhood in America. You find an ethnic pocket every once in a while, and you try out different greetings based on the demographics. Your one deepest certainty is that these people are afflicted with crime, and the best possible thing they can do is to just stop hemming and hawing and making excuses and hand over their money to you– the security professional.

And then you find that none of them want any help. For two weeks straight, and 2,000 doors in a row. Life gets harder fast. You stare at the calendar wondering if there’s still time to hit that six-figure mark that was a given just days before. You rationalize: “Hmm, I guess in a pinch I can make do with earning only 90k this summer.” But still, nobody’s buying.

Until day number 14. When you knock on Mr. Martinez’s door. And finally, everything changes.

To be continued . . .

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19 Responses to Security Professionals

  1. Skew says:

    I can’t wait for the next installment on this one. I’ve been curious about the world of door-to-door security sales.

    Would you please compare and contrast missionary work to security sales?
    There seems to be some interesting parallels.
    living in a small filthy apartment,
    constant rejection,
    the moment when a young man realizes it isn’t at all what he expected,
    pitches based on fear of crime vs pitches based people’s fear of the unknown afterlife
    the wholesomeness of missionary work vs the sleaziness of door-to-door sales, and how young men make the transition so naturally.

    Good blog fellas

  2. Eliza says:

    Oh man, I’m so conflicted on this one because we are pestered day in and day out by door to door salesman, and we even had one of those security salesman exactly like Chris described (that Josh stupidly let in!) but every time I think of being rude I think of my poor brothers who tired their hand in this and were just “there for the right reasons”. ; ) Ry, has your own experience changed the way you treat salesman?

  3. Landon says:

    One of my friends didn’t go to church all summer long because he felt so bad for what he was telling people while selling security systems.

  4. Rachel says:

    You know what I always say…security salesman aren’t really selling security systems, they are peddling paranoia….to young, vulnerable mothers. All the while dreaming of their 10,000 count 10K gold sheets that they get to buy their future wives with their summer earnings.

    I don’t know how they sleep at night. Oh wait, I guess I do.

  5. Ryan says:

    It’s funny to me how everyone assumes that doing door to door sales must bring on a horrible crisis of conscience. Well, maybe I’m just an awful person, but it was never like that for me. Yeah, there was your pitch (which Kook came close to nailing. I never said I wasn’t selling anything, but yeah, I was definitely there to help the person understand the weaknesses in their overall security layout, you bet), but there was no dishonesty required. I never lied to people, but I did certainly present my message in a way that was intended to increase their urgency about buying my product today. But how did I sleep at night? With exhausted feet and gold-plated dreams, that’s how.

    Similar to missionary work, only more cocky.

  6. Braden says:

    Ry, this is the first cliffhanger on DDDT! I can’t wait for the next installment. You captured this whole phenomenon so perfectly.

  7. Macy Bell says:

    It is amazing how many Provo dudes went through the sales experience thinking they would make soooo much $$$, and definitely very few actually did that.

    I have a horrible track record with door to door salesman, and how they are described above makes me feel so dumb to be taken by these guys. What a gross industry. The Kirby vacuum people really had me though, and they were hardcore. They were basically making me feel like my kids were going to grow with chronic health problems if I didn’t buy the Kirby vacuum. And when I say they, I mean about 5 of them sitting in my living room for 3 plus hours pushing all of my buttons.

    I have to say, I have gotten better with time and experience. I just know I have to say “no thank you” really fast and shut the door.

  8. Rebecca says:

    what i don’t get is why people (esp women) even open their doors when they see a strange guy standing at their door. maybe I’m paranoid (which would probably make me an easy sell for security systems), but i don’t even open the door for the UPS guy unless christian is home.

  9. Macy Bell says:

    Are you serious, Rebecca? A ups guy , in a uniform, waiting for you to sign something? If I had to wait for Ryan to be home I would never get my package.

  10. Troy says:

    Davis if you’re thinking it would be too repetitive now to do a post about pest control in California, well, you’re wrong. Let’s hear it.

  11. Christian says:

    Macy, your Kirby Vacuum experience is a such a funny one. You and Ry need to do a post where you each tell your side of that story

  12. Kerstin Bean says:

    I am a softy for the inner city kid who has a family to support or is a single mom. They always tell a good joke at the beginning and then proceed to tell me that they have a dream to live just like me. . . in a house, in a safe neighborhood, staying at home with the kids but can’t do it without my help. How do you say no to that? I really feel like I’m helping. So I bought the magazine subscription for $60 and never got the magazine. I really thought this sales pitch was for real. He even showed me the list of all the people in my neighborhood who were repeat customers along with their signatures. Now I feel mad at myself for being duped and a little betrayed. I even gave him a big glass of water.

    So the other day when I got a knock on the door from a girl who starts out, “So I heard you were adopting black kids.” I pretended I was on the phone. . . pointed to the phone and mouthed sorry and then shut the door. Is that so dishonest?

  13. Elizabeth says:

    Macy, I am with Christian. You and Ryan should do a post about Kirby. I love that story. (Maybe because Andrew and I had one so similar,) I still have a hard time shutting the door on people. I do much better if instead of opening it, I just duck down and hide, shush the kids and hope whoever is on my porch selling something will go away.

  14. Macy Bell says:

    Kerstin,
    I so relate. I got duped into one of those magazine subscriptions where I thought was helping some young guy go to college, and have a better life deals. He showed me the fake list of neighbors that had signed. He made me feel weird and like a horrible neighbor that I didn’t even know these neighbors, whose houses he actually pointed at up the street from me. He even started his bit with , How his mom sent him over, and acted like I knew his mom the one that is always walking the two dogs I always see, on and on. Geez. Then I told Ryan about it, and he went and tracked that kid down and got our money back. He knew exactly what he was doing. I now, open the door and say I am in a hurry, running out, sorry. No time. Sorry.

  15. Wade says:

    How about a simple “no thanks,” ladies?

    Kerstin, awesome revelation on DDDT about getting duped. That’s one freebee skeleton in the closet that I just banked.

    Also Ryan, door to door sales is one thing, being the installer guy that has to make good on all the overblown promises that the salesmen make, without having the first clue about how to do any of that stuff is another thing entirely. We installers are the wind beneath your wings. On a side note, its crazy how much trust with their home people give you if you have a golf shirt with company logo on it and a truck. Overwhelming respect I’ve never since felt.

  16. StefStar says:

    “So I heard you were adopting black kids”

    Amazing.

    What the heck kind of sales pitch is that? I would never shut the door on that just because I’d be dying to hear what comes next, after I say “Um, no, actually…I’m not.”

    …”Oh, well, I guess I heard wrong. Wanna buy a magazine subscription?”
    …”What about Hispanic kids?”
    …”Ok, ma’am, obviously you are racist. You should give me some money to help ethnic children so you can be cured of racism.”
    …”Your neighbors are. See? They signed right here, telling me they’re adopting black kids.”

    The possibilities are endless and exciting.

  17. Christian says:

    Macy, studies show that two fifths of UPS drivers are rapists and one third are kidnappers, so you just go on playing with fire. Look it up.

  18. Andrea W. says:

    Wade, surely you jest with your “a simple ‘no thanks'” advice? That’s exactly the problem, I have NO problem saying “no thanks”. They force you to be rude, you either have to buy or be very rude by slamming the door in their face because most of these type will not back down under any circumstances. I hate being rude.

  19. Serene says:

    Oh…. you were one of THOSE… 😀
    Now I can go finish the story! I’m excited, this was so funny!

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