The Way It Was – Selling magazines


Editor’s note: This is another column in Bill Boyd’s new series, “The Way It Was,” about growing up in Marysville. Bill continues to work with the Union County Historical Society to obtain information for his stories. With Marysville and Union County celebrating Bicentennial anniversaries in 2019 and 2020, respectively, these articles help depict what life was like in those early years.

In the fall of 1941 when I was in the fourth grade, our teacher, Ms. Sweeney, announced a new program for our class to raise money for the school. We were going to sell magazine subscriptions. She gave each of us a brochure that listed all the magazines that were available. It included every one you could think of: magazines for news, fashion, travel, science and a lot more. I don’t think you could name a magazine that wasn’t in the brochure.
Every kid in our class was given a couple of the brochures to help sell the subscriptions. I took my brochures home, and I showed them to my mother as we ate dinner that night. She could see how excited I was about selling the magazines. As she was looking through the brochure, she found a magazine she would like to receive. I don’t remember what it was, but I think it was some kind of gardening magazine.
So I made my first sale right there at the dinner table that night. I had no idea that selling magazine subscriptions would be so easy. The next day was Saturday, so I figured that I would spend it selling magazines “door to door.” I would start right after we ate lunch. I bet I could become the top magazine seller in the whole school.
So some time the next afternoon, I took my brochures and headed up Fifth Street. I stopped first at our next-door neighbors, Clarence and Ella Hoopes. Whenever I had something to sell for the school, they always bought some from me. I think I was lucky to have neighbors like that.
But Mr. and Mrs. Hoopes weren’t at home. They were out of town. So I headed on up the street. I stopped at every house, but no one seemed to want to buy any magazines. And the further I got from my own house, the less interested the people seemed to be. And I didn’t sell a single subscription that day.
At dinner that night, I told my parents how I hadn’t sold any magazine subscriptions, so my dad said, “Let me see your sales pitch.” I didn’t know what he meant, so he asked me to pretend to sell a magazine to him. I pretended to knock on his door, and when he appeared I said, “Do you want to buy a magazine?”
“That’s your problem right there,” said my dad. “You need to tell the people that they can have their favorite magazines delivered right to their home, and they can help the Marysville schools at the same time.” Then he had me practice that sales pitch over and over.
The next day, I took my brochures over to Sixth Street to sell magazines there. I tried my new selling technique, but it really didn’t work any better than when I just asked, “Do you want to buy a magazine?” I went to several houses on Sixth Street, between Maple and Grove Streets. One lady said I should come back the following month. But I didn’t sell a single magazine subscription that day.
But in spite of my poor sales record, I did learn quite a bit about salesmanship and selling. And I can boil it all down to just a few words – if you have something you want to sell, your best bet is to sell it to your mother.
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