Out, Damn’d Spot!

Frank, the gentleman in Apartment 4C, approached me in the laundry room last Thursday morning. Though we’d both lived in the building for the past 15 years, our previous contact had been limited to perfunctory waves, and occasional talk of collaborating on an opera about the Gay 90’s.

He seemed unusually animated and eager to chat. It had been several weeks since I’d engaged in a full-blown conversation. I looked forward to the implementation of “listening,” which, in 1972, had been removed from my family’s platform.

Frank had started his own business. He was selling toothpaste, soap, and detergent for an outfit called TTI Limited. As a TTI distributor, his job was to sell these products to his friends and neighbors, and sign them up as distributors as well. Known both as “multilevel marketing” and “shoot me, I’m selling soap,” a TTI distributorship is preached as wealth creation with zero capital.

As soon as Frank said “zero capital,” we bonded. He proceeded to ask a few questions to determine if I was qualified to hawk bleach with flair and desperation.

“Do you want to be your own boss?” he asked.

“Being my own boss has largely been the problem,” I confided.

“Would you like to earn $10,000 a month working at home?”

I was briefly thrown, never having heard this question before 3 in the morning. It had always been targeted at the “fat and still awake” crowd.

I told Frank I would like to earn $10,000 a month working at home. He said that could easily happen if I sold grout cleaner to the Sultan of Brunei.

Frank then explained how multilevel marketing worked. For every person I signed up as a TTI distributor, I would receive several hundred phone calls asking, “Where do I return all this unsold dishwashing liquid?”

I made it clear to Frank that I was real interested. He invited me to join him at the TTI rally at the Brooklyn Park Vagabond Inn.

The following evening, Frank arrived at my door with 250 bottles of cleaning agents. Per our agreement, I purchased 100 bottles. I was instructed to sell the other 150 in my assigned territory: North American and Uruguay/Loring Park District.

Frank gave me a lift to the TTI rally. Upon entering the ballroom, we were immediately greeted by Peter Mallering, a distributor from Kansas City. He had been with TTI for 27 years, and was responsible for recruiting 400 distributors by assuring that each one would be personally paid in cash by Ed McMahan.

Soon, we all took our seats as the rally began. There was energy and euphoria in that room—a synergy of false hope and spot remover.

Orville Ralston, founder and president of TTI, walked to the podium. It was pandemonium. Here was the man who in 1947 realized he could become wealthy if 15,000 people each sent him $22 a month.

Ralston grabbed the microphone, and patiently waited for the applause to die down. He began his remarks:

“Ladies and gentleman, TTI distributors, distinguished stockpiles, good evening. I am pleased to announce that TTI’s earnings have jumped yet another 10 percent, meaning you all are now in a position to send me an additional $7 a month!”

We were all back on our feet. I, like everyone else, was caught up in the electricity of the moment.

Ralston continued, “We are optimists! We are courageous! We are warriors!”

More applause.

I later discovered that Ralston had fired his original speechwriter, whose first draft had read: “I grew up as a very desperate boy in Russell, Kansas.”

The evening had done much for everyone’s self-esteem. As a number of the distributors said, “When nobody’s buying soap, it’s nice to be called a warrior.”

Frank and I returned home. He sold me 30 boxes of fabric softener, 25 bottles of window cleaner, and 600 scouring pads. We sold it back and forth to each other until 3 AM.

Then, on the TV, I heard: “Would you like to earn $10,000 a month working at home?”

Well, consider the source here, but once again, they had my attention.

Bye for now.
Kiss, kiss.

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