It's famously said in Rounders that, "If you can't spot the sucker within the first half hour at the table, then you are the sucker." On my first week on the job in Lafayette, I could spot the other suckers in the mall in a second. I even ranked the top 5. When I walked into Lakeline Mall for one last gig, I didn't see any suckers. At least not until I had to go back to my car to get a pair of slacks, after trying to get away with selling in jeans, and I caught a glimpse of myself in the store bathroom mirror.
Before Christmas, I was fully stocked with dozens of the bigger, fancier Cloud Force's displayed in a pyramid with two to fly around and demonstrate and unlimited batteries. I also had hundreds of the smaller Silver Bullets in three colors (and frequencies), with a full display rack right at the front of the store and three fully working 'copters to practice with. I was selling to hungry buyers who packed the mall desperate for a Christmas gift. The sounds of Glee Christmas pumping in their ears, inspiring them to buy 2, 4, 7 at a time! It's Christmas, damnit! It made me feel like a natural salesman. It was easy. It was kinda fun.
After Christmas, I drag myself into a ghost town they call Lakeline Mall. There are no Cloud Forces left. There are no red Silver Bullets. There are just 38 silver and 2 blue, hastily shelved, Silver Bullets. There's no display in front. The three samples for me to test are all broken and spinning out of control. None of the employees want to have anything to do with me. What's playing on the speakers? Arcade Fire's The Suburbs. My favorite album of the year. Only it was torture, because everyone who came in would fiddle with the volume or turn it off because that was a button. And you gotta push every button. I would fly my copter towards the girl who kept turning the volume handles back and forth, desperately wanting to crash into her and make her stop. More people came in to return helicopters than to buy them. The only sales I got in the first hour were to a grandparent who wanted two Silver Bullets since his grandson already broke the Cloud Force and another return. There go all my blues. I meant the blue silver bullets. My Blues were just beginning.
Most things were the same. Men, women and children still tried to get candy from the same machine with the same warning that it wouldn't produce candy. An old man said "Wow, what a job! They pay you for this. Aren't you lucky?" The food court was infinitely better (I would have killed to have a Subway) but they still had the sample ladies. One had Sesame Chicken. The other had 1/16th of a Philly Cheesesteak sandwich that tasted like it had been microwaved. There was a hot topic and a Dillards and a JC Penny. The FYE had a Bieber stand-up. But everything was different. There was no energy in the mall. Everyone came in with bags to return. No one had the look in their eye like they wanted to buy. I didn't have anything to sell them.
Silver Bullets- 3
Candy reachers: 4
You have the Greatest Job: 1
Kids who asked to fly: 1
Kids I let hold it: 1
After incredibly slow sales in the first hour, I was already texting "Helicopter Billy," as I have him in my phone, telling him this wasn't looking promising. The last straw was when I ran my usual spiel and got a woman to buy two. Only there were only silver's left. And all on the same channel. She said if she couldn't get two different ones, she didn't want any. That's it. I texted Billy to thank him for the opportunity, but I couldn't sell under these conditions. Not to be a Diva, but I don't know how else to finish that sentence. Lou, tell 'em.
I walked back to get my jeans from the bathroom, called to clock out after just two hours of being there and said not a word to anyone in the store. It was time. I hope I'm not in a position where I'll have to do this again next holiday season, but it was quite a ride. I still have a few essays I want to write about it, from lessons on selling to the look in a little kid's eye to how I got started doing this in the first place. I hope this has been as fun to read as it has been to retell.