Reading the Classifieds

I trained elsewhere, besides healthcare.

I was briefly a vacuum cleaner salesman. Perhaps I should say that I was briefly a vacuum cleaner demonstrator–I didn’t sell any of the two thousand dollar monstrosities.

I don’t remember what they were called, but people always asked if they were Rainbow. They were not. We were supposed to say that ours were better. I didn’t care; I wasn’t familiar with Rainbow vacuums.

How did I find this marvelous job, you may ask. Well, boys and girls, listen closely, and you may very well learn something.


Once upon a time, there were things called newspapers. They were made of paper and ink, and they were delivered every day. When you touched them too much, the ink would rub off and turn your fingers black. Kind of like when you eat a whole bag of Cheetos while binge watching Breaking Bad on Netflix. See kids, history has parallels today!

Anyway, in the newspaper was a section called classifieds. when you needed a job, you would get a copy of the newspaper and sit down with it at your dining room table, highlighter and pen in hand.

If you didn’t have a table, you unfolded the paper on top of your steering wheel because obviously you lived in your car, but that’s another story.

You’d peruse the job listings, which were kind of like Craigslist, only briefer, because anyone placing an ad had to pay per word. The highlighter was for circling the jobs you were interested in, and a pen was for crossing out the jobs you had absolutely no chance of landing.

Once all the winners were picked, you’d grab the phone and start calling. The most mysterious ads, the ones that said something like 20 people needed right away! Earn up to $1,000/week! were mostly a waste of time. Anything that precedes your compensation with up to meant commission, usually on overpriced ripoffs that were next to impossible to sell.

I called the number listed on a mystery ad three times.

The first time I was given an appointment time for a presentation. When I showed up, there were probably thirty of us seated in what appeared to bed a hastily-rented office space–pay attention, that’s a trend.

We sat in folding chairs and watched a twenty minute video featuring smiling beautiful people who shouted the joys of a flexible schedule and making as much money as you wanted.

After the video, the–hm, facilitator? yes.–facilitator announced that we would now interview in groups of three.

I was in the first group of suckers–I mean applicants–to be interviewed. It wasn’t really an interview; it was more of a live re-enactment of the video.

Do you like to make money? The other two girls nodded eagerly.

Do you want to set your own hours? Oh, yes!

Do you want to be your own boss? Again the nodding, accompanied by a chorus of yeses.

Through all this, I sat quietly. When he singled me out to ask what I thought about the job, I replied that I didn’t have enough information to form an opinion either way. He seemed taken aback, but apparently that was the right answer, because I got a call back the next day. I turned down the job offer because he still wouldn’t give me any useful information about the position.

The second mystery ad I answered led to the vacuum sales job. When I showed up for that interview, I considered simply walking away, although only for a split second. I had moved back home, and I needed a job to get my mother off my back.

The stained, ratty carpet and missing ceiling tiles were immediately reminiscent of that time I watched the video of beautiful people beat around the bush. I stayed anyway.

It turned out to be not so much of an interview as a meeting to tell me when my training would take place. By being one of two responders to the ad, I’d already gotten the job. I agreed to return at the set date and time.

When I did, I was given a lovely prepared sales spiel to memorize, and then I was shown the demonstration that I would be performing.

Too bad it wasn’t a steam cleaner. That carpet was disgusting in there.

I practiced the demonstration until my performance was approved, then went home with my demo unit. I did demos for my family and my mom’s office nurse, but fortunately, the hospital’s CEO canceled  her demo, because by then I’d had my fill of vacuuming for fun, without the profit.

A few years later I was looking for a second job to supplement my income, and I answered my third mystery ad. I just couldn’t help myself, I guess.

This one turned out to be telemarketing, but the office was just as unkempt as the other two I’d visited. I got the job, was given a script, and set free at my desk to sell magazine subscriptions.

This operation was so shady and cheap, we didn’t even have headsets. We didn’t even have to little piece you stick on a handset to rest the phone more comfortably between your shoulder and your ear.

We also did not have computers. Take a moment to digest that. Take all the time you need.

At least we had touchtone phones.

What else we had was a paper list of phone numbers, and a bell. When you got a sale, you rang the bell. First sale of the day and most sales of the day got you a bonus: a shiny new half dollar.


I am dead serious about this bonus system.

Oh, did I mention that we didn’t call people at home? We called them at work to sell them magazines to get at home.

I worked there four whole days and sold one subscription.

But I did learn why I got the job. It was my phone etiquette. Anyone who called who said anything other than hello, I’m calling about the ad in the paper was told that the position had been filled.

I would have loved that job. She did nothing but set up interviews and turn people down. She didn’t even do that interviews–only scheduled them for the manager.

Times have changed, but I guess not all that much. I found my current job through Facebook, and my husband’s came from Craigslist, as did the other job that I recently left after five years.

5 Comments on “Reading the Classifieds”

  1. LRose says:

    Did the phone room thing myself, without a computer or headset. Solar panels. The business owner was a client of my mother’s, so no interview for me either. I lasted a whole month.

  2. abbiosbiston says:

    My first jobs were all found in the paper. Those were the days. I can’t complain though because I have been working for an online job board for almost 12 years!

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