Tuesday, June 15, 2010

My Illustrious Career...Part Sixteen

At the beginning of 1985, I answered an ad in the newspaper
for a position in 'direct sales of steak and seafood products
to the general public'. It sounded intriguing, so I decided
to take a look at it.

We were to load up a van with steak, bacon, and seafood, and
take to the road and try to find random people to buy it from
us. The meat was stored in a large freezer that was inside
the van.

This was to be one of most stressful, challenging, and interesting
jobs I have ever done. There was the potential to make quite
a bit of money, but to do so you had to be 'on' all the time,
much like other sales jobs.

You may have been 'pitched' a sale like this yourself. We took
the van out to residential neighborhoods, and basically just
asked everyone we saw if they wanted to buy some steak. Now,
like most sales jobs, there was a gimmick...you had to make up
some kind of story that explains why you are selling it this way,
and convince them that normally you sell from a regular store.

Sometimes I went out on my own, and sometimes we went out in
pairs. We would cruise slowly up and down residential streets,
and every person we saw, whether they were walking the dog,
going out to the mailbox, or watering the lawn...we were required
to yell out to them..."Hey, you want some steak? Do you like

Mostly they would say No, not interested, or ignore you, flip you
off, or politely decline. Once in a while they would allow you to
stop, open up the freezer, and show them the wares.

Now, our stuff WAS quality stuff, it came from a reputable packing
house, and although it was not really very cheap, it was good
quality. The biggest problem was how to go about this without
appearing to be a stalker\burglar\shady character\ etc.
I am very surprised that as long as I did this...almost a whole
year...I never had the cops called on me.

How much did we make? I remember I worked every single day
during the summer of 1985, seven days a week, and I had to in
order to play the odds. Some days I made almost nothing, some
days I made a hundred bucks, in very rare good luck days, I would
make a lot more. Over-all, though, it turned out that I made a
wage good enough to pay my rent, eat pretty well, and buy gasoline.

Between about May-August 1985, I didn't take a single day off...
not Saturday, not Sunday, nothing.

Now, the problem with this was, we quickly ran out of 'fresh'
territory. There were a small fleet of vans operating out of
the main office, and we initially all tried to work close to home...
Orange County, California. This stopped working once all our
potential customers had already seen all of us before. I was one
of the first ones to break out and expand my horizons.

During that long summer, I drove all over Southern California,
and when I was by myself, I always had my camera with me.

Here I am at age 29, in front of my van, and inside the freezer:

And HERE are some of the areas I worked, chasing a dollar:

A street in Beverly Hills, and a very nice home in Burbank:

Interesting trees in Culver City (West LA):

By the Santa Monica airport...how can one 'fly quietly'?

This is Lakewood. I know the picture is very blurry, but
I like it because it shows the massive trees lining the street,
forming a soft cool tunnel. Lakewood was one of my very
favorite areas to work, because there were line after line of
long parallel streets with this inviting greenery. You could
easily spend a whole day here, driving up one street, and then
down the next one. The people that lived here were very nice.

If I was having a good day and sold out, I would knock off early,
and then just drive around taking pictures. This is Dana Point:

Mission Viejo was not conducive to selling meat, but I still
took some photos:

This is Redondo Beach:

As you can imagine, after doing this all summer, and exhausting
all the areas I was willing to drive to, I began to burn out.
Finally, towards the end of summer, when they sent me out with
another individual, if we had a bad morning, we would both end
up at bars and billiard halls drinking and shooting pool.

I had a good run, a very hard but interesting summer, but it was
time to end it. As I sit here today thinking about all this, I
can't believe I went through that. No way could I imagine doing
that kind of work today, but, you know, that was 25 years ago...

Peace be with you.


  1. I was in San Diego in 1984-1989 and yes I got talked in to buying a freezer full of meat from someone in a van just like yours! It very well could have been you, if you were ever in S.D....haha. It definitely was quality meat and we enjoyed the barbeque's.

  2. Love the photos, especially the trees and older cars.

  3. That seems like a hard job (one of many for you) I've actually bought meat from the back of a van. It was very good! A couple of things...
    I lived within the area of that map. I also went to Lakewood High School. Lakewood is indeed COVERED with trees.

  4. Ms. A...I love looking at old cars in old pictures too.

    Pat...it very well might have been me that sold you the meat! I spent a lot of time in Lakewood.

    Mr. Desert...I never made it as far south as San Diego, so it probably was not me.

  5. OH! I have always told my children--do not buy anything off a truck just rolling around the neighborhood. (I had them scared of the ice cream man, but they figured that one out.) It just seems really, really wrong to sell meat out of a truck. Loved your pictures though!

  6. Streeful job indeed. Good pictures though. I personally will probably not buy anything from a truck.

  7. You riding around with your meat reminds me of this time in my childhood when there was a thing called the "deli" man. He was also in a truck and he would ride up our street (a big hill) every week while we were outside playing and sell deli food...bread, meats etc. We would all gather around his truck and buy meat sticks (slim Jim's) and they tasted soooo good. I am not sure what happened to the deli man. Maybe he burned out on the job like you did. I think today you would have a lot of difficulty getting anybody to buy meat from the back of a truck. There is very little trust for strangers in trucks. Someone might think the meat inside the truck was a dead body. Anyhow, cool story and looking forward to the next one.

  8. Love your photos, you're gifted.
    I want more! :)

  9. wow! the first thing this post reminded me of was a job i had for all of five days in college. selling frozen meats over the phone - i wonder if it was somehow related??? i didn't make one sale and they pulled me aside to speak to me about it and i walked out. i never walked out of a job before or after that day.


  10. Sales is a tougher job than it appears, but the benefits of this one by looking at the pictures made it a little easier to appreciate so to say, I always did like the travel.

  11. Oh man--what a ride!! Thanks! It is so strikingly different from anywhere I've been in CA!


  12. Reminds me of when I had a (very) short stint as a door to door saleswoman!

  13. about 5 years ago when I was working construction a truck pulled up on the road we were working on and told us he had "extra" meat that he was selling for half price or something. I guess that was his gimmick. We said no thank you.

  14. Not sure where you live, toasty, but it sounds like the same scheme.
    If it were one of our trucks, you would not have been getting any good 'deal', but on the other hand, even though expensive, the meat would have been good quality.

  15. I loved the pictures too, Joe! I didn't know that it was possible to sell food door to door..! I'm learning something every day!