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Deaf Peddler: Chapter Three

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By tracking of how much money I made at different times of the year, I learned that summer is a profitable season, with its influx of tourists. Holidays are also very good. People are in high spirits and are generally carrying extra cash in their pockets. Even the time of day makes a great difference. For example, a peddler might find the mid-morning hours poor. This might be a time for a rest. Then the mid-day hours, say eleven to one, might be great for business, especially near a restaurant where people are coming and going before and after lunch. In the afternoon, a university library where students are studying might be a profitable stop. Around dinner time, from five to eight, a restaurant would again be the place to go.

I quickly learned that restaurants, especially fast food outlets, are great peddling locations. I once went into a Shoney’s in Atlanta, keeping an eye out for the manager. As soon as he went into the kitchen, I circulated quickly among the tables, placing my pamphlets in front of customers. As I was making a second round to pick up money or cards, the manager came out and noticed what I was doing. He got very upset, pulled my wheelchair out of the dining area, and started pushing me toward the exit. I managed to pick up some of the money people had left on their tables on this quick trip out, and simply went on to the next restaurant once he’d pushed me out the door. For a salesman, it’s always important to shake off the failures and doggedly look forward to the next opportunity.

Each deaf peddler has his or her own preference as far as location is concerned. Some peddle only in restaurants, others only in airports or bus terminals. Some peddlers decide in advance to work a set number of hours per day. Others might establish a dollar amount. Still others might take, say, one hundred cards or pamphlets and work until they’re sold, hoping it will take an hour instead of an entire day. If you’re lucky, customers will be in a buying mood; if you’re not, it can seem as though every customer either ignores you or declines to buy.

Some peddlers prefer large public gatherings such as craft fairs, carnivals, and state fairs. I never worked those locations because of the difficulty in getting around in my wheelchair, but a friend of mine earned about $600 a day peddling at a ten-day county fair in Peoria, Illinois. Other peddlers earn great money at the Indy 500. I think even if accessibility hadn’t been a problem, though, I’d still have preferred the airport, which is protected from the weather and always air conditioned in the summer!

Obviously, airports were my favorite places to peddle. Most deaf peddlers do their peddling at airports for the simple reason that the multitude of people coming and going all day guarantees sure money. Airports provide a constantly changing customer base with little chance of repeat business, as opposed to a mall, for instance, where the customer “cycle” is completed in four to six months, accompanied by a predicted drop off in sales. In addition to an ever-changing population, there are an abundance of places where one can choose to peddle … dozens of concourses and hundreds of gates.

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