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Deaf Peddler: Chapter Three

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But other locations are good for peddling as well. In malls, people are already out shopping and generally in a mood to spend money, which is always beneficial to a peddler’s business. And a peddler learns quickly that weekends are the times to visit malls, while weekdays often aren’t worth the trip. But then, as I’ve already mentioned earlier, malls are prone to customer base problems; namely, you find the same local people returning week after week or month after month. They’ve seen the peddler’s product, and sooner rather than later, the market reaches its saturation point.

Sometimes, however, just the opposite happens. Once when I was peddling at a food court in one of Atlanta’s malls, I noticed a policeman watching me. After a while, he came up to me and asked what I was doing. I handed him one of my pamphlets and he got on his walkie-talkie, asking a supervisor what to do about me. Five minutes later he received a reply and told me there was no peddling allowed in the mall. “But just between you and me,” he said, “you can continue for one more hour.” Then he handed me two dollars and said he wished he could give me more, but that was all he had in his pocket! I worked as quickly as I could for the next hour to earn as much as possible in the time I had. It certainly was a different experience: a police officer who helped out with my daily income, rather than helping me out of the mall!

In addition to the motivation supplied by an overall goal, there is the day to day, minute to minute motivation a peddler must maintain. From experience, I know how easily frustrated one can become when selling is difficult and a day doesn’t measure up to expectations. It’s normal to feel disenchanted when a potential customer turns you down, but it’s more important to shrug it off and look ahead to the next opportunity.

Occasionally, instead of being brushed off, a deaf peddler encounters a hearing customer who knows some sign language and is quite excited to be able to use it. Meeting someone with whom one can communicate and who has some knowledge of Deaf culture is refreshing, but it still doesn’t deter a peddler from trying to make a sale.

At a Steak ’n Shake late one evening, I was making my usual rounds, putting a pamphlet on each table and heading back to retrieve what people had left, when a customer stopped to talk to me. Apparently he had recently seen the movie Children of a Lesser God and wanted to discuss it. We were communicating by writing back and forth, and I asked if he’d mind if I finished my rounds first. He told me to go ahead, and when I returned he offered to buy me dinner. I had to turn him down because I still had more work to do, and he told me he’d been inspired by the movie and asked if he could he write me a check. I told him that would be difficult for me, and so he opened his wallet. All he had was two twenty-dollar bills and, after a moment of hesitation, he handed me both.

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