Q: You sold meat out of the back of a pickup truck. How did it start?
A: I have a younger brother—he’s three years younger—and he stumbled into it and was making good money.
I had graduated college and I had a degree in advertising. I was assistant manager at Musicland at the mall.
Q: And a Musicland assistant manager didn’t make much money?
A: Yeah, I was making minimum wage. And my brother was making good money. Or relatively good money.
Q: I have to ask—did you have posters in your room that you got from the record store?
A: No, the music selection there was pretty mainstream and I was more into punk and weirder stuff, so I never saw any posters come through that I actually wanted.
Q: OK sorry, back to the meat job.
A: OK. It was a small company called Texas Pride. It was a small warehouse with some freezers and five to six pickup trucks. There were freezers in the bed of the trucks and they had gas-powered generators to keep it cool, so you could go across the state and be out pretty much all day.
You were an independent contractor and you went door-to-door.
You have a variety of meats—like eight to 10 cases. There were vacuum-sealed packs of pork chops, strip steaks, Delmonico ribeye, fillet mignon wrapped in bacon, chicken breast, and hamburger patties.
Q: Was that the exact list?
Q: That’s impressive, since so many years have passed. Did you know what Delmonico ribeye was?
A: It’s like a different cut—like a round steak and it has more marbling.
Q: Did you know a lot about steak before you took this job?
A: You don’t have to know a lot about steak. It was very by the book. Door-to-door hardcore sales tactics. We’d have pep rallies in the morning before we’d head out.
We would do this roleplaying thing, like, “Kevin I want you to walk up to my door and sell me some steak.” And I’d say “Hey, I’m with Texas Pride out of Akron…”
And here’s the funny thing. The warehouse was a block away from the Frito-Lay distribution center so we were told to say that we were right next door to Frito-Lay. That’s a name that everybody knows and it was supposed to establish credibility with the customer.
Q: But you had no association with Frito Lay?
Q: OK so you’re having these pep rallies.
A: Yeah. There was one salesman who was like the leader and his name was Johnny Walker, just like the whiskey. He was right out of a movie. He had suspenders, gray hair… He was a grizzled old chain smoker.
They called selling a whole case “a full banger” and he would say, “I don’t care if some old lady has one foot in a grave and the other foot on a banana peel. I want you to sell her as many full bangers as you can!”
Q: Wait, why would she have her foot on a banana peel?
A: It was his crass way of describing how old she was …that she could go at any moment.
Q: Oh, got it. Geeze. OK, so tell me more about Johnny Walker.
A: He was just kind of looked at like the leader. He had sold encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, he was just a real salesman. He had all the typical objections for door-to-door sales and ways of overcoming those objections.
I was no salesman—I certainly wasn’t the type to strike up conversations with strangers. More often than not, when you’d come to someone’s front door offering to sell them meat out of a pickup truck, they would look at you like you’re crazy.
I’m 46 now and I’m in advertising and a lot of advertising is sales, so that job was the best training. It was an invaluable experience.
Q: I have friends who would buy a whole cow and have it in their freezer.
A: That was a pretty common objection, like we buy a quarter cow or we buy half a cow, and we’d say, “Sir, let me tell you! You’re paying for bone and for parts of the cow that you’re not going to eat! We take care of all that extra waste and give you vacuum-sealed packages with just the meat!” And then we flash it in front of their face and get them licking their chops.
Q: And people would buy it?
The worst thing I ever did was at an older woman’s house… I feel terrible telling you this, I would never do this as an adult…
She was in her 60s and she probably weighed 300 pounds. She said she didn’t have money on her but that she had money at the bank. She was a shut-in and I told her I could drive her to the bank. I piled her into my pickup truck and I even helped her write the check.
It was all above board though; she was there and she agreed to it.
I remember I had trouble fitting all the meat into the freezer. But I was able to close the sale.
Q: Eek. So you just drove around trying to sell meat.
A: Yeah, but we had a buddy system, which was good because there were days you were having a bad run and nobody was biting or you were tapped out and just didn’t feel like selling, so we would just try to entertain ourselves. Especially if somebody was rude to you.
We’d say to them, “Do you like steak and chicken?” And they’d say, “Well yeah!”
And I’d give them a little info but the whole point was to get the meat in front of them to close the sale. When they realized what I was doing they’d say, “Get off my property!” And we’d say, “Well I’ve got a case of crabs—would you like to see that?”
Sometimes they would get it and sometimes not.
Another thing we would do to entertain each other—you had to run back to the truck and hop up on the bed, open the freezer, throw the case of meat over your shoulder, and hop back off again. We would see who could pull off the most ridiculous pratfall coming back off the truck.
I would put a case of meat on my shoulder and practically do a cartwheel off the edge of the truck with the case of meat flying everywhere. I would be on the ground, bellowing in pain, pretending that I had twisted my ankle. And I would yell, “I don’t have insurance and I think I twisted my ankle.” We were just stupid kids.
Q: How long did you do this job?
A: I just did it for the summer. It was a very taxing job.
The place didn’t exist for more than a few years. I remember driving by one day, a few years afterward, and it was already gone.