The disadvantages connected with the work of a traveling salesman are so great that they must be taken into consideration. He is away from home and family frequently two or three or four months at a time. He may find poor hotel accommodations in some localities. He must endure irregularity of meals, poor food often, and loss of sleep caused by the need of making towns on schedule time.
He may be troubled by local train facilities or by driving from town to town in severe weather. He may have to work nights and Sundays to keep up to schedule and to make sales. He often undergoes heavy mental strain in making sales, especially to large customers. The monotony of extended yearly trips over the same routes, with conditions that wear more and more upon a person after several years, leads in most cases to a strong desire for change of occupation.
Then the problem of changing to a profitable occupation or of establishing himself in some other position may become a difficult matter. Unless one is a member of his firm while still a salesman or holds some relation to it of especial importance, he is not likely to find a place with his firm, either in the offices or in the factory. Nor does his experience fit him to go into any other line of work, unless as salesman for a concern dealing in some other kind of product.
In general the traveling salesman, because of the reasons above stated, becomes unfitted for taking up a new occupation as late in life as must usually be the case. The traveling shoe salesman in seeking another line of work most frequently enters a retail shoe store as selling clerk, becomes manager of a shoe department in a store or of a branch store conducted by a factory, or opens a store for himself in some locality where he has found an opportunity during his traveling experience.
In some such cases the firm which he has served as salesman favors him, even to supplying a stock of goods. This method opens an additional outlet for merchandise and is a natural step in the continual change in the personnel of the selling force.
I have made a research into every available source to ascertain the cause and conditions that created that national institution the traveling salesman.
In a musty volume of yesteryear I find a press clipping attributed to a New York newspaper printed in 1847, as follows :
The wholesale stores employ clerks whose business it is to go to the hotels and make the acquaintance of the visiting merchants in order to induce them to buy goods of the firms which employ them. . . .
And later as history is written we find that a few years previous to the War of the Rebellion, ” the house ” frequently sent men on road trips to investigate the credit of customers and to report impressions and conditions in communities.
Very often these emissaries returned with memorandums of orders to be sent, filling, so to speak, between trips to market. This was of course before the days of the mercantile agencies which, as is natural to suppose, came into existence after the traveler had hewed the trail.