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The ad below was honered in a book "The 100 Greatest Advertisements." by Julian Lewis Watkins.

I’ll never forget the first time he came into our shop about a year ago. He was a little man in a green elevator operator’s uniform, oldish and very shy. We were quite busy that day, but he awaited his turn patiently and then asked to see some “fine sweaters”. Now “fine sweaters” in this shop means twenty or thirty dollars, so I showed some for ten, thinking that by so doing I could save him some embarrassment and still meet his requirements. He said they were “nice”, but would I please show him our “best” ones. So I did, some Scotch cashmeres, in the meantime making a mental note never again to judge a man by his jacket. He selected one at $27.50 and then asked if I would “lay it aside” and accept “$2 weekly” until it was paid for. I said I would and he came in every Saturday for a month and lived up to his agreement. On his fourth payment he asked to see some more “fine sweaters”, selected one at $25, and then asked if I’d lay this aside, too. He wanted still to pay $2 a week (not $4) and pick up both sweaters when the whole amount, $52.50, had been paid. I consented only after I had tried to dissuade him from spending so much money. I didn’t know what his income was, but I suspected $52.50 was most of two weeks’ wages. Believe it, or not, after about six more payments he propositioned me again. It seems we had four English alpaca sweaters in our State Street window and would I please lay these aside too! Well, this was obviously ridiculous. While we had nothing to lose (all his selections would remain in our hands until all were paid for, and this by his request), I felt that I had to do something if my unusual client wasn’t to go into hock for life. But it wasn’t easy. This gentleman was obviously the sensitive type. I told him, and as gently as I could, that our arrangement was a bit top heavy, that there was no need to buy so many sweaters because the foreign markets were opening up again, that even prices might soon come down, and finally, I suggested something that was really none of my business – that he was spending too great a part of his income for things he could do without. He was very courteous. He listened intently to everything I said but could he still have the sweaters? He said he didn’t drink or smoke, that $2 a week was no hardship, and that if I was worried he could pay $2.75 or $3 weekly! I got nowhere. I asked him then if he would at least take out a couple of sweaters and enjoy wearing them while he was paying me. He said, “No, thanks,” that he expected to pay his total bill by the following August, at which time he’d take them out in time for his two-weeks’ vacation in Nova Scotia, his childhood home. Right after he left, Tim came up and informed me that, contrary to my belief, Mr. “C” now had thirteen sweaters in the “hold” department instead of the seven I had believed. It seems our little friend had bought half dozen more in the weeks past while making his Saturday payments to other clerks!

So I called my boys together. What to do without offending our passionate friend. It was finally agreed I should go to his place of employment, and as gently as possible, call the deal off and refund his payments or, if that proved too difficult, settle for the first three sweaters that were now paid for in full. Well, partly because I was very busy, but chiefly because I dreaded the job, I did nothing for a few weeks more. Finally, one Saturday afternoon, I asked my bookkeeper to give me Mr. “C’s” account. It was – 13 sweaters totaling $284, 39 payments totaling $78. Roxy also told me something that wouldn’t be significant ordinarily but which was in this instance – no payments had been made these past four weeks. I walked up to the building where our friend worked, and, not seeing him about, asked the starter where I could find him. Possibly you have guessed the rest. Mr. “C” had died suddenly just four weeks before and was there anything he could do? No, there wasn’t. I trudged back to the store and told the boys. Everybody felt low. About the only consolation we could find in the whole affair was my failure to deliver the ultimatum we had planned.

I shall be grateful for that failure as long as I live.

P.S. – What happened to the $78? Mr. “C’s” heirs have been reimbursed in full.

 

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