MR. KEEN drove me up to his farm in Connecticut to spend a couple of days in the country "resting". I wondered what we had been doing all the rest of the time.
His place was a big, rambling white-washed farm house, with beautiful old American furniture in keeping with the lovely old house itself. But it had tiled bathrooms and glistening bathroom fixtures, an automatic hotwater system and all the other conveniences of his apartment in town. The first day men called to sell him vacuum cleaners.
"What the Hell is the matter with you fellows?" Mr. Keen asked the third salesman in exasperation. "You're the third one to-day trying to sell me the same damn vacuum cleaner."
"I'm just trying to make a living," said the salesman, "and I guess I'm not the only one."
"But how can three of you expect to sell me the same vacuum cleaner?"
"Three? There are ten thousand of us trying to sell the same vacuum cleaner, to you or anybody else!"
"Mmm," Mr. Keen grunted appreciatively, "some outfit -- they must manufacture millions of those machines."
"No sir, not millions. We have plenty tough time trying to sell the thousand that our factory turns out each day."
"What, only a thousand machines and ten thousand men selling them? Then you're only a small outfit!"
"Oh, I don't know," said the salesman. "We have about two hundred workers."
"Two hundred workers? Ten thousand salesmen? Did I hear aright?" I asked in amazement.
"Yes, you heard right," said Mr. Keen laughing. "But that's not all. There's the factory management, office force, warehouses, showrooms, sales management, advertising, the officers of the corporation and the stock holders! Isn't that right?" he asked the salesman.
"I guess so," the man said dispiritedly.
"And all live on the work of two hundred men?" I asked again.
"Depends on what you call a living," said the salesman. "I haven't sold a machine in a month. If it weren't for a fifty cents here and a fifty cents there, cleaning up rugs with my sample vacuum cleaner, I'd starve to death."