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Adventures in Business
My collegiate foray into the glamorous world of the modern umbrella salesman was an unmitigated disaster. About two weeks into my first semester, it became clear that I was going to need a steady supply of cash in order to pay for beer, pizza, and cockfight wagering—the three staples of the Ivy League experience.
But on-campus jobs for non-work-study students were hard to come by, and my parents, already none-too-pleased at having to pay $35,000 per year for my tuition, couldn’t be persuaded to finance my extra-curricular debaucheries. So, naturally, my thoughts turned to crazy, sitcomish money-making schemes—and buying and selling a whole lot of umbrellas was at the top of my list.
Just about anything, it turned out. The entire enterprise was doomed from the beginning, when I opened the box and realized that these were the worst umbrellas ever. Flimsy, small, constructed of porous black plastic and defect-riddled aluminum, these were the Little Umbrellas that Couldn’t.
In order to sell them, I tried several sales techniques, all of which were dishonest. “Buy yourself an umbrella,” I shouted. “High-quality; made in the USA!” (they were neither). I would stand outside the student union and lie about the weather forecast. “75% chance of rain tomorrow,” I’d say, smiling insincerely. “You’ll be sorry if you’re caught without one of these affordably-priced umbrellas.” Nobody listened.
In the end, I only sold four umbrellas—three to foreign nationals who didn’t really understand what I was saying, and one to an alcoholic friend who wouldn’t have noticed if it was raining or not. Towards the end, I became a pathetic figure: hanging around the dorm’s entrance at all hours, weakly harassing anyone who’d come in. Eventually, everyone started using the back door.
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