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The Real Hard Sell   By:

The Real Hard Sell by William W. Stuart

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Transcriber's note: This story was published in If: Worlds of Science Fiction , July 1961. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.

Naturally human work was more creative, more inspiring, more important than robot drudgery. Naturally it was the most important task in all the world ... or was it?


By William W. Stuart

Ben Tilman sat down in the easiest of all easy chairs. He picked up a magazine, flipped pages; stood up, snapped fingers; walked to the view wall, walked back; sat down, picked up the magazine.

He was waiting, near the end of the day, after hours, in the lush, plush waiting room "The customer's ease is the Sales Manager's please" to see the Old Man. He was fidgety, but not about something. About nothing. He was irritated at nobody, at the world; at himself.

He was irritated at himself because there was no clear reason for him to be irritated at anything.

There he sat, Ben Tilman, normally a cheerful, pleasant young man. He was a salesman like any modern man and a far better salesman than most. He had a sweet little wife, blonde and pretty. He had a fine, husky two year old boy, smart, a real future National Sales Manager. He loved them both. He had every reason to be contented with his highly desirable, comfortable lot.

And yet he had been getting more sour and edgy ever since about six months after the baby came home from the Center and the novelty of responsibility for wife and child had worn off. He had now quit three jobs, good enough sales jobs where he was doing well, in a year. For no reason? For petty, pointless reasons.

With Ancestral Insurance, "Generations of Protection," he'd made the Billion Dollar Club and immediately begun to feel dissatisfied with it just before cute, sexy, blonde Betty had suddenly come from nowhere into his life and he had married her. That had helped, sure. But as soon after that as he had started paying serious attention to his job again, he was fed up with it. "Too much paper work. All those forms. It's work for a robot, not a man," he'd told Betty when he quit. A lie. The paper work was, as he looked back on it, not bad at all; pleasant even, in a way. It was just nothing. Anything.

Indoor Outdoor Climatizers sniffles, he said, kept killing his sales presentation even though his record was good enough. Ultra sonic toothbrushes, then, were a fine product. Only the vibration, with his gold inlay, seemed to give him headaches after every demonstration. He didn't have a gold inlay. But the headaches were real enough. So he quit.

So now he had a great new job with a great organization, Amalgamated Production for Living ALPRODLIV. He was about to take on his first big assignment.

For that he had felt a spark of the old enthusiasm and it had carried him into working out a bright new sales approach for the deal tonight. The Old Man himself had taken a personal interest, which was a terrific break. And still Ben Tilman felt that uneasy dissatisfaction. Damn.

"Mr. Robb will see you now, Mr. Tilman," said the cool robot voice from the Elec Sec Desk. It was after customer hours and the charming human receptionist had gone. The robot secretary, like most working robots, was functional in form circuits and wires, mike, speaker, extension arms to type and to reach any file in the room, wheels for intra office mobility.

"Thanks, hon," said Ben. Nevertheless, robot secretaries were all programmed and rated female and it was wise to be polite to them. After all, they could think and had feelings. There were a lot of important things they could do for a salesman or, sometimes, not do... Continue reading book >>

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