Daily Flash Fiction Challenge 100: The Salesman’s Destruction

This is the 100th in a series of 365 Flash Fiction stories I’m writing. You can find out more about the challenge here.

The Salesman’s Destruction, by Jonathan L. Lawrence, 11th March 2013

Word count: 795

The story:

“If you think this kind of behaviour is acceptable you are sorely mistaken. We do not con our customers,” the manager, Kirk Brentwood said furiously. “Have you any idea how much grief I’m getting over this? Head office wants to investigate thousands of sales, and for what?”

“It was a mistake,” Francis said, feeling hard done to, but trying to show contrition.

“I listened to the call, I’ve seen the quote records, and the sale record, are you really telling me that’s a mistake?”

“Yes,” Francis said, “I was just trying to be the best. It’s been a tough sales month.”

“Bullshit,” Kirk said, “That’s bullshit. You don’t want to be the best, that’s not why you’ve been top sales man this past three months. You want the extra five hundred pound bonus that goes with it.”

“No…” Francis started to say.

“Hey I don’t mind, your a sales person, I expect you to be after the rewards, hungry for the commission. We’re a sales company. But here’s the thing, you don’t cut corners. Right now we have a pissed off client, and to make this right, he’s going to end up with his order gratis. That comes out of my budget, and it makes head office nervous. They want to know about liability.”

“Nothing like this has ever happened before, it was just a mistake,” Francis defended himself.

“You keep repeating that like it’s some kind of mantra. It’s not good enough Francis, you lied, you cheated the customer, and you cheated the company. That’s plainly not on. Do you understand?”

“I do understand,” Francis said, “It won’t happen again.”

“Oh no, you don’t get off that easy. I’ve no choice but to set an example,” Kirk said his voice getting lower, “Which is why I’m docking you your commissions for this month.”

“You can’t do that,” Francis protested. “I’ve checked, your contract gives me the authority, the company gives me the authority. Frankly, head office would have you out of here on misconduct. I’ll settle for your commission.”

“You think I’m the only one that made a mistake? How do you think George was beating me?”

“I spent a lot of time on that very question,” Kirk responded after a moment, “And do you know what? He’s got a clean bill of health. The only thing he did wrong all month was transpose a digit on someone’s credit card.”

Francis was silent, that was close to his last gambit.

“So here’s how it’s going to go,” Kirk said taking Francis’ silence as surrender, “No commission this month. Next month if you don’t hit target, and/or have any kind of complaint there’ll be no commission then either. In fact that’s the new policy, make complaints will remove your commission in its entirety… And before you get upset that it’s not fair, it applies to all of you. A serious complaint and you will walk. Am I clear?”

“Then I regretfully resign,” Francis said, playing his final card, “This is no way to run a sales team. The money’s good, but only if you’re top. I could go to McCartney’s and earn more on a bad month.”

“Yeah,” Kirk said, “I thought you might say that, but here’s the thing I’ve gone out on a limb for you, so here’s how it will go,” Kirk started to say.

“No, how it’s going to go is I quit,” Francis said firmly.

“Fine, but you’ll need to find a way to explain why you have no references for the past five years.”

“I’ll just put HR down, they only need the basics,” Francis said.

“HR have instructions to forward any requests for references to me, and I shall be fair, but honest,” Kirk said with a smile.

“You wouldn’t…” Francis began to say.

“Your my best salesman up until this, of course I’m not going to let you screw me over and walk out the door to boot. No, you did wrong, accept your punishment with grace, and then win back your top salesman status. You’ve got a big future here, and I’m not just talking sales, and I’m not going to let you throw it away,” Kirk said suddenly impassioned.

“Can we discuss this overly harsh punishment?”

“No, but if you feel it’s best to walk away, given all my warnings, well that’s just how it’s got to be. George shows promise too,” Kirk said hoping to head off any further negotiations.

Francis visibly deflated, he had run out of final gambits.

“Okay,” he said flatly, effectively waving goodbye to his commission he had earned this month, and next.

“Good show,” Kirk said with a smile he’d not worn since he had worked on the sales floor. He felt tremendous joy knowing he still had it.

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