My humble beginnings of being penniless throughout my collegiate years, were about to improve.
My first job at Allied Sporting Goods required stringing tennis racquets, drilling holes in bowling balls, and putting grips on golf clubs. Maybe I made $6.00 an hour.
Then one night a customer came in that was a Vice President at Stewart’s Dry Goods. I was suggesting string for his racquet, and he asked if I played tennis. This led to a match at his tennis club. Needless to say I had never been a guest at a tennis club. I pummeled him.
He had the racquet bag, the elbow thing, the matching outfit. I hit a few balls into the net for sportsmanship purposes. A few weeks later he said there was an opening at Stewart’s Dry Goods for a hard goods manager. I still don’t think I know what Hard Goods are. I guess the opposite of soft goods.
So I get this job, in a gigantic store, the size of like a Macy’s, in Evansville Indiana. They are paying me basically a million dollars, actually $475 dollars a week.
The job was amazing. Everyone was Mr. or Miss or Mrs. It was very professional there. Everyone called me Mr. Costello, and on Tuesday and Thursday nights I was key holder. That meant I was in charge of the entire place. I think it was five floors.
After a week or two, I was given sales reports and told I could receive a $1500 dollar year end bonus. I could not quite get my arms around that number. The past years of college I didn’t even have a checking account, and would hide from my landlord when my $76.00 in rent was due.
So let’s meet the four ladies.
The hard goods I was managing appeared to be house wares, cookware, luggage, and bedding. I figured right away if you are getting this bonus bedding was the most expensive thing we sold. I was homesick for sure and missed my grandmother. The four ladies in bedding would average about ten mattresses a month. This included box springs etc.
One Friday I took Mrs. Humphrey to lunch. She was interested in going to New York and wanted to learn more about New York and me. The following week all of the other ladies were upset. My first bout with corporate drama. Ouch.
In the Midwest people speak their mind, so Mrs. Natoli gave me an earful. I then had a meeting with the four ladies, and told them that I was sorry. I also said if they sold four mattresses a week, we would all go to lunch every Friday. Mrs Natoli was off Friday but she would come in for the lunch. During the lunches we laughed and told stories, and they were all special ladies. Generally by Wednesday they had more than enough mattresses and box springs, to go to lunch. I would stop by the area, and they would say Mr. Costello we just sold another one. Then the call came.
The general manager said I was to call Mr. Higgins in Louisville. The general manager seemed nervous; he had only talked to Mr. Higgins a few times. Mr. Higgins had a secretary that patched me through.
“Mr. Costello your team sold more bedding than the mother ship this month.”
“I’d like to discuss your strategy, your branch is up close to 400 percent.”
I told the truth which he didn’t seem to appreciate. He said the proof was in the pudding, and I was to drive to Louisville and share my story with the hard good managers there. He reminded me three or four more times we were up 400 percent. I met with the hard good managers, and when the dust settled, I was given the $1,500 dollars, a hotel room at the Galt House until I relocated, and they offered me an area manager job, all before my 21st birthday. The next day I traded my 1973 Camaro for a new Volkswagen Jetta, and found a townhouse on the Ohio River for $168.00 a month.
A four hundred percent increase was just a homesick kid, and four older sales ladies that enjoyed a nice lunch on Friday afternoon.