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´╗┐Title: Sales Resistance
Author: Still, Henry
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Sales Resistance" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



                           sales resistance

                            BY HENRY STILL

             _When Consumption means prosperity, when the
            Pulitzer Prize is awarded to advertising copy,
            when the Salesman is the most respected citizen
           in the land.... What chance has a non-consumer?_

           [Transcriber's Note: This etext was produced from
              Worlds of If Science Fiction, August 1956.
         Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that
         the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.]


On his way home from the concert, Perry Mansfield whistled a pleasant
melody from an old Stravinsky classic. But then, troubled by his
conscience and that of his psychiatrist, he stopped to study the
program again.

What was that modern symphony? Oh yes, "The Flivver". The music was
supposed to have its roots in antiquity when someone started converting
the metal wealth of the earth on an assembly line. Those screeching
noises were drill presses and lathes and automatic hammers. The syrupy
melody was the saintly salesman who disbursed the wealth of gadget and
machine like melted butter across the bread of the land.

Perry tried to like it. But he didn't. And that disturbed him. It meant
his psychotherapy wasn't working. Dr. Stone would run him through the
mechanical analyzer again and scold over the results.

His simple act of walking home instead of riding an anti-gravity
putterseat labeled him as a misfit. But it seemed silly to rent a
flying stool just to travel two blocks.

The fact was, he liked to walk.

Perry sighed, discouraged, as he waited for the fluorescent scanner to
identify his insides and open his front door.

It opened. The lights came on. Recorded music, somewhat tuned to his
mood, poured from concealed amplifiers.

And then he noticed the note clipped to the door.

His hand trembled as he took it down. The beautiful pastel gray of the
enclosing envelope was an anachronism itself, and therefore marked
unmistakably its almost priestly origin.

The platinum engraved card inside said simply:

_A Master Salesman has chosen you for his next call._

Perry placed the note carefully on a plastic table. He inhaled deeply
and held it for a moment to steady his nerves.

A _Master_ salesman. No one of that stature had ever called upon him
before. It was an honor like--like a mayor or a bishop. It meant
he had attained top level on the universal measuring stick--an
A-number-1-plus-plus credit rating.

The prospect should have saturated him with pleasure. But, like the
sharp new music, it didn't.

This card also meant he was expected to buy something. Something big
and expensive. And he didn't want or need something big and expensive.

He wished they'd leave him alone.

Perry clapped his hand to his mouth as though someone might have heard
the thought.

What was wrong with him anyway? He wasn't a recluse. He _wanted_ to
indulge and enjoy the polished luxury of his world. He _wanted_ to be
conventional. He was young and handsome and tall and dark. He had a
good job. He had a pleasant and comfortable legal arrangement with a
girl in the next block.

But truly, what he had was all he wanted.

He glanced at the card on the table. He could always say _no_. It
wouldn't be easy, but he could say _no_.

Perry thumbed through the Pulitzer prize winning work for 2087 which
had been delivered yesterday as part of his book club subscription.
He had seen it already, of course, in a dozen magazines and a hundred
copies of his facsimile newspaper. It was the advertising copy for
Cor-T-Zan foundation garments. But he didn't need a corset and the
spartan simplicity of the fragile, lovely words bored him.

He switched on television. A phrenetic band was hammering out the new
top jingle on the Hit Parade:

    _Tootsie gum, tootsie gum
    Ooh yum-yum, it's touched with rum;
    Love that girl with eyes so hot,
    TOOTSIE GUM hits the spot._

Perry switched off the set.

He was alone. He could be honest with himself. The whole damned
business irritated him. If he was out of step with the times, to hell
with the times.

Mr. Master Salesman didn't even say _when_ he would call. You were
expected to sit on the edge of your chair, waiting for the great man to
appear.

Finally Perry decided what he'd do. He'd simply not open the door when
the MS came knocking.

Upon that decision, he slept well.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sometime later he dreamed of frying bacon over an open fire in the
woods, although he hadn't been out to the park in three years.

When he opened his eyes, the sun was up. He still smelled bacon frying.

Perry crawled out of bed, fumbled into his robe and followed his nose
to the kitchen-bar.

There, in his favorite chair, sat a handsomely-dressed, distinguished
man with florid complexion, iron gray hair and a fashionable paunch.

Strips of bacon were frying on the bright, spotless steel of the
cooking shield.

"How did you get in here?" Perry asked crossly.

"Serve-All does all," his visitor said cryptically and smiled the smile
that's known around the world. Perry would have no opportunity to shut
out the Master Salesman. He was in.

"You are Mr. Mansfield?"

"Yes sir," Perry said, uncertain of decorum.

"My name is Marlboro," the MS said in melodius tones. "Master is the
proper term used in addressing us. Please sit down."

"Yes, Master," Perry said. He felt like a fool and sat down.

"Breakfast will be served in a few moments," Marlboro said. "I hope you
don't mind, I examined your excellent library before you came in." He
pulled a volume off the shelf. "This is a beautiful old first edition.
Wherever did you find it?"

It was Perry's copy of "Basic Sales Techniques" with Burton footnotes
on vacuum cleaner sales charts for the last half of the 20th century.

"I've read it, of course," Marlboro continued, "but I've never owned a
copy." He caressed the dogeared cardboard cover. "Isn't it fantastic?
In that barbaric century the customers sometimes refused to buy from
our predecessors in the Guild. It seems impossible that anyone could
have been so crude as to turn away one of those sturdy pioneers at the
door."

Perry shifted uncomfortably. He had been prepared to turn away one of
the Great Men at _his_ door.

"Ah!" Marlboro exclaimed. "Your bacon is ready, young man."

At a flick of the salesman's finger, the golden strips of meat lifted
into the air and floated to an absorbent mat on the table. Perry
stared. Not a bubble of fat had fallen to the floor in passage.

"How did you do that?"

"Serve-All does all," the MS said coyly.

"Mine doesn't," Perry said.

"Of course not!" Marlboro moved deftly into the opening. "You need a
new one."

So he had tumbled for the first trap. Perry blushed and ate a piece of
bacon.

The Master hefted an object to the table top. It was a hemisphere about
18 inches in diameter, smooth and featureless except for a handle on
the curved top. It was painted psychological green.

"This is the _new_ Serve-All," Marlboro said glibly. "Notice its smooth
unobtrusive shape. No working parts exposed, but inside is a mass of
circuits and servos around a baby reactor ready to do everything for
you."

"The bacon," Perry persisted. "How?"

He was aware that the first step in successful selling is to arouse
curiosity. But he was confident he could refuse to buy, though it be
contrary to convention and good taste.

"Fingers of energy," the MS said. "Invisible, sensitive fingers of
energy reach out of here--" He tapped the Serve-All dome. "--and
they'll do anything that needs doing, at your mental command. Right
now this one's tuned to me, but a minor adjustment will fit it to your
personal needs. Here, let me show you something else."

Perry felt a gentle, firm pressure on his left cheekbone. It moved down
his cheeks, across his upper lip and up the other side. Then under his
chin.

Marlboro whipped out a pocket mirror.

Perry had just been shaved.

"See?" the Master beamed. "Wonderful isn't it?" Perry nodded. That was
calculated to put him in a yes mood.

While they talked the Serve-All cleared the breakfast clutter and
cleaned the cooking shield without visible remains or waste. Marlboro
pulled a contract pad out of his pocket.

"I presume I can put you down for one of these."

"I don't need it," Perry said. "My old one is good enough."

"Ridiculous!" Marlboro said indignantly and then chuckled
good-humoredly. "Oh, I see what you're doing. You're trying some of the
old tricks from the 20th century. Well, I like a game of wits, too.
Look what else this model will do."

While Perry watched, the Serve-All repaired a broken knob on a plastic
chest, cleaned the rug and etched a mural of a voluptuous nude on one
blank wall.

"If you'll excuse me," Perry murmured, "it's time for me to go to work."

"Of course, of course," the Master laughed jovially.

In rapid succession a comb dressed Perry's hair, his robe and pajamas
were whisked off and his street clothes came floating out of the closet
on more invisible fingers of energy.

Before he knew it, he was ready for work.

"I really must be going, too," Marlboro said, "if you'll just sign
here."

"How much is it?"

The Master Salesman sighed.

"You're really very difficult. It's $9,785, plus tax."

"I can't afford it."

"Now, Mr. Mansfield. A joke's a joke. If your credit rating wasn't
the finest, I wouldn't be here. I know, and you know, your income is
mortgaged for only 15 more years and your life expectancy is at least
50."

Perry moved uneasily toward the bathroom. An invisible finger of energy
opened the door for him.

"If you don't mind," he said angrily, "this is something I'm quite
capable of doing for myself." He slammed the door.

But the Serve-All flushed the toilet for him.

When he emerged, Marlboro's patience also was gone.

"Sign," he said firmly.

"I don't want it."

"Young man," the Master said thinly. "You don't realize what dangerous
ground you're on. If you do not cease this rudeness at once, I'll
report you to the council."

"Report and be damned! I don't need your gadget and I'm not going to
buy it. Now get out!"

Marlboro was blue with rage. He backed uncertainly toward the door and
stopped.

"This borders on sacrilege," he whispered. "You'll hear from me again.
Soon."

Perry slammed that door, too, and walked jauntily to work.

       *       *       *       *       *

He heard from the Master Salesman again--exactly two hours later. The
message tube delivered a summons ordering him into City Court. That
afternoon.

Perry went. He had never been in court before. He was frightened and
regretful that he had been so abrupt with Marlboro. But he resented the
invasion of his privacy and to bolster his courage, he built that anger
into a fair rage by the time he reached the courtroom.

Marlboro was there. A judge was there. And on each of two tables
squatted a metal box with voice tubes. A bailiff guided him to his
table and placed the voice tube in his hand.

"You're late Mr. Mansfield," the judge snapped. "Justice must be swift
and you're impeding it." He lifted a printed card and scanned it
near-sightedly for a moment. "You're here charged with violating the
public interest by failing to purchase an item which you are able to
consume and which you can afford to buy."

"There's no law against--" Perry began indignantly.

"Don't tell me your troubles, young man," the judge interrupted.
"That's what your lawyer's for." His gesture indicated the metal box.
Perry held the voice tube dumbly. The bailiff leaned over his shoulder.

"You tell your side of the story in there," he whispered.

Marlboro was muttering rapidly and at great length into his "lawyer."
Perry did likewise, relating all he could remember of the morning
fiasco. When he finished, the machine whirred, whistled and harrumphed
twice before spewing out several yards of perforated tape.

The plaintiff's counsel did the same, except the tape was longer.

"Now Mr. Bailiff," the judge said, "you may bring in the jury."

Perry was no longer surprised when the jury was rolled in. It was a
large gray analog computor mounted on wheels. The judge stepped down
from the bench and fed in the two conflicting tapes.

The jury digested the information noisily.

"It's an old model," the judge apologized, but just then a white card
popped out on a small metal tray. The bailiff delivered it to the judge.

He studied the card. Perry's heart thumped painfully during the
calculated period of suspense.

"As you attempted to inform the court earlier, Mr. Mansfield," the
judge said somberly, "there is no law in the land which forces you
to buy any item from our distinguished colleagues of distribution."
Perry's heart brightened and he slid back from the edge of the chair.

"However," the judge peered down, "it has been held by many courts that
when the public interest is to be served by the individual purchase
of a piece of merchandise which that individual can consume and which
that individual is able to buy without financial hardship, then that
individual _must_ sacrifice his emotional reluctance to the good of
society."

The jurist paused thoughtfully.

"I think, Mr. Mansfield, that you should relearn the basic tenets of
our society and economy. First, Consumption is Prosperity and that
derives from the ancient law of Supply and Demand. S & D means, in
simple terms, that when there is a supply of something, a demand must
be created to consume it. That is why we have Master Salesmen. That is
why they are the staunchest and most highly-respected citizens in our
land."

He bowed to Marlboro who assumed a benevolent smile.

"This court decrees," the judge said sternly, "that you are to purchase
an item known as the 2087 Serve-All from Master Salesman Marlboro and
customary steps will be taken to attach your future salary to satisfy
the stipulated payment schedule. Court dismissed."

Perry was too stunned to move. His petty rebellion had collapsed into a
pot of embarrassment. He was vaguely aware of Marlboro shaking his hand
with a moist, jovial palm.

"No hard feelings, young man," the MS said. "It was really quite
interesting. I haven't had a case like this in five years."

The condescension stirred Perry's anger again.

"I demand an appeal!"

The judge was leaving the bench, but he turned back.

"Appeal bond is $2000."

"No appeal," Perry said glumly.

       *       *       *       *       *

He walked home. The 2087 Serve-All was there waiting for him, in the
middle of his living room floor.

Marlboro had tied a gay red ribbon around it to cheer him.

He wasn't cheered. The thing must have been delivered even while he was
in court. There had never been a doubt that he would lose the case.
Rage began to crawl its acid path through his stomach again.

The Serve-All was tuned to him now. It removed his hat and coat and put
them in the closet. It loosened his tie, patted a sofa cushion to his
shape and brought him a drink.

Perry might just possibly have adjusted to the situation, but the
Serve-All was over anxious.

He liked to sip a drink. But when he lifted the glass to his lips, an
invisible finger of energy pushed helpfully on the bottom.

Perry strangled.

When he recovered, his rage had crystallized in a definite course of
action.

He looked at the Serve-All and he looked at his hands. Not enough. He
needed something much more. His memory of history recalled such items
as an axe and a sledge hammer, but such no longer existed.

But the plastic table had legs of substantial heft. A low growl rose in
his throat as he grabbed the table and ripped it to pieces.

The dismayed Serve-All scuttled across the room to repair the damage.

Perry fended it off with his new club and then smashed downward, again
and again, delighting in the screech of crushed metal and the tinkling
death of transistors, vacuum tubes and servos.

At the center was the tiny reactor box, but that was of solid lead
and steel, that, fortunately, was virtually impervious for radiation
safety. But he didn't care. It was also inert and needn't be destroyed.

So Perry was free; as free as an aging husband who has just dispatched
his jaded wife. He sang a little and danced around the shattered scraps
of plastic and wire and metal.

Then he heard the plaintive bleating beep of sound issuing from the
central core of the Serve-All. He bent over it and read engraved
lettering on the steel: "Central Registry No. C187-D69."

Good God! Any idiot would know that every piece of equipment was
centrally registered and carried a built-in signal to summon repair
machinery.

And destruction of mortgaged property was a criminal offense.

So what now?

Escape?

Escape! He must be out of the house when the repair machine arrived.
He must run and keep running, from the law and the Master Salesman and
Serve-All, Inc.

How much time did he have? Not more than a few minutes for the smooth
central machinery to reach across the city to him; machinery which even
now was on its way to rescue a damaged brother.

Perry snatched his coat from the closet and ran to the door.

Food. If he would hide from the methodical meat grinder of society, he
must have food to live. He raced to the kitchen bar.

There was food there, but he didn't know how to get at it. He had never
before needed to do more than dial up portions for a meal, but he must
have food in containers, food that would not spoil while he conserved
his life on its dwindling supply.

He ripped open a locked panel on the wall. There was food. But the
large containers were locked in place. He clawed at the metal, but only
tore his flesh and dripped blood on the immaculate counter top.

The club he had used on the Serve-All! He recovered the plastic
bludgeon and went to work.

Five minutes later he had dislodged two of the large tins. One said
_beans_; the other said _meat_.

_Beans_ dripped a trail of juice across the floor as he ran to the door.

He threw it open.

A repair robot scuttled in and knocked him sprawling on the living room
floor.

Perry stared wildly at the mechanical beast. It hummed anxiously,
retrieving bits of wreckage like a mother bird repairing a broken egg.

Mansfield belly-crawled stealthily back toward the door. He might make
it yet. The robot probably wasn't geared for cop duty.

But the door was blocked.

Perry looked up past the knees and the belted paunch to the face. It
was Master Marlboro.

Perry rose wearily to his feet and dropped the tins of food to the
floor.

"All right," he said, "I give up."

"Really, Mr. Mansfield," Marlboro's lips curled with delicate disgust.
"Isn't this a childish way to treat a beautiful machine?"

"What will you do with me?"

The MS didn't answer. He pulled a contract pad out of his pocket and
started writing.

"You mean you're going to sell me another one?"

Marlboro shoved the pad in his hand.

"I'm quite sure you'll sign this one," he said firmly.

Perry read the sales contract:

_For standard consideration, this entitles one Perry Mansfield to all
required services and exclusive use of private quarters in Airy Hills
Sanatarium._

Perry signed.





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