They were all looking at me. Staring, actually. I looked around the silent sales room. No one blinked. They were all stunned.
For twenty minutes, I'd laid on a coating of bullshit that would have made Bill Clinton cringe. And it worked. I sold a year of lawn care to a woman who, at first, thought our service was an environmental menace.
"Do you know Dr. Peter Raven?" I asked.
"From the botanical gardens?" she said.
"Why, yes, of course."
"Did you know that Dr. Raven approved our formula and application schedule?"
Peter Raven has been the lead botanist at Missouri Botanical Garden since 1971. He was also an outspoken environmentalist. This was 1989.
"Would Dr. Raven approve something that would be bad for birds and children?"
I then read from an article about Dr. Raven. The woman at the other end of the phone line was impressed. But she wanted to know how Raven was connected with my lawn care company.
"Peter Raven was mentor and inspiration to Sam Reynolds, and Sam Reynolds is our chief botanist. Reynolds designs and tests all of our treatments and tailors them specifically for plants and animals in each neighborhod. He consults with Dr. Raven all the time."
Some of that was true. Reynolds (not his real name, by the way) worked with Raven. He'd also consulted with Missouri Botanical Garden at one time. The rest was pure BS.
I was young. I'd taken a year off from the Navy. I had two young children--both under two--and money was tight. I needed sales.
The woman wanted some evidence.
"Check the literature I left on your door. You'll see that Dr. Sam Reynolds is our consulting botanist. Missouri Botanical Garden will verify that he worked there."
"Oh," she said. She was silent for a moment, then "did you say I can cancel anytime?"
"Yes, of course."
"Well, I supposed I could schedule one treatment while I check out your story."
I knew she'd never check it out.
"That'll be fine. I can't schedule a single application, but you can call us anytime and cancel your program, no questions asked."
"Okay. I'll take it then."
I wrapped up the conversation and said good-bye.
My fellow salespeople were stared. Finally, David spoke up.
"Was any of that true?"
"I think so," I said.
My sales technique was the least of the ethics problems at the company. Management was downright tyrannical. They encouraged all kinds of shady practices, even some illegal.
For instance, a sales manager was fired for hiring a black guy. And I almost got fired for helping a customer use our guarantee to obtain a follow-up treatment. And that "cancel anytime" guarantee was pure bullshit. Yeah, the company advertised such a guarantee, but it wasn't in the agreement people signed. Unless they insisted I write it in and sign it. Even then, we kept no records of customers who called to cancel, and we continued to bill them for treatments even after they called.
And couple years before I started working there, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch uncovered the fact that the company was spraying nothing but tap water on people's lawns.
Luckily for everyone, that company went out of business long ago.
I can't speak of the other sales people, but I told myself, "hey, I'm just doing what the bosses tell me to do."
I know how the IRS employees in Cincinnati feel. They're being called "incompetent, rogue agents." A former chief enforcement officer for the IRS in St. Louis told me Friday that he believes a few low-level employees with axes to grind took matters into their own hands.
"It happens more than you might think," he said. "It was nothing coordinated."
The low-level employees might have done the dirty work, but they were simply doing what they were told. Sure, they should have said, "hell no." That would have been the right and honorable thing to do. Instead, they carried out their orders--orders signaled to their managers from Barack Obama himself.
Kimberly Strassel at the Wall Street Journal exposes Obama's hand in the IRS policies of intimidation and harassment against political opponents.
The president derided "tea baggers." Vice President Joe Biden compared them to "terrorists." In more than a dozen speeches Mr. Obama raised the specter that these groups represented nefarious interests that were perverting elections. "Nobody knows who's paying for these ads," he warned. "We don't know where this money is coming from," he intoned.
Anyone who's ever worked for a company know that when the CEO speaks, you listen and respond accordingly. You don't need a memo. If you do need a memo, you're fired. That's how organizations work, and the government more so than most.
Obama is a tyrant. The functionaries in government--like cogs in the Soviet machine--recognize his marching orders and understand the consequences of not following his lead.
At some point in 2010, a lowly GS-7 undoubtedly told his cube-mates "I'm asking this tea party group to detail the content of their prayers." His cube-mates stared. One of them asked, "You think that's kosher?"
Then a supervisor nodded and all the other little GS-7s tapped out "content of prayers" on their keyboards. And they all rested comfortably knowing that their supreme leader, Barack H. Obama, would be very pleased with their intimidating questions.
NOTE: I will be on The Jaco Report tomorrow at 8:30 a.m. on KTVI Fox 2 to discuss the IRS scandal.