I am a slave.
I do not want to be a slave, but I know that I am one.
I do not want to offend those whose heritage may be rooted in slavery. Slavery certainly leaves a bruise that even time will not heal completely. So to those whose ancestors suffered in chains, I say to you, listen to my story before you judge. Or do not judge at all, but accept that I feel enslaved.
Last October, after two years of intermediate employment and a financially flawed entrepreneurial endeavor, my job hunt brought me to a cemetery sales position where it was supposed that I would thrive. I was indeed led to believe this. Most sales people have been here for years, I was told, and a six figure income was the norm. The key word in that statement is “was.”
True, four of the seven sales people had been there for upwards of a decade and in the past had seen annual earnings in excess of 100K. But that was the past. What the sales manager had neglected to mention was the revolving door most of the other sales people use as they learn the cold hard facts of cemetery and pre-need funeral sales; the glory days are over. These reps had seen them and somehow built up the book of business needed to survive. A new guy didn’t have a chance.
There was some hope. I always look at a glass half full and before I decide not to drink it, I at least take a sip. I am not regretting my time at the cemetery. The location is lovely. A more peaceful environment for a walk is hard to come by. As a place for a commissioned sales person to earn a living however, it is as dead as the inhabitants.
At the start, I thought the deal was fair. Twelve weeks at $500 and 50% of full commission. After that, full commission kicks in and the $500 a week disappears because you should be in the swing of things by then and won’t need a salary to keep you afloat. If you need a boost, there is a $300 a week draw that will tide over a rep until their next commission comes in.
Performance levels didn’t sound out of the question. Sell $8,400 in property every month and you can maintain your place on the funeral home floor, taking “ups,” just like on a car lot. Fair enough. Everything made sense. Been in sales my whole life, familiar with draws, ups and commission reserves, so I was ready to roll. Especially because at my 90 day mark, my insurance would kick in and my wife and I could stop paying for that short term garbage with the high co-pay we paid into “just in case – God forbid” we have some kind of tragedy requiring surgery or a long term illness.
So I was all in. But the day before I started training, Sandra, my sales manager called to tell me the training pay plan changed – it’s now $300 a week and full commission. “Is that okay?” How could it not be? I needed the job. I was broke and had no other options. Shackle one – latch it on and pound in a bolt.