I looked at the lady, then at her son, then at my orange balloon, then back at the lady. I took a few seconds to analyze the situation: I had something she wanted. No, even better. I had something her son wanted–her crying son. But, I wanted it too. On the other hand, I had already had my fun with it and this was an opportunity to make a profit. It would only be a matter of time before he found another one or someone else just gave him one. We were at a birthday party, after all. How much was this boring-air-not-even-helium-filled balloon worth? NOTHING compared to what she was offering.
“Okay,” I said and handed over the balloon.
“Thank you so much!” she said, handing me a five dollar bill and eagerly passing the balloon along to her crying child.
It would be another ten years or so before I even learned the terms supply and demand in high school, yet I had been practicing the art of making a sale my entire childhood–y’know, the hustle.
If you look at my work history now, you will see that I have about 10 years of sales experience, but the truth is that it started much earlier than that. A more accurate number would be around 20 years, even though I’m only 28.
My mom used to make tamales or menudo on Sundays to sell out of our apartment. Later, we added the sale of candy, ice cream, and even frozen Kool-Aid. The ice cream and Kool-Aid were seasonal. We would post a sign in the elevator promoting our shop in apartment 309.
During the school year, I would get up in the morning, get dressed, have breakfast, and make sure that I packed a bag of candy in my backpack. I was testing out the market. Instead of waiting for kids to get out of school, I would bring the product directly to them.
“She’s so dumb,” one of the boys said laughing at me as I sold a lollipop during recess. “She makes the money, but then she just spends it again on another bag. She’s so dumb.”
“Yup,” I said and got back to my sale. What he didn’t know was that I knew a thing or two about making a profit. The bag was about $5 and if I sold the 40 pieces at 25 cents each, I would bring in $10, but it was best that he didn’t know that.
Eventually, we outgrew the candy-selling business and I started helping my mom gain new clients for her housecleaning business. This time, I wasn’t dealing with children, I was dealing with a brand new client: the adult. I learned the art of making and receiving phone calls, scheduling visits, quoting prices, designing and ordering business cards. My mom had me help her because she assumed that I knew how to do all of these things since ustedes fueron a la escuela, you guys went to school, she said.
(Eye roll. I’ve been trying to tell her since we were kids that school did not prepare me for these types of real world situations, but she doesn’t believe me. I just told her this again, yesterday! Ask me what about the Oxford comma, mom, and I’ll tell you. Okay, rant over.)
When I got a job in retail at 18, I was great at it. I could easily sell you a $50 bra, a $20 panty, and sign you up for a credit card that you didn’t want or need–my first job was at Victoria’s Secret.
So, when I told my mom about my balloon sale, she was upset. She gave me a look that clearly communicated how she felt: that I had taken advantage of the situation. Of course, she also didn’t tell me to return the money.
And that’s how I made my first sale.