n 1937 at Sears I routed the collectors all over five midwestern states. We had a big map with pins where the accounts were, and then you would decide that the collector would go here, there, and the other place. You’d center the collector around a Sears store, and then he could operate from there. You’d send his mail to the store.
They got travel expenses–$1.10 a day for meals and $1.25 a day for hotels. If you wanted to live better you were on your own.
I remember one day a collector came in. He’d been in Paducah, Kentucky, and he said, “Do you know how far Route 1 is from Paducah?”
I said, “No. How would I know?”
He said, “It’s about 40 miles straight into the sticks–to collect $5?” He said, “How come you don’t know? How far have you been from Chicago?”
I said, “Oh, maybe a radius of 50 miles.”
He said, “Look girl, get yourself a $10 ticket down to the Mississippi Delta some weekend, just so you can say you’ve been somewhere.”
Then there was the time I went to mass on Sunday and this guy a few pews up looked like Mr. Perkins. Well, I suddenly realized that Mr. Perkins was going to be in Lincoln, Illinois, on Monday morning, and I’d forgotten to send the accounts out. I panicked. I didn’t know what to do.
I called my boss, Mr. Henderson, and told him that the most awful thing had happened.
He said, “Oh, that’s all right. We’ll call the store in the morning and ask them to give him a few of their own accounts, and you can get ours out for Tuesday.”
But if I hadn’t called him he would have raised the roof off the place. He was one of those guys who screamed and yelled. And whenever you got a raise, which you got maybe once a year, he would call you over and spend about 20 minutes telling you that you got the raise not because you deserved it but out of the kindness of his heart. That’s true. And you could never tell anyone what you made. That was company policy. At Sears salaries were secret.
Then there was Dusty Rhodes. He was a collector we hired in Columbus, Ohio, one December.
Now what we’d do, we’d pick out the overdue accounts, and we’d send them to a collector. On the bottom we’d write “collect or pick up,” if what the customer owed on was something the collector could pick up.
Anyway, Dusty Rhodes gets the accounts in Columbus, and he goes around on Christmas Eve. The people are putting up their Christmas trees, and he’s hauling the furniture out.
The day after Christmas we get a call from the Columbus store manager. “Where did you get this guy?”
Henderson decided the collector should come into the office right away. So Dusty comes in. He was about six foot four, red hair, real terrific looking. But he was going to do the job right. He said, “That’s what you said, so that’s what I did. Nobody said anything about you didn’t work Christmas Eve.”
He was wonderful. He was great. He was still collecting when I left the place.
And then there was this other collector. He was in Quincy, Illinois, and his mother-in-law died, so he came back to Chicago for the funeral. And Henderson had a fit. He said, “I don’t believe in funerals!”
Everybody said, “There’s one he’s going to believe in.” And I’m sure he’s had it by now, ’cause he was a lot older than I was.