No one sells door to door anymore. That’s why I was surprised when my doorbell rang and a young man with red hair and freckles stood on my stoop holding an array of mops.
I wasn’t sure I should open the door. After all, he could have a gun hidden among the mops, but I wasn’t sure where that could be, so I opened the door. I was bored that afternoon, and I like red hair and freckles.
“Good afternoon, ma’am. My name is Rodney Smithson, and I’m trying to earn money for college. That’s why I am selling these terrific mops. They’re made by Mops-a-Lot, a new company here in Ashleyville.”
I’m all in favor of new businesses and heaven knows, Ashleyville, Ohio could use a few signs of life in some of those boarded-up buildings.
I decided to listen to Mr. Rodney Smithson. He began with a great big grin, and then he burst into song while still holding his mops. I didn’t recognize the melody.
“Listen, madam, I’ve got a great thing here,
It’s a mop to bring you cheer.
You say your floors are dirty?
We’ll clean them all in less than thirty.
Mops-a-Lot, Mops-a-Lot, Mops-a-Lot!”
He had a really nice voice, I decided, and I laughed when he finished.
“A singing mop salesman! Whenever I think I’ve had every experience possible, a new one comes along.” I was showing off my age or my wisdom, or something.
“May I come in, ma’am, to show you what the Mops-a-Lot can do?”
“Well, I guess. But just so you know, I know karate, and I used to be on the police force. Not that I’m suspicious, or anything. Let’s just say that I didn’t grow up in the peaceful town of Ashleyille. No, I’m from Queens. It’s not something I tell everyone, but sometimes it’s a useful bit of ammunition that I employ for various purposes.”
He was still smiling. “Sure, ma’am. I understand. Please allow me to show you what the Mops-a-Lot can do. Let’s start in the kitchen.”
He used the floor cleaner I keep under the sink and the pail I brought up from the basement. Whistling sometimes and singing sometimes, Rodney quickly mopped my kitchen floor. I wasn’t exactly sure that his mop was doing a better job than my mop, but I was really happy with the results. And I didn’t have to lift the proverbial finger.
“What do you think, ma’am?”
“It looks good. Would you like to try the bathroom floors?”
“Sure. How many bathrooms do you have?”
“Two. One on the main floor and one in the basement.”
“OK. Just show me the way.” He picked up the pail and armed with the wet mop (he had left the dry ones propped up in the hallway), Rodney followed me to the bathrooms.
In ten minutes I had three clean floors that I didn’t have to mop. I was happy. “That’s great, Rodney. I think I’ll buy one of those mops.”
“Yes, ma’am, but don’t you think you’ll need two, one for the kitchen and the main-floor bathroom and the second for the basement? I mean, who wants to carry a mop upstairs and downstairs?”
“Well, maybe,” I said. “How much are they?”
“Only $25 each. And, because of our special introductory offer, I can give you two mops for $39.99. And thanks so much for helping me earn money for college.”
I’m a soft touch, in spite of hailing from Queens and my police experience. I have kids myself, and I could imagine them–or could I?–selling mops door to door.
“I’ll give you $50, because of the singing. Never had a salesman who sang.”
I gave him his money, received my two mops, the wet used one and a new dry one, and sent him on his way.
The next day, after my older kids went to school, I took the youngest out for some shopping. I decided to stop at our local dollar store for a few cards, maybe some cleanser, and who knows what else? You can always find something at our dollar store, known as Dollar Frenzy. I put little Ella into the seat in the shopping cart and started wandering, buying this and that and trying not to listen to Ella’s cries: “I want that! I want that!” And suddenly I found myself among brooms and mops, and there it was, the famous Mops-a-Lot mop. And the cost, of course, was exactly one dollar. Plus tax.
Should I laugh? Should I cry? Should I press charges? Or should I admire a kid with entrepreneurial skills and a good singing voice who conned me into buying two dollars’ worth of mops for fifty dollars?