You gotta stop these fuckers right in their tracks
This was the best piece of advice that I kept getting. Stop them cold in their tracks. This setup more likely than not doubles your face time with the tourist and effectively gives you more air time to drop your sales ramble. Your fight is with time. Because even if your game isn’t tight, you will still be able to close sales if you can ramble on long enough. The better your ramble, the better your close rate. Sound familiar? Touting, street sales, gaming, hustling – are all different shades of verbal artistry. Some are more artistic at it than others. In Rome, this street selling is called Gathering. And if you are looking for work in Italy, it is a great place to start.
I hadn’t been in Rome for more than 3 days before I learned what the job market looked like for the restless vagabond eager to stay in the land of pasta and high-self opinionated women: tourism. No surprise really. Most often when you go abroad, the money for the native English speakers is in either tourism or teaching English. And teaching English to anyone who is appropriately dressed and isn’t named Irina, Anastasia, or Natasha isn’t all that appealing to me. Which leaves tourism. Tour guiding, tour sales, tour operating, and tour touting is the where the money is at. And you gotta follow the money. Well this time, it led me to Gathering.
In a nutshell, ‘Gatherers’ work for different tour operators and work certain venues around Rome –the Colosseum, the Vatican, Pantheon, etc. – and try their best to wrangle tourists into one of their company’s tours. How each company operates differs, as does its level of legality (fully abiding legit to shady charcoal back alley). Each company even operates differently depending on the location that their Gatherers are working, but usually it consists of a tour guide, a liaison who signs people up and gets them to the tour (especially if the tour is currently underway or there is no tour office onsite), and the Gatherers – who work different areas of a given venue trying their best to avoid pissing off street merchants (guys with a stand selling souvenirs) and gladiators (yeah, guys dressed up looking like gladiators get pissed if you get on their sales turf).
Like other forms of fast money, street sales is fast paced and requires thick skin, as you will be rejected a lot no matter how compelling and legit your offer.
Hey folks can I interest you in a tour…
No? Okay – I will just go fuck myself then. Have a nice day
“No” is a common response, as is the classic no response whatsoever, as if you were a dirty street vagrant with a contagious disease (It’s called brokeasfuck syndrome & it tends to be chronic – by the way). You learn to love people who at least acknowledge that you are in fact human and do not in fact touch children – with a simple and polite “no thank you” – it makes a world of difference at the end of the day in the self esteem department to not feel like an unlovable scumbag. However, I reckon with time, a seasoned Gatherer loves the definitive reject, as they lost the ability to give a shit about others long ago and appreciate being able to move onto better prospects faster.
Hardened salesmen who deal in sales of the fast turnover variety (ie-used cars, timeshares) have little patience for those who don’t understand and buy into the incredible value they are selling. Part narcissism, part self-delusion, 100% true hustler salesmen. In the words of one of my former Timeshare sales colleagues:
What do you call someone who isn’t buying a holiday package from me? An asshole who’s wasting my time.
So how did my first day go? Well – it didn’t go horribly – I-dont-think-of-myself-as-a-man – bad. But it didn’t go swimmingly either. Truth is, my wise employers set me up for success by letting me get my feet get wet at the Pantheon, which is devoid of other Gatherers (for now) and has a minimal amount of street touting (for Rome) – one guy dressed as a gladiator, two horses with a carriage, a couple of discreet souvenir guys, and a handful of restaurant sales hawks yelling the daily specials which aren’t special. So the tourists are not as jaded toward “tour consulting specialists” as they are in the real gamer arenas (the Vatican and the Colosseum). In three hours, I got 4 people to take a tour, which at 5 euros a head meant a cool 20 euro note in my pocket and a belly full of pasta and vino rosso. I should have closed another 6-8 tourists easily (I am a white American guy after all, when have we ever steered anyone wrong?), but what can I say, my game is a bit rusty and wasn’t as tight as it should have been. I wasn’t as dominant and confident as I needed to be, and my ramble was more of a polite query from a young gentleman you should let date your daughter (ha) than a caveman pulling a woman by her hair back to his lair.
So will I be able to find my inner caveman in time for the big Show? Will I rise to the occasion and be able to fearlessly molest tourists like a pedophile at an Easter egg hunt? I don’t know – but I will pull back as many women to my cave as it takes for practice.