Pedro Polanco (sales associate, Sam Ash)
Income at least $20,000 (2000)
Health Insurance covered by parents
“I’ve always, like, been good at intimidating people,” says Sam Ash supersalesman Pedro Polanco, 17, who just graduated from Murry Bergtraum High School in Manhattan. “I convince people to do things, buy things. It’s one of my biggest and best traits. I can easily take a fact and stretch it out and make a product seem better than it is. If you make the product look good, you’ve got the sale.”
Standing among the hundreds of black and silver cables, amps, mixers, multitrackers, and reverbs, he says, “I’ll probably make at least $20,000 this year. I started at Sam Ash three months ago. I work 40 hours a week. I get $300 base pay, no matter how horrible I do. On top of that, I get 13 percent commission. So I could make even $500 a week or more, depending on how much I sell.
“Me, personally, I’m in the business of making money. So I don’t want to sell something that I can’t make money out of. Now if you know what you want and you want X product, then my obligation is to get you X product. But if you come in indecisive, I’m going to sell you a good product, but one I’ll make money off of. If you come in to buy a mixer for $900, I might talk you into buying a whole p.a. system for $5000. It’s not exactly lying when I say, ‘You need more,’ or, ‘This one will last longer,’ or, ‘You need to upgrade.’ It’s just stretching.”
Did the company train him? “Just three weeks. But it’s my nature, I’m quick-witted. And each week I’m improving. After a while, you build clientele. They come back to you. A lot of people are building a studio or starting their own company. They come every week to buy something. I know people who know my schedule. They call my cell phone. Phone orders are my favorite. They’re quick. When people call, they know what they want. I don’t have to explain. Every time I finish a phone sale, I look up at the sky and say, ‘I did it.’
“Money in my own life is not really important. But to work at a spot you love, it’s a privilege. Everything in the store interests me—the equipment, the people. It’s like being in a toy store. Everyone told me it’s hard to get a job here. I had one interview and passed the test. They ask you how you connect this to this, how does this work. I applied for the audio department. I’m the youngest person to work in any Sam Ash store. I had to get working papers. They were issued by my school.
“I have a savings account. It’s money from a lawsuit. I had a broken arm, and they settled on $6000. I climbed over a fence I wasn’t supposed to be climbing over and I fell. We sued them for $25,000. We got a $6000 settlement. With the interest, I’ve got about $10,000 now.
“I put money aside every week. I’m going to do part-time college and keep working or full-time college with working part-time. I want to be a sound engineer. You can start at about $60,000. My long-term goal is to have my own sound company.
“I don’t spend a lot. I put $20 in my pocket to walk around. I give my mom some money for rent. I go to movies, restaurants. My favorite spot is in Washington Heights—Jubilee. I go with my girlfriend. She’s a cashier at Century 21. We met at school.
“I lived my first seven years in the Dominican Republic. We moved to the Bronx. I have one brother, two sisters. My father teaches Spanish at LaGuardia High School. My mom is a home attendant. We live in the South Bronx, Melrose. We climbed up from living in a roach motel to owning a private house. My father’s a very smart person. He’s somebody to look up to.
“Me, I try to take everything as positively as I can. I try to lay back. I don’t want to stress on my life.”
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 25, 2000