15. Undue influence in selling.—Some concede that mail-order selling is constructive, and that it does create new business, but assert that buying by mail leads people into extravagance. Even if this were true, it would not be an objection peculiar to mail selling. Are local retail stores eager to restrict the purchases of their customers? Dp merchandisers re fuse to sell without knowing first whether their cus tomers can really afford to buy? Is not all competi tive business conducted to increase consumption, to stimulate business, to build up large sales, and to earn the largest profits consistent with permanent success? It may be that the whole competitive sys tem of industry is wrong if it does encourage undue buying; but if this is a fault, it is a fault of the entire system, and not simply of that tiny part of the system represented by the activities of mail-order distributors. When local dealers criticize the mail-order house on this basis they are criticizing it for doing successfully the very thing that most of them are trying to do--to sell honestly as many goods to as many people and to make as much profit as possible.
16. Question of sales service.—Mail-order selling often serves people in ways in which they are not served by other methods of selling, and frequently it gives better service than retail stores in the very fields in- which the retail stores ought to excel. Consider the single item of sales service, for example. How many retail salespeople can give the definite, usable information about the goods they handle that is ordi narily given in the catalog or advertisements of tbe man who sells by mail? A small town dealer wrote as follows to a farm implement manufacturer: I know now why I have been losing business to the catalog houses. I thought I knew my lines, but I don't. A farmer out in the country had been getting consignments pretty regularly at the freight station from one of the Chicago houses, and I wanted his business. This spring he was in the market for a sulky plow. I determined to get his order, and went out personally to his place and invited him to look over my stock as a personal favor. He came in, and I showed him your line. One plow interested him, and he began to ask questions about it. I told him all I could, and all that I had ever told anybody. But he wasn't satisfied. Before I knew it, he was telling me more about that plow than I knew myself. It was an interesting half-hour for
me. I asked him where he had learned the implement busi ness. He said he had never learned it ; he had gotten every thing he knew about the true inwardness of a sulky plow from the pages of Blank's mail-order catalog. That taught me a lesson. No, I didn't make the sale, but I'll never lose another for the same reason that I lost that one. If Blank can afford to take the time to tell his customers all they want to know about the things they purchase, I guess I can afford to learn my line well enough to tell my customers the same things. Send me all the information you have.
17. Retailer's opportunity.—The evidence that the mail-order business is legitimate does not constitute a plea to the public to purchase goods by mail. No dealer, merely because he is honest and eager to serve, can expect customers to flock to him from competi tors who are quite as honest and eager as he. Buying by mail is prohibitively tedious, formal and cumber some for most people. The average buyer would far rather deal with a live person, with his fellow towns man and neighbor, than with an impersonal and dis tant corporation, provided the local dealer can give him the same service that the mail-order distributor gives him. The mail-order house ordinarily gets busi ness only when the local store cannot give the service that the mail-order house gives, or when the customers of the local store do not know that .it can give that service.
Selling by mail will not drive the local dealer out of existence. Both have their places, and both will continue to prosper. If the local dealer, however, is to get his due share of the business, be must give his best thought and energy to the task of competing with the mail-order house on its own basis of service, instead of to futile plans for the legislative prohibition or crippling of a method of selling that is just as valu able to him as it is to the distant house that competes • with him for the trade of his district. If the mail order seller or the local dealer is guilty of unfair practices in competition, he should be punished. But as long as both play the game honestly, neither one can strike at the business of the other thru the legislature without striking at the very base of the competitive system of industry to which they both owe their existence.