Death Of A Door-To-Door Salesman

By | November 30, 2018

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Dustin Hoffman and John Malkovich, Death Of A Salesman (1985)

Arthur Miller’s 1949 play, Death of a Salesman, tells the story of Willy Loman, a traveling salesman who believes that one only needs to be well-liked to be successful. And that might have been true when door-to-door selling was at its height. During the '50s, ‘60s, and even ‘70s, stay-at-home mothers were the norm and a charming demeanor could be all that was needed to make a sale. But things changed in the ‘80s, as households began to require a second income to stay afloat. With no one home to answer the door, the practice of door-to-door selling became an exercise in futility. The rise of online shopping was the final nail in the coffin.

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Encyclopedia Britannica

In 2012, Encyclopedia Britannica discontinued the production of printed books, choosing instead to offer information online only. That marked the end of 244 years of printing and selling encyclopedias. From the 1920s to the 1990s, salesmen could be seen on the streets, lugging the 128-pound-sets of encyclopedias from door to door. They were such a fixture of the time that they became a running gag in comedy, including a Monty Python sketch in 1969 in which a housewife allows a burglar to rob her as long as he promises not to try to sell her an encyclopedia (Spoiler alert: he breaks that promise). It was a successful enterprise in its day, but in the modern era, with Google and Wikipedia at our fingertips, it just doesn’t make sense to pay over $1,000 for a set of encyclopedias that will be outdated as soon as they hit the shelf.