Salesmanship in the Champs-Elysees
by F. Scott Fitzgerald

To work for the Company Automobile is a metier exacting. There of them are many of the world who, wanting to purchase an automobile, enter and say “I want to purchase an automobile,” whereupon this affair begins. Now one has at the outset the information that this man wishes well to purchase a car and has already decided on this mark—otherwise he would not have entered here. One can then, naturally, amuse one’s self by for a moment mocking of him, giving him to wonder if of them there are after all. During this quarter of an hour one can discover much of the type with which one is dealing at the moment and thus in any further dealing one has provided himself with resources or even established a certain dominance of character, one on top of the other.

It there has been several days when an American entered and demanded me to make him see a car. I was engaged standing in a spot thinking of affairs of one’s own; presently I demanded:

“What is it that it is?”

“A car.”

“But what kind of car?” I demanded sharply.

“A six-cylinder touring car.”

“We have not one here.”

I had the man there, and for a moment he looked stupefied—but then he made:

“Can you have one here for me to see this afternoon?”

This fantastic request I only answered with a bitter and short laugh.

“And how much is it?” he continued. “As a matter of fact I’m pretty sure I want one, so I can write you a cheque.”

This was becoming wearying. I drew in my breath and made: “Listen, monsieur, it is not the trouble to talk when I have told you I have now no car of that kind in the house. Nothing! Nothing! Nothing! It does not exist here. Look for yourself.”

“When will you have?”

“How should I know? Perhaps in eight days. Perhaps in a month.”

“I don’t think you want to sell me a car,” he said. “As a matter of fact they carry a make next door that I begin to think will do just as well.”

He turned and went out suddenly and I stood looking after the impolite. But thinking to profit himself he is in the end deceived, because Mr. Legoupy, the seller next door, will no more sell him without making a proper study of his sincerity and his character and the extent of his desire for the car than I myself. The impolite will end himself by being able to get no car at all.

—F. Scott Fitzgerald

Published in New Yorker magazine (February 15, 1930).

Not illustrated.