Journalist of the Year Portfolio

Why am I selling knives?

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I sell knives.

That statement usually prompts a couple questions.

My friends, family, teachers — they all immediately want to know.

Why am I — a microwaveable, frozen-food native and oven-and-stove stranger — selling kitchen knives?

When a friend told me I could take a last-minute, flexible job with Cutco Cutlery & Kitchen Knives this past summer, part of me was asking that same question. But like any teenager, I thought some amount of pocket change was worth some amount of time, and I took it off a hunch.

So I sat in that worn-out office chair, listened to the manager’s introduction routine and scribbled key notes and phrases in the margin of my training manual as the day went on.

“With Cutco, you’ll always have sharp American-made knives!”

“All our products are dishwasher safe!”

“Cutco is guaranteed to last forever!”

After two days of training, I could rattle off all the names and uses of the 32 pieces in the biggest set Cutco offers: the Ultimate Set.

At a retail price of $2,629, you’re a hero if you close one.

It’s complete with sixteen serrated knives, twelve straight knives, one specialty cheese knife, a carving fork, a turning fork and my favorite — the super shears.

Every demonstration I walk into, I base my routine around those dishwasher-safe, forever guaranteed, super shears.

I first take them out of my leather bag and ask the customer if they have a spare penny.

“Just to show you the quality of Cutco, I’m going to cut this penny in half.”

Every time, I watch the customer light up. And with a clean cut to break our stranger’s tension, they then usually ask me the same question my friends, family and teachers always want to know.

Why am I selling knives?

The most logical explanation I give is that I was looking for a flexible summer job able to adapt around my busy schedule. But what’s harder to put into words is why I fell in love with it — why I became so motivated to help my office meet summer goals, why I took careful notes at district meetings, and why, after weeks of collecting client lists, calling referrals and mastering the demonstration, do I keep selling knives?

After my first time cutting the penny with my first customer, something clicked. And it had nothing to do with kitchen utensils.

It was something about the music-filled drives to Plano, Dallas, Carrollton and back, the early morning breakfasts and late-night meetings in the office during push weeks and the office outings — from Fogo de Chao to bungee jumping — that brought me close to this group of knife-loving salesmen and made this whole knife thing click for me.

There’s something about the simple texts from past clients telling me they love what they bought. Something about the way my mom and grandma — two avid five-nights-a-week chefs — now seek my expertise in the kitchen. And there’s something about the feeling of an unfamiliar home and bonding with a stranger over the strength of the super-shears.

I’m no knife expert. I don’t plan on selling them as a career. But if you want a demonstration, I’ll rattle off all the names and uses of the 32 pieces in the Ultimate Set.

Because I sell knives.

And there’s something special that clicked when I started it all off a hunch.