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A Traveling Salesman is an older character type that sometimes overlaps with the Snake Oil Salesman. Typically, the traveling salesman is well-dressed and has some aspects of the Intrepid Merchant to his character, or he may be more of an Honest John-type of fellow.

As the numerous jokes linking his type to the Farmer's Daughter suggest, he might be a somewhat lecherous character, because being always on the move isn't conducive to carrying on lasting relationships.

A British term for the profession is a "busman", and this is the origin of the term Busman's Holiday. Not to be confused with Travelling Salesman Montage.

Not to be confused with the 2012 film of the same name. Compare Knocking on Heathens' Door for the religious variant.


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Examples:

Anime and Manga

Comic Books

  • Asterix and the Great Crossing: Discussed when the Vikings offer beads to Asterix and Obelix, mistaking them for Native Americans. Asterix assumes they're door-to-door salesmen trying to flog their stuff to them.
  • The Haunt Of Fear: In issue #15, "Death of Some Salesmen" features a rural couple who, after having been cheated by door-to-door salesmen one too many times, decided to test the wares of any future peddlers on the salesmen themselves. Unfortunately for the main character, he happens to be selling meat grinders...
  • First story in New Line Cinema's Tales of Horror is about a salesman specializing in chainsaws trying to sell his wares to the Hewitt family from The Texas Chainsaw Massacre films. Surprisingly, he isn't dead by the end of it.
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Film

  • The Fuller Brush Man (1948) is about a guy who gets a job as one of these for the eponymous Fuller Brush Company (a company closely associated with this trope in real life) to impress his Love Interest. He isn't very good at it, but that's the least of his problems.
  • The Fuller Brush Girl, a loose sequel to the above, and mostly notable for Retroactive Recognition: It's one of the last films Lucille Ball starred in before making her name as a TV star with I Love Lucy.
  • Door to Door was a Made-for-TV Movie starring William H. Macy as a traveling salesman with cerebral palsy.
  • Todd Woods in Duets is a traveling salesman who gives up his current life to compete in a cross-country karaoke competition.
  • In Walk the Line, Johnny Cash is shown working as a door-to-door salesman before he made it big in music. He wasn't very good at it.
    • In a deleted scene, he and another salesman from the same company worked the same street. Johnny got nothing but doors slammed in his face, while his friend made several sales. He gave Johnny a couple of his commissions and told him he was the worst salesman he'd ever seen.
  • The Maysles brothers' 1969 documentary Salesman follows a group of salesmen peddling expensive Bibles door-to-door.
  • Ed Bloom of Big Fish spends time as one of these.
  • Secondhand Lions: The uncles who live far out in the country regularly get visited by salesmen. They've made a game out of shooting at them to scare them off. They're actually surprised when one salesman immediately ducks behind his car after pulling up, remarking "He's been here before". Eventually, Walter convinces them to actually take a look at the salesman's wares before shooting at him, and to their surprise they find he sells a lot of stuff they're interested in.
  • In the Abbott and Costello film Little Giant, Lou plays a naïve country boy named Benny Miller, from Cucamonga, California, who has been taking correspondence phonograph lessons in salesmanship. Convinced of his own brilliance as a salesman, he gets a job as travelling salesman for the Hercules Vacuum Cleaner Company. He is so inept that after one day he gets transferred to a remote regional branch where he can't do any harm. This becomes a Reassignment Backfire when circumstances conspire to make him the company's Salesman of the Year.

Literature

Live Action TV

  • The Doctor Blake Mysteries: In "Death of a Travelling Salesman", Blake investigates when a travelling salesman is murdered by having a venomous snake planted in his car.
  • Taken: In "Beyond the Sky", Sally Clarke's neglectful husband Fred is a traveling salesman. He is on one of his frequent trips around Texas selling his products when Sally finds John in her shed. She makes good use of Fred's absence and begins an affair with John.
  • AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Salesman.
  • The Office gives us Dunder-Miffin's traveling salesman Todd Packer, who fits the lecherous type. Michael thinks he's incredibly cool and leads a great life, but everyone else is aware Packer is stupid, rude and incredibly unhappy.
  • The Twilight Zone (1959): In "Mr. Dingle, the Strong", Luther Dingle is a dismally unsuccessful door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesman.

Music

  • "Keep the Customer Satisfied" by Simon & Garfunkel. (Although some have interpreted the song as really being about drug-dealing.)

Newspaper Comics

  • In Blondie, Dagwood had to deal with traveling salesmen as recently as the 1980s.

Radio

  • Comedian Al Pearce started as a real one of these, then moved into local San Francisco radio shows, singing and doing comedy sketches parodying his job. Writer Jack Hasty created the character of "Elmer Blurt", known as "The Low-Pressure Salesman", based on him. His catch phrase was "Nobody at home, I hope, I hope, I hope." If somebody opened the door, he'd go into a bashful, stammering sales pitch. You can sometimes see a Blurt-like character in Chuck Jones Looney Tunes cartoons.

Theatre

  • Harold Hill of The Music Man is a Snake Oil Salesman who fits the lecherous part of the trope (until he becomes a Lady Killer In Love). Other traveling salesmen (including the villain, the anvil-toting Charlie Cowell) hate Harold for giving their profession a bad name, because when they visit towns Hill has just left, the populace generally assume they are con artists as well and give them a less than welcoming reception (read: tar and feather them).
  • Ali Hakim, the peddler in Oklahoma!.
  • Paris in The Golden Apple travels by balloon. Oddly enough, he's a silent type.
  • Willy Loman, the eponymous character of Death of a Salesman. Willy, however is not a con artist or lecherous, he's a honest worker who takes pride in his job.
  • The Rose Tattoo has a straw-hatted salesman who pays a call to Serafina, trying to sell novelties. He's also a Jerkass to Alvaro.
  • In "Women's Club Blues" from Love Life, one of the lustful Straw Feminists claims the right for a woman to be a traveling salesman, because:
    To travel through the country must be lots of fun.
    I'll bet that now and then the farmer has a son!

Video Game

  • In Fallout 4, the very first, non-family character you talk to is a travelling salesman. However, this is subverted as he is really more of a census-taker, stopping by to gather information (i.e. S.P.E.C.I.A.L. traits) for your reserved spot in Vault 111. He does comes back as a ghoul, and you do have the option of added him to your ever-expanding list of colony members.
  • In Pink Panther: Hokus Pokus Pink, the Pink Panther has taken up this as his new job after quitting the spy business at the end of the previous game.
  • The titular character of Stubbs the Zombie was a traveling salesman, then he screwed a farmer's daughter and found himself in a shallow grave for 20 years.

Web Original

Western Animation


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