Episode 788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair : Planet Money When we go to the state fair, we don't go for the rides, deep-fried tacos or the butter cow. We head straight for the vendor marketplace to meet the masters of the lost art of salesmanship.
NPR logo Episode 788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair

Episode 788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair

Tommy Harris demonstrates the OMG Peeler. Robert Smith/NPR hide caption

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Robert Smith/NPR

Tommy Harris demonstrates the OMG Peeler.

Robert Smith/NPR

A state fair is a magical place. But for Planet Money, the true magic takes place in a massive warehouse where old-fashioned salesmen and women practice the ancient art of looking you in the eye and convincing you to buy something you do not need. It's the art of pitching, and Planet Money's Robert Smith has been obsessed with it since he was twelve years old.

Robert and his accomplice Kenny Malone head out to the Ohio State Fair, with a journalistic excuse. They embed with the pitchmen and pitchwomen—the true artisans of salesmanship—to learn the secrets of their trade.

This story is about these product mercenaries, and how they sell what they sell.

In an era where hyper-rational online shopping dominates commerce, state fairs can seem quaint. Still, some products can only mesmerize you when you see them, hold them, and develop a relationship with them. You can't do that on a website, and the pitchmen and pitchwomen of America know that. They stake their careers on it.

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