In 1903, a home telephone was close to being a luxury item, and the affluent households which could afford a phone were tempting targets for telephone solicitors.
Western Electrician, September 12, 1903, page 203:
Advertising by Telephone.
A use of the telephone in the smaller cities which may be capable of extension if tactfully managed is indicated in the following interview with the manager of the dry-goods department of a store in Fairmont, Minn., printed in the Chicago Dry Goods Reporter:
"Every town has a class of trade that thinks the home stocks are hardly good enough, and when they want their choicest merchandise they get aboard the train and visit the nearest metropolis. Several times in the past we have planned special sales in order to catch this very class of people--the bon ton--but have always suffered defeat in a greater or less degree. Not so long ago we arranged to have a representative of a high-class manufacturer of suits and waists visit our store for a short period. We asked him to bring a line of first-class goods, which even the swell trade could not find occasion to find fault with. When he arrived we telephoned every woman in town whose trade we had had trouble in winning for their best apparel. They listened to our argument, and in nearly every case promised us over the telephone to look over the line of samples. Women enjoy seeing nice things, and after we had notified them they seemed willing enough to pay our store a visit and examine what we had to show. The result of our efforts was to sell more to the bon-ton trade than we had ever been able to at any past time. We attribute success to the telephone, as we were able to talk personally with the lady we wanted to visit the store, and she could not well do otherwise than consent to at least see what was being shown. After we had them in the store they found it a hard proposition to do anything else than buy if they were in need of garments. By the old way of advertising we could not secure an acceptance of our invitation to look over the line. Letters required physical effort to answer. Personal visits by us to the home of the desired customer were hardly possible. Sending clerks or errand boys does not result in so much effective returns. The object is to secure a positive acceptance or declination from the lady herself by one of the firm. The telephone does this in a more successful manner than any other plan we have ever tried."