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Episode 788: Robert And Kenny Go To The Fair

Tommy Harris demonstrates the OMG Peeler.
Robert Smith
Tommy Harris demonstrates the OMG Peeler.

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.

Music: "City Sixties" "A Matter of Time" and "Burning In Me." Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

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Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
Kenny Malone is a correspondent for NPR's Planet Money podcast. Before that, he was a reporter for WNYC's Only Human podcast. Before that, he was a reporter for Miami's WLRN. And before that, he was a reporter for his friend T.C.'s homemade newspaper, Neighborhood News.