Meet The "Gentleman Peeler," Who Made Millions Selling Potato Peelers On The Street

Salesman Joe Ades became a New York legend selling potato peelers on the streets of Manhattan for more than a decade. By slinging these everyday kitchen tools at $5 each, he earned a small fortune.

Why He's Inspiring

Sales can be a lucrative career. Imagine the commission you could make just by closing a deal on a new Bentley, or by selling a private jet to some serious high-rollers. But maybe you don't have to go to such extremes. No one knew that better than Joe Ades: While appearing on The Today Show in 2008, Ades said, "Never underestimate a small amount of money." His unique story of hard work and confidence explains why.

Joseph Ades was born in 1934 in Manchester, England to a poor family. He began selling common items on the street at a young age, even dropping out of school to do so. Ades spent decades perfecting his craft, though he called himself a pitchman or "grafter," not a salesman. By the 1990s, Ades found himself in New York City with the one item he'd chosen to sell: $5 potato peelers. Why peelers? Mainly because they're lightweight. As an experienced salesman, Ades knew that with the proper pitch he could sell anything, and it helped that his peelers work and are portable.

For about 15 years, Ades performed his sales pitch sitting on the city sidewalks nearly any day that it wasn't raining (though he didn't have a license to do so). "It's a much easier way to get a crowd," he told Vanity Fair in 2006 of sitting on the street. "When you're down low, people walking past can see the backs of people but they don't know what they're looking at. They have to stop and look to see what those people are looking at." Before he gained notoriety, patrons at upscale cocktail bars often laughed at Ades when he told them he sold potato peelers for a living. But Ades, who died in 2009, went home to a three-bedroom apartment on Park Avenue after a long day's work.

Smart Graphic

Why It's Relevant

The job market is a hot-button topic as of late. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, the economy topped the list of voting issues for Americans, and the job market continues to change quickly as new technologies emerge. So it's no wonder people are worried about how they'll scrape up an income. But look at Joe Ades, and you'll quickly be reminded that believing in your abilities, coupled with an epic work ethic, could lead you to career success. Will hard work and skill always guarantee you financial stability? No. But it doesn't hurt to believe in yourself, work hard, and stay positive.

Editor's Picks: Our Favorite Videos About Sales And Persuasion

The Iconic Sales Pitch Of Joe Ades

Watch this and tell yourself you don't want one of these peelers...

The Most Persuasive Phrases In The Human Language

Getting someone to do what you want — like donate money — is all about how you phrase the question.

Jason Silva On Persuasion

Sales is really all about persuading the consumer.

Written by Curiosity Staff December 13, 2016

Curiosity uses cookies to improve site performance, for analytics and for advertising. By continuing to use our site, you accept our use of cookies, our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use.