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Not exactly a treat: Candy salespeople meet in frigid Fargo

They would be in Hawaii had they met annual goals

Dave Bayha and Jim Costas said the bomber hats the candy company gave them to wear in Fargo, N.D., are really warm. Dave Bayha and Jim Costas said the bomber hats the candy company gave them to wear in Fargo, N.D., are really warm. (Ann Arbor Miller/Associated Press)
Associated Press / December 15, 2010

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FARGO, N.D. — There is an old saying in the sales business: Always be closing. Here is a new one: Always be freezing, if you do not sell enough.

The company that makes Hot Tamales candy offered its sales team an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii if it met its annual goals, and a trip to the nation’s arctic tundra if it didn’t.

The Just Born team did not meet its target and, yesterday, about two dozen salespeople gathered inside the 19-story Radisson hotel — the tallest building in this frozen city.

Outside, the temperature was 7 degrees. The ground had 2 feet of snow.

Not exactly Hawaii: Honolulu was sunny, and a comfortable 82 degrees.

“Fargo is not what you would think is one of the greatest locales in the United States, and technically we didn’t make our year,’’ said Dave Bayha, a Just Born manager. “It was somewhat of a punishment.’’

Would Bayha rather be in Hawaii?

“Um, sure,’’ the Phoenix resident said, laughing again.

The team had a good year, increasing sales from the previous year by 2 percent, said Josh Halperin, the company’s director of US sales. The goal was a 4 percent bump.

That earned them the trip to Fargo. Some had to go shopping for real winter clothes, such as furry bomber hats, long underwear, and parkas.

They are trying to make the best of it, with a little humor.

They planned tours of two North Dakota wineries and a winter extravaganza with a sleigh ride, tobogganing, and hot toddies around a fireplace inside a chalet.

On their first night in town, they went to the VFW in West Fargo for a spaghetti dinner. Five bucks a plate, all you can eat.

Afterward, they hauled an old-school popcorn machine into a conference room and watched a movie. “Fargo,’’ of course.

“Watching ‘Fargo’ in Fargo is just one of those random bucket list things you get to check off,’’ Halperin said. “It doesn’t resemble the community at all,’’ he said, laughing. “Maybe a few of the expressions.’’

The 24 employees from Bethlehem, Pa.-based Just Born have been popular among the locals, too, handing out care packages with treats like Peeps, Mike and Ike, Peanut Chews, and Teenie Beanie.

Next winter, if the group fails to reach its goal, its members will get an all-expenses paid trip to Rapid City, S.D.

“As a team, this is something we will never forget,’’ Bayha said.