Oh, how I despise uninvited attempts to sell me things! If I decide for myself that I need an item or a service, I go shopping for it either in person or online. Under that circumstance, if I come to your store I’m glad for your help in clarifying my choice of purchase. If you try to create a fake friendship out of our transaction it won’t work. Radio Shack tries it every time I buy electronic doo-dads. I just make up a new name, address and email and pay in cash. I’m NOT giving them my real email so they can keep me abreast of “great new deals”. I have one credit card I use regularly and another one for backup in case the system is down on the first one. I cancelled all the store cards, gas cards etc. because my inbox was always full of more spam than messages from people I want to communicate with.
In the days before there was a DO NOT CALL list, we screened most incoming phone calls. Sometimes, if I felt ornery, I would play MOTIVATION KILLER. The object of this game is to answer the phone, allow the salesperson to begin barfing out their spiel, then derail them with a direct appeal to their humanity – you know, the part of them that isn’t doing the selling. First I would ask their name. Let’s say the guy’s name was Mark. The name gave me a psychological target to lock onto and begin the unbalancing act.
“Mark…is this your dream job?”
“No, really, I’m serious. When you were a kid thinking about what you would most like to do when you grew up, was calling up strangers with product offers what came to mind.”
(Well, no, but…)
“No buts about it, Mark! What would your loved ones think if they knew that what you did to get money was try to convince uninterested people to buy whatever it is you’re selling? Would they be PROUD OF YOU?”
(Look, I’m just trying to make a living…)
“That’s my point exactly, Mark. Times are tough. We all need to make a living – but at what cost, Mark? AT WHAT COST? Don’t you think YOU deserve better than to be forced to try and squeeze into places where you have not been invited? And what about your boss, Mark? Gets a bigger paycheck than you do? Why doesn’t your boss have to call up people who didn’t ask to be called? Are you getting a fair shake at this dream job of yours?”
Most of the time I didn’t get this far into my psychological warfare before the salespeople gave up. Even though I was hard on them, I considered it an exercise in tough love. People who do telemarketing are addicts. They are enslaved by the adrenaline of possible “money for nothing”. Good products and services do not have to be sold by cold calling strangers from boiler rooms. Satisfied customers generate positive word-of-mouth. They tell their friends and neighbors, and those who need the goods and services will seek out the recommended party. Advertising is important, but so is preserving ethical boundaries when you advertise. Some signage is ok. So much signage that it blots out the view of nature (and road signs) is not ok.
The most important difference between an ethical salesperson and an unethical one is whether or not they are INVITED to sell by a potential customer. If I’m going through town and I see a store sign saying MARY’S LAMPS, I might think, “Hmm, I need a new lamp for my desk.” I might stop, go in, ask for help, and buy one. It’s all above board. The sign OFFERED me a product. The acceptance of that invitation was in my control. The salespeople did not come to me. I went to them. That is as it should be, each and every time.
When I watch television I do not watch commercials. We use a DVR, and we spin through the commercials as fast as possible, going at least 60x normal speed. If I do it right, I don’t even know what was being advertised. I also watch mostly films on channels that only promote their own programming, not products. I avoid passive attempts to sell to me in every area of my life. I WAS a salesman. I know how seductive the money can be. You make a lot more if you lie well.
I get more “junk mail” than regular mail, by a wide margin. Junk is a polite euphemism. Perhaps it should be called “malignant cancer of the spirit mail”, though that term is kind of clunky. The fact remains that no one needs it. If you think they do, and you’ve bought into the argument that it’s just making people aware of things that could make their lives better, you have my pity. You are an addict. If you sell for a living, I will not hold you in less esteem as a person nor refrain from friendship with you. Unless you try to sell to me before I have asked you to. I do not reinforce addictive behavior.
Like most bloggers, I get more attempts to put spam in this space than I get comments, though I have to hand it to those of you who comment. You write back only 10-20% less than the spam attempts. Something’s going right in here.