I am a sucker.  You come to my door selling an $8 Kit Kat for a school fundraiser- I buy it.   Cheap, crappy wrapping paper?  Cookie dough?  Where do I sign?  We all want to support our kids and their entrepreneurial efforts, but after signing over a $54 check to the lady trying to get off the streets by selling magazine subscriptions, I realized I just cannot say no.  To anyone, apparently.  Sure, she tested my giving spirit when she tried to prove her love for the 11 month old she is raising- and whom she delivered as an addict- by pulling up her sleeve to reveal a giant tattoo of the infant, but face-to-face I just cannot say no.  If I avoid eye contact with you at school it is only because, if asked to chair another auction or spearhead the campaign to fund new playground equipment, I will inevitably say yes (much to my husband’s chagrin). 

I should take a lesson from my ever-creative father, who delivered a well-rehearsed speech to the telephone salesman from Arthur Murray, when he was hit up to purchase dance lessons. 

Salesperson:  “Hello sir.  Are you the head of the household”?

My dad:  Groan

Salesperson:  “My name is Walter from the Arthur Murray dance studio and have we got a deal for you”!

My dad:  Sniffle.  “Hi Walter.  I’m Bill.  But before you go any further, I feel that I must tell you something.  Now, I’ll try to get through this without breaking down, but bear with me.  I recently lost my wife, who herself, was a prima ballerina.  I tried and tried for years to learn to dance with her- to make her proud so that we could win that big contest at the Elks Lodge Christmas ball.  But, much to her disappointment, after losing both of my legs in a gruesome lawn-mowing incident, of which I’ll spare you the details, my wheelchair prevented me from doing many of the moves.  Fed up, she left me for a man whose jazz hands mocked me with their classic training.  Actually…. I’m sorry Walter, but I just can’t finish without tearing up at her memory.  How about this- so that I can tell you the rest of the story, why don’t you give me YOUR home number and I can call you back when YOU’RE in the middle of dinner”?



One thought on “Solicitors

  1. i really liked this but it did handcuff any response i might make. in my defense, i’ll admit that i really like a good salesman but, like servers at a restaurant, they can’t immediately take charge. they can’t approach your table and interrupt your conversation with what they want to say. to me, this indicates that what you’re saying, the point you were making to your dinner guests is of no importance when contrasted with what they want to tell you. similarly, i expect telephone solicitors to accept the fact that we are not just sitting there and waiting for them to call. we’re doing something, dealing with the kids, we’re in the middle of a project or, most likely, in the middle of dinner. i expect them to ask, “are you busy? do you have a second? or could i bother you for a moment of your time?” given this consideration, i’ll be politely honest with them and possibly even suggest a time that might be better. when they bull through your “hello” and start immediately with their pitch, what they’re saying is, “stop whatever it is that you’re doing and listen to me.” that’s rude and being rude back seems to be an acceptable defense.
    the only error in ML’s story (outside of the facts) dealt with her statement that it was a, “well rehearsed speech.” this was immediately sad to me because it was indicative that i had sat around, mindlessly doing nothing, and prepared this script in the hopes that some dance lesson company would call. nope, sorry, it doesn’t work like that. all my responses to telephone salespeople are based on a series of loose outlines from which the other guy who lives in my head, Walt Genlan, will springboard into attack. i never know what i’m going to say and sometimes i get to sit back and listen to Walt spew venom. well, it’s not really venom. it’s more reinjecting into the caller the frustration and annoyance that they are delivering to me.
    one of my favorites and one that i’ve used on more than one occasion is geared to those solicitors who shove their way through your objections as if they are a recording. anything you might say is dismissed with an increase in their volume and you are ostensibly relegated to the role of a submissive audience. in this case, and early on in their sales inculcation i say simply, “NOW HOLD ON…..” they’ll of course continue as if i had said nothing. they’ll ramble on for minutes lauding the plusses of their product, its cost saving advantages, the ease of which you can sign aboard, the easy payment plans, the convenience of signing aboard now while they have this special going on and, most importantly, the fact that you would certainly be a loser if you didn’t agree. it’s at this point that i voice my existence but not with agreement, i simply rattle the phone on the table (as if you’re picking it up), hold it to my ear and say, “OK, i’m back… what did you want to say?” (sure, you had to listen to their spiel but their response is so well worth it you’ll smile to yourself the rest of the evening.)

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