Stop Me If You Think You've Heard this One Before

Merritt has the full story on her blog about this, but here's the Cliff Notes version: a friend of ours was at a mall and kept noticing a female working at a kiosk desperately trying to have people stop and talk to her. Stopping people mid-pace, the hope was to get these people to see what she was selling. The friend walked by this girl a few times as he wandered through the area a few times. After repeated pleas, he decided to have some fun with her.

Responding to her question of "Can I talk to you guys a moment?", he responded by saying with a smile on his face, "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO." He figured since he had walked by her a few times, along with the smile on his face, she would understand that he was joking. Instead, our friend was given looks of pure aghast. He felt sorry that she didn't catch his cajoling, but I think he did something we all wish we could do.

I am not a fan of the practice of breaking into a person's personal zone for the sake of selling something he/she probably doesn't really want or need. Whenever a panhandler comes up to me at a gas station asking for spare change, a telemarketer calls me, a door-to-door salesperson comes to my door, a clerk comes up to me in a retail store trying to sell me something I don't want or someone is trying to collect money to a church I'm not aware of, I turn on the cold. I'm usually very curt as I try to be polite, but I could do worse. Though there are exceptions to this (ie, Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts selling popcorn or cookies are totally fine given their ties to their organizations), I usually become this stoic being when I'm confronted with this face to face.

I think my mindset about going shopping, getting gas or going out to eat is very similar to how I like to drive from point A to point B without any slowdowns. If I run into a back-up because of an accident, a disabled vehicle or construction work, I'm not happy. This is limiting me from getting to where I want to go in the time that I hoped it would take me. I would like to completely avoid them, but I know I can't always elude them. I think panhandlers, go-get-'em sales reps, telemarketers and other forms of solicitors are obstacles on the road of life.

I know people want to make money doing this form of solicitation as they can rake in some nice cash, but it seems incredibly informal and pathetic. I couldn't do this stuff and feel like I'm doing an honorable thing. Plus, in some cases, this is breaking the law. Signs all over Lower Greenville and Deep Ellum encourage patrons to not give money, food or drink to homeless people. Yet a similar kind of approach is deemed OK for salespeople in a mall or retail store? There's a good reason why "No Soliciting" signs are all over businesses and homes.

I might be crossing some opposing paths here, but I see these as similar actions. If I wanted to stop by and check out a kiosk in a mall, then that's my decision; not the decision by someone else trying to force me to stop. If I wanted to donate money to a church, then I would go to the church on my own time and donate the money myself. I don't need faceless strangers hoping that a forced smile and a forced "hello sir" will be enough in order for me to take out my wallet. That's just how I see it. Is this cold? Yes, but I have plenty of reasons why I am this way. What's your take? Am I being too harsh?


Emily K. said…
I don't like to be bugged any more than you do, but I think the reason that kind of persuasion is still employed is that it works. People aren't as sure about what they want to do with their time or their money as perhaps you are. I've noticed those people in big cities who stand around with clipboards convincing people to tell them their visa numbers, are always getting peoples visa numbers! It is hard for me to imagine because I would never ever do that. But they're for good causes, and with the right amount of sweet talkin' they're convinced it's a good idea. Often people with money will make a point to give some to a charity, but forget or don't find the right one. That kind of stuff plays on that guilty conscience.
Anonymous said…
It's like these gas price retailers that show up at my door and expect me to make a $5000 decision in 5 minutes or less, to a complete stranger.

I'm not buying, even if the deal is INCREDIBLE!
Random Kath said…
I'm with you, Eric! However, I am the sort of wuss who will run to the other lane of the mall to avoid them . . . or suddenly start having a deep conversation with Mr. Random. If they do grab me, I do try to give a smile and say "sorry, not interested!" - But would you know that they just keep talking to me, and then start berating me for not stopping? Which is reason number 458 why I hate shopping in a mall anyway . . .