Monday, August 14, 2006

A sucker I'm not... most of the time

Summertime always brings with it a plethora of door to door salespeople.

College students passing their days making cold calls - selling cleaners, books, magazines...

I hate door to door sales pressure.

When we lived in Eugene, every summer you'd see a white van pull up on the street... out would jump three or four African American youth, and then the van would speed away. The first time this happened, I was a little startled. My neighborhood was pretty white - in fact I would venture to say, it was pasty white. Asia was the only person of color for miles that we knew of.

The doorbell would ring. And when I opened the door, I was always surprised to hear,

"Are you the queen of the house?"

Well, obviously I was taken off guard.

It wasn't often I was called that.

But yes. I was.

So I said "Yes."

And then I was treated to a 45 minute speech/demonstration/hard sell on the virtues of Orange Cleaner Concentrate.

Not only could it clean my hard water-stained shower doors, but just a drop of this miraculous liquid could clean my entire house.

I could throw away every half used bottle of cleaner I'd bought in my entire lifetime and replace them with this one amazing concentrated cleaner.

For only thirty two dollars.

I bought it.

I still have about an eighth of a bottle, along with all the other partially used bottles of cleaners I never threw away.

Sure. It works.

I'd even go out on a limb and call it an amazing cleaner. And it has lasted forever... I think I've had that bottle for ten years.

So I don't regret buying it.

But that day I did, wondering how my husband was going to react to the checkbook entry for a $32 bottle of cleaner. Money was pretty tight for us back then.

Since then I've had vacuum cleaner demos that lasted hours, with hard selling fast talkers pulling every last dead skin flake out of my mattresses, almost convincing me that I really did need that $1200 vacuum cleaner.

I've bought magazines I didn't need just to be left alone.

I've endured months of phone calls from comission hungry financial advisors who actually came door to door "bringing Wall Street to Main Street."

And most recently, this morning, in fact, I've staunchly and repeatedly said no to a set of educational books.

Six books for $340.

Wouldn't any good mother want good educational books for her children?

Umm, not really.

Especially because there's this thing called the internet - which I hear is just full of information...

Thing is, I really liked this kid who was hawking books.

His name was Olivier - and he was from France.

We spoke French.

We talked about Paris.

I asked him about his travels.

He loved Gracie.

Nice, nice kid. Really.

I just don't have an extra $340 to spend on books that I'm certain we'd never use.

Even if he's going to hand deliver them to my home.

I really wanted to befriend this boy. Have him over for dinner. Get to know him a little. Build into his summer experience in Spokane.

But I can't really. After all, he's not here to make friends. He's here to sell books. And he only wants to spend time with me to try to talk me into those books. Those very expensive books.

I always wonder whether these kids actually make much money. Seems like it would be a lot cheaper to stay home, in your own country, and work a regular summer job.

But maybe it's about the travel.
Or practicing your English skills.
Or maybe, it's actually a good way to make money. I don't really know.

I wish he'd been selling "queen of the house" orange cleaner.

I'd have bought that.

But maybe, just maybe, I added a little something to his summer experience, even though I said no to his books.

Maybe a half hour on my front porch with the dog sniffing his bag and the kids running around the yard and a little opportunity to talk to a lover of all things French was enough to perk up his day. Even if I didn't buy his very expensive books.

I hope Olivier has a good summer.
I hope he sells lots of books.

I hope we're reaching the end of the summer salespeople knocking on the door.

After all, I've only got so much resolve in saying no to sweet young college students knocking on my door...


  1. Two summers ago we let 3 girls from France stay in our house while they went door-to-door selling those outrageously expensive books. The girls were quite nice, we loved talking about France and speaking in French. But let me tell you, the company that employs these kids are scam artists. They hire them as independent contractors, so they can pay them strictly on commission. They force them to work from sun up to sun down. They have to pay for their own airline ticket, lodging, transportation, and then they only get paid at the end, assuming they made enough money to offset their costs, which often they don't. While I was glad to have these French kids live with us for a time, I still feel guilty for having supported this parasitic book selling company. I feel sorry for these French kids, but even if they were cheap and outstanding books, I wouldn't recommend anyone buy them just because of how I saw the company exploit these poor kids.

  2. girl, we have had this same book boy situation at our house, all the way over here in VT! they must be everywhere huh? oh yes..... let me guess... was oliver cute? we try hard not to answer the door. but being that we just had a screen door installed this summer that will be much harder when the sales people come knocking to pretend we arent home.

  3. We had a nice kid come to the door a coule of weeks ago- persistent let me tell you. The first time I saw him- he was walking to my neighbor's while we were leaving. The next time he came, it was after 8 at night and I don't answer the door to traveling salesman after the street lights are on (Andy was out of town) and the third time, I was in my pajamas and I finally opened the door, only to break his little Czech heart by not buying educational books to support his summer abroad. I wouldn't have bought Orange Cleaner either, though, Cath. You're a nicer gal than me :)

  4. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Keep up the good work »


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