Monday, July 27, 2009
unruly soapbox: don't ask.
So today at Walgreen's, the cashier said to me,
"I'm trying to sell M&M's this month. Will you help me out?"
"No, thank you," I said, with that certain fake/polite smile that I reserve for people trying to sell me things that I don't want.
"You won't help me out?" he tried again in a high, wheedling voice.
And I almost told him exactly why I wasn't going to help him out and where he could shove his M&M's, but I know perfectly well that there's no point in fighting losing battles, and that he's being forced into it, anyway.
He probably hates having to sell M&M's for $7 an hour, and his manager probably hates forcing him to sell M&M's for $12 an hour, and Walgreens probably makes loads of extra cash by forcing them all to sell M&M's, and the CEO of Walgreens probably rolls around nekkid in a king-sized bed full of fifty-dollar-bills and M&M's, laughing maniacally at the fruition of his evil M&M plan.
I simply hate being the victim of salesmanship. I don't know if it's the fact that I was raised to dislike folks who ask for things or seem greedy, or if it's because I've read enough on the psychology of persuasion to see through the tricks and find them tiresome. But I almost never respond favorably to any sort of solicitation.
The exception? Girl Scout Cookies.
Hear that, Scouts? You're always welcome here. That "No Soliciting" sign on the front door? Don't worry your pretty little green vest.
But I will purposefully avoid stores where people stand out front, trying to get my money. When I see the bell ringers at Christmas, I use another door. When they ask me to contribute to a cause by writing my name on a shoe or a leprechaun's hat for a dollar, I'm out. I just really, really hate the way that stores use their cashiers to ask for money. That i'm forced to listen to solicitations on my personal time. It makes me uncomfortable. I'm not there to donate; I'm there to shop. If the store wants to donate some of that money to a cause, that's their business.
Thinking about it on the way home, I have to admit that it's a pretty dastardly script at Walgreens. He never actually said that the money was for any certain purpose, but it comes across as a personal plea, affects the listener on the gut level. He needs us to help him out. The wording subtly implies that the store or a cause needs help, too, and I imagine that plenty of people automatically substitute the words "for a cause" right after "I'm trying to sell M&M's".
I bet you that everyone who says "yes" feels like they did a good deed, when all they really did was give more money to the Mars Company and the Walgreens store and allow that cashier to put a tick mark next to his name on the bulletin board for "Most M&M's Sold Gets A Free Visit to Cici's Pizza" in the break room.
I'm not saying that philanthropy is a bad thing. My point is that it shouldn't be forced, wheedled, cajoled, sold, or cheapened by psychological tricks.
p.s. I hit page 100 of my book today. 36,500 words. I think it's cupcake time.