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.


Virginia Valerie said...

i like your rant and i can't wait to read your book. I totally agree with the lame Cialdini tactics. The other night a kid came by to sell a Sonic discount card for $5. At 9 pm. He smelled of beer and cigarettes. He looked about 11. What do you do at that point? I told him i didn't have the cash, sorry honey. I don't want him to egg my house. What I really wanted to say was, what the hell are you doing out this late, kid? you should be in bed! Why do you smell like that? Do you your homework! Smoking isn't cool! Go get adopted by someone who cares! Oi... I'm too interventionist for my own good. PS enjoy your cupcakes.

laterg8r said...

congrats on pg 100 :) i hate the "upsell" too

3rdEyeMuse said...

I'm with you ... and congratulate you for hitting 100 ... WOW! I think you should get the cupcake with the bestest frosting on it.

resolute twig said...

when do we get to hear what the book is about??

delilah, the unruly helpmeet said...


Not until someone has bought it. It's fiction. That's all you get, folks.

And I have forced Dr. Krog to celebrate me. Dinner on the patio of a Mexican restaurant, including a prickly pear margarita, a gallon of salsa, and fish tacos, followed by a slice of birthday cake with my favorite sprinkles from Kroger. And now both the kids are asleep, and the Krogster and I are companionably writing on our laptops.

Ahhh. Haven't had Mexican or salsa since t.rex was born and even before then, about 10 months. So deeply satisfying.

M family said...

Well, this hits the nerve for me as well. In my own head I believe I have become and expert on smelling out the "sellers", but this past Saturday I got royally sucked in. I don't mean to write a ton here, but want to put a warning out there. Young girl/student came to our house with a City of Milton tag hanging on her neck and asked us if she can talk to us about our kids education. I mean, this is our kids we are talking about! Sure, we asked her to come in and sit down. Long story short, she ended up selling us 2 educational books, which makes me feel a little better, but still I hate that. So beware and ask if they are trying to sell you something before going too far!

Crystal said...

Congrats on your achievement. It's always cupcake time. :-)

Caroline D. said...

36,000 words? In what, like 5 days!!??!??

damn. just, damn.

oh, and ditto on the Walgreens upsell. Occasionally I get sucked in at Publix but I don't mind that as much for some reason.

Anonymous said...

When I was a cashier, I HATED asking if a customer wanted to open up a store credit card. It was a stupid gimick, not worth my breath. Then they told us we had to sign up at least two a month or be written up. I said, hey, I'm going on maternity leave, kiss my ass.

I totally think a hundred pages deserves a cupcake. I'm so impressed.