Monday, May 03, 2010

Those &%!#* Solicitors

I don’t like being solicited at home, unless it’s something I invite. I screen out most email solicitations. It still requires time to go through junk mail and decide what needs to be shredded and what doesn’t. But these things are manageable. It’s those pesky telephone and door-to-door solicitations that bother me the most.

Many telephone pests are screened out by the national do-not-call registry. But there are some exceptions and loopholes that for-profit and nonprofit entities exploit.
  • The politicians that created the registry cleverly excepted calls from political organizations. Go figure.
  • Any entity classed as a charity can still call.
  • Pollsters and survey takers can legally bug you. (Another loophole for the politicians.) Some businesses exploit this by taking a survey and then asking if they can follow up. The follow-up is a solicitation.
  • Any company you’ve done business with sometime in the last 18 months can call you.
  • Bill collectors can call you. (That’s probably understandable.)
Fortunately, the advent of caller-ID has allowed us to screen out many of those excepted by the do-not-call registry. (It is amazing how persistent some of these can be.) But sometimes we end up screening out calls we would like to have answered, simply because we don’t recognize the number. Those that are truly interested leave a message.

When I end up actually answering an unwanted phone call from a solicitor of any kind, I usually simply hang up without saying anything. If they are especially persistent at calling back, I stay on the line long enough to tell them to stop calling. They really don’t want to waste their time talking to someone that isn’t going to buy their product/answer their questions/support their candidate/donate to their cause anyway.

Then there are the people that go door-to-door. We have a “NO SOLICITING” sign clearly displayed by the front door. Most solicitors bypass our house, but some are not discouraged by the sign. I have gotten to the point that I am very brief and blunt with those folks, while trying to remain somewhat courteous.

Last week I saw a guy making the rounds of the neighborhood. He repeatedly bypassed our home. Then one day he showed up at our door with another salesman in tow. I suspect that it was his manager who was going to show him how it is done. One of my kids answered the door and came to get me.

When I got to the door, I asked, “What do you want?” As the guy began talking, he turned his binder toward me. That allowed me to tell that what they were peddling. Before he had said five words, I interrupted. I pointed to the blazingly obvious “NO SOLICITING” sign and asked in a polite tone of voice, “Excuse me, but can you guys read?” The man responded that he hadn’t seen the sign, but the two quickly departed.

A couple of years back, a guy selling some kind of miracle gasoline additive showed up on my doorstep. When I took the same kind of approach with him, he started in on a debate about why ‘No Soliciting’ signs do not pose a legal barrier to door-to-door solicitation. I think the guy could see the fire building in my eyes. I finally said, “I don’t care what your legal manual says. It should be clear to you by now that I don’t want to be solicited!” As I closed the door, he was still saying something about how I was passing up an incredible opportunity. I’m sorry, but that’s simply not the way to win customers.

Once a salesman caught me while I was out in the front yard with a couple of my kids, quite some distance from my protective sign. I nicely explained that I don’t allow solicitation. I think this man was an entertainer at heart. He smiled and started in on a very amusing spiel about how he was brought up to believe that solicitation had something to do with those fancily dressed ladies on street corners in certain parts of town. Before long, the guy had my kids in totally fascinated by his product demo. His act was so fun that I simply couldn’t turn him away.

I do have to say that the ‘miracle’ cleaner this man sold me is probably one of the best cleaning products I have ever used. But I’d probably have bought even if it wasn’t, as I considered his show to be worth the price. If you’re going to be a door-to-door salesman, this guy could teach you a thing or two. But I doubt that a talent like that is easily transferrable.

My wife is too kind to close the door on or hang up the phone on solicitors. She politely listens to phone solicitors until she finally tells them she’s not interested. But she has a very difficult time turning away people on the doorstep.

Perhaps I’m just cruel. But I feel as if I have a right to a certain level of privacy in my own home, and I have no problem making efforts to exclude those that would infringe on that privacy. I take no pleasure in being rude. But I do think it rather offensive when solicitors ignore my sign.

I understand the value of advertising. None of us would find out about products and services that greatly benefit us were it not for advertising, even if that marketing comes only by word of mouth. There are zones I visit where I expect to be confronted with marketing tactics. I just don’t want my front door or my telephone to be among those zones.

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