During my time working behind a storefront, I have seen and heard too much. Appreciative customers, irate customers, angry vendors, and apathetic manufacturers. I’ve received faxes for foreign stocks, health-care plans, cheap meds, time shares and free Bahamas vacations. I’ve taken phone calls from charities that may or may not be real, salesmen who give only their first names with no return number, who insist they need the CEO’s personal cell phone number. And my personal favorite, the phone calls that begin with a recorded, “Our representatives have a very important message, please hold….”
The joys of working in the business district.
So far this “season,” we’ve somehow stayed under the radar of political phone calls. I’m sure that will change since I have just pointed it out.
But one thing we couldn’t avoid if we duct-taped the front door are out-of-town solicitors who find their way into town. I’m telling you, these people will slide under the door jam or crash through the windows to get onto my side of the door.
On a good day, their interruptions are frustrating. On a bad day, they’re just-cause. There’s something unnerving about someone busting through the door with a huge bottle of spot remover in one hand and a scrub brush in the other.
“No, I’m not interested.”
“But I see two stains right here by the door. I’ll do a quick clean, no obligation, and you can see how quickly they….”
“No, seriously. I’m not interested.”
“All right, well, I also have a window cleaner that would….”
Dirty look masked by a smile. “I’m sorry, we are so swamped and I really don’t have time today.”
“Is there anyone else here who might want to take a look?”
Are you kidding? Risk my co-workers wrath by passing this buck? Why doesn’t the phone ring NOW when I really need it to?
And it doesn’t stop with carpet cleaners. How about fruit, books, jewelry, remote control cars, kites, puzzles, furniture and meat?
Yes, meat. Someone tried to sell me my choice of beef, pork, chicken or seafood from the back of his truck. Buy one case, get one free.
Meat. From the back of a truck.
Put up a no-soliciting sign, you might suggest. Tried it. I even revised it a few times, upping the size each time it was ignored. Finally I tore it down—it seems there’s no point.
I knew I had lost the day I met the chime lady. I was helping a customer who happened to be hearing-impaired. We communicated by writing notes to each other and I had stepped in the back of the store to get something for him. I heard the front door open, followed by jingling and something that resembled church bells.
I peeked around the door to see a small Asian woman balancing a metal pole with at least 20 wind chimes across the back of her neck and shoulders. Not quite sure what I was seeing, I shot a confused glance to my customer and mouthed, “What is that?”
He smiled awkwardly and stared back with a puzzled look. Then I remembered, he can’t hear. He has no idea that there is a 41⁄2-foot Asian woman balacing a 10-foot pole right behind him.
So I ducked behind the door again, trying to decide on just the right thing is to say to a traveling wind-chime hawker.
I chose a quick wave of my hand signifying “No,” which, luckily, was good enough for her. She shuffled back out sideways and disappeared down the street.
Any sales they do make have to be desperation buys, in hopes it’s the quickest way to get them back out the door. It’s most effective to stand up and say no, no, no, no, no and then sit back down and make a phone call. Five rejections seems to be the standard minimum they have to hear.
The simple truth is, they’re a pain in the business.