What would *you* do for a Klondike bar?

Wait, don’t answer that.  I may not want to know.

I was prepared to discuss a completely different topic today, but the hand of fate struck: we went to the mall.  This was a task I was not exactly looking forward to, simply because I dislike the experience of being accosted by some snotty Latina (no offense) who comes running up to us–even though we are completely engaged in deep conversation–claiming she only wants “to ask us a question”.  The holiday shopping season was a nightmare; they tried every tactic in the book, even to the point of pretending you weren’t engrossed in conversation or zeroing in on you as if the people you were with weren’t even there.

None of the usual counter-measures worked.  We tried all of them–walking on the opposite side near the wall, purposefully looking away, starting a conversation or intensifying one already in progress, pretending to answer our cell phones, pretending to be hearing impaired (at least, more so than I am), pretending not to be able to speak English, you get the idea.  This particular breed of brat knows no shame.  Apparently, they’d submit to levels I’d rather not even think about for that dangling Klondike bar.

Having been a retail employee myself, I do retain a shred of empathy.  After all, the memories of being subjected to ridiculous new insta-policies (usually an irrational knee-jerk reaction at middle management level), and feeling compelled to holler across a 4000-sq-ft store to zero in on my target (i.e. anyone who wandered into the store, and for any reason) in 12 seconds or less and then live and die by the scripted approach, or risk being tattled on to management by the dreaded Secret Shopper who has no qualms about failing me on every point of the checklist they clutch in some third hand I can’t see, with a neutral smile on their face throughout the whole encounter.

Seeing as how we’re studying Freud (Fraud) in Clin-Psych this week, I couldn’t help but to pause to attempt to explore why I am so hyper-reactive to unwanted advances by salespeople.  I mean, it’s not like they’re going to physically assault me or anything.  (Oh wait, maybe I better not assume that; cynical as I can become, I’m surprised every day by the new depths that people achieve.)

Regardless, I’m astute enough to understand that at least part of the problem is me.  I hate to admit that Freud has any validity, but maybe he’s onto something here.  My earliest contacts with other people outside of my family were less-than-pleasant.  I was a wallflower, the other kids smelled it, and were on me like a pack of dogs.  It’s like that “We Are the Champions” song; I was laughed at, put down, and made all kinds of fun of.  Anything was fair game – my plain stringy (and later, worse–frizzy!) hair, my shyness, my name, my clothes, my lack of knowledge of how to play sports in gym class, or the fact that I misunderstood or forgot the teacher’s directions.  Later it was my dating choices and my acne.

Sure, people sometimes buried their hatchet and turned over a new leaf, and the teasing came to a cease-fire…for about as long as it took to play a prank, put me up to something, or extract something from me.  The idea of getting something out of me, I believe, is the real culprit.  This behavior from others lasted so long that I began to get the idea that A) people sucked, B) trust no one, and C) be especially suspicious whenever someone tries to be nice to you, because it’s either a joke or a scam.  Wow, healthy.

Moving to Dallas didn’t exactly help.  It’s hard to describe our lovely city, but the words empty, irrational, soulless, selfish, materialistic, self-absorbed, cutthroat, and snobby are an excellent start.  Even the locally-based companies won’t treat you with any respect.  It’s hard to get any response to the messages you leave, even if you wave enough money in front of their noses to buy a car.  Face-to-face, they’re sweet as pie; they talk big and promise you the moon, offering to follow-up with favors or additional information you request, but then they vanish into thin air and all of your voice mails, text messages, and emails vanish into the (Erchonia) abyss.  (That was an example, by the way.  These people were the 180* opposite of pushy, but in a bad way; I had to pull teeth to give them my business!  However, as long as they’ve acknowledged the sales prospect, they get pushy while trying to pretend not to be.  OK, I feel better with that off my chest.)

Never one to allow myself to rant without offering a solution, here’s mine: be accessible and attentive, but leave us alone to investigate, and decide for ourselves.  If we need you, we’ll let you know, if you’re around.  (If not, we’ll just snag the next employee who’d like to make a sale.)  And you had better know your product and be able to answer at least basic questions.  If you can’t, I must ask–do you at least know where you work?  Your name and what day of the week it is and all that?  Also, understand that consumers are often smarter than salespeople assume we are, and we can indeed smell a sales pitch like a fart in a car.  And here’s the big surprise: it’s usually a turnoff.  (And the solution for our singled-out example company is even less complicated: simply act like you want to stay in business.  Then you should be good to go.)

This story has a happy ending.  Remember those kiosks in the mall with those pushy high school salespeople?  Every last one of them shut down.  Only those who are decidedly NOT pushy remain.  Before someone plays devil’s advocate and says, “well, it IS past the holiday season, after all”, you’re right–except for the fact that I’ve never seen so many vacancies, not even after the Twin Tour fiasco in 2001.  Perhaps the consumers have actually spoken this time, and maybe, just maybe, they mean it when they say their number one shopping pet peeve is pushy salespeople.  Maybe these snots drove themselves right out of business.  Justice served.

BTW, how much chocolate are in those Klondike bars? 🙂

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