16 March 2012


by Andy Weddington
Friday, 16 March 2012

"Everyone lives by selling something." Robert Louis Stevenson

For today, on the lighter side of current events to which most everyone can relate. But seriously...

Because family lives in that region, the area code, thanks to caller ID, looked familiar but the number did not. It was mid-morning, a weekday, and I was busy--gobs of paint on the palette, a handful of brushes, and a huge canvas underway. Just in case, I answered the call anyway.

"Good morning, Mr. Weddington, how are you today?" "Fine." "I'm "Rachel" from "XYZ" and I'm returning the call from this number regarding a quote for a lower mortgage." "What?" "Yes, sir, someone from this number called requesting a call back about refinancing." "Well, Rachel, exactly when did you receive that call?" "One day last week, sir." "Which day?" And then Rachel had one of those 'oh crap, what do I say now' pauses. Then, "Hmm. According to my log, it looks like late Thursday afternoon." "Well, nice try, Rachel. That's impossible. I am the only person at this number, was the only person at this number last week, and I made no such call." "But, sir..." "Rachel, listen carefully. Remove my name and number from your call list. Do not call again. Have a nice day."

A couple of days later, mid-morning, another call from a familiar area code. Busy but not painting, I answered. "Good morning, Andrew." "What. Do. You. Want?" My impatience clear because, unknown to the caller, they had my name wrong. "Sir, my name is "Parker" and I'm returning a call in regard to extending your subscription to (name of the news periodical withheld)." "Really?" "Yes, sir." "Well, Parker, that IS quite interesting. I do not subscribe to that magazine. I've never subscribed to that magazine. And, never will subscribe to that magazine." "Well, sir, in that case, and since you'd be a new subscriber, I'm authorized to extend a huge savings introductory offer..." "Parker is it?, listen carefully. I'm not interested in your magazine, even if it were free. In fact, you could not pay me to read that magazine. So, kindly remove my name and number from your list. Do not call again. Oh, and have a nice day." "But, sir...." And there the call ended. 

The following week another such intrusion. I forget the caller's name and the product being hawked. The overly familiar, deliberately false, teasing introduction again presented as if calling an existing customer. I didn't bother letting them get through their opening pitch. Good grief.

And it's not just the phone calls.

Last week a windowed business envelope marked "URGENT MATERIAL" came in the mail. I usually shred this sort of junk without opening but there was something a little different about the envelope--the font and presentation--so decided to open it.

It was a one page, three or four paragraph letter noting I was the owner of such and such make and model car and, by such ownership, was a member of an elite group being invited to a rare, exclusive special event. Lucky me. That event? A buy back program, offered for three days only, and my car would be worth at or above current market value. Wow! And, the unimpressive unsigned form letter (for the elite group, mind you), and an ID (odd, Eric Holder says you don't need one to vote in Texas or anywhere), was the in-demand ticket for admission. The letter concluded by noting how much they were looking forward to seeing me and helping me meet my transportation needs. How thoughtful. How considerate. Translation--"Help! We're having one hell of hard time moving inventory, and we'll do just about anything to sell you a new car." They forgot the comma and word "sucker" after car.

A few days later an email arrived from the same outfit--now offering to make the first monthly payment, up to $500.00, on my new car. Again, how thoughtful. And generous. All for a car I don't need that they're trying desperately to convince me I want. It's not going to happen.

And then there's the countless envelopes, practically daily in the mail, for sundry goods and services, with big bold alerts in upper case, some black and some red, "CONGRATULATIONS"; "YOU'RE A WINNER"; "HOORAY, YOU WON!"; "BIG DISCOUNTS"; that have transitioned to, "YOUR LUCKY DEAL ENDS TODAY"; "DON'T MISS THIS"; "LAST CHANCE"; "OFFER EXTENDED"; "FINAL NOTICE"; "LAST OPPORTUNITY"; "HURRY"; and now, these days, on to personal favorites, the implied threats, "DELINQUENT"; "FINAL WARNING" and "YOU'RE ON NOTICE."

Apparently, desperate, businesses are turning to Plato, "Honesty is for the most part less profitable than dishonesty."

Is our economy recovering? Hardly--as so indicated by calls, mail, spam, and all that surrounds us in daily life--from foreclosed homes to empty retail space to the ever-growing brigades of food stamp dependents and armies of street corner panhandlers. Hard times? Yes. And getting harder. Hence the not so-subtle soft hard sell. And we can thank a president (and administration and congress) who is either devious, foolish, careless, clueless, some of all, or dare say simply not up to the responsibilities to which entrusted. Take your pick, it matters not. The net result the same.

But are folks getting wise to the Plato philosophy? And, accordingly, might businesses enjoy more success if using a candid, more direct approach?--"We're struggling. We're dying here. Help! We'll make it worth your while."

It can't hurt. Besides, isn't honesty the best policy?

Mark Twain thought so: "Honesty is the best policy - when there is money in it."


Post Script

And then there was the caller/campaigner last week trying to sell a second term for Barack Obama. No kidding. Still laughing. Good grief.

1 comment:

Steve said...

I sometimes lead them on, then I tell them "my parole officer" has to approve all contracts and ask them if they'd run it by him for me.