I was in sales for about 9 years. Most of that time was spent managing, but sales played a large part. Not only did I have to sell, but I had to train others to sell as well. I never worked in a place that forced me to sell crap, or had me on commission, or compromised my morals in any way. I was lucky.
One person who taught me a lot was a former boss named Phyllis, although she had no qualms about speaking about salespeople in third person in front of them. I recall when we were walking the mall, she looked at the front of a Foot Locker, a sports shoe store, and at three salespeople hanging around the entrance.
"Makes you feel like prey, doesn't it?" she asked. "Watch, I'll go in, and that guy will say hello, and then ask me if he can help me find anything. I'll say I am just looking. Then that guy will ask if I work out." She went in the store.
"Hi," said one guy, "can I help you find anything today?"
"No, just looking," she said without pausing, almost running over the guy's line.
"What kind of sports do you do? You look like you work out," said another.
"Not really," she said. She walked through the store, where three salespeople eyed her over, and then she left. "One of them said to come again, wasn't he nice?" she joked.
I knew why customers said, "Just looking." It really meant, "Leave me alone, don't bother me." I respected that. "Just looking" was a canned answer. Just = only, looking = not buying. There are ways around that, of course. I took the zany approach when the mood swept me. But this won't be a blog entry about making sales. I *hate* sales pressure, probably as much as the next guy. There's nothing more irritating than walking into a store or in front of a dealer's booth and being accosted with "can I help you find something?" or something similar. "No," Phyllis once said, "I have lost nothing." Or even better, "I lost me a good man. How can you help?" Always broke the pattern. I never had the guts to be THAT zany, but sometimes when the pressure is too bad... "just looking" comes out of my mouth.
I used to manage a furniture store. In a mall. People don't go to malls to buy furniture much. They go to malls to buy toys, clothing, and junk they don't need. Rarely do they buy big name items. So I spent a lot of time alone. One of the problems with this is that when I worked at Springfield Mall, we were across the street from the Springfield Hilton. The number one local spot for Amway sales seminars for new recruits. Four times a year, guy in suits and walking mikes would run up and down the stage and pump up the audience to sell Amway crap. Even though they say they are not a pyramid scheme, they really kind of are. That's why no Amway salesman ever says "Amway" up front. They say something like, "I am a whole sale distributor for brand name products." Anything to keep people from fleeing into the hills.
I know. I got them all the time!
They saw me or one of my employees alone in the store, and tried to recruit us to sell Amway. I hated them. I hated them so much because they were annoying, predictable, and so full of crap, it seethed out their teeth. Many of them were not very good, either. Some had bad hygiene, or awkward personal skills that didn't fit the script they had memorized. Here's the script they made for me:
Indicator #1: They come in, and ask about random products. Most of the time, customers have a track, like living room sets, or kid's bedding. No one came in, asked about a lamp, a pillow case, a chair, and a throw rug. Except those Amway guys.
Indicator #2: They thank me for my time, and leave without buying anything. 99% of customers never thanked me, nor did I expect it, so when someone shook my hand and thanked me for my time telling him about a rocking chair, throw pillow, and my sales counter... I waited until he left my store, and then counted backwards from ten.
Indicator #3: 4... 3... 2... 1... and they are back! "I really like the way you sell, I can see you are a man of integrity... blah blah blah salescakes."
First, I listened. After a few dozen of these bozos, I got sick of listening. Then it got to the point I told them outright that I wasn't interested in Amway, even if they had never used the word "Amway."
Amway Dude: I like the way you sell--
Punkie: I HATE AMWAY!!!
Amway Dude: B-but, I never SAID Amway ...
Punkie: Then what is the name of your company?
Amway Dude: Why do you hate Amway, anyway?
They always wanted to know why. I told them Amway sells crap, is a pyramid scheme, and stuff I am sure they have heard a zillion times, because they always had a vague redirected answer for it.
"People don't like Amway because they don't understand the value of what we are about," I envision some Amway pep-talk guy saying on a Jumbotron. "But after you're done with them, they will beg for mercy!" And the crowd goes seig heil^H^H^H^H^H^H wild.
One year, they shifted their approach to, "Don't you want to make a spare $1000 a month? How about $2000? Can you say no to your family when they want to go fishing with dear old dad?" Well, they were trying to appeal to a mark's greed. So I deflected that by dislodging the root: with philosophy.
"Extra money always brings problems. Buddhism teaches us that materialism always brings misery. Extra money would just invite trouble," I'd say, and no one had a pre-programmed response for that. The exit answers ranged from "Okay, good luck with your cult" to "Y-you don't like m-money? Wha...?" It became like a game. I deflected every one of them with each wave. I must have become famous. Someone must have told my story to some High Holy Amway dude, because one day, this happened:
It was a normal lunchtime hour. I knew Amway was in town because the manager of the Leather Factory next to me was making jokes about it. I was with another customer, when two people in very expensive suits came into my store. One was a very attractive older male, and the other was an older female. Both of them looked very well groomed, had wore fancy rings and Rolex watches. I'd say both were in their late 30s, maybe late 40s. They stood out quickly because they dressed way too nice for someone to come into a mall. I know, I have sold furniture to Prince Al Saud, and he only wore jeans and a sweater. So when I was done with the real customer, they approached me, and asked me if I was interested in a business proposition. They weren't like the usual Amway people, so I didn't smell the Amway scent right away. I asked them what I could help them with, and they started a spiel about their company's quest to distribute quality products. At first, I thought they were salesmen for some corporate cleaning systems, and told them my corporate office makes those decisions, I didn't. Then they asked if I was interested in making some side money. That's when I smelled Amway. I told them, "Not really. Buddhism teaches us that materialism... blah blah." They politely listened. Occaissionally they would nod.
All this time, this man had some pager in his coat that beeped about every two minutes. When I was done, he told me some bullcrap story about how he started out in the slums of somewhere, and worked his way up through the chain to become a happy and successful man with mansions, pools, boats, sports, cards, and so on. Then he asked, "Hear that beep?" He pulled out what looked like a pager. "That means I made another $1000 dollars. Can you honestly say that an extra grand a month will cause you material harm?" I guess he thought he got me there, but I wasn't going for that kind of stuff. Years of Wiccan and Buddhist philosophy had the perfect response.
"Well, that just proves my point," I said, with an incredulous sigh of shock and pity. "See, you are so scared of your own status in life, that you have to be reassured by an auditory signal every two minutes to say you are still making money. It's like listening to a heartbeat, hoping it doesn't stop. I could never live that way. I'd lose my friends, never be able to concentrate, and I might get rich, but for whom? Whom would I impress? Nobody, that's who. I'd rather be poor with friends than rich with nobody. I always hear about lottery winners who commit suicide because money only brought them misery."
"But you need money to eat!" said the woman. It was a rather desperate deflection on her part, I thought.
"Yes," I said, "and I already have that. Spending money on luxuries is a waste of time done often by people who have to fill an empty hole in their self-love. Money doesn't fix your soul, man."
"You're good," said the man. "They were right." And with that, he thanked me for my time, and left.
I still got Amway recruits, but I have always been proud of getting rid of them by cutting out their main selling point: greed. I have always felt a pang of guilt, though, "using Buddhism" towards my own gain and such. But it's true, money doesn't buy happiness. I am making almost three times now what I made as a manager, and I don't think I am really any more fulfilled by it.
But in any case, I hate going into a store and smelling the sales pressure like sweat from their brow. I hate that they treat my wife like an idiot, and think because I am a man, I like sports, cigars, fast cars, and my own dick. I hate it even more when I get "blown off" because I didn't make a large purchase. And I REALLY hate snobby salespeople.
I bring all of this up because last week, I got my hair cut. It was a good haircut, but the stylist asked me what I used to shampoo my hair, her response to my reply was a sort of, "Bwah! No way. Oh, my God, what an idiot." I told her I used V05 because it was cheap. "Well, you get what you pay for," she said, framing my hair in the mirror. "I used those $10 bottles of shampoo," I said, "and they never cleaned my hair any better." She asked if I had heard of Awapuhi, like she was preparing to discipline me. She was beginning to piss me off, so I cut her off at the path.
"Awapuhi is a member of the ginger family," I said. "It's an import from India that was distributed eastward through Polynesia, and is a rhizome that grows well in the tropics and is known for its pungent fragrance. Most of the world's farmed Awapuhi grows in Hawaii. Paul Mitchell was the first to add it to his shampoo line in the 1970s, stating that native girls used it to wash their hair. In fact, they used it primarily to perfume their hair, but the envy that many rich and famous American women had on their Asian counterparts at the time propelled his Awapuhi line to the point that he and his business partner made millions of dollars, despite that they never sold their products from retail outlets." I kept going, remembering a Biography Channel episode about him I watched years ago. I also discussed Hawaiian economics, the collapse of the Japanese realty investments in the area in the 1990s, the climate and exports of Hawaii, and of course, Kona Blue Sky Coffee. A regular World Alminac, I was.
That shut her up. It was probably rude and snobbish of me, but she made me mad. But as I said, the haircut was good, so I tipped her well, and I hope she never criticizes another customer again based on shampoo choice.
This entry was originally posted at http://www.punkwalrus.com/blog/archives/00000382.html