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Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Door to door

Door to door selling. Is there a more difficult way to make a living?

We get lots of door to door salesmen — and women — at my office. I'm not sure why. It could be because we're on a main road. It could be because my office building looks like a house, and the aforesaid salesmen suspect they'll be greeted by a housewife in curlers and housecoat just happy to have someone to talk to.

Actually, my office building is a house. It's just not used as a house. And, we do have a sign out front that tells what businesses are in the building. Despite that fact, we still get people coming for appointments (appointments they actually made with a business in the building), that knock on the front door and just stand there. When asked why they knock at the front door instead of just coming in, they reply, "Oh, I thought this was somebody's house."

Of course, there are the regular door to door salesmen that visit offices selling things like office supplies, copy paper, copiers, computers, printers, fax machines, financial services, coffee supplies, cleaning services, and the like. But, that's not what I'm talking about. What I'm talking about here are door to door salesmen that come selling household goods. Lately, they're coming with more and more frequency.

Unfortunately for the door to door selling folks, I've always turned them away without buying anything. It's not something I enjoy doing. It's just that I always thought it was my job to do. Having tried selling door to door, I have a lot of feeling for these people. I'm just not a buyer of door to door goods.

Over the last three years, we've had people selling things like bakeware and cookware and picnicware, dishes and flatware, wine and exotic beers, juicers and kits to motorize your bicycle, linens and mattresses.

One guy was selling family portraiture. I lamely thought I could get rid of him by saying this wasn't my home and my family wasn't here. That was okay with him. He told me that if I gave him my home address, he could be there at 5:30 to shoot me and the family. Ahh, just what I want: my picture taken at my most frazzled daily moment. I just smiled and told him I really wasn't interested in having a family portrait taken. Well, that was okay too. He said that if I didn't mind, he like to go out to his car and get his equipment and shoot me while I was working. I wouldn't even know he was there. I refrained from laughing and politely asked him to leave.

Another guy, near closing time, burst in the front door in a near panic state. It was a dark and dreary December day and the rain was starting to freeze. His story? He was a truck driver for a furniture manufacturer on the East Coast and had been to deliver a load of furniture to a store in St. Louis. When he got to the place in St. Louis, he learned that his truck had been loaded with more than the store had ordered. He was sent packing with a half truckload of high quality furniture that the store wasn't interested in. He told me he had called his boss back east and was informed he could not return until he got rid of that furniture. He was making his way home along the highways and byways trying to sell his load in bits and pieces. He said he was authorized to sell his furniture at deep discounts and he could deliver to my home right then and there. I told him I wasn't interested.

He was persistent, saying he had a beautiful living room outfit with fine upholstery out there that retailed in the thousands and he could practically give it to me for $500.00. That was tempting, but I still wasn't interested. He then told me he could throw in two matching end tables and two lamps for free. Still, no interest. Dining room set? Nope.

Then he wanted to know if I'd at least be interested in coming out to his truck to see what he had. He was certain that someone with such fine tastes as me would find something appealing. Before I could ask him what made him think I had fine tastes, he said he would accept any offer for any piece of furniture I wanted. He said he had several beautiful Tiffany-style floor lamps and he would take $5.00 for the lamp of my choice. Wow! All I had to do was come out to the truck and pick the lamp of my choice. Temptation suddenly turned into a vision of waking up dead in some woods in Western Pennsylvania later that night, and I told him I had work to do and to just leave. As I was getting into my car a few minutes later, I saw him frantically darting into an office down the street.

Today the toy salesmen came. There were three of them — two guys and a gal in their early 20's, I'd guess. In an unusual turn of events, my boss was in the office. But, before I could thank them and send them on their way without having made a sale, my boss invited them into his office. Oh boy! They proceeded to take their wares of their door to door salesmen cases and show him. He bought six items for about $20.00. The whole transaction took less than five minutes. As they were packing up their cases, he says something like, "so, you kids doing this to put yourselves through college?" The two guys just looked at each other, and the girl says, almost like an afterthought, that she needs the money for college. Instead of just thanking them and walking them to the door he says, "so, you kids want to see the upstairs?" Then he proceeded to take them on a tour of the building. The whole scene was more than a little strange.

Does anyone else get door to door salesmen? What do you do? Do you invite them in? Do you buy? Do you give them a tour of your house or office? Do you avoid answering the door? I'd love to know.

Posted by Marie at October 23, 2002 10:51 PM


Hi Marie,

This is very funny because under my desk at work right now I have a nine piece tool kit, a briefcase/dayrunner, a battery powered screwdriver with a built in flashlight, a travel alarm, a duck puppet that quacks songs and a sheet set all waiting to be shipped home to Springfield. I always haggle on the price because I'm sure these people are buying the stuff in the warehouse district but I probably could live without most of the stuff.

I should be following my stuff home in a couple of weeks.:)

Posted by: Katherine at October 24, 2002 8:52 AM

Katherine, That is too funny! Yes, I think my boss haggled on the price too. For what he bought, I think he got a good deal.

Posted by: Marie at October 25, 2002 1:13 AM

I am a door to door salesman. Its funny how people view us. But before you throw rocks in the glass house, how do you go about choosing what and where you shop. THe last time you bought tires, did you go with the company with the best reputation, or the company whose ad popped out the most. Next time you buy something, ask yourself how did you arrive at the situation. We are naive of corporate marketing because we are so used to it. After all I dont remember there being a local phone company storefront where I could go in and order call waiting and etc.

Posted by: Mark Aussieker at October 22, 2003 11:06 PM