When I lived with my parents our house was somewhat hidden away, so we rarely had random visitors – if we did get any, then we assumed they were lost.
Things changed a little for me when I moved into my own place though. Not only was I in a more exposed location (although still rural), I had my very own front door to answer, and with this comes responsibilities.
The sales guy
I think the first random caller I answered my door to was a guy selling aerial photographs of houses. I guess he waits for new people to move in, flies over in his small private aircraft with camera in hand, and then tries to sell the resulting photograph. And this is what he came round with – it was a picture of my house, from the sky, in better clarity than Google Maps/Earth, and it captured an image of my house as it was when I moved in, my palace! My initial reaction was “I like that”, the next was “I don’t want to part with any money with someone that has just turned up on my doorstep.” We compromised, he sold me just the picture without a frame because I didn’t like the particular frame, and off he went. It was brief.
The Jehovah’s Witnesses
Next up, the Jehovah’s Witnesses. Now it might be considered a bit unfair, but this group of ‘cold-callers’ are seen as a little bit of a joke, I can’t find the words to explain why though. Years ago we’d see them arrive in our little housing estate and go round door-to-door, I assumed they were trying to convert people to their way of thinking – I was a child or a teenager and joked about “If I had answered the door I would have invited them in for tea and biscuits!” But it wasn’t my door and I wasn’t the first to answer it. Some Jehovah’s Witnesses even found their way to my hidden parent’s house, but one of my parents went out to see then, assuming they were lost, and they went on their way – again, I might have wanted to invite them in! Then in my own house I get a knock on the door – a Jehovah’s Witness… here’s my chance, you think? To put the kettle on and put out a spread of hobnobs and custard creams? No. He politely hands me a leaflet and continues on his way. Really, I had not long moved in to my home and I still had no furniture in my living room, so inviting them in wouldn’t have been an option, but I have said a couple of times “Sorry, I would invite you in, but my house is a building site…” Actually, the leaflet was quite informative, well presented, and it had their website address on (which is also clear and well laid out), so perhaps they’ve changed their tack and strayed away from the doorstep “sales pitch”, which must surely receive them some abuse.
The recycling team
Next up, a visit from two women from the local recycling team. This was really a good one, I was very impressed. I had written a letter to the recycling team posing some queries to them about what happens to the plastic that we throw away – some plastics can be recycled here but I was keen to recycle as much as possible and avoid sending stuff to landfill. My letter was quite lengthy and detailed, and I hoped I would receive a written reply to each of my points, but thought perhaps I was asking a little too much and my letter would be binned to save someone the trouble. What I wasn’t expecting was two people to turn up at my doorstep and actually tell me the answers to each of my points! First up I had to apologise for not inviting them in, but I had no furniture, but it was a nice day and we stood outside my front door and talked through everything – it was quite a lengthy chat – it was fun – they had a very positive and supportive attitude, not only did they appreciate the efforts I was already taking but they acknowledged how the system can be improved. If theirs was a sales pitch for the services they provide, they carried it out very well, they weren’t a faceless part of government, we were all on the same team. They had assumed a letter of reply had been sent prior to their visit, but I hadn’t received it – I never did, but their responses were good enough and they gave me a brochure with further information.
The charity guy
Finally, my most recent cold-caller. The charity guy. I answers the door in my shorts and t-shirt and he casually commented how I must have been enjoying a nice day in the garden. He told me which charity he was working for, he handed me a couple of laminate sheets that I glanced over while the casual chat continued. He asked my name and age, and what I do for a living. All very polite and friendly, he shook my hand. The problem was, I fell into the trap of the friendly sales pitch somewhat, and he assumed he was onto a winner. He was trying to “drum up business”, it was a “particularly hard time for the people that his charity helps…” but if he had simply explained this, and perhaps then handed me a leaflet explaining how I could make a donation if I so chose, then all would have been well, but he proceeded to produce forms to fill in, and I was like “OK, hold up…” I took a step back and came clean – I told him that I appreciated what efforts he was making but I didn’t want to part with any money or details about myself. The cheerfulness of his character immediately switched, I was no longer his friend, his eyes turned downwards as he shuffled his paperwork back into his bag, my reaction was to shake his hand, and then he trundled off to my neighbour’s house to begin his process again. In hind sight, my point about not wanting to share my details was belated – part of his “sales pitch” had been to talk about other notable names in the neighbourhood: “Do you know so and so?” trying to paint a picture of all these people he’d gotten to know, who had perhaps agreed to donate, and now he had my name and was going off to other houses with this in mind, to tell people he’d just spoken to me. I felt a little betrayed, betrayed by his friendliness, partly, but betrayed by my own tongue! Perhaps if I’d read the material he’d handed me… but we were too busy chatting – there could have been anything printed on those things, like: “Anything you say to this guy will be used as we see fit… by continuing this conversation you are agreeing to the following terms…”
Door-to-door vs. telephone sales
I’m still learning when it comes to door-to-door sales, just like I’m still honing my replies when it comes to nuisance telephone calls (for which I receive a lot more). These people have a job to do, and particularly with the telephone sales they seem to be the types of jobs I don’t agree with: call centres full of people trying to miss-sell things, people who sadly can’t find themselves a more meaningful and better (and honest) job. Even the charity guy, I assume he was employed – trained in the art of selling, and the psychology behind it, the dark arts – what tactics work, how to lead people down the path in order that they part with their money, which is, all these sales people want, no matter how friendly they are and manage to become your friend within those first few minutes of standing on your doorstep. I want to be polite to all of these people, they’re fellow human beings, we should be compassionate and understanding to all, but in doing this I want to invite them in for tea and biscuits, I want to understand more about them, their ideas, and what they do, but perhaps that would be just wasting their time, and leading them on. First I need some furniture.