Monday, May 9, 2011
An Open Letter to Door-to-Door Salesmen
Just another day of trolling through suburbia, offering me an "in neighborhood" discount on security systems and auto glass. You see my house; a standard suburban single-family home. You see my car -- a 1999 SUV. Toys in the yard. Jackpot.
Let's talk about the issues that we're facing here. First, it's between the hours of 1pm and 4pm, which are prime naptime for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. When you walk up and pound on my front door, which is just a few feet away from my baby's crib, it's gonna piss me off. When you stand back from the door for 45 seconds, then walk up and pound again, it's gonna piss me off even more. If for some reason I would have been inclined to buy your product, having naptime interrupted will sour me anyway, no matter how many "special discounts" you throw my way.
Let me explain something to you about naptime. And I don't blame you for not knowing; by your age and gender I am guessing you have never spent time as an in-home caregiver for two children under the age of four. It goes something like this. I take care of my children full time, and on top of that I work for 15-20 hours as an online instructor. In order for this to be a financially viable option, I use little to no paid childcare. This means that my only available work times are (1) while the children are asleep at night and (2) while the children are napping. Naptime is not the hour for bon-bons and soap operas; instead, I hunker down for maybe 45 minutes or an hour and a half of intensive class discussion, grading, and answering emails. When you wake my children up by knocking on my door to sell me a new windshield, when you can clearly see that my windshield is not broken, what that means to me is that I will not get enough sleep that night, because I will have to stay up late to make up the work time that you have just cost me.
And let's go a step further. I don't blame you for seeing me as an easy mark. Suburban, nice home, decent car, cares about family and safety. But when you interpret my stay-at-home status as an indicator of affluence, that's where you go off course. In the current economy, I might be the least likely person on my block to make an unplanned purchase. For one thing, I am still living in my house, which means I haven't foreclosed, which means that I am making mortgage payments based on an inflated home value that was in place when we made the home purchase four years ago. Secondly, I do not have a full time job, which is why I am home and you see my car parked in the driveway, which means that we are not a two-income family; more like a one-and-a-half-income family. It suits our needs and it is a good thing, but it does not make me rich. And furthermore, the more you interrupt me, the less I work, which translates into less earning potential for me, because part-time work is not based on a generous package of benefits and salaried time; instead, I get paid just for the work I do. No doubt this makes sense to you as a commissioned employee.
Lastly, as a busy mother and wife, I take care of business. If I need a new windshield, I will go get one; I will not sit around in my house hoping that a door-to-door windshield salesman will come by and rescue me from my hopeless predicament.
So next time, do me a favor, and when you zero in on my house, stop your hand just before it knocks on my door and ask yourself,
1. Is it 1pm-4pm?
2. How would I feel if someone randomly forced me to stay up late by preventing me from completing my work?
3. Would I be inclined to purchase something from the person in item #2?
Consider the answers to these questions carefully before you proceed with the knocking, and for heaven's sake, if you forget and knock once, don't knock twice. I guarantee that I heard you.
If you are looking for someone to boost your commission, try finding the forwarding addresses for all the previous owners of the foreclosed and burned houses that line the street. Freed at last from their mortgage payments and riding along on a tide of insurance money, they are much more likely to be able to afford whatever it is you're selling. When you try to sell to people who still own their homes, you are barking up the wrong tree.