Pet Peeve: Direct Marketing Based On Guilt Or Power

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You’ve probably heard of “direct marketing” products – like Avon cosmetics, Cutco knives, or Amway health supplements. At the most basic level, I don’t mind any of these companies. If you have the desire to sell directly to individuals and work purely on commission, that’s fine with me. You do what you gotta do.

What I don’t like about many of these companies is that they promote selling to your “natural market”, aka – your friends and family. Even big corporations like financial planning company Ameriprise promote this. To me, this is the same as converting your friendship and love into money. I mean really, if you weren’t you’d simply go out and sell the product to complete strangers like everyone else. The only reason you’re selling to your buddies is because you know it gives you a better chance of making money.

What really bugs me is when someone abuses their social or professional influence in this way. Let’s say your boss’s son wants to sell you Cutco knives to “help pay for college”. Or your boss’s wife invites you to an Avon party and won’t take no for an answer. That’s an abuse of power in my opinion, as there is the unsaid possibility that if you don’t buy anything you may see negative consequences in the workplace.

So, I ask you, kind reader – How does one get out of this situation if they are really pushy? There are only so many times you can say “Sorry, I’m busy that day.” Do you just suck it up and buy the cheapest thing in the catalog? I’m leaning that way, the moral high ground is just not worth it (ugh… office politics). Is there some really clever way to get the point across?

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  1. I used to work in an office where the owner was very involved with a specific charity. He wanted all of his employees to donate so that his business could have 100% participation. I refused and was called into his office so he could understand why I would not want to give to charity. After being harassed a few times more I found that I could have the charity send me a request for a specific amount at my home. So I did that and then tore up the request. This got the boss off of my back and I still did not have to give to his corrupt (92% of money went to administering the charity) charity. My point being maybe there is a way to look good but not completely cave.

  2. I’ve had friends that work for Cutco and while its true that they do push you to market to friends and family, the most successful salespeople ask their friends and family if they known anyone who might interested in hearing their presentation. There is a manifesto on entitled “Friends, lies, and network marketing” that talks about this. (

    Cutco generally encourages new salespeople also use their friends and family as “practice” audiences for their sales pitches as well.

    That said, I’ve used Cutco knives and they’re as good as the salespeople say they are. Kind of makes them easy to sell once you see a demonstration. Whether a set of 10 knives is worth $500 is another question…

  3. If you are not interested, just say so. Don’t make up excuses. If the person persists, politely but firmly state that your answer is no and that you consider it rude if they don’t respect you enough to take your answer at face value. There is no reason to put up with social blackmail.

    I’m not referring here to legitimate charitable situations. We ought to feel guilty if we refuse to help a family that had a house fire or suffered some other major catastrophe.

  4. I agree with you, but those poeple would argue that their product is the best thing and they are helping you out by introducing you to it… Mary Kay? Oh its great cheap makeup, I want to help all my friends and family save moeny… blah blah. The best is when they try and get you to sell it because of how much extra money it can make you, but they profit off that too.

    How do I deal with it? I would argue to them, knives? Oh, I’d love to but I already have a set of really good ones. Or we’re trying to save money, etc. for x. At the end of the day if a friend or a coworker makes you feel guilty for politely rejecting their offer, then oh well. I say if that’s a big enough deal to get in the way of your friendship or work relationship, maybe you are better off without them. As for the boss, I guess that tells you about what kind of person he is and you should take that into account the next time you hear about a good job somewhere else or a transfer within the company.

    So don’t make a big deal about it, but don’t feel bad saying no. If they hold that against you, too bad for them.

  5. [quote]Do you just suck it up and buy the cheapest thing in the catalog? I?m leaning that way, the moral high ground is just not worth it (ugh? office politics).[/quote]

    And this atittude, sir, is why you are as successful as you are. Anyone that says, “standing on principle in this situation no matter what the costs,” is stupid. The two cliches that come to mind are “Pick your battles” and “Is this the hill you want to die on?” Of course, this is not worth the battle or death. You’re instinct to buy the cheapest thing is 100% correct and the smartest thing to do in this situation. I hope I am smart enough to recognise this if it happens to me.

  6. Having seen two finances ruined due to these schemes (Avon, Quixtar), I have a hard time seeing someone getting into it and not feel a compulsion to step in. I’ve been seeing a lot of initiations at the local Starbucks lately. It’s becoming a bit of a game – listen to the intro speech and then guess which plan they are pushing. I really have to fight to not step in and try to “save” these poor people.

    Pretty much nobody actually makes any money at these schemes – they just dump more and more in until they get to a certain level of debt to the “business”, and then they hopefully give up. Don’t get me wrong – Quixtar is a lot more insidious than Avon, but they both ultimately use the same strategies. The sales pitches are definitely pretty similar.

    I got suckered into a Quixtar meeting through bait and switch. A good friend invited me and a couple of other friends out “for dinner”. Then we get there and his leader was there trying to sell us stuff. Even without knowing it was Amway repackaged, alarm bells went off in our heads.

    I’ve turned down dinners and Christmas parties offered by my bosses before, so I think I’d just go for the simple “I’m not really interested” approach if family/friends/coworkers/bosses try to pull me in again.

  7. I agree that these can be tricky situations and I used to struggle a lot with saying no when presented with these offers (often failing). In the past several months I have had a couple of offers come up from people in these businesses and I found that I was able to say no very easily because now that I’m working with a budget I have an easy way out and even if I really wanted what they were selling I know if I can afford it or not.

    Some people are naturally blessed with a talent for saying NO, I am not, but I have found I’m doing better lately.

  8. While I agree with your point of most of these things turning friendship and love into money for you, I have to ask why it’s such a bad deal? I don’t agree with most of these things, but my reason for disagreement has nothing to do with who your ‘market’ is. If you can effectively sell to friends, colleagues, loved ones, etc, without damaging any relationships or doing something unethical, then why not?

  9. Steve Austin says

    If it’s your immediate boss and you have a good relationship with her/him, recommend you just be some very moderately priced thing even (especially) if you don’t need it.

    Then keep the item prominently displayed in your workspace. Bring it to meetings and set it on the conference table next to you (if it’s not too intrusive). Wear it around your neck like a protective amulet. If someone on your team tries to argue some professional point with you, just point to the item and say: “Screw you, dude. I’m protected by the Avon.”

    Reverse social blackmail. But you have to make sure that it’s funny. Everyone, including your boss, will laugh, but your boss will receive the subtle but clear message that yes, you did go along with her/his relationship marketing scheme, and that she/he does owe you something, at least a little something.

  10. I think everyone is ignoring a key part of the post – we’re not talking about a friend or collogue, but rather a boss. This is an individual who, like it or not, is in a position of power. As a result, there?s more at stake here than a personal relationship.

    If it?s an invitation for a meeting/presentation, I say lie through your teeth. If your boss doesn?t know very much about your personal life, think of something he/she wouldn?t expect you to skip for a knife party (i.e. grandma?s 80th birthday).

    If it?s a catalogue purchase, I agree with PTam – explain to them that you don?t buy goods/services that you don?t need.

    In the end, what?s the that could happen ? you have to go out and find another job?

  11. Along the same lines, I really hate it when co-workers kid’s sell things (nuts, magazine subscriptions, gift wrap, wreaths, cookie dough) to raise money for band, Girl / Boy Scouts, etc. Everything is so overpriced in the catalogs. Unfortunately, most of my co-workers will try to use guilt and manipulate others to buy from them. And people feel guilty and spend $25 on a tin of popcorn…..

  12. I completely agree with you. Typically most people are lazy and send an evite, so I just reply that I have a previous obligation. If it is a friend that I socialize with often I will go and purchase an item that I would want, or as inexpensive as possible. The last scenario occurs every 5 years or so.

    Coworkers – please, I have learned to ignore their pleas. Just because someone has their hands out doesn’t mean they need it. I work for a large organization. They provide Halloween for the children of their employees. Several businesses in the area have booths in a gym with games. We are asked to ?donate? candy for the prizes. Excuse me? Forget it. They get to sell to the parents and I am providing candy? I don?t think so.

    Saying, ?I?m afraid I have an obligation that evening.? or, ?I just cannot fit it into my budget.? should be plenty. I once heard on Oprah (who I do not care for), that after you say ?no? and someone tries to plead with you ? they are trying to control you. Think of that when you say no and it is amazing how easy it becomes.

  13. Drew Miller says

    “I can’t afford that right now, but when you get a chance let’s talk about a raise.”

  14. I tend to support the coworkers’/bosses’ children when they are having a fund raiser, but only if they don’t try to bully me into buying. When I’m on my break, I don’t mind seeing a boy scout popcorn catalog on one of the tables.

    Pressure is a key business strategy. We turn on the TV and see ‘cool’ people trying to pressure us into buying some designer clothes or eat at a particular restaurant (bad pressure). Our friends, as you mentioned, try to turn our friendship into profit (again, bad pressure). When it’s close to an anniversary, we have our spouse pressure us with hints as we walk by the jewelry section (most of the time, good and loving pressure). When we feel empathy for someone in a bad situation and want to help them, we feel pressure to give what we can (again, good pressure). Honestly, so much pressure in the world today has caused me to personally become a little desensitized to the bad forms of it. It’s a developed trait, so don’t be upset if you have trouble or feel guilty resisting the first few times.

  15. I was going to comment on the same thing Rachel just said — the so-called “fundraising” stuff that kids are required to do for their schools, girl/boyscouts, etc… It makes the poor kids into tools for these companies that package overpriced goods and push that the kids family and friends. And these things are required by certain groups so that the kids raise a minimum amount a piece. Most parents probably just buy the minimum themselves — but they should let the parents contribute an amount equal to what the organization makes after the “fundraising” product manufacturer is cut out of the deal.

    As far as Avon goes, I really like looking at their booklets and would often buy stuff — but I really don’t care for any type of “party” where you should bring your checkbook. I usually just say I’m busy and avoid them. If someone was persistent, I would just tell them I don’t have the money for that right now and not feel bad about it. Direct marketing is a pushy business, so you must push back.

  16. I would just say that you’re happy with your current selection of knives or tupperware or whatever, and are not in the market to buy another set, no matter how superior.

    As far as kids selling stuff, I think it’s a good life lesson in entrepreneurship and networking and salesmanship. I would definately have my kid participate.

  17. I completely agree with Steve Austin, make sure you get something out of it….rather than just becoming a scape goat.

  18. Not sure if this is on point…but it’s sort of like when you pass a homeless person sitting in his motorized wheelchair at the Metro station asking for an offering.

    The marketing there is the guilt trip. I usually just give in. Is that good or bad?

  19. I would definitely lump MLM schemes (Avon, Pampered Chef, candles, etc) and through-the-kids marketing (Sally Foster, popcorn, you name it) into the same annoying lump. These are all instances of businesses convincing people to exploit their friendships / relationships for the sake of the profiting business.

    I have 2 responses, for the MLM, a simple no, and for the kid marketing, depending on the “charity”, I will donate the approximate charity / organization / school’s take on a single item, with my reasoning, which hopefully helps the kid, the parent and the organization think about what they are doing.

  20. Other than saying no,I’ll buy your product if you buy mine. Be sure to price your’s price plus.

  21. Try: “My brother/sister-in-law/nephew sells knives/Avon/cookiedough, and I get what I need from him/her.” A lot of direct marketing companies instruct their people that they are not to take business away from another rep in their company, thus, you’ve just taken yourself out of their target market.

    While this works pretty well most of the time, I suggest you give in and participate with a good attitude and a modest amount of funds every once in a while. To a certain extent, this is how polite society works. Way of the world. We take gifts to baby showers, weddings, housewarmings. We go to lunch with the office bore, and pick up the check. We buy scout cookies in the spring, cause our kids dance team will sell candy in the fall, and we’ll expect those scout mommies to reciprocate. We go to the Pampered Chef parties and we buy something decent, to foster good will. Maybe not in every case, but in most cases, the good will be worth it in the end. Ten years from now, will you still be moaning over the promotion you didn’t get because you couldn’t cough up $30 for some stupid Avon stuff? Consider it an investment. Consider it charity even.

  22. How about turning it around.
    When boss asks you to buy knives from his son to help with college money, offer to donate 50 bucks to his sons education. This way you don’t end up with crappy knives and having to spend an evening at some meeting and the boss and son should feel slightly embarrased and if they accept the donation, they should feel slightly indebted to you. That is not the worst position to be in 🙂

  23. I would suggest to turn the tables on him and solicit contributions from him for your favorite or (fake?) charity . Our company has a strict no solicitation policy so coworkers leave all the contribution/charity stuff and forms in the break room so that anyone who really wants can sign up there.

  24. I, personally, loathe the junk that’s usually direct-marketed. And the people who peddle it, because any encounter with them turns into a lame sales pitch. Naturally, I don’t ever buy anything. Now, if the pitch comes with a message “you better buy this, or else…” — then it’s a different story. I guess, it depends on how badly you need the job (and one of the considerations would be: “is it really such a great job if you get blackmailed like this?”). I think I would still say “no”, and faced the consequences. But the job market is good these days, if the year was 2001, I might have thought harder about it…

  25. My mom used to tell direct-marketers, “If a product is any good, it’s available on a store shelf.” Unfortunately, that statement just starts arguments with junk peddlers.

    You just have to learn to say “No” and mean it. Because once you start buying stuff from your co-workers’ kids, you’re stuck. You’ll have to do it every time from every person. It’s actually easier to just say no at the beginning once (or a few times), rather than try to back out later.

    I’m lucky that I can just say, “Look, one of the reasons I don’t have children is so that I don’t have to deal with all this fundraising rubbish.” At least they know I won’t be one of those annoying people trying to sell sub-standard cookies and candy for a king’s ransom.

  26. Quite a timely post!

    My sister-in-law just signed up as an Arbonne marketer (another MLM makeup racket) and, of course, has dragged my wife and mother-in-law over for a makeup party.

    I find the whole thing pretty distasteful — I have real issues with mixing family and business, as such things can often lead to pyrotechnics later on. But they’re going, of course, and are already in the mindset that they should buy maybe one thing, “to support her.”

    I think maybe the best thing to do in situations like that is to offer to buy the product, MINUS the salesperson’s cut. That should make it pretty clear how much they really think you need the product, vs. how much they just want your money.

    If that doesn’t work, I’d just flip the guilt trip around: give them a check for their commission, don’t take the product, and leave. The whole thing’s about money anyway, the makeup, knives, etc. are just ways of hiding that to make it more socially palatable.

  27. Wow, people sure are hateful!

    About the school thing… I know in Ohio, at least, the schools are funded by levies which fail more and more now, and the schools are suffering. The little amount the kids earn to help their schools (and i think it’s goode to get people involved in supporting the institutions they use) is better than getting no money at all. For a culture that wastes money left and right on fast food, 12$ movies and other silly things, why are we so pissy about giving a 2nd grader 20$ in exhange for a tin of popcorn and helping them get to go to camp? It’s not like if they just walked around asking for donations, or requesting an addition to the next levy attempt will work. People don’t like to spend money on the schools if their kids aren’t currently enrolled or if they don’t get something out of it. Ugh. I’m glad people were supportive when I was a kid and selling stuff!

    As for direct sales, I’m in that too. I do beauticontrol Spa parties. They’re a lot of fun. I signed up because everyone i know is so stressed out and they don’t know how to relax, many have never even tried to just sit back and take time for themselves. With this we play with all the spa stuff that many girls love, then we have relaxation time and lead them through some visualizations and give them time to unwind. Of course all the spa stuff is for sale, but that part is secondary to me, and everyone else I know who is working with beauticontrol. We don’t just say that! It’s hardly a get rich quick scheme, that just anyone will jump in to make the big bucks.

    Direct sellers aren’t always manipulative devils. Women buy makeup, people buy cutlery, lotions, scrubs, etc. Why buy expensive stuff from faceless corporations when you can buy the stuff from people who you have or form a relationship with? I could never sell cutlery or the jewlery.. or even makeup, but that’s because I don’t care at all about those products, i don’t know many people who use any of it, and it disinterests me. But I use skincare products, most everyone I know does too, and I love spa-ing and all the stuff. Though I also don’t push people into getting stuff they don’t need or want, either. It’s not the direct sales business that deserves all the hate, just those who are in it who are rude and annoying (and yes, i’ve met plenty of those too.)

  28. If you feel that your job does truly depend on this, then absolutely buy something. If this happens a few times a year, consider your salary to be $99,500 rather than $100,000. A small cost of doing business, right? If your job does not actually depend on this, then there’s no reason not to say no.

    I LOVE Steve Austin’s suggestion of carrying the item with you at all times while at work. It’s hilarious, and it would make a subtle statement at the same time.

  29. (Do you get to select the anti-spam words? Mine’s “money”.)

    I have no objection to people letting you know the opportunity is there and not pushing it. Where I used to work, people would leave Avon catalogs in the coffee rooms, people would send an e-mail to All first time the kid sold Girl Scout cookies, then just contact people who bought last year when the next campaign came up. I once went to a craft party that sold stuff I was happy to buy, and a Tupperware party just when I was setting up a kitchen.

    But the bait and switch…. Friend calls. “Are you doing anything Saturday?” “Yes, but I can cancel.” “I’m selling this really neat jewelry…” “Uh, no, I won’t cancel for that.” ARGH!!!!!!

    Or the time a friend was selling mutual funds; for various stupid reasons (I was young, sigh) I bought, but seeing him *use* me and other friends the way he did took some of the shine off the friendship. We’re still in the same social circle, but it colors the relationship.

  30. I tell them I just bought a brand new set of “XYZ”…

    Works like a charm.

  31. Joshua Ingram says

    wow, that’s horrendous.

    Personally, I work for myself, so I would never be in this situation.

    However, me being the brutally honest guy I am, I would tell them I don’t buy avon; irregardless of the consequences. If I was fired or any noticable change, were talking LAWSUIT.

  32. Relationships are more important than money but also can lead to more money and even a shallow work relationship can make the difference with big projects, big contracts and promotions. I work in a “non-western” culture where I am obligated to give money for births. weddings, deaths and any other major life event in anyone of my office mates lives (50+ people) – it costs me 100s $ a year but if I need something done, work related or not, I have a pool of coworkers who can get me more work, fix my boat or find me the catch of the day. It works slightly to my $$ benefit and I know if I ever have a kid here I’ll be getting a couple grand from my coworkers. Social pressure sucks but its all part of being a social animal which we humans are.

  33. “For a culture that wastes money left and right on fast food, 12$ movies and other silly things, why are we so pissy about giving a 2nd grader 20$ in exhange for a tin of popcorn and helping them get to go to camp? It?s not like if they just walked around asking for donations, or requesting an addition to the next levy attempt will work.”

    Of course they’re asking for donations, why would you buy a $2 tin of popcorn that you don’t need for $20. I’d rather hand over a $20 check to the school and know they got $20 for whatever fund drive than buy some useless trinket so that the school gets considerably less than $20 and some parasitic fundraising company gets the biggest cut.

    I’ve got kids in preschool and I’m dreading having my kids subjected to this kind of sideshow.

  34. – Ha Steve Austin, you are hilarious. “I am protected by the Avon.”

    – It’s hard to say “I can’t afford it” when your boss knows your salary and it is above average.

    – The $50 donation thing is a great idea. Doesn’t quite work for the Avon situation though.

  35. I’m not personally familiar with Ameriprise, but I did try their Citigroup competitor, Primerica, in 2001 after losing my job in the telecom bust. I understand the annoyance about Amway and Avon and such, but a financial services “product” is, IMO, a pretty ubiquitous need. Sure there are some folks (likely all of the people who read this blog) with the accumen and initiative to take control of their own financial future, but most of my friends and family tend to be financially illiterate – to varying degrees.

    The total investment in the program (as a personal financial analyst/marketer) would have yeilded a full insurance license and the major security licenses. Of course you are agreeing to sell only Primerica financial products, e.g. Travelers term insurance, Smith Barney Mutual Funds/IRAs, etc., which may not strictly represent the optimal blend of investment/insurance vehicles. However, for the target market: people without any current financial plans, something like this seemed like a good start. And, to my way of thinking (perhaps naively), between a friend/family member and a stranger, the friend or family member would logically be more interested in your financial well being.

    Well, predictably, I was unable to infect any of my friends and family with my enthusiasm and conviction, so that venture didn’t go anywhere for us. It did turn out well for my wife, though, as she was able to parley her insurance license into a better job at the time. I still believe in the concept, more or less, and think that educating people about financial realities and choices is a pretty noble and important thing (one of the reasons why I enjoy and appreciate blogs like this).

  36. If it’s persistent, I would just suck it up and go. It’s a small sacrifice for the greater good which is your job / career…despite the somewhat bitter taste.

    Btw – equally enterprising is when they do a charity campaign where you are not required to give per se, but must still “opt out” (your company goal being 100% “participation” – whether you give or not).

  37. If its ur bosses wife or son or daughter….just suck it up and blow the $50. Consider this expense as the cost of doing business (or maintaining employment)


  38. My last party was a ‘Melaleuca’ party where many of the products were based somehow on tea tree oil (melaleuca oil). I listened politely to a friend of a friend give her presentation and then I didn’t buy anything.

    My friend, however, signed up for a monthly supply of gourmet housecleaning products, and it arrives every month whether she needs it or not. She seems happy with the arrangement, but I’ve never quite understood it myself.

  39. If you don’t want to make it part of your budget, don’t buy anything. Once you’ve set the precedent you’ll be getting hit up all the time. Try these instead:

    1: No, thank you, but if you know anyone selling a car under $5k (or insert something else you would buy here:)
    2: No, Thank you, I don’t need xyz. My discretionary income is dedicated to xyz charity.
    3: Is that tax deductible? My wife will only let me spend extra money on charitable organizations. (make sure you’ve clued her in beforehand)
    4: If it’s school related stuff…” Sorry but I have a standing obligation to support my kid’s, niece’s, nephew’s school.

    I agree with other posters about school middlemen, I’d rather donate my time or money directly to the school, and some employers even match your time with $$.
    Good luck and don’t give in so easily, unless of course the’re selling something you actually like and will use.

  40. I “worked” for Cutco for a few weeks. The knives that they sell are INCREDIBLE, but far too expensive for anyone I know to justify. Getting the sample kit with the employee discount might be the only bargain they offer.

    I have attended a few of these meetings with friends and coworkers and think the “mortgage planning” companies are the worst of this lot. Buying an overpriced set of knives or bottle of lotion pales in comparison to losing your house to foreclosure.

  41. I guess this might seem a little harsh, but, I believe this type of pressure selling at work is totally over the line:

    – to co-workers: “I am happy to support your children’s education via the large sum of money that is taken out of my check and included in my mortgage payment. Do you know anyone who is hiring part time? I was thinking about taking a second job to help support your child’s band camp. Thats a really great cause…. for you.”

    – to bosses: “I will buy or give to whomever you want. You’re welcome. So, I see that position has opened up, that’s interesting.”

  42. I think this goes beyond money and pressure to buy, it has to do with personal feelings. You feel disappointed and used when a friend or boss put you in that position to buy. If you do end up buying the goods/services out of obligations, you will resent your friends. How dare he/she puts me in that position?


  43. On Cutco. I had a friend’s sister that sold those. We had a set when I was a kid and so I bought just one of the cooking knives. It was spendy, but its a darn good knife. I still have and use it as one of my main knives. However there is a lot of these crappy programs springing up. Just evaluate it on what it is. Some stuff is actually good mixed in with the junk.

  44. I work at a school and it seems that at least a third of the staff are trying to sell something on the side. I think it’s ridiculous! I especially hate mass emails (like evites) to what appears to be social function to find out it’s a purse party. Just because we work together does not mean I want to buy your jewelry/lotions/cookware…when presented with these parties there are a couple of things I say…I prefer to do my shopping online, do you have website? or just that I prefer to do my shopping in other ways, but I would love to get together socially (I think I read this in Mrs. Manners)

  45. this is the price to pay when you are making 6 figure income and yet still on the bottom of the corporate ladder. It’s really not that $50-$150 purchase you otherwise would not buy that bugs you, it’s the idea that your dignity as free spirited human was somewhat diminished that truly bothered your feeling. Most people in your shoes will choose to suck it up and then wait their turn to mentally rape their lower randing co-workers in x numbers of years. Revenge!

  46. Joseph Sangl says

    When you have true financial peace, you will tell whoever it is that you are not interested and not worry about the consequences.

  47. I used to work for a very large research university whose pet charity was the United Way. Don’t get me wrong, they do some great stuff, but they were just not my bag. I give money and time to other causes. In any case, the president of the university gave the charge to the deans who passed it along to the chairs of each department; get 100% participation for this giving campaign. My chair asked me to head up the participation campaign for my department. I complied, begrudgingly. I hated the notion of asking my colleagues for money. So, for my department’s faculty of 16, I donated $16; = 100% participation. I sent an email to the entire faculty stating that I had made a $1 donation in each of their names and if they wanted to pay me back, please do so. I was applauded for my idea.

  48. You should just turn it around on them. Find a good charity and whenever someone asks you to buy something, ask them to donate to your charity first!

  49. They are getting worse…we were tapped on the shoulder during a church service a few weeks ago by someone asking us to sponsor their child in a walk-a-thon…you know those things where they expect you to give money because some kid walks down the street. Right in the middle of a church service, someone felt the need to try and squeeze $5 out of us…they aren’t our friends or anything, they just happen to know our names.

    We have adopted the following automatic response:
    “We do not buy/give/donate/beg/borrow/steal from your organization, the local little league, this week’s walk-a-thon, the greeting cards for the school, the chocolate for the school or any other fund-raiser. Don’t ask us to participate and we’ll extend the same courtesy to you.”

  50. For Avon or any fashion/ makeup products: “It’s just not my style”

    And then if they give me the “oh, it matches EVERYONE”s style”, or if they’re really offensive “perhaps you need a different style”.

    Then I say “no, not me” , and politely excuse myself.

  51. The cutco example of selling knives to relations is strange to me…in many Asian cultures, you *never* give someone you’d like a continuing relationship anything sharp, as it is symbolic of “cutting ties”. No knives, scissors, etc. I realize it’s sold, not given, but still…strange.

    OTOH, if you think about how most business gets done, on a non-retail level, it’s “friend of a friend”. You do tap your network when you’re looking to hire or find a job, but then it’s an explicit request to help find a mutually good fit. Much business etiquette in the rest of the world focuses first on forming a trusting relationship, then the money business. I think people would not be so resentful here if the conversations turned naturally to something of a retail nature (“say, Bob, heard you’re looking for a car; funny timing, I was wondering what to do with my old one…”) with the intention to be helpful, with the efficiency of the transaction of clearly secondary importance (you spend your time together being friends, not selling something).

  52. Comment on Cutco – the knives are expensive but will last forever. The knives come with a lifetime warranty which includes cleaning and sharpening. My mom’s set looked bad after being put in the dishwasher for years and there were some small cracks in the steel in some of the handles. She sent them in and when they came back I could not tell if they were the same old knives made new or brand new ones. You can’t beat that. And they are SHARP, watch your fingers.

  53. Wow, what a total consumption economy you Americans run. Feeling obligated to buy is the most hilarious thing I think I’ve heard in a long time.

    I wonder how much of that $20 popcorn goes to the cause, and how much goes to the popcorn company.

    Some of you seem to have your wits about. Like you, I have a scheme I use to deflect annoyances…

    Them: “Wondering if you wanted to come by and watch a little presentation. I’m selling knives.”

    Me: “Oh I’m glad you asked. Actually I have this set of pots and pans I’m selling. Would you like to come over beforehand to see a little demo before buying?”

    Them: “Erm… uhh.. oh, well… uhh…”

    Why you folk would ever feel the need to buy in just to maintain the friendship or job or whatever is beyond me. “this is how polite society works”? What kind of bull is that?? That’s how a society of fools works.

  54. I am one of those “sellers” you are mentioning. I have my own business and sell at jewelry parties. I have no problem with having people who want to come to a jewelry party of mine and I don’t have to twist arms either. The girls that usually come to one of my parties know that I am selling items that they could do without and I know it as well. That does not seem to stop them from buying from me. It probably depends a lot on what the person is selling. I don’t have much use for Tupperware since my Rubbermaid is doing the job and I don’t use Mary Kay cosmetics either.

  55. itiswell says

    Here is a different outlook than most of your posts.

    1. For many years, I looked for an Avon dealer, representative, yet could not find one. Finally, I decided to just join in myself in order to get the products that I wanted. So, there are actually people out there in the world who are looking to buy these products. Avon has branched out now and is more than cosmetics. They sell vitamins, spiritual items, cds, and even this past month they are selling IPOD shuffles at a discount.

    2. Wondering how many readers and writers here are willing to throw away ten dollars a pack on cigarettes to poison themselves but would balk at even “looking” at a direct marketer’s catalogue to see if there was something they would be interested in. In other words, everyone complaining about the “money” part of it, yet many are willing to throw their money in the garbage rather than conveniently shop at home through home marketers.

    3. Does anyone realize that many of these home-marketing companies, do give people a second chance at life, at beginning new and they give people a chance to become independent (yes, through sales), when perhaps those same people would not be able to work at full time or part time jobs? Try looking at marketers as just another worker doing his or her job. If you buy vitamins or cds or Ipods, why not give the profit or commission to one of those workers who is trying to start fresh by getting into sales.

    4. As far as selling just to friends or relatives, that is not always how it is. Many of the reps that I know, sell completely to strangers and do not sell at all to friends, co-workers or relatives.

    So, you see, direct selling is not all negative and there is a place and a purpose for direct selling in this world. We all just need to open our eyes, minds and hearts to it. Pay it forward? Have you ever had someone give you a chance or a second chance? If so, perhaps you might do so, by buying direct from a sales person. Everyone loves “mom and pop” stores. Those independent representatives are just trying to earn a living, and they are beginning at the lowest end of the mom and pop store.

    Everyone who normally would buy from Walmart –why not rethink that?

    Oh, yes, and here is the plug, I am a direct seller, an independent contractor –just starting over, and yes, looking for some new customers.

    Smiles, all meant in a nice way, just giving my own different opinion here.

    So many victims of violence begin fresh and begin anew by getting into selling. Selling is a job that you can do in your own time, at your own pace. There definitely is a place for direct selling.

    As customers, just be honest. If you mean no, then say no. No need to make any excuses. If your boss wants to sell to you. Tell him you simply do not need the products.

    Truth helps; truth matters.

    Besides it is against the law for the boss to fire you or harass you just because you do not want to donate to his or her favorite charity.

    Peace. Signed me,

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