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It's About Humanity

Earlier this week, Ivan let himself get talked into letting a door-to-door salesman come to give us a "product demonstration." (In return, Ivan was supposed to get a "free gift" that he wanted to use for his business.) The salesman came on Tuesday, dressed in ripped jeans and a turquoise T-shirt. I had just pulled dinner out of the oven, so I invited him to eat with us. He accepted. As we chatted, he talked about how he grew up on a farm in Minnesota, has relatives in my hometown, and spent a couple years at the men's school that is the counterpart to my alma mater. Then, pleasantries aside, it was time for "the big sell."

Ivan and I are fairly united when it comes to being talked into purchasing something we don't need, so I wasn't particularly worried about this. But I should have been. Something strange that I still don't completely understand happened. It was as if the salesman hypnotized us. How did he convince us to buy? But he did, and right afterwards, we were disappointed in ourselves. We cancelled the transaction the next day (which we were allowed to do within 3 days). In retrospect, all of it seemed very weird, so that it was hard to tell what about it was even real. After doing some research, I found that many of the claims the salesman made were not substantiated (although some of them were), and we both found ourselves questioning what was part of "the sale" and what was real. He mentioned his wife and son, although sometimes he referred to his son as 2 and sometimes as 3. He had a phone conversation with "his boss" that still feels as though it was conjured to me, as in, he was simply having a one-sided conversation on the cell phone. And yet, he seemed to believe in his product so much that it's almost embarrassing to think about.

But then there were these moments of pure humanity, where the person burst through the salesman persona. During his presentation, a hot air balloon launched right outside our window (one of the weird and delightful things about Sioux Falls -- there are often random air balloon sightings). We all rushed to the door to watch, for a moment sharing a magical experience. During his spiel, he glanced over at Syrus, who was lying in his trademark "show off his package" position, and he suddenly burst out laughing. It was an interesting experience because, as both an introvert and a cheapskate, having someone come into my home and try to sell to me is about the worst thing I can imagine. And yet, even though Ivan and I were both embarrassed to be talked into it afterwards, even though I question the salesman's tactics, ethics, and truthfulness, I still feel no ill will toward him as a person. I hope I can carry this awareness with me into other dreaded social interactions -- this recognition of common humanity so that I can see a person as a person rather than a nuisance. Perhaps a combination of anti-depressants, marriage, and more time to myself (since I recently quit a very time consuming job) are resulting in a more evolved Lacey. I hope so!

Comments

It's unsettling how someone can be that good at convincing people of something.

I like the humanitarian message you got from the episode.

Also, I can picture it being a play (perhaps just b/c Death of a Salesman?).. I'm curious to know what the guy did to convince you both and what the product was.
Ha, I can picture it as a play, too. Perhaps that's why he was so successful -- he somehow got us all cast in our proper "roles" even when those roles were somewhat out of character.

He was selling Filterqueen air purifiers (http://www.filterqueen.com/). I think he was successful for two reasons:
1) He wasn't slimy like a lot of salespeople, and actually seemed a little nervous; that may have endeared him to us.
2) He convinced us that having an air purifier in your home is a good investment, and Ivan and I are actually still interested in getting one -- but on our own terms.

We're not the types to make big purchasing decisions on the spot, so I asked him if he could leave a business card or something so we could get in touch if we decided to buy. He was very adamant that we could only get the good deal if we bought that night. Ivan and I didn't want to pay full price ... and we also were starting to get the impression that he wouldn't leave without making the sell, and I had some work for a client to finish. So we went for it.

Afterwards, we did the type of research we always prefer to do *before* we purchase a product, didn't feel that we'd made the best choice of air purifier even though we'd agreed with the benefits of having one, and overall felt yucked out by the selling tactics and didn't really want to reward them. So, we canceled, which was surprisingly easier than just saying no to begin with. It has me vowing to *never* let in a salesperson again, but they do always give us some good stories! I also hope the guy who came out here didn't get in trouble for us not keeping the purchase.