Thursday, May 06, 2010

Can I just ask you a question?

The other day I was walking through an indoor shopping centre on my lunch break. There are some stalls in the middle of the walkway, and when the people selling skin care products offer me a pamphlet, I'm used to just saying no thanks and continuing on my way. But this time the woman had a different tactic, she said, "Can I just ask you a question?"

I knew - of course I knew - this was just an attempt to get me to stop in the hope that I would become interested in the products after all. I also knew there was no way I was interested in buying or even finding out more about them. I should have said no. But politeness obviously runs deep, and I stopped and waited for her question. I think it was something like "what kind of skincare products do you use?" At that I said I'm not interested and started to turn away, but again she said "can I just ask you a question?"

She already HAD asked me a question. Why on earth didn't I just say no?

She peered at my face and said, "What products are you using? Because your face is looking a bit sensitive."

Finally, at that, I was offended enough to say "I'm not interested" and walk away quickly.

It was only thinking about it later that I realised why I was so offended and annoyed. It was so much more annoying even than the 'clipboard people' (paid workers who hassle people to sign up for charity donation programs - they don't accept one-off donations). I've learned to say no to them straight away. My arrangements for charitable donations are my own business and I don't need to be pressured on the street about it.

This woman caught me off-guard because I was expecting her to take the usual polite 'no thanks' for an answer. She took advantage of my (and I'm sure many others') basic politeness - it's very hard to ignore someone who addresses you directly. What made me really mad was the intense scrutiny of my face. I hadn't even entered a shop, let alone requested advice or a makeover, and I found myself being examined and the appearance of my skin judged!

I wished I had said as much to her, but of course I wasn't quick enough and anyway, I just wanted out of there.

And yes, OK, my skin might have been a bit thinner than usual (metaphorically speaking) due to a recent milestone birthday, one of the ones requiring a new driver's licence. And my new licence photo is fine but I liked the one from five years ago better. I think my skin was a bit less 'sensitive' then.

I'd say I might even be old enough to be a bit less polite. But I don't actually want to be less polite, I want people selling things to behave themselves!


Bells said...

i know just the woman you mean and she got me on a bad day and I spent $130.

I resent it bitterly.

2paw said...

She sounds very unethical and rude. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. I tend to say radical things, not rude, but unexpected. I hate being bothered, but being bothered an insulted just takes the cake.

amy said...

Oh it's harder in person, too, isn't it? I've been known, when telemarketers call and I'm just in no mood to be as rude as it takes to get off the phone, to claim to be the babysitter. I have some sympathy for people trying to make a living, but to be insulted! That would upset me, too. 'Cause lord knows my skin looks a bit more than sensitive. Old and tired is more like it.

Janet McKinney said...

yes - I ignored her the other day when she tried the question tactic at me (at me, not to me, because I was clealy not interested in engaging in a conversation with her). I agree - I prefer not to enter the temples to consumerism, but when I HAVE to, I do not want to be confronted with pleas to buy their products.

Emma said...

How incredibly rude of her. I'm not sure if it would change anything, but would it be worth getting in touch with the company she's representing? She's really not doing the company any favours by insulting passers by.

I usually ignore people who approach me wanting to sell something or solicit donations. I feel rude doing that, but also feel engaging them on any level (even a 'no thank you') makes things worse. It's lose-lose.

Karen said...

Oh my goodness. Insults are NOT a sales tactic that would ever draw me in. I guess the only answer to "Can I just ask you a question?" is "No." (I'd have a tough time saying it though.)

twitchy fingers said...

Obviously she's trying to appeal to the insecurities so many of us have... but I was thinking about your post in the shower this morning and its made me so cross that I'm tempted to hunt her down and pick on something about her personage... b*tch

Donna Lee said...

We get them here, too. And I have learned to let my 52 year old skin just smile big at them and say, "No thanks, I'm happy with myself the way I am." Throws them off.

Alwen said...

Oh, that's just a fancy way of being rude!

We are very precise around here - I'm sure my husband would say the correct answer is "You just did!" and when she said it again, "Sorry, that's your one for the day."

I don't use many skin products because so many of them make my face burn and then turn red, ow!

drkknits said...

oh i hate that stuff. i really think shopping malls should only let people have stalls there that you can go to if you chose, not be accosted while trying to do your groceries. i dont stop for any of them anymore. i sympathise. and you have beautiful skin anyway.

Elizabeth McClung said...

I get the calls, though our number is unlisted, and what irritates me is how quick they are and they go, "Oh, I'm so glad to catch you, I have an important message" (click and suddenly a recording offering a free cruise if only you.....") One time a phone marketer and I went round and round as they wanted Linda and were saying 'we can offer her better rates at her bank' and I said, "But didn't she visit you three days ago and you DID give her better rates" until the marketer finally explained that they were NOT from the bank but rather from a group that sells financial information or something.

Yes, making an evaluation of your skin, it reminds me of Bambi and Thumper, where Thumpers mother says, "What did you father say." and Thumper moves his leg around on the ground while he mutters, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." - when did catching us feeling vulnerable become a good sales technique?

Louise said...

I came across the same woman, and when she asked if she could ask a question I said "no" and kept walking. She's being rude trying to force her wares on me, I don't think I'm any ruder.