Sell Me Something Good

by Nancy Bestor

Can you imagine working at a job where all day long people say no to you? I’ve never wanted to be a telemarketer or a door to door salesperson for that very reason. (And because I’m regularly annoyed by people doing those jobs, heaven forbid I’d work a job where people find me annoying.) I can’t help but feel a little sorry for people in those sales jobs though. So while some folks might just immediately interrupt a telemarketer and say “no thanks” then hang up the phone, I politely listen to most or all of their spiel, then I say “no thanks” and hang up the phone. Something tells me I’m not doing the telemarketer any favors by keeping them on the line when I have no intention of buying, but I am trying to be polite.

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Thus when I’m sitting on the beach in a foreign country, or eating in a restaurant, or even riding the bus, and I’m approached by a tout, it’s hard for me to immediately say no, even if I’m not remotely interested in what is being sold. So many tourists can quickly say “no thank you” before they’ve even been shown the wares available for purchase. I rarely want to buy, but it is so difficult for me to just say no right off the bat. I’ve learned however, that if I don’t say no immediately, the tout won’t leave me alone. He or she will sense my hesitation, and continue to offer me suggestions on what I should buy. This includes, but is not limited to, hair extensions, a beach massage, an “I got drunk in Puerto Vallarta” t-shirt, and many other gems. I’ve even been offered English language teaching tapes on a bus in Costa Rica. Replying no, in English, only slightly dissuaded the salesperson. I’ve not come home from Turkey with a rug however, so in the end I can usually make a clean break, but it would really be better for all parties if I could just say no in the first place.

On a recent trip to Bali, it was fun to listen to the salespeople offer me their “best price” as I passed by their store. On various occasions we were presented with a morning price, a good luck price, a raining price and an afternoon price. We were given the opportunity to “come and have a coconut at my house” from a man renting snorkeling equipment. We were introduced to the children of touts on the beach. We were asked—repeatedly—where we were staying and where we were from. We were asked our names. The list goes on and on. I started out thinking that the touts were so nice and so interested in us, but quickly realized it was just a way for them to get more sales.

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I remember visiting the Grand Bazaar in Turkey. Walking down the aisles with booths on either side was like running the gauntlet. Salespeople would holler out at us to come and try their tea or spices or shop in their booth or ask where we were from. It got to the point that I couldn’t reply to their remarks, nor could I even make eye contact, because that was, in their eyes, a sign that I was interested. And if I wanted to take a closer look at something, I felt like it was almost a foregone conclusion that I was going to buy it.

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Last week a young woman knocked on my front door here in Ashland. When I answered she started her carpet cleaning sales spiel by asking if I was “the lady of the house.” I politely said yes, although I was on guard. Next she asked if I was “the queen of my castle.” Indeed I am, but that’s all it took. This time I immediately pulled up the drawbridge.

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