Sometimes I feel guilty for not answering the door when I see a salesman standing on the porch or when I interrupt callers to say, “No thank you” before they can even get to their sales pitch.
Then, I tell myself I come by it naturally. I come from a long line of cynics, people who torment both the well-intentioned, honorable salespeople of the world and the nasty no-gooders out to swindle the innocent or naïve.
If it weren’t for her cynicism, my mom would believe she’s the luckiest woman in the world.
All she has to do is answer her phone and people want to give her money – millions of dollars just for answering her phone.
At 76 years old, she’s a target for these types of calls.
A recent conversation went like this:
“Hello,” she cheerfully answered.
“Mrs. Snow?” the caller said. “I’m calling with some good news! You’ve one 1.5 million dollars!”
“Oh really?” She sarcastically responded.
“Yes! We’re so excited to award you your prize money, and a brand new BMW.”
“Oh, money and a car?” she asked, pretending to bubble over with joy.
“Yes, isn’t that exciting?” the caller said.
“Well, I’ll say,” she said leading him on.
“When can we stop by to give it to you?”
“Oh, I don’t need you to come to my house. You can just send a check in the mail.”
“But what about the car?” the scammer asked. “We have to come to your house to give you the car and the cash.”
“Oh, you’re giving me cash?”
“Yes, cash and the car. So, when can we come by to give it to you?”
Knowing there was a catch lurking behind this overly generous gift she said, “Well, I don’t really need a car and I don’t want to be bothered with that much cash, so I’d rather just get a check in the mail. That way I can just take the check to the bank.”
“But, we need to deliver the prizes in person.”
“Well then never mind. I don’t really need that much money anyway.”
And she hung up the phone.
A week later the phone rang again. Another caller wanted to give her money. He had the same accent as the last caller. (The scam eventually was traced to Jamaica.)
“Congratulations! You’ve won $800,000!”
“Only $800,000? Last week someone was going to give me over a million. Why do I only get $800,000 now?”
“Oh, well, $800,000 is still a lot of money,” the caller said.
“Well, if it’s less than a million, it’s not worth my time.”
A boy in the neighborhood asked if he she could give him one hour to hear his presentation to sell knives. She didn’t need to buy anything. She just needed to listen and he would get paid for the presentation. She reluctantly agreed.
He came, made the presentation, showed her how the knives could cut through rope and other things she never planned to cut, then he asked her for a list of all her friends so that he could call them and give them presentations and sell them his amazing knives. (I actually listened to this presentation too and bought the knives!)
“No way,” she said standing up from her kitchen table.
“Really?” he asked with a shocked look on his face.
“Yes really! That’s the best way I know to lose friends. And our hour is up anyway, so it’s time for you to go now,” she said standing up to escort him out the door.
I told my brother about these mom stories and he said he feels sorry for salesmen that call our family.
“Don’t you remember when that vacuum salesman came to our house? Dad said, ‘I’ll tell you what, if you can beat me in a game of checkers, I’ll buy two vacuums.’”
I couldn’t remember but it didn’t surprise me. Dad thought he was the master checkers player.
The befuddled salesman must have sensed the possibility of a sale so he agreed, sat down at the kitchen table, and dad set up the checkerboard, visited with the salesman while they played, summarily beat him, and then turned up his palms, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, fair is fair. Good luck selling those vacuums.”
Hearing these stories washes away my guilt, and gives me new perspective. Cutting off an unwanted caller mid-sentence with a polite “no thank you” amounts to a gentler refusal than my mother’s method of mocking or her blunt refusal to drive away her friends by sharing their names with a salesman.
My checker game skills are a little rusty so if I tried my dad’s drive-away-a -salesman strategy, I’d probably end up with two vacuums.
I think I’ll take the guilt.