There are so many things about the holiday season that are endearing and precious. There are a few that aren’t. In the interests of entertainment, I’m going to leave the Kumbayah scripts aside and take for granted that we already fully appreciate the time with family and friends, the copious feasts that surround us and even the gay elves dancing about and the holiday rinks and tree lighting ceremonies. These are all just lovely enough to leave alone.
One of the drawbacks of the season of giving is the rabid and predatory way retailers come after their customers, almost as if in a trance walking towards them like zombies. Come over here, see this, see that, must see this shiny new object that will complete your life, must provide me with a great commission for my greedy pocketbook. The trick behind this agenda, of course, is for the sales people to make you believe that they really do have your very best interests at heart and none of their own. Some are clumsily horrible at this.
For example, my brother recently told me he was kidnapped by a man named Bill, who he wasn’t dying to be on a first name basis in the first place with and who was insistent on selling him a bed: “Hey there, my name’s Bill, what’s your name? Great, glad to know ya, ya doin some Christmas shopping today? Try kickin’ your feet up on the temperpedic bed, it’s how all the Europeans sleep.”
Well, if the EUROPEANS sleep that way, then consider this deal closed, now why didn’t you say something earlier? Where do I sign? Seriously, where are these salesmen finding the maps to our psyches? It’s entertaining to see them fumbling around with their big ring of keys trying in vain to conquer a sale by finding our achilles’ heel. The other day I was walking through Macy’s just minding my own business when a woman practically knocked me over, “Want to sit down for a quick touch-up at the Christian Dior counter?” “No, I really don’t have time, thanks.” “It’ll just take a second. So where are you going tonight? Are you thinking about a casual yet polished look or going glam for a party?” “Well, actually, now that you mention it, I wasn’t thinking about anything.”
After practically pushing me into the seat and trying to entice me with a free sample to take home I gave up and decided I would just play her game. The poor soul was salivating over the prospect of a sale and going full-tilt into the benefits of each product. I let her go wild as she gave a full description of each product and what would befall my face, my dating life, and might threaten my very right to live if I did not buy this $200 skin serum. The total amount on all of the products she slathered on my face was probably well over $1000 and she didn’t even do that great of a job. Her game was zilch as her eagerness to make the sale at the end reeked of greed and desperation. I know that I was expected to feel that I somehow ‘owed’ her some sort of sale by being coerced into make-up chair vortex kicking and screaming. But I didn’t. I politely thanked her and even threw her a bone by asking her to write down all of the products – especially the shark-cartilage moisturizer based on 20 years of Belgian research – as a gesture of mild interest. I then very quietly but directly told her I would not be buying any products today. I watched her shoulders actually raise and tense up as her voice began to squeal, “Well, but you’ll probably want to get the serum today, you know, at least just to get started. You’ll want to at least do that.”
Will I? It was truly kind of her to offer to be the broker of all of my life decisions from now on. She must have seen how moved I was by her keen interest in me as I fought to wipe away that tear sliding down my cheek. Keeping my voice at the same quiet level, I said so calmly she probably first registered I had said something like, “Wow, I really like your bracelet.” but I actually said, “Well, first of all strong-arming me today is not going to work, and secondly, I’ve already mentioned I wasn’t going to buy anything. Have a great day.” And I got up and bid her farewell.
The travesty is that we are meant to feel guilt anytime we walk through the jungle of holiday retail and don’t buy anything. They treat us as if we are the oxygen tank to their existence. I really do understand they are just trying to do their job and make commissions, but I don’t take kindly to business ethics or lack thereof by way of guilt and manipulation which are blatantly based on their own gain without regard for the customer’s mindset. The paradox is, if they would just reframe their sales approach towards genuine interest without asking or expecting anything in return and with no attachment around making the sale, that is precisely when they’re going to make the sale. Shopping online is so much more appealing. No pressure and no psychological warfare. Yet another reason for staying away from the retail madness jungle this season. This way you don’t have to disappoint anyone, hurt their feelings, or feel responsible they fell short of their daily sales goal. Shop at home without guilt. Keep It Simple Sugar. 😉