Saturday, April 9, 2011

"I'm sorry to sound harsh, but if you don't set boundaries, people will not respect you. Yes, teenage girls, it really is true."

I asked Jamie from Cultural (in)Differences to step into my shoes for a shot at the Advice portion of this here blog. She's smart and clever and, seriously, is my go-to-person in my life when I happen upon situations that are confusing or uncomfortable or leave me otherwise socially stumped.

If you haven't been there, yet, you should probably just head over to Cultural (in)Differences to read stories/ comics/ truths about living as Americans abroad. The wit never ceases to impress me. And without further pomp, I give you the third installment in the as-of-yet unnamed Advice Column.
Dear Advice Columnist Jamie,
I work in a place that is very open to the public. People come and go as they please, as they're running errands, whathave you. A lot of people stop in just for banal conversation or chit chat. That's not uncommon and responding to people in a polite and genuine manner is very important to me, personally, as well as to my job.
That being said, there is a gentleman who comes in every single day (sometimes more than once) and every time he comes in, he's trying to sell me on something. At first, it was to buy tickets to some community function for a club that he belongs to and now he's trying to get me hooked on some pyramid scheme/ social networking site. It would be one thing if he'd bring it up and then we'd talk about something else the next time he came in but every day he walks up to me and says, "did you go to that site, last night?" And I have to come up with some reason why I didn't. Lately though, and much to my chagrin, I've just been saying, "Nope" and going on with my work.
How can I tell this person, "I could not possibly be less interested in your pyramid scheme"? While still maintaining my good mood? I'm tired of finding things to busy myself elsewhere every time this guy shows up.

--Awkward in Albuquerque

Dear Awkward in Albuquerque,
First, I 100% do not believe you are from Albuquerque. No one is from Albuquerque...only cowboys (gone) and country music singers (should be gone). But, I trust you chose this name because it was a nice alliteration for awkward, so I will allow it. (I'm sorry to sound harsh, but if you don't set boundaries, people will not respect you. Yes, teenage girls, it really is true.)
Now, on to your very unique problem. I have thought long and hard about this. I've wondered whether honesty might be the best policy, or if a simple "please stop" might work, as well. Accessing my memory banks from my college sociology classes, those two methods are definitely the way to go. However, in real life situations, and especially dealing with a person such as this, I'm afraid it won't be that easy. You see, people who are always trying to sell things...amateur salesman, let's call them...they just don't realize that people hate that. Growing up, I always had some sort of fundraiser or girl scout cookie sale that I needed to hound people about. Even at a ripe age, I was fully aware of how people would cringe at my approaching, fearing I would try to sell them something...again. I dreaded fundraiser time, because, let's be honest, I grew up around a lot of republicans, and quite frankly, republicans don't like to give up their hard earned money so that some little girl can go to camp without her parents having to pay for it.
Researchers have found that there is a gene which gives people the understanding that door-to-door sales just don't work anymore.
Your friend is missing that gene, and this is the only way to handle it: beat him to the punch.
Do you know a girl or boy scout? Or someone in band? Ask them to let you help them in their fund-raising; take their tally sheets with you to work, and make sure they are in close reach. Be prepared. Be on guard. The amateur salesman is quick; they don't let a lot of chit chat ruin their prime opportunities, so they strike early. You need to bring it up while they're approaching. As soon as you see them walk through the door, stand up, hold the tally sheet high in the air and yell, "Person which must not be named! Do you like cookies?! Come LOOK at what I have for you!!" Not only does this beat them to the chase, but it may prevent them from approaching at all. Don't be embarrassed. I'm fairly certain that the people around you have also noticed this amateur salesman, and they, too, need it to stop. Perhaps you can have people help you with this?
Nonetheless, you should present this person with something different everyday, as he does to you. Tell him that you bought a ShamWow, and it really IS as good as they; his life is not complete until he has one. The next day, you should bring in some old pencils you've had sitting around your house; tell him you're selling them for $0.50 apiece. Think of as many things that could be sold and sell them; the more ridiculous the better. Like I often tell my students: be creative and have fun!

The Great and Powerful SoKoz (subbing in for Oh Wise One)
Have a hunka hunka burning question (or maybe just one that you made up on the spot)? Leave it in the comments, or on facebook, or in an email, or tied to a homing pigeon.

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