Pardon me while I rant incessantly: The hard sell

Awhile back I was invited to one of those home parties where they sell stuff. Specifically, kitchen stuff. And while I usually politely decline invitations to these things, it had been years since I’ve attended one, it was being given by a couple of good friends from church and my husband saw a knife in their catalog that he wanted. So I accepted the invitation. In case you’re not familiar with these home parties, the person or persons who host the party receive incentives by way of free merchandise and/or discounts on products they want depending on how much other people buy.

At this particular party, the theme had something to do with chocolate. There was a chocolate fountain and other things made with chocolate. For the demonstration portion of the show, the consultant made a dessert with chocolate, crushed pecans and some other stuff. (Sorry, my eyes sort of glaze over when people prepare food. Just tell me when it’s ready, thank you.) Each step of the process involved some handy-dandy product which made the process of preparing this dessert much easier: a mini food chopper (for the nuts), easily read measuring cups, spatulas, and the baking stone which it was cooked on. There was probably some other products used, too. (See previous “eyes glazing over” comment.)

But lest you think we all just stood around watching this woman make dessert, let me assure you that was not the case. She encouraged us to ask questions about the products, about how we could host our own parties for free products and discounts and how we, too could work from home if we chose to sell all of these wonderful products. Which incidentally, are pretty great products. I bought plenty of them before the night was over, but once she started talking about how easy and profitable it was to be an independent consultant for her company, I knew where this was going. As we say in Texas, this wasn’t my first rodeo. This is the birthplace of Mary Kay Ash.

When the demonstration was over, I was first in line to check out. I already had my order form filled out and my checkbook open. She immediately proceeded with the hard sell. Bless her heart. She doesn’t know me at all.

Consultant: You have quite a large order here.

Me: Uh huh.

Consultant: Did you know that if you signed up to be a consultant many of these items would be in your starter kit?

Me: Really? I’m not interested.

Consultant: You wouldn’t believe all the free items I’ve received by being a consultant.

Me: That’s great. For you. For me? That’s never going to happen.

Consultant: Were you interested in hosting a party? I still have some openings for next month.

Me: No.

Consultant: You could get several items for free, deep discounts and free shipping.

Me: That sounds great. Where do I sign? HA! Just kidding. I don’t want to sell kitchen gadgets. I don’t want to host a party. I try to avoid the kitchen as much as possible. I’m here because my friends invited me. I want to help them out and my husband needs a knife. I’m not a seller. I’m a consumer. What’s my total?

I had my order totaled and was out the door in record time. My other friends (who are way more polite and accommodating than I) were not so lucky. From what I understand, it was pretty late before everyone got out of there.

I have since been invited to three more parties that were booked that night. I have declined two so far. I may attend the third, but again, only to help out a friend.

I don’t fault anyone for trying to earn a living in this tough economy. But there’s got to be a better way than how these parties are structured. Don’t get me wrong, I had a great time because I was with good friends and was served chocolate–win/win. But I don’t think it’s by accident that these selling parties are geared toward women and more specifically wives and moms who are looking for ways to stretch the family dollar. We like hosting gatherings with our friends. We like shopping. We like the opportunity to get free stuff. (Obviously, these are largely stereotypical statements.)

But no should mean no, however polite it may be. If your presentation and your products don’t convince your customer that this is something they may want for themselves, don’t try to hard sell them into something they don’t want.

Because saying no doesn’t come easily for many people, but being resentful for feeling pressured to say yes does.

For those of you who find it difficult to say no, trust me. It gets easier each time. And saying no to what you don’t want frees you up to say yes to what you do.

Editor’s Note: I don’t mean to imply that all of these parties end with the hard sell. It’s just been my personal experience that many do–regardless of what’s being sold.

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16 Responses to “Pardon me while I rant incessantly: The hard sell”

  1. Ricky Anderson January 8, 2012 at 6:59 pm #

    Ever been to a time share sales presentation?

    The guy actually told me I’d spend $30,000 on a Hawaiian time share…if I loved my wife.

    • katdish January 8, 2012 at 7:03 pm #

      Oh, good grief! That’s ridiculous!

  2. Candy January 8, 2012 at 7:46 pm #

    I couldn’t agree more, and I LOVE to cook. Most adults have everything they need for cooking, and the parties are just fluff. (There’s a bag line out there, however, that I could easily gravitate toward). My pet peeve is that people are talked into buying a kitchen gadget that does ONE THING. An avocado peeler! A strawberry huller! A corn cob stripper! Such things morph into a giant decrapification process in the near future. Just let me decide what I need and buy it. Don’t ask me and make me have to tell you no. But I’m getting better at it. Except for those bags….

    • katdish January 8, 2012 at 7:57 pm #

      I have an avocado peeler. It doubles as a big spoon. Oh wait. It IS a big spoon. What are these bags you speak of?

      • Candy January 8, 2012 at 8:19 pm # Cute prints. New styles. Monogrammed/embroidered if you wish. All sizes. Insulated for lunches. Not insulated for purses. Big enough for a medium dog to be carried in or small enough for a small dog to carry. EXCLUSIVE HOSTESS OFFERS! Dang, don’t I sound like a consultant? I’m not, just a voracious consumer. (I said no).

        • katdish January 9, 2012 at 12:02 pm #

          Okay. Dang. Those are pretty fabulous bags…

  3. karenzach January 9, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    And I was hoping you were going to host an event where people come to buy books but I can see now that after this post, your social influence rating will rapidly be in decline. Sigh.

    • katdish January 9, 2012 at 10:14 am #

      Ah, contrair. Social influence is elevated when one shares something that they are passionate about with others who are also passionate about it. You gotta know your audience.

  4. Louise G January 9, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Ah Kat. I hosted such a party — it was jewelry and Scentsy just before Christmas. And the worst part — was worrying about whether or not my two friends who were the sales reps, were selling enough and worrying about my friends who came and whether or not they felt pressured to buy — which is what I didn’t want.

    I was an anxious mess by the end and had to force myself to quit saying — I’m sorry. to anyone who looked at me!

    and the worst is — I’d hosted one of these things years ago and hated doing it and I knew better 🙂

    But I was… just trying to help out a couple of friends 🙂

    Remember that protest song — when will we ever learn? when will we ever learn?

    that’s me! 🙂 I’ve learnt now though. Honest and true. I’ve learned my lesson!

    I mean it.

    but man, a pampered chef party huh? I’ve got lots of friends who cook and I love to cook and….


    I know better.

    And when I know better. I do better.


  5. Helen January 9, 2012 at 3:33 pm #

    I rarely go to the party. I just ask to see the catalog and order that way. Too many times, I’ve gotten aggravated. I don’t do sales. Even when I wanted to support the school I taught at, I bought the stuff and gave them as presents. (Unless it was overpriced gift wrap. I like using old comics instead. Cheap and unique! Okay, sometimes I get wrapping paper from the dollar store..)
    Where was I? Oh yeah. I don’t do sales. I feel like I’m trading on friendship. Do I feel like my friends who host parties are trading on friendship? Not at all. I saw how embarrassed they were when the consultants did the hard sell. I don’t want to feel that.

    • katdish January 9, 2012 at 3:40 pm #

      I feel the same way. I don’t think my friends who host parties are trading on friendship, but that’s how I would feel if I felt like they were being pressured. I’ve hosted a party before, but it was for stuff I really liked and I honestly thought my friends would like the stuff as well. Which they totally did.

  6. Jason January 9, 2012 at 11:14 pm #

    I don’t even go to those kinds of things just to avoid the hard sell.

  7. Hazel I. Mon January 10, 2012 at 1:31 am #

    I gave up parties a long time ago — although when I was a young bride I did host a Stanley and Tupperware party. I enjoyed your post and chuckled through out!

  8. floyd January 10, 2012 at 7:59 am #

    I loathe people that think they have the will to control others. I find it infuriating. Now days when people ask me about a “new thing, you gotta try,” the first thing I ask is, “Is it multi level marketing”? The standard answer is, “Yeah, but this one’s different”! That’s when I punch them in the mouth…No just kidding! That’s when I want to punch them in the mouth but don’t, I usually say something like, “Im not remotely interested and will NEVER get involved”! “Understand”?

    You hate to be rude, but they are taught that no doesn’t mean no, it means maybe. They just need a reminder that sometimes no means no…

  9. Jason Stasyszen January 11, 2012 at 1:34 pm #

    Okay, I’m definitely one of the polite ones, but when it veers into ridiculous or manipulative territory, I have no trouble digging in my heels and saying no. I don’t have the instinct for the hard sell and I don’t like being on the other side either. It reminds me of an ad that came up as my son played a game on my wife’s iPhone. It was in November and they were selling some Christmas themed game and instead of ‘yes’ or ‘no’ it had buttons that read ‘yes’ or ‘I hate Christmas.’ My poor 11 yr. old was in a quandary, but I assured him the maker of that game was a complete jerk for advertising that way and he could click it to get back to his game. So stupid. Personal rant over. Thanks Kat, I feel better.

  10. Megan Willome January 14, 2012 at 9:26 am #

    “This is the birthplace of Mary Kay Ash”–I laughed out loud!

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