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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Knife Lady

Not too long ago, in the afternoon while I was wiping down the kitchen counter before picking up the kids, my friend Leslie called.

"Amy," she said. "There's a girl here, Kathy, who's working her way through school by selling knives from XX company. Would you be willing for her to come over and show you her products? You don't have to buy anything."

I sighed, but since Leslie was a friend I said sure. Next week Kathy appeared at my door with a suitcase full of fancy knives, and a briefcase full of blank invoices just waiting to be filled out.

Let me just say that I didn't enjoy the experience. It took about two hours -- precious hours -- that I basically had to participate in an infomercial. First Kathy showed me a big photo album of pictures of her with her family, at school, and at the knife store in New York state where she'd visited. Then, she explained to me the anatomy of a knife (actually, of all the things this was moderately interesting to me; the length of the tongue in the handle, the types of metals and tempering used, types of serrations -- it's a real science!). Then we did some practical applications, and she proved to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that my knives were completely inferior to hers.

I tried to engage her in conversation several times, but no, she always veered directly back to her spiel. The worst part, though, was at the end when she asked me to name three or four friends *who prepared meals.* I came up with names -- who doesn't need a knife in the kitchen SOMETIME, after all -- and she immediately said, "While I pack these supplies, why don't you call them and see if they might like to learn about these knives?" Based on the context there was a lot of pressure, and I actually found myself walking across the kitchen to the phone before a dreadful thought occurred to me.

"Are you a friend of Leslie's?" I asked.

Kathy hemmed and hawed. "Not really. I met her during a presentation like this."

I sure didn't want to subject my friends to sitting through this also. After all, I'd done it as a favor to Leslie, which turned out not to be a favor after all (still have to talk to that girl...)

The most irritating thing to me after this experience was the realization that despite the *personal* approach of Kathy with her sales, to her I was simply meat.

Thinking back, I found it interesting to analyze Kathy's sales tactics. It was a close setting, and Kathy immediately tried to establish intimacy by showing pictures of her life. The knife lecture set the stage for the utter proof of NEED -- my knives don't work, I NEED new knives! Immediately the solution is provided -- Kathy has these beautiful knives, which ones do you NEED. I looked through, said this one was nice, and she immediately whipped out an invoice and started filling it out! No price mentioned -- but believe me, the price was steep. The pressure was crushing.

I kept telling her, No. I hadn't had trouble with my knives before now, as inferior as they might be. I didn't NEED new ones. And pennies are hard to come by.

Say it again. No. I don't NEED it.


Philangelus said...

Ah, direct-sales-marketing. Gotta love it.

Thank you for reminding me never to let these folks into my home again.

Travis said...

Sadly, I can relate this to Christianity. I had a friend who labeled himself a soul winner. Really, he was a high pressure salesman who sold eternity.

He asked me once to accompany him on a soul winning trip. We encountered two boys walking through the park. He stopped them and began to press them for answers to questions such as, "Where will you spend eternity?" The boys politely told him, "Sir, we are headed for the bathroom, could you excuse us?" He kept telling them that eternity was more important than going to the bathroom. Finally, in a effort to get rid of the soul winner, the boys prayed the sinners prayer so he would let them go.

It was all about him. There are many things in my reply we can dissect for future discussions. I confronted him on his soul winning ethics and swore never to accompany him again. In this, we must be responsible, not belligerent.

Amy Deardon said...

Wow. Your friend sounds like he had all his focus on HIMSELF and was picking up converts as a quota system. How sad. No wonder Christians sometimes get a bad name!

Travis said...

Soul winning is something I'm very pasionate about. The worst thing one can do is make it about anything but Christ. You can't play games with people's souls, even if you gain a notch in doing so...

Brenda Susan said...

Wow, that sounds so awkward! I really hate the home "parties" too. But that experience, being one-on-one would be so hard. Yikes!

Lydia said...

I think those high-pressure, salvation salesmen should be reminded that Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not hunters.

Amy, I really sympathized with you over that knife lady in your house. With all those sharp knives lying around, isn't that kind of a dangerous situation for one or the other to be in? ;)

Catching up a bit here-- Your Glass house post was exquisite.

gzusfreek said...

I loved the comment "Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not hunters" thanks for that Lydia.

Amy that is a crazy experience! I too have been seduced into home parties (never to throw one, but I always end up buying something!) but in your house and by yourself?

I can't imagine a life of selling anything! My neighbor was a "pyramid" salesman. He was "on" all the time. It seemed he never had a conversation that wasn't selling something. I could not live like that. (and didn't enjoy him very much either. Nice guy, but I always felt pressured in some way)

Thanks Amy!