Feb. 25th, 2008

metavore: (tldr)
I just turned away a nice scottish girl with a clipboard who knocked on my front door with a request that I help Save The Children. I really had to convince her to leave. She got quite upset, I think.

I suffer a lot from looking like an easy mark. I have to put on my death-face or pretend to be on the phone to avoid getting hassled for change. Clipboarders make beelines for me. I have this cute pink cherubic face and multicoloured hair and I just look like I have a social consicence. It's all a lie, though. I am in fact a mean lady.

I always turn down people who knock on my door. Regardless. I don't think I've ever agreed to anything shilled over my front threshold beyond the occasional handful of shrapnel. I give them a variety of reasons - not interested, already have whatever you're selling, I give over the internet. I'm also very hard to clipboard in the street - I might sign your petition, but the only people who ever suckered me in to signing up on the street were Amnesty International, and only then because I'd been planning to join anyway. The closest anyone's ever got door-to-door was the mad Kirby salesman who wanted to talk about Punisher and the Mage(TM) tarot deck, and even he had to bribe me with a free carpet clean.

I'm sure by doing this I've missed out on things I'd be interested in. I'm sure if I listened to a spiel without "How can I politely get rid of you?" running through my mind, I might hear something I like. But I choose not to listen.

Firstly, I don't like my personal space invaded. Today, one telemarketer call, one hangup and one doorknocker. Insomnia and a newly acquired zcode addiction meant I went to sleep around 8am this morning. Between those unsolicited contacts, the three real calls I got, and the neighbours smashing pots together outside my window, that is some serious metal fatigue in the chains holding down my desire to kill. Even when I'm not asleep or cooking or in the bath, I loathe it. If the phone or the doorbell rings you have to answer it in case it's something legitimate, and then you find you've been baited and switched.

But it isn't just that I find the intrusion annoying, though that's a big part of it. It's the power imbalance inherent in the technique. When you're put in a one-on-one situation like this, you are always at a disadvantage. You have to take for granted that you're not being lied to. You have to take for granted that you're receiving all the relevant information. You have to take the word of the person on your doorstep that your details will not be sold to Nigerian spammers. You can't do research, you haven't got time to read the entire product disclosure statement. There's time pressure - you don't have all day to stand around and neither do they - and there's an increased sense of obligation to a real human asking you something.

It doesn't help that the person with whom you're communicating is usually a barely conscious robot with a pre-programmed spiel and a laminated card they don't really understand, who is being paid commissions and has been trained to plow through your polite "not interested"s. If you're lucky, they're a dedicated and well-informed volunteer; if you're not, they're a desperate teenage boy with a pregnant girlfriend in Cranbourne who works for a marketing company that isn't the company he's trying to shill you long-distance calls for.

For four interminably long weeks just after I left home, I knocked on doors and convinced people to 'register' for a 'new long distance phone service' that was 'free'. We told people that we needed their license number for an identity check; in fact it was for a credit rating. We glossed over the fact that people who signed the dotted line would now receive two separate phone bills. Maybe we saved some people a few dollars, but still, it was the most soul-destroying thing I've ever had to do. I was very good at it. The poor kid from Cranbourne really wasn't, and went home with nothing every night.

I don't know if my refusal to ever accept an unsolicited offer has any dent on marketing practices - I sincerely doubt it - but in the grand shiny future of personal profiling and information stockpiling, maybe they'll notice a pattern in my behaviour, take the damn hint and stop waking me up.

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January 2010

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