Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Palm Readings and Popcorn

I just have to share this experience.

So I was walking down the street in the East Village the other day. I was on my way to see a movie with a friend, and I was late. And as I was walking, a guy comes up to me and starts walking alongside me. He says something, very fast, to the effect of:

“I’m a professional palm reader. I give Daoist, Taoist, Confucian palm reads in the ancient Chinese tradition. And I’d really like to give you my spiel today. Let me pitch you, miss!” (He really did say that.) And in this perky, peppy voice…

I’m from Vermont. I never evolved the thick-skinned, New Yorker ability to say “get lost” to people who come up to me and talk to me. I’m just not good at being rude. So I said something like, “um, OK.”

So the guy launches into a two-block talk about his palm reading and the traditions they’re from and the techniques he uses and the steps he takes, walking alongside me as I go to my movie. Then he starts going into the types of “packages” he has…and how much they cost. Really? He wants me to drop everything and get a $20 palm read, right there on the sidewalk? When I’m clearly on my way somewhere?

“…And you’ll be getting me at my best energy today,” he said. “I’m really fresh. Like popcorn! Where are you headed, miss?”

“Meet a friend,” I mumble.

“Oh, really? Is it a girl friend or a guy friend? Is it a date?”

“No, it’s a movie,” I say. Yeah, I’m awkward.

“Well, why not stop for a quick five minute palm read? It’s only five dollars—”

And then I did what I should have done the whole time, but didn’t. I turned to him and said, very clearly, “NO.”

And the guy gave me a disgruntled look and jetted off to go harass his next victim.

This ties into my post on Monday...about email marketers who won't go away unless you take the time to give them a clear "NO." Is this what we've come to? Is the market so saturated now that to get any business, we have to persistently bother people who clearly don't want what we're selling? I don't see how that's the case...personally I do just fine, and I will NEVER let myself become this person, either online or in person. But I've seen this kind of thing a lot lately...and I'm starting to think my "no"'s need to be more pre-emptive.


Unknown said...

Yea, I don't have that thick skin yet, either. But I might have been tempted to dial 9-1-1 as he was talking and ask him if he could spell his name for the cops.....

We're so saturated with messages that they think shouting will get our attention. It doesn't - it turns me right off. This dude was one hell of a beggar, I'll give him that. He's creative, and I almost would give him money just for that, but his following for a few blocks inserts that "creep factor" that would negate that feeling.

Susan Johnston Taylor said...

@Lori: I love your idea about asking him to spell his name!

I don't think these strategies are anything new. A few years ago, I moonlighted as a telesubscriptions person for an opera company (all of these were warm leads, by the way, meaning people who subscribed or bought tickets in the past). Most people were polite since they're opera lovers, but one of my colleagues called someone whose wife had been the opera fan and she died. I would have apologized and hung up, but my colleague asked if the widower might like to renew his opera subscription in honor of his wife. Ummm ... no? He used a respectful tone of voice, and I know he empathized with the person on the other end, but I never would have asked that, because it just seems too salesy. Then again, he earned a heck of a lot more in commission than I ever did!

Meryl K. Evans said...

Jennifer, I love how you told a great story and then tie it in with a lesson on email marketing. I have been trying to unsubscribe to several email newsletters and they won't stop coming (they're not spam-fake unsubscribes). It just makes me disrespect the company more and happy to share that with others.

Nikki May | Web Content Writer said...

People no longer follow proper email marketing etiquette.

Some email marketers are simply spammers who will send spammy emails every day.

There are other people who mean no harm, are completely clueless about email marketing etiquette, and are just trying to get the word out....but tend to overdo it, and damage their / their company's reputation.

These days one is left with no option but to unsubscribe from any emailing list.