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Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Friends" who see you as a customer

I got the following email from a friend yesterday (I've changed the name):  

Do you know Kathy Smith? We are friends of Jim (her husband) and her. Kathy recently got trained (in TX) to be a sales person for some diet powder. You drink two shakes a day (morning and lunch), and eat dinner. The powder is $20 per day. I listened to Kathy’s sales pitch (involuntarily) after she got back from TX. “It’s a great product. I’ve researched it. It’s a great product. I am a biologist and I’ve researched it and it’s a great product. I studied the ingredients…. (on and on) … did I mention that it’s a great product? “ (And she announced that teaching, that piece of cake government job with a fat pension, was difficult and tedious, and she’s going to make so much money off this product that she won’t have to work anymore.)

Now she is trying to jam this powder down all her friend’s throats – so they can help her reach her goal of not having to teach anymore.

[My girlfriend] had a coworker who very aggressively sold a legal package to all her coworkers. It was some kind of legal insurance – which offered common services people might want (wills, defense against dui, I don’t remember exactly). This woman stated she was going to be able to quit her job due to all the money she was making.

But after they burn through all their co-workers and friends (many of whom are too polite to refuse the aggressive pitch; with the added threat of loss of friendship if you decline), these people are all done.

My point: Kathy is a hard leftist. The friend who got her into selling the powder is a whacko leftist. I would love to know what percentage of people who go into these sales programs are Left vs. Right. My guess is that they are mostly left. Most conservatives, being much more polite, would not feel comfortable jamming some stupid product down their friend’s throats, to make money and dream of being rich.

I responded:

I couldn't agree with you more about Kathy. I've always found it incredibly obnoxious whenever someone who's theoretically a friend tries to make money off you like that. 

I've never made the correlation with these types of shameless pitches and leftists, but I suppose it could exist. Certainly the lack of realism in thinking that one could retire on the money one makes from this indicates the lack of numeracy that I do associate with leftists. 

And now that I think about it, there's another correlation: the Kathy's of the world, become indoctrinated by these sales organizations, which requires a certain gullibility, and an inclination to believe whatever they want to believe. They hear the spiel they hear about how much money they can make, and believe it. So they pay whatever upfront fee is required to the organization (how the organization makes a significant percentage of its money), and figure they're going to get rich. That susceptibility to indoctrination is reflective of the way they listen to, say, a Barack Obama, and believe everything he says. So, I'd guess you're probably right about it being more of a leftist thing. 

Most of us have been subjected to burdensome sales pitches like his from friends or acquaintances. In my experience, it's more common to be hit up for someone else's favorite charity. But I've had the unpleasant experience of having people be friendly to me, only to have it turn out that they were just looking for a new customer. It's inevitably disappointing and a little maddening to discover the ulterior motive. If, as with my friend who sent the email, the person simply saw an opportunity to milk a pre-existing friendship, it's almost as bad. 

I have to admit, though, I've never noticed a correlation between this sort of shamelessness and political viewpoint. But, speaking of shameless, that in itself hints at another correlation. Think of the liberals you know, and think of the conservatives. Which group is more likely to broadcast their beliefs to all their friends, wear clothing proclaiming their beliefs, plaster their car with political bumper stickers, loudly declare that they could never be friends with someone who didn't share their political beliefs, and in general hit you over the head with their politics?

Does not such behavior itself indicate a lack of shame? 


Pavonine99 said...

I would argue that it takes a certain amount of shamelessness and gullibility to be an ideologue of any stripe. In the part of the country where I live, the "conservatives" are just as obnoxious as the "liberals".

Anonymous said...

Amway! And the rest of the multilevel marketing businesses, but Amway was the first an is still the biggest.

Sadly, Amway is hard right and religious right to boot. Amway's founders pour millions of dollars into conservative think tanks and PACs-and also stuff like the Creation Museum, an alternate-timeline Field Museum dedicated to the idea that the earth was created in six literal days roughly 6000 years ago, because the Bible says so.

Amway and all other MLMs (multi-level marketers) are based on a notion of economics that sounds good to the uninitiated but is false economics and false human behavior. Getting involved with MLM will not only eat up all your time and energy, but alienate all your friends and leave you broke and lonely. It could also get you fired and cost you your marriage.

Several good sites like the Vandruffs' point out the fundamental issues in MLM but the kind of people who get involved with MLM tend not to listen.

If I were in government and had the power to do it I would ban multilevel marketing. Multilevel refers to the structure of distributorships. Many similar seeming businesses where people, usually women, sell stuff like Avon, Tupperware, Mary Kay, et al (Fuller Brush was usually men) are not multilevel and are okay, but Shaklee, Herbalife, Amsoil, et al, are all MLM and I advise avoidance.

John Craig said...

Pavonine --
In my part of the country, and on most campuses, the liberals are generally far more outspoken on a personal level. Meaning, for instance, that even though I have this outspoken blog, when it comes to most of my acquaintances, I, who lean -- sometimes far -- to the right on most issues, rarely broach the subject of politics. And I think that's typical of conservatives, but I live in the Northeast, and I realize that things are different on the coasts.

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's a great point, I had forgotten about Amway; they ARE unquestionably conservative.

I agree with you about MLM, it's not dissimilar to a Ponzi scheme, or maybe a better analogy would be to a chain letter. People who buy into their vision are inevitably naive.

Steven said...

Teaching isn't a piece of cake job. In England they work long hours marking work and making lesson plans and they may have to put up with difficult kids.

Most people that I know are not very political. They vote for the party that most people in this city vote for and they dislike the other party and they have the general liberal social views that are the norm (though they aren't SJWs) and they might have an opinion on immigration or something in the news but they mostly don't care very much about politics and don't think about ideology. are people more engaged in America? Could you say about most people they are a liberal or a conservative, that they really have a political and ideological identity?

John Craig said...

Steven --
I think my friend was saying that etching is a piece of cake job in terms of its benefits: you don't have to worry about keeping your job as much (few teachers get fired, even when they do something wrong), they get three months a year off, they get a good pension, good medical insurance, and where my friend lives the kids are generally not that difficult.

That said, the teachers that I know dislike management at their schools, the principals and the like who are constantly coming up with new (and generally worthless) initiatives in order to show that they are "proactive" and "go getters" and so on. So they load new projects onto the teachers, who work hard enough as it is teaching their students, and the teachers end up having to do all sorts of extra work in order to make management look as if they are improving things.

Maybe it's just the crowd that I know, but I'd say most people are pretty political. Some more so, some less so, but at least 90% ail be able to tell you if they're Democrat or Republican, or liberal or conservative. And the ones who don't will generally tell you they're independents, which is an identity of its own.

Anonymous said...

I don't mind buying useful products from friends. In the past, I've bought jewelry, makeup, kitchen appliances, etc. from various businesses (that have in-home parties), having even bought items from co-workers. If a product is useful, I'm up for making a purchase.


Steven said...

"So they load new projects onto the teachers, who work hard enough as it is teaching their students, and the teachers end up having to do all sorts of extra work in order to make management look as if they are improving things."in

That happens all the way up to the government level in this country. Every new government seems to have some kind of education reform that requires adaptation from the teachers. My sister is a qualified teacher and they do work pretty long hours, making individual lesson plans and such, much more so than when I was at school and everything was prescribed and standardised.

American politics, and American society in general, seems to be more polarised in social and moral views. A lot of Americans are still Christian, which isn't really the case with white Brits. So I suppose both parties are pretty socially liberal here, although they differ on economic and fiscal issues somewhat. Plus there is a lot of division on immigration and the EU specifically.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Yes, all of these management functionaries have to justify their own existences, and do so by making life difficult for other people. And 90% of the "reforms" they advocate are useless.

Yes, the US is pretty polarized these days, no question. But I have to imagine that the immigration is splitting a lot of Europeans apart these days too. It's a major issue, and one that everyone has a strong opinion about.

Steven said...

Yes it certainly is one of the central topics of European politics and one of the main motivations of anti EU movements. A lot of people have a strong opinion about it but not everyone. A lot of people are fairly moderate and apolitical but I'd imagine most people have some sense of the world being volatile and crazy at the moment.

John Craig said...

Steven --
I'd think it's going to become a wedge issue, eventually setting people against each other. What's at stake are these nations' survival as nations.

High Arka said...

Heh, the opening lines remind me of Rusty's Insurance.

John Craig said...

High Arka --
As usual, you've analyzed that/this situation at a deeper level than I did. But I think you may be giving Rusty a little too much credit on the moral front; at a certain level, he may have thought he was helping with his life insurance, but the first, second, and third things on his mind were definitely just money.

Couldn't agree with you more about doctors, they're just businessmen like everyone else, and the more you deal with them, the more apparent that becomes. That said, some are more venal than others; in my recent adventures with prostate cancer, I've actually met a couple I thought were good.

The nurses tend to be quite nice, at least judging from the experiences I've had with them. Their jobs tend not to require or reward salesmanship.

Anonymous said...

John, Be glad that you are not a woman when it comes to this kind of salesmanship. Women are much more likely to take on these kinds of work-from-home ventures and then hit up family, friends and acquaintances, knowing that other women are more likely to succumb to the subtle pressure. I want to scream "Get a real job," when I am hit up with "no pressure" offers to come to someone's home to buy jewelry, baskets, skincare, Christmas d├ęcor, sex toys, etc., under the guise of a few girls getting together to have a good time. It really infuriates me. I recently had lunch with a friend I see only periodically. Now that I think of it, I have to wonder if it's a coincidence that she called me this time. Anyway, after mentioning that her husband is about to lose his job, she told me that she is repping a product line to help out the family finances just in case. That was a double whammy-- relying on a woman's desire to help out a friend and then also hinting at financial difficulties.

I thought I would help her out by buying a product from her that I need anyway, though I had never heard of this brand. But I should have known better -- you can't just order that one product, you have to order the whole regimen to make it work right. I felt really resentful when I asked a few questions expressing a bit of skepticism and, instead of her backing off, she came at me with clearly learned, canned salesman-like responses. Then I felt used.

Do these people not see how they are perceived? Or do they just not care? Anyway, I've thought a bit about your theory that these kind of salespeople-friends tend to be more liberal leaning. But I have to say that I have been hit up by both conservatives and liberals. In fact, women of conservative values often "justify" their sales job as something they can do from home, minimizing disruption to their family. I wish they would look at what they are doing more broadly, however.

John Craig said...

Anon --
That's a great summation of the dynamics that go into that kind of sales situation. Your reaction to your "friend's" spiel is completely natural. There's nothing worse than someone pretending to be friendly for the sake of being friendly and then letting their ulterior motives emerge. I never mind if a friend just asks me for a favor, point blank, and is semi-apologetic about it. But I've also had the experience of having a friend phone up as if to just be friendly, and talk about the usual stuff for a while, and then at the end hit me with, oh, by the way, would you mind……And at that point the reason for the call becomes apparent. It's far, far better to phone someone up, state the reason for the call, and then make chitchat. I don't feel used when it's done like that.

"Do these people not see how they are perceived? Or do they just not care?"

I'm not sure. There's a certain emotional obtuseness that goes into treating a friendship so cavalierly; it's probably a combination of the two.

It wasn't my theory that the people who do this are leftists; I've never noticed a correlation, as I said in the post. I was just trying to come up with a reason for that theory if in fact it is true.