Jun 26, 2014

A Breach in the Moat - Guest Post by "Momma"

A Breach in the Moat - A Guest Post on Soliciting | Business, Life & Design

Each generation of my family has at least one member who styles herself an authoress.  My mother's mother commonly refers to herself as the "Poetaster" and fills the family emails and Christmas letters with rhymes, puns, and witticisms.  She's also self published at least 2 books (I might not be up to date, she just keeps going!), my favorite of which is Junior High at 69.

Book cover Junior High at 69 by Eva Lynn
Why yes, I did design the cover.  How observant of you to notice!

My mother inherited this tendency and is planning her own venture into the writing world after she retires in a few years.  I convinced her that she doesn't have to wait until then and after a bit of pleading she's provided this post about solicitation.  Here she is!

A Breach in the Moat

Last week, I officially joined the ranks of the neighborhood unfriendly. I put up a NO SOLICITING sign.

Actually, my sign says this:

Creative no soliciting sign | Business, Life & Design

I was going for clever... slyly self-deprecating? but I'm afraid I may have missed the mark and landed instead on pompous and cranky. Although Jenn says she laughed when she first saw it, so that's a good sign.

We don't actually have folks knock on our door very often. Those we do get are generally one of two flavors: fresh-faced, earnest converts trying to cement the saving of their own souls by recruiting others into the fold, and fresh-faced, earnest college students trying to sign us up for a free siding estimate.

The houses in our neighborhood are approaching 20 years old. The roofing and siding companies know this, and for the past five years or so have canvassed the neighborhood every few weeks. This is their mode of operation: they go to the nearby college campus and lure innocent students into a seemingly easy money-making opportunity. They'll pay them a small hourly wage to walk around and knock on doors, but every time they sign someone up for a free estimate, they get a bonus. The students think, how hard could that be, to give stuff away, right? But what they don't know is that the market is over-saturated; we've had that same pitch from that same company three times a year for several years running.

The faces are different each time, but the story is always the same. "We're doing some work on one of your neighbor's houses, and my boss says as long as we're in the neighborhood we'll give free estimates to the neighbors." Yeah, sure. If they really were working in our neighborhood as often as claimed, every house here would have been re-sided and re-roofed seven times over by now.

In the beginning, I used to grill the poor kids. "Which house is that? What are you doing for them?" After the first year or two I started feeling sorry for them, and trying to explain how "their boss's" system works. "I'll bet you're wondering why it is so hard to get anyone to sign up, huh?" But now I've just been worn down by the repetition of it all, and just gently shut the door on them as I shake my head no. Maybe it is kinder, after all, if they don't know how badly the odds are stacked against them.

The religious callers, in their suits and dresses, come in a wide variety of ages. Sometimes they arrive in pairs or small family groups (which always makes me wonder how the youngsters among them have the stamina to keep smiling for so long).

If they come to the front door, it is fairly easy to take their pamphlet and shut the door, after a minimally polite few words. Once I was approached while weeding out in the yard, and ended up talking for a good 15 or 20 minutes before I could shake the woman. Evidently this was a good "score" for her, and she took notes after she left me. The next few times I saw her on the doorstep she asked about my garden and my kids by name. "And how is your creeping phlox coming along?" Something definitely was creeping [me out], but it wasn't the ground cover plant.

I'm not sure of the best approach with these folks. If you say you are already a believer, then they'd probably want to commune with a kindred mind. If you say you don't believe in that stuff, then you are a hot prospect. I don't suppose there is actually a quota system (e.g. you must convert six souls before you are allowed to quit the circuit), but I do think that evangelizing is a holy duty for many believers. I've tried saying something blunt like "We are pretty solid atheists, so there is no point in your coming to our house." This may actually work with one individual, but there are hordes of others out there who didn't get the memo.

I figure, if it makes even one witness quietly wedge the pamphlet next to the doorknob instead of ringing the doorbell, it was totally worth the $20 investment in my (clever?) custom door sign.

How do you handle solicitors?

Jenn signature graphic | Business, Life & Design


  1. Hahaha...I'm terrible, but I hardly ever answer the door for people I don't know, even if they can see me!

    1. Well, that would solve the problem, wouldn't it? it would be challenging for me to ignore a caller at the door. I don't know if I could do it! Although, my husband has trained me to just let the phone ring when it isn't convenient to pick it up... so maybe i could.

  2. The first time a religious solicitor stopped me in the street I ended up confessing that I didn't believe in God, or heaven, or the soul, or love. The conversation quickly derailed:

    "Love? You must believe in love. It's what separates us from the animals!"
    "Koko loves kitten."
    "Koko. She's a gorilla. We taught her sign language and she loved a kitten. It died.."

    I think by the end she was just as happy to get away from me as I was to get away from her.

    1. LOL... I can just picture how that went down. Hey Anon, I think you should do the next guest post!


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