Tuesday, 6 July 2010

How to Win Friends and Influence People

Tuesday night is saxophone lesson night and I have about thirty frantic minutes before the teacher arrives in which to make up for my week of utter indolence and neglect on the practice front.

So, there I am, torturing the poor innocent instrument for all it's worth, scales, arpeggios, the works, when the doorbell chimes.

Thinking it would probably be Don't Feed the Pixies (who shares music lessons with me), or (horrors!) the teacher himself come early, saxophone in hand, I go trotting down the stairs to open the front door.

As it turns out, it isn’t my partner in musical crime, nor indeed my musical Jedi Master, but a pleasant middle-aged lady who smiles and greets me as I stand squinting at her in the glare of the setting sun. She wants to sell me something, it would seem.

See sees my saxophone.

Now, she’s probably read somewhere that engaging a potential customer in friendly conversation is a good way to get them to warm to you, thereby increasing the likelihood of a sale.

She goes for it:

“Ooh, you’ve got a trumpet!” she gushes.  An impressive opening, I think you’ll agree.  I glance down at the instrument, just in case by some strange door-to-door magic, she has transmogrified my poor alto sax into the favoured weapon of Louis Armstrong. Nope, it’s still as it was.

“It’s a saxophone,” I reply, politely but coolly (what the hell are the notes in the B flat major arpeggio, dammit, I’ve forgotten them now what with this pesky distraction!).

Now, as I mentioned, the sun was setting over the houses opposite, and shining into my not-particularly-functional-even-on-a-good-day eyes, making me squint – a lot. Having messed up on the opening gambit, the lady’s now a bit wrong-footed, so I suppose we shouldn't really blame her for what comes next.

“Are you blind?” she blurts out. As complete non-sequitur, sales-clinching patter goes, this is classic stuff. Surely, I’ll buy anything now! Guess she missed the Diversity and Disability Awareness training then - along with Musical Instrument Recognition 101.

“Er, no,” I reply, slightly more frostily (that E flat scale isn’t going to practise itself, you know!). “I’m partially-sighted, actually.”

“Ooh, that’s a shame,” she says sadly. Her heart is sinking a bit now as it looks like I might not actually be able to use what she’s trying to sell me – whatever it is (she hasn’t actually got around to that bit yet, what with all the crazy saxophone/disability talk). She peers over my shoulder into the house in the vain hope that a fully-sighted, slightly less irritated musician-wannabe is hovering somewhere behind me, eager and ready to buy.

“Is there anyone else in the…?” she begins hopefully, almost rising up on her toes to see past me, as I continue to stare/squint unhelpfully, saying nothing (E flat, G, B flat…). “Only, I’m selling daily delivery subscriptions for the Daily Blather. Would you be interested?” That is, would you be interested - even though I think you are too blind to be able to read the teeny-weeny print, you poor thing?

“I’m sorry,” I tell her, “I get all my news from the internet. Good evening.”

“OK,” she sighs and wanders off to next door’s.

They’re Indian. I wonder how she’ll get on with them (“Ooh, you’ve got poppadoms!”, “No, it’s just some Pringles, actually.”… )


  1. Oh good heavens - I'll bet she doesn't last long in THAT job! I always think of Foul Play when I see someone selling something door to door - now that guy had a really hard job!

  2. ER - Holy Cow indeed. It was very funny though.

    Titus - I laughed too, when the door was safely closed.

    Bug - Not sure what the Foul Play reference is (will google). I wish they'd outright ban door-to-door calling, it really annoys me.

  3. i had a chap come around once trying to sell me his paintings - i explained that I never bought door to door and he got quite ratty, saying didn't i even want to look at them?

    Well -ok i guess I should have made him stand there and go through them before confirming my response in the negative, but i really couldn't be bothered.

    The one that really wound me up though was a house grouting company (or something) that quoted me nine million galactic pu's on the door for one wall and were less than a week later able to offer me all three walls for a fiver coz "someone had cancelled in your area".

    If they'd been honest in the first place and quoted the reasonable price i might even have bought - but i don't like being treated like an idiot.

    Most amusing post = now what were those notes again???

  4. I think you dealt with her admirably. No hitting her over the head with the sax, no accidentally smashing the door in her face due to your brain-death-inducing disability personality that I can see.
    Well done.
    I bet you didn't do half as well with the Jedi.

  5. I have a glass front in the door and just don't answer if they look like salespeople. I do the same for the telephone -- if I don't recognize the number, I don't answer. Saves all kinds of time! You had me laughing out loud. Really!

  6. One of the fabulous things about living in the middle of nowhere is no door to door sales people, ever. I think you were a model of restraint.

  7. She was a klutz. How did she ever get that job? Must not have been a prerequisite audition. The only door to door salesman I like is our tamale guy who appears on random evenings selling his wife's luscious tamales.

  8. oohh.. I've missed calling round!.. I can just imagine now!... I'm so glad I don't live anywahere 'findable'.. although some religeous salesmen found us once, on a day I had let the ponies loose in the yard to graze the weeds down so they had to park at the top of the boreen and come through the gate. I was sat in the yard in the tiny bit of sunshine plinky plonking on my guitar... they cam round the corner being intensely fllowed by three big animals looking like they were about to soil themselves to find a maniacle looking redneck type looking startled back at them... I was miffed at being found and they knew it. have never seen anyone else since.
    nice new set up by the way! :-D

  9. @DFTP - I find door-to-door or telephone cold-calling really annoying. Someone actually came around selling notices that you could stick on your door to deter cold-callers. I was kind of tickled by the irony of this and bought one - it didn't work!

    @Friko - You are right. Although I managed well with the sales lady, I did not do so well with my Jedi Master. Clearly, I am not a Jedi yet.

    @Karen - That sounds like a plan! just don't answer the door. Simples!

    @Elizabethm - I envy you your out-of-the-way living arrangements. There's much to be said for a certain amount of isolation.

    @Enchanted Oak - Door-to-door tamales, eh? Sounds good (if I knew what a tamale was). Door-to-door chocolate is what we really need.

    @Watercats - LOL. I can just picture the bemused religious types and a whole 'Deliverance' stylee thing going down with the gee-tar.

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  11. Can I sell you some "magic pebbles"? :)


  12. @Dominic - that's a great idea, the 5 pebbles thing. I think fifty would be too much for me as well. My Jedi Master suggested something similar: play the piece 3 times with the metronome on a certain speed. If you get 3 successful iterations, speed the metronome up a bit and try again. It's supposed to boost fluidity.


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