Penguins can’t fly with Eagles

This is the marketing rant I’ve been warning you was coming…sort of.

We have a policy that we never buy from high pressure salesmen. Why? Well, because if they had a good product, they probably wouldn’t have to push so hard. If they’re pushing, they’re probably hiding something they don’t want me to find out. High pressure makes us look much more closely at the product.

Last week, I requested a bid on some windows. I’m not going to mention the company, but I bet you can guess. We have a room that I dream of adding a window to, and I wanted to know how much it would cost to have someone else do it rather than having the husband struggle with permits and such during our busy time at the aviation shop. Our house has been a bit cold this winter — as has the entire Northern US — and I decided it would be nice to have a quote on some truly insulated windows. The salespeople took 4 hours. One was nice and seemed straight forward, occasionally slightly in error but always within the range of possibility. I mean it was possible she didn’t know how to read tax law, right? Maybe her computer really couldn’t give me the estimates I really wanted. Her assistant, however, was high pressure and as it became obvious that we were not going to sign papers that night, she became more aggressive and her un-truths became a bit more startling. "Our prices are going up drastically in a few weeks because we have more business than we can do and so many people are buying our product right now." Um. Right. There were a few other lines, my favorite being how people like me cost her company $9 million dollars a year or some such figure. I explained that was fine that she’d just pushed me from the ones that cost her company that money to the ones that wouldn’t buy at all from her company and asked her to leave. End of interview. (My husband says he enjoys watching me with a high-pressure sales person. My red-neck upbringing starts to show pretty fast, and he laughs to see his mild-mannered wife transform into something fiery. Bad for my blood pressure. Good for his amusement.)

Here was the problem: I happened to really like the products she was selling! Those were the prettiest windows I’ve ever seen. Cost a fortune, but wow. If I could have afforded to do my windows one at a time on cash, I would have bought those. She had the sale, but now that company will never see a dime of our money. I’ll probably go out and find some local craftsman to make what I want, or we’ll make do with a donated window. I’m not that picky, because I’d rather have faith in the company I buy from.

Why am I so sensitive about marketing? Well, probably because I do quite a bit of it with my own business and my husband’s. I don’t want a customer that is tricked into buying something they don’t need or don’t want. I want satisfied customers who send their friends to me. Call me crazy.

But then I realized, my anger with marketing techniques goes back farther than that. I’ve recently stopped doing business with a company I’ve supported for 15 years because they switched all of their marketing to robots — and they forgot to program the robots to respond to the, "yes, I’ll buy now" prompt! So I had to listen to a 20 minute sales pitch for something I wanted and would have ordered in 2 minutes…and there was no way out of the robotic system. My first complaint should have been enough, but a sales supervisor came on the line and said that the reason the sales person couldn’t deviate from the script was that they were speech impaired. At first, I felt sympathy and then I thought, wait a minute. Speech impaired doesn’t mean brain impaired. "I just want to buy the product" should have gotten me dumped to a supervisor right away. Hey…she’d just lied to me! I called the direct line and talked with a complaint representative — sure enough, it was a robotic calling program. Now I was angry. They weren’t employing disadvantaged individuals, they were NOT employing people. Hm. My support index went way down. I explained that if they could have a human call me, I’d talk to them. I’ve hung up on several robots. We’re now in a billing dispute over our last order. When I fight through the system, I am getting people who don’t sound like they’re in a local call center any more. Way to lose my business.

There’s more to my anger, though, and this is why it becomes so passionate. My husband and I were helped by a religious group a few years back that teaches classes. Wow. That was a fantastic, blessed weekend. We decided we would go back annually. What a great time of learning. The next year, we took some friends who I knew would enjoy the class and be blessed as well. However, someone had hired a marketing specialist in the meantime. Content was taken out of the books in favor of full color marketing ads for books and up-selling techniques were everywhere. In one class in particular, I remember thinking that the woman had left out the part that had meant the most to me the previous year. Then she started talking from her heart and I thought — ah, it will be OK. 3/4 of the way through her talk, she stopped and held up her book (conveniently on sale outside the door) and said that we’d need to buy her book for the rest. My friends didn’t want anything that group was selling, and I certainly didn’t blame them.

Many years ago, a woman said to me something I’ll never forget. "Y’know, you’re the only Christian I can handle being around." I’ve never been able to decide if it was a compliment or an insult. The difference, she went on to explain, was marketing…and that is the real reason that marketing is so close to my heart.

I explained to someone the other day that while I don’t try to push religion in my writing, it is just such a part of my heart, the fuel for my passion…well, I’d like to think it comes out in everything I do. Somehow, I doubt it. I had a vendor notice a small reference to religion in our aviation lobby the other day. He told me off and said that had no place in our lobby. I shrugged and tried to explain. *I* am in my lobby. If you want to cut my heart and soul out of the business that I own, well…then it wouldn’t really be something I could do. He didn’t get it. And it was a small thing, too…a light hearted reference on the back of a card.

And yet, I don’t want to hide my religion. God and Jesus are as real to me and as part of my life as my family. I love the line in Fireproof where the one guy says to someone who asks him how he knows God is real, "because I talked to Him this morning." What a great line and how utterly confusing it must be to people who have never heard that voice.  I see people every day who are hurting, aching…they have needs that I know my God could fill, and yet I am silent. Why? Because I don’t think pushing will help. I feel that if I push, I’ll be right up there with the window salesman…and even if I speak only truth, how will they know? In a world where heavy-handed marketing and up-selling is standard, how will they know that I really just want to pull them out of the tossing seas and into the boat? They should be able to see the boat. But…well, ever tried to rescue a drowning person?

I’m certain I have caused more harm than good with my lack of preaching over the years. I’ve watched good friends lost into some really scary things…only to hear later, "why didn’t you warn me?" All I can say is I’m glad God is patient with me and loves me anyway.

But in the meantime, each instance of high pressure salesmanship is making me just a little hotter. The whole, "be angry and sin not" is getting harder and harder.

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