The Day I Inadvertently Let a Vacuum Salesman In
We had just moved to Portland, Oregon – 3000 miles away from home and the first time I had lived in a city. After about 2 weeks of living in our new house I heard a knock on the door and opened it to a young kid who looked about college-aged. He was holding a vacuum cleaner.
To fully understand what happened next, you need to know 2 things about me:
1) I have trouble saying no to people. I am not an assertive person and I am a people-pleaser. These two traits make if difficult for me to stand up for myself.
2) I am a bit naïve. My mom says I just have no common sense when it comes to the world. I prefer to believe that I see the good in people and can trust what they tell me. I also believe that if you are a good person, good things will happen to you.
The kid asked me if I wanted a carpet cleaned for free. That he was just doing demos with the vacuum and there was no obligation to buy. That he would be happy to clean one room for me.
You’d think from my reaction that I was a fresh-faced 19 year-old. But no, this 35 year-old, gullible, mother of 4 couldn’t believe her good fortune! I had wanted to find a carpet cleaner because when we moved into the house there was one rug that was filthy. I hadn’t had the time yet to find one. I honestly thought to myself how lucky I was and perhaps this was an advantage to living in the city – people come around and offer free services! I enthusiastically said yes!
Then the kid told me that he already had an appointment at another house down the street and he would be back in the afternoon. In the meantime, another man would come by to have me sign a release for the free demo, etc, etc, etc ( I wasn’t really listening because I was dreaming of the nice clean rug I was going to have by the end of the day).
The man did show up and that was when I had the first inkling that things were not quite what I thought they were. He had an over-eager look about him, shifty eyes and lots of smooth talk. He just wanted to “confirm that I had agreed freely to the demo. And would I let him come by after the demo to show me a few things about the vacuum?”
Despite the gnawing feeling in my belly, I agreed because I felt like I had already signed up with the kid. I also thought that I could handle anything the guy could pitch to me by saying no firmly. And after all, they promised a free demo.
The kid came and he spent a really long time cleaning the rug. It looked like new and I was grateful.
Then the man returned and the sales pitch was on. He asked me if I liked how the rug was cleaned, if the kid did a good job. He stressed how hard the kid worked, how the kid was paying his way through college. He told me they worked on commission and that the only pay they got was from selling vacuums. He worked on me for a while. But I kept repeating to myself, they offered a free demo, they offered a free demo.
And when he asked me to buy the vacuum I said no. Then he started telling me how smart I was at bargaining. And he progressively started lowering the price and throwing in “freebies.” Each time I said no, but I wasn’t very firm. I was getting tired and the kids were getting whiny. I was thinking about how I needed to make them dinner.
Then he started getting aggressive. He told me it wasn’t fair that I used up all their afternoon if I had no intentions of buying the vacuum. He was trying to work with me and I was being difficult. It went on for quite a while. And I let it. I didn’t have the gumption to just tell him to get out of my house and leave me alone.
I had almost given in. Almost convinced myself that I needed a new vacuum anyway and maybe I should just buy one from him and get it over with. Then he made the wrong move.
He said, “Well, maybe you need to call your husband to help you make this kind of decision. Maybe you need to discuss it with him before you spend so much money. Go ahead and call him, I can wait.”
That one remark fired me up. Here is the twist in my personality. I will bend over backwards to do things for people even when I don’t have the time, I can let people push me into buying things I don’t want, I won’t complain when I am taken advantage of – but I will not stand to be thought of as a woman who needs her husband to make decisions for her. I will be an equal in my marriage.
And I told him so. Along with a few other choice things about his selling tactics.
I did not buy a vacuum.
But I think I will always try to remember the old sayings:
You get what you pay for.
Nothing in life is free.
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