Go Ahead. Annoy Me.

Beware; I have donned my preachin’ hat.

The other day, a man came and knocked on my door. He looked like some kind of tech or fix-it guy. He said he was from Time Warner, and at first I couldn’t quite grasp why he was here. The first words out of his mouth held some mushy half-meaning, and it sounded like he was here to fix something… at least until he started giving me sales pitches.

I said no twice—with this awful, pained look on my face. It was really clear, after that initial confusion, that he wasn’t interested in why I wasn’t interested. He was only interested in giving me as many different lines as he could think of before I closed the door in his face.

Of course, I didn’t close the door in his face. That’s really not something I do. (Although considering the field of war, Time Warner… I may have to start.)

Ninety seconds in and his third or fourth spiel, I started interrupting him. No, I explained, we’re really not interested in changing our services at all, I’m really sorry. His face went from semi-confident to resentful. His tone changed from spiel delivery to something else, something I didn’t recognize at first because I wasn’t accustomed to hearing it from strangers—his tone changed in an almost derogatory way, You’re making a mistake, That’s a pretty stupid decision on your part, You’re going to be kicking yourself later. He didn’t use any of those cute little lines, but he did say this: “I’m just trying to save you money…” As if he knows better than I do, and he wants to make sure I regret my decision.

The last time I found myself in the path of a guilt-trip like that, it was my mother—or my high school boyfriend.

My affection for Time Warner is waning.

The services he was trying to sell me on, incidently, were services that would have started out completely free, then added money to my bill unless I canceled them before the free period ended. He wasn’t interested in any of the things I had to say. He was only interested in the next checkmark on his list.

This isn’t at all about the cold sale. I don’t tend to feel that cold selling is the best way to accomplish most things, but if you’re going to do it, you had damned well better be pleasant and brighten your customer’s day—NOT piss her off. If this man had come to my door, given me a straight offer, and bowed out gracefully (and amiably, and god, politely!) when my answer was no, I would not have closed the door angry. Hell! He could have suggested a few additional options after my declination, and another smiling face would have left me in a good mood, door-to-door sales or no. But—maybe because he had no real sales training, or maybe because Time Warner requires him to say certain things, or maybe some idiot actually taught him that it was appropriate to behave this way in a professional capacity—he was entirely unprofessional, unpleasant, actually petulant (!) and more than that, desperate. He gave me no reason to treat him professionally in return (although I did), and when I closed the door I was really pissed off.

These days, the only thing keeping me with Time Warner is that to my knowledge, I have no comparable alternative. That’s a dangerous spot for a company to leave its customers in—especially incensed.

Petulant is an awful way to make a sale, ladies and gentlemen. “I’m just trying to save you money” is the refuge of the defeated. The company that uses these techniques (purposefully or by accident!) is a company desperate to sell more services because something is going wrong. I’ve felt this way about Time Warner before—their advertising campaigns, and the way they deal with customers on the phone, has always been obnoxious and lately has been pushing the envelope—but never before had they sent a (downright rude) salesman to my door.

What kind of business sells its product this way? Most of them? Maybe. But I say that’s crazy. The company that sets out to sell in a way that infuriates current, happy customers is a company that won’t be around much longer. All it takes is one competitor that knows how to treat people like human beings, fully capable of making good decisions for themselves, and a company like Time Warner will be kaput. Gone. And suddenly someone new will be the only option.

I yearn for that day, Time Warner.

Enjoy your monopoly while it lasts.

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