Tuesday, July 28, 2015

An Open Letter to Strip-Mall Solicitors

Dear Solicitor,

Yes, you.  The working guy or girl with the clipboard who just walked into my business to attempt to sell me something.

You need to stop.

Seriously, there is so much wrong with what you are doing, that you need to pass the word up the chain to your source company that the very method by which you work is unacceptable.  You need to leave, possibly, and get another job.  There's no such thing as a "lousy job," but there are jobs where you are set up to fail, and yours is one of them.

Someone, some manager or suit or whatever in an office, decided he or she would send out legions of solicitors to strip malls or office plazas around the area to sign people up for gym membership, or push a credit card interchange plan, or sell cologne or flowers, or what have you.  This was likely done without thinking it through, other than to say, "I have a sales force and they need to go make sales.  Get them out there and have them make sales."

And that's why you are in my store today.

I am not going to buy anything from you or your kind.  Not ever.  If I need the exact thing you are pushing, I will buy it from another vendor.


Well, first of all, this is the Year Of Our Lord Two Thousand Fifteen.  When we want to buy things, we use the Googlenets.  And we determine whether our objective goods can be procured locally, and if so, from where; and if they aren't, we check to see whether it's on Amazon Prime.  At no point does our rationale become, "I sure hope a traveling peddler walks in and offers to sell us this!"  Door-to-door sales are an artifact of history.  They're done.  Over with.

But let's say for a moment that we did not have all the knowledge of human history contained on devices in our pockets that we use to look at photos of funny cats, and let's say that we did embrace the spontaneity of being hawked at by the shopkeeper of an ever-migrating bazaar.  What you are doing is still abhorrent to the owner of the small business upon whose premises you have just trespassed.

You see, I pay the rent on this store, so I get to say what sales happen here.  And the only sales that are going to take place on these premises, are the sales that feed my business.  Customers buying my things, or customers selling me their things to turn into inventory.

If you want to sell in my store, pay my rent.  That'll be five grand a month.  First and last will be accepted up front.  You may set up a table and push your gym membership to whomever visits.

It astounds me that your employer can be so callous and tone-deaf to basic business ethics that he or she actually thinks it's okay to freeload on the existence of my store.  But it doesn't mean I have to accept it or condone it.  Ustedes no tienen mi permiso.  Begone.

If you're selling perfume and such, it's even worse.  This is my store.  Not your store.  You want to sell goods, go open your own store.  You don't get to sell in mine.  You can't even pay the rent; I have the exclusive on "being a store" in this building.  I'm not offering subleases.

If you are pushing credit card interchange, I have even less benefit of the doubt for you.  At least the gym membership guy is pushing a service that might be of benefit to human beings who wish to improve their physical fitness.  At least the cologne and flowers guy is pushing a physical good that you can buy and use to produce pleasant aromas, seemingly on command.  Their offerings, unwelcome as they are in my building, actually possess utility as advertised.  But what you are offering has no value, and is something nobody needs and wants.  As in, really nobody.

See, the credit card interchange thing is a sucker play to prey on the uninformed and gullible.  None of the interchange plans are actually providing the service.  They are resellers, and they merely take a "rip," or commission, percentage of swipes from accounts they sign up.  The interchange is all done through Authorize.net or one of the actual transaction conduits, and the banking is handled by the customer's credit card issuer and the merchant's bank.

I am a reseller of entertainment goods, so I don't have a problem with someone being a reseller as such.  The problem is that the value add is nothing, because the banks themselves offer interchange in full.  Indeed, with no middleman, the banks can undercut all rates being offered by the plan resellers.  And every merchant already has a bank.  Often several.

So no thank you, we are all taken care of.  Yes, we are aware of chip-and-PIN.  Yes, we will have it when the time comes.  No, the rates we are getting are better than whatever you are offering.  No, you can't see a rate sheet.  Let me see your rate sheet.  Oh, I can't?  The sleaze goes beyond your offering and infects your methods as well.  Please depart.  Door's over there.

If you're here for a charity, I do respect that you're promoting a cause, but honestly, I'm trying to work here.  You need to go fundraise in the community, not on the private property of a business that's doing its damnedest to make sure it never misses payroll.  We do make charitable donations every single year, and not once have we ever thought, "You know who really deserves our consideration?  The charity whose rep chewed our ears for 20 minutes while we were trying to get that order put away before the evening's customer rush."

All of the foregoing would be in my open letter regardless of the industry I happened to be in -- whether I was selling electronics, greeting cards, hardware, antiques, or enchiladas.

But as it happens, I sell comics and games.  I am in the hobby entertainment industry.

And that makes your visit all the more misguided.

Because what on earth gives you the mistaken idea that a business like mine has any money?

Michael Bahr, Administrator

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