Recently, I received an email from the ops director at my office telling me he had gotten a call from a bank verifying my employment prior to final approval on mortgage closing. While I appreciated him telling me this, and the bank’s diligence in making sure they only approve qualified borrowers, I was profoundly alarmed because I HAD NOT APPLIED FOR A MORTGAGE! While the ops director placed some calls to our home office to find out more, I frantically hit the internet to get access to my credit report. I wasn’t eligible for a free one from the government since it had been less than twelve months since I’d pulled a copy in advance of actually applying for a mortgage on my house. So, I went to a commercial site – you know it, it has a shaggy haired guy with a guitar singing in it’s commercials – and started typing in my info so I could get my sweating hands on my report and see what damage an identity thief had done.
In the middle of all this, my ops director called back and told me another employee with the same first name and last initial as me had been the one applying for the mortgage and I should calm down.
Oh. Ok then.
I thought I aborted the process of buying a credit report but apparently I didn’t because the charge for it showed up on my next bank statement. Ok. That’s cool. I did buy it, I guess, and it’s fine. Then the following month, another charge from shaggy-singing-guy-credit-report-site showed up on my bank statement. I was not amused. I called them right up and discovered that I had unwittingly enrolled in a credit monitoring plan that I was going to have to pay for every month. Needless to say, I didn’t want this service and decided to cancel it. That’s where things got stupid. Let me recreate the conversation:
Me: I’d like to cancel this service because I ordered it by mistake and don’t want it.
Lady on the Phone: OK, we can do that. Now the service you have is The Suck Your Money Out Of Your Wallet monitoring service. Do you know what it does?
Me: No, and I don’t really care. I ordered it by mistake and want to cancel it.
LOTP: I’m sorry to hear that. Now, the Suck Money Out Of Your Wallet service gives…
Me: Ma’am? Ma’am! MA’AM! I don’t want this service. I won’t use it and I’m on a tight budget and can’t afford it so please just cancel it. I ordered it by mistake and never wanted it. Please don’t try to sell it to me.
LOTP: Are you sure you’d like to cancel it? It will be open until June so if you decide not to cancel it you can call us back and we’ll happily suck more money out of your wallet. And we’ll be keeping the money we already sucked out of your wallet.*
She finally canceled it for me but acted like she was doing me a favor by no longer sucking money out of my wallet for an unwanted service.
And I ask you, when did it become the rule that every conversation with a commercial entity turn into a sales pitch?
Look, I know that making money is the American way and that direct pitches for products and services result in making money but it’s gotten out of control. Seriously, can’t a retail establishment be satisfied with the money I’m spending right at that very moment as I ring up my goods at the register and not start shoving a credit application down my throat in anticipation that I will spend more money at a later time? Truth be told, I’m less inclined to come back and spend money at stores where I have to defend my decision NOT to apply for a credit card despite the oh-so-enticing 10% discount I’d get for doing so. I threatened to stop shopping at the grocery store that wanted to help me bring my bags to the car. If that’s how I react to store that try to help me, how do you think I’m going to react to stores that try to make me poorer? Jeez.
It’s especially bad with any kind of telephone transaction. I tried to talk my cable company recently to gain access to the online bill-pay site and had to cut the tech support person off mid-sentence so get her to stop trying to sell me a digital phone service. The words “No thanks” did not dissuade her from launching into her scripted spiel and I was reduced to actually begging “Please! Don’t try to sell me anything! Just let me get to my account so I can pay you the money I already owe you!”
I think my objection to this stems from the tacit assumption that businesses are making that I’m too stupid to know what I do or do not want to buy. It’s like they have decided that even if I think I don’t want something, they know that I really do and they’ll talk at me until I concede and shove money in their faces. They’re so sure of their position that even the words “No thank you” are not weapon enough to stop their infernal sales force from telling me all about their amazing new product or service.
The limit was reached when a representative from the phone company knocked on my door at dinner time to try and convince me that I needed their entire package of phone cable and internet services. The guy got mad at me when I told him that I was too busy talking on the phone with my parents and feeding my toddler to listen to his pitch for a product that I didn’t want, didn’t need, and never asked about.
How did he figure I was the rude one in that transaction? Have I missed an etiquette class? Am I part of the vanguard of the New Rude in my refusal to have my intelligence insulted and time wasted by people who want to take my money from me? If that’s the case, then fine. I’m rude. I suck and I’m probably un-American for not wanting to throw my heard-earned money at any minimum wage employee who can read a scripted pitch. I will embrace that label.
I think the only solution to all of this is to buy an airhorn to blast into the phone any time a service call turns into a marketing meeting and I find myself on the receiving end of an unstoppable sales message. It probably won’t stop Big Business America from trying to get me to part ways with my paycheck, but it will make me feel better. And that’s what really counts.
* That last part is, if not exactly made up, a shorter, hopefully funnier, synopsis of all the disclaimers she gave me upon finally canceling the plan I never wanted.