He Said She Said: Hustling Or Hassling?

Mr PoP and I found ourselves caught in a little bit of a tourist trap recently and ended up eating dinner in a sports bar/casual dining chain there. The food was okay, the service was atrocious (we’re pretty sure our waiter was high), but that’s kindof par for the course in a place like that, right?

There was something else a bit off about the experience, though. Over the course of our brief dinner, no fewer than two separate salespeople came up to diners at the restaurant (and employees, too!) and pitched them on their products. Here’s how it went…

  • Sales Pitch #1 came from a high-school aged girl scout and her mom. They had cases of girl scout cookies on a small dolly and sold them to a group of fairly drunk older men sitting at the bar, as well as a couple tables on the patio on their way out. Later in the evening we spotted the same mother/daughter pair selling them to folks drinking at an open-air bar* down the beach.
  • Sales Pitch #2 came from a millenial-ish woman selling some sort of cosmetics. (I wish I could tell you the brand, but we couldn’t spot what was written on the bags without being obvious and risking getting dragged in to the ordeal.) She approached tables of young women enjoying drinks and dinner on the outside patio (adjacent to the sidewalk) and made her sales pitch. Apparently it was good enough that not only did the diners buy whatever she was selling, but their server (who was in the same demographic) went and got her own credit card and handed it over to the saleswoman as well!

Perhaps not surprisingly, Mr PoP and I had very different reactions to these ambitious saleswomen.

He Said

I have a ton of respect for retail sales associates, and maybe especially the ones that are doing door-to-door or street vendor sales. The combination of mental toughness and sales ability that is necessary to do this well is off the charts, and many times these positions are filled by people just getting started in sales. If the diners in the restaurant don’t want to talk to the vendor, they can just say “no” or flat out tell them to get lost-if the street vendor doesn’t think there is a sale to be had they will quickly move on.

While we were there I’m guessing that the makeup girl sold about $50 of worthless hand lotion. In return the buyers had their egos stroked, their hands moisturized, and their hopes and dreams of flawless skin built up, and everybody else at the restaurant got an entertaining show. This is a win-win for everybody!

She Said

Whoa! When did it become normal to let your customers get hassled by salespeople for other companies when they are in your business establishment? Whatever happened to “No Soliciting” signs that used to be par for the course on the front door of businesses?

It’s one thing for the girl scouts to set up shop outside our neighborhood grocery store when their cookies are in season (and yes, I think of girl scout cookies as seasonal like fine produce!). Heck, I’m already going there to buy groceries, so getting hit up for some girl scout cookies while there doesn’t really strike me as wrong. Especially not when they are perfecting their sales tactic at a young age like the one Mr PoP dealt with this weekend.

Mr PoP: Do you have any thin mints?
Tiny Girl Scout Missing Front Teeth: Yes, would you like a case? (Huge Smile… this girl knew what she was doing.)
Mr PoP: One box will be fine, thanks. But good upsell!

That felt cute, and we were already primed and in “buying groceries” mode so it didn’t seem like a hassle – it felt like a fun add-on to an otherwise boring stop for milk.

But at the restaurant, the pitches just fell flat to me. At a restaurant, I’m generally there to have a decent meal and spend time with those I came with. I’m not in the mood to buy face cream or girl scout cookies.

Maybe this makes me a grumpy old lady, but I think the girl scout and the young saleswoman crossed a line between hustling to sell their wares and hassling a captive audience. And I think that’s just not cool.

* For what it’s worth, the underaged girl scout was not technically in the bar. She was selling to imbibers while standing on the other side of a thin rope that separated the sidewalk from the bar.


What do you think? Were these two sales pitches fine examples of “hustling” to make a buck? Or were they more like hassling a captive audience?

38 comments to He Said She Said: Hustling Or Hassling?

  • Hmm, I hear you both. As someone who used to do door-to-door sales, I have HUGE appreciation for what it takes to be able to cold call on strangers for sales. However, I would never have done it (or have been allowed to do it) at a restaurant. I can see this kind of thing happening in Mexico or a developing country, but I’m guessing that’s not where you were. Makes you wonder if the manager or owner was getting a percentage of the sales from these people- otherwise I can’t imagine why a restaurant owner would allow this.
    Dee @ Color Me Frugal recently posted..The End of an Era: Renouncing My Status as a Clothes HorseMy Profile

  • When I was in Morocco last summer the sellers would almost sit with you while you eat, a couple even asked clients for a cigarette and waited there puffing.
    I don’t like salesmen unless I need them and initiate the talk because I want to buy, so in a bar I would be annoyed.
    And if I were a mother I wouldn’t want my little girl anywhere near the drunks!
    Pauline recently posted..Little house in Guatemala, month 13My Profile

  • Did these people have the permission of the restaurant? If so, then I don’t think I really agree with the restaurant’s decision but that’s certainly not the fault of the saleswomen. If not then I don’t think they have any right to be doing that. In any case, if I was eating there it would annoy me. Kind of like pop-up ads on the web.
    Matt Becker recently posted..This is the Moment Where All That Saving Pays OffMy Profile

  • When I go to the grocery store with a list and a budget, the last thing I need is to be approached by an adorable toddler selling cookies (especially when I’m with my kids). We bought one box a few weeks ago, so now I just say “we already bought some” and try not to feel like an asshole. We really don’t need cookies in this house.
    Holly@ClubThrifty recently posted..My Frugal Bathroom Cabinet RemodelMy Profile

  • Hasseling, for sure, because they approached people at tables. I have only once seen a girl scout in a restaurant, and she just sat by the door. I went and bought cookies, but I saw that as my free choice; she wasn’t doing anything at all to interrupt our dinner.

    I’d be pretty angry if someone tried to solicit us while we were at our table. I don’t even like people who solicit on the street and hassle me as I walk by. Set up your wears: if I’m interested, I will stop, and then you can give the pitch.
    Leah recently posted..Ultrasound picsMy Profile

  • I can see both sides of this argument: for kids, I think it’s important to learn to assert yourself in difficult situations.

    It’s also awesome to do crappy jobs (like door to door sales) so that you know a good job when you see it!

    BUT I also think that training people that the best way to make a deal is to get in their face and “not take no for an answer” is to miss the entire point of good sales and prospecting.
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  • CincyCat

    Hmmm… I don’t know how it is in your area, but our Girl Scout council requires troops to sell at a table outside the establishment (not allowed indoors except for inclement weather). The upsell made me chuckle, though, because that sounds exactly like something my daughter would do. The hand-cream lady is a bit weird. I agree with Mrs. PoP on that one. I go to a restaurant to eat & relax, not to be trapped as a captive audience for a sales pitch. I wonder if she’s related to the restaurant owner or manager, because I can’t imagine a restaurant owner allowing the activity otherwise.

  • In NYC, you get people selling illegal DVDs coming into stores. You’ll be at the post office, a restaurant, a nail salon, etc. and the person comes in, saying “DVD? DVD? DVD?” really quickly and then if you glance at them, they’ll come over and show you their illegal collection. I’ve never purchased but I do find it funny when they come into a business!

    Like you said, it is weird that no-soliciting rules seemed to have gone by the wayside…
    Tara @ Streets Ahead Living recently posted..$500 For a Dress Likely Made in a Sweatshop?My Profile

  • Oh, wow. This happens a lot in Asia and even Europe, but the US?!

    Totally uncool.
    eemusings recently posted..Surviving a layoff: 2009 vs 2014My Profile

  • […] PoP’s did a He said/She said post about hustling vs. hassling. I have to side with the Mrs. on this […]

  • Wow, super uncool. That would have made me incredibly uncomfortable. I would have complained to the restaurant as well. The whole point of going out to eat is to enjoy food and conversation, not to be hassled to buy stuff (besides dessert or an appetizer).
    Mr. 1500 recently posted..Ask the Readers: Are you a landlord?My Profile

  • Meghan

    I loathe being sold to in public places like that. Today I’m sick and had to go in to the pharmacy to get a thermometer and ice cream (naturally). Some sales dude tried to make a joke as a convo starter, but I am sure I gave him the death stare.

  • I’ll give a pass to girl scouts selling cookies just about anywhere (though a high schooler is pushing it). I figure it’s a non-commercial organization, so there’s a different set of social rules that apply. Selling cosmetics while I’m eating dinner? That’s over the line. Though I agree with Mr. Pop: I have respect for people doing those kind of sales. It can be thankless work.
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  • I would have been irritated by people selling stuff IN an establishment too. Outside, like you said, is another thing.
    Tonya@Budget and the Beach recently posted..The Cost of Living in ParadiseMy Profile

  • Definitely have to go with hassling. I get that it’s difficult to do what they are doing, but that doesn’t make it right. If they had come to my table I definitely would have complained.
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  • I think its hassling. Some people don’t get that others don’t want to be hassled. I know I sure don’t when I go out. i would have told that girl to politely leave me the hell alone. So not interested in the sales pitches.
    Debt and the Girl recently posted..I Got to Meet my Savings IdolMy Profile

  • Anne

    Hassling. As much as I like girl scout cookies (and I’m also good with them being set up in front of a store), if I’m out at dinner part of what I’m paying for is the ambiance and experience, it’s not an errand like getting groceries. Although full disclosure I don’t mind it when they (or the kids with the candy bars) sell at our bowling alley. On principal I know it’s the same thing, but when push comes to shove girl scout cookies and candy bars are far better than snack bar nachos!

  • Wow. I would have been SO surprised to see this cosmetics lady! I think that every business has a duty to protect its patrons from these types of people. If my bf and I were out and had this lady come up to us he probably wouldn’t have had anything nice to say to her! LOL

    On the other hand, I think that Girl Scouts tend to get a free pass when it comes to stuff like this. And at least she wasn’t actually inside the establishment.

    All in all, I love a good sales pitch. I’ve been in sales for the better part of my adult life, and, like someone else mentioned here, I also have a great deal of respect for people who are successful in that field.
    Sharon recently posted..“Someday” is not on the calendarMy Profile

  • Oh no way! I would have been super irritated! I hate it when people try to sell me things, but even worse if they’re forced upon me while I’m eating dinner! Actually, I think the absolute worst is friends trying to guilt me into supporting their Avon/vitamin/candle/Pampered Chef businesses. I truly, truly find it appalling when people try to use my relationship with them to sell me crap I don’t need.

    I’m so cold-hearted that I don’t even buy Girl Scout cookies. They are overpriced!
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  • I’ll take the other side of this.

    It depends on how the pitch is delivered, who is delivering and what’s being sold. A smelly bum selling (whatever) might not be as welcome as a Girl Scout or a presentable young person. You gotta make a living, and it might one day be *you* on the other side of the transaction, depending on the fickle vagaries of fate.
    101 Centavos recently posted..Keystone XL Pipeline, Boo!My Profile

  • Hmmm, I always have a corrosive reaction to this sort of sales proposition, but I guess it depends on how prevalent it is. I feel like it could be a slippery slope. In Vegas you can’t walk down the street without being pestered by people trying to sell you hookers. It’s really annoying and you could see that sort of thing happening in a restaurant if they didn’t keep them out. But in your case it sounds like these women are just two ambitious sales people who aren’t bothering anyone.
    Cash Rebel recently posted..cottage food laws: How to sell homemade foodMy Profile

  • Definitely hassling. Even cute Girl Scouts need to learn to respect social boundaries and a grown woman shouldn’t have to be told that some things are just not “done.” Was this a chain restaurant? I suspect that the manager would get in biiiig trouble with corporate if anyone got mad enough about it. But an annoyance scale of one to ten, I would rate that like a three–I wouldn’t get worked up about it, but I would definitely not go back to the restaurant. (Not that I make a habit of eating in sports bars anyway!)
    Frugal Paragon recently posted..Net Worth Same, Financial Security UpMy Profile

  • I’m with you, Mrs. PoP. That was tacky and absolutely unacceptable. Outside of a grocery store is one thing, but at your dinner table is completely another. Yuck!
    Laurie @thefrugalfarmer recently posted..What My Daughter’s Self-Defense Class Taught Me About DebtMy Profile

  • This is a fine line… If I am at a 1 or 2 star restaurant, fine no big deal. However, if I am paying a premium for the ambiance of a nicer place then I would be very annoyed.

    Hustle vs Hassle? If I don’t want the junk being sold, it is hassling. If I want what is being sold, then it’s a value added service. For the people starting out in sales, if you feel like you are hustling stuff, then you are selling the wrong product or service…IMHO

  • “we’re pretty sure our waiter was high)” Lol.

    Erg–I think this would’ve driven me nuts. You can’t even enjoy your meal without being approached by someone who wants your money? I don’t like that. It drives me crazy just to walk down the street and have people ask me to buy things, signs things, etc. Then again, this is kind of weird–when I visited Bogota and Rome, this happened ALOT, people trying to sell stuff. It was incessant. Yet I didn’t find it annoying at all. What’s up with that? Maybe I didn’t find it annoying because I was on their territory and not at home? Yeah, that’s probably it.

    Anyway, I think I gotta go with hassle on this one.
    Kristin Wong recently posted..Frugal finds at the Asian grocery storeMy Profile

  • I see it more as hassling, especially at a dining establishment. Like you, I don’t mind being hit up for girl scout cookies, or salvation army donations at Christmas, or what have you. But if I’m eating somewhere, the last thing I want is for someone to bother me during my meal, and for me to have to decline their offer. Especially because I know how much gumption it takes to do cold calls face to face…
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  • Haha, I love the upsell! I agree it’s tacky, but I don’t really mind it since I just tell them no thanks and they move on. I do think they shouldn’t have done it in the first place, though, but if people were buying stuff then it just encourages the behavior.
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  • Debbie M

    This is America! You are ALWAYS supposed to be in the mood to buy. That’s what makes our country great!

    Um, I have issues. I never want people coming up to me and asking me if I want to buy something–whether that’s your scenario, calling my house, or approaching me on the street. If I want to buy something (or make a donation or figure out who to vote for), I don’t sit around waiting until someone makes me an offer; I go looking. I also go browsing–but to specific places. I am so, so glad we have much less of this than Mexico and other places. I basically think of it as a kind of spam.

    And that’s even though I sold Girl Scout cookies (or Camp Fire Girl candy) for twelve years. Although I did what I had to, in my adult life, I don’t do any selling. And I try not to even get the kind of job where I do begging, reminding, etc. I like the kind where people come to me for things, and then I do the things–the end.

  • While I appreciate the “spirit” of the hustle, I’d be very annoyed if I was approached while I was eating. The grocery store or the street is one thing, but to approach me while I’m paying to eat is another (and I’d be annoyed with the restaurant for allowing the sellers to approach me, not the actual vendors trying to make a buck). Man, I love girl scout cookies. Bf bought 3 boxes from co-worker’s kids. Sadly, nobody at my work has kids that age.
    KK @ Student Debt Survivor recently posted..Hey High Schools! Where’s My Financial Education?My Profile

  • People do this with Native American jewelry all the time here, especially on the weekends. It annoys me quite a bit. I never like to be interrupted during dinner, but maybe I am a cranky old lady too! I do feel like the Girl Scouts are getting more aggressive. It used to be that they came around with the order form and then delivered. Selling in front of the grocery store came later, kind of as a team effort. This year, they must have had to sell a certain amount because I’ve seen tons of moms with a back seat full of boxes of cookies. There is one who camps out in the school parking lot after she drops off her kids and sells to parents. I have no problem with the Girl Scouts, but if Mom has to sit in the parking lot and sell the cookies, there is no way we’ll ever sign up for that!
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    • CincyCat

      Troops can earn a larger amount “per box” after the per-girl average exceeds a certain number of boxes. There are tiers for this, and booth/table sales count towards the total. Some troops have taken this to mean it is OK to set a “quota” per girl, but thankfully, our troop does not do this. In my opinion, setting quotas for elementary-aged children only serves to make girls feel badly about themselves if they fall short, but one can only hope that these troops are not calling out the lower selling girls publicly.

  • spiffi

    I would be SUPER annoyed if I was enjoying my dinner and was interrupted by random sales people. I would have complained to the manager and if the manager indicated that this was something they felt was acceptable, that would not be a restaurant I returned to.

    Years ago, there was a girl scout who figured out that she could come into our office building and get preorders from just about everyone in the building. Our office in particular, didn’t have anyone who had kids in the scouts, so we were *thrilled* to be able to order them and have them delivered to us every year. Eventually that girl grew up and I have no doubt she will be running a company at some point :)

    Now – my co-worker and I have had to make enormous efforts this year to *find* girl scout cookies. We hadn’t seen any, and were worried that we would miss it this year (since we missed the season last year). We actually found the website and determined that they would be at the Kmart across the road from our office on a Friday afternoon – but when we got there, there were no girl scouts to be seen!

    I did finally find a table in front of the grocery store. And try as I might to engage the girls in the transaction, they were more interested in playing and it was clearly the moms who were manning the store.

  • Hassling…but I wouldn’t have been rude to the people selling. Would have politely said, “No thank you” and then never would eat at that place again. The restaurant deserves my retribution for allowing that to occur, not the salespeople.
    Brian @ Luke1428 recently posted..Price Limits, Blow Money and the 24-Hr. RuleMy Profile

  • I think it’s inappropriate to have customers hassled while they are in an establishment. In front of or outside of the restaurant, maybe, but not while they are enjoying themselves (supposedly) on a patio. That’s just my opinion. I wouldn’t like it very much if it happened to me!
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  • Oh my god, totally hassling! I’ve never experienced sales pitches at a restaurant, that’s totally obnoxious. I’m shocked adults were in on this (GS mother and cosmetic peddler).

    I can appreciate hustling, but there is definitely an appropriate time and place.
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  • I am not at the restaurant to be hustled by anyone other than my server-and I expect (and am fine) with that! I would not return to that establishment and find it really weird that that happened.
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  • I’m on the hassling team for sure. I’m so busy doing my own hassle-free hustling, the last thing I’d want is to be hassled during my downtime. Some people just don’t get it. :S
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  • I can see both sides, but I think I agree more with Mr. PoP – unless you tell the salespeople you’re not interested and they keep hassling you. I think it’s sort of impressive that they even thought to look for new sales in strange places, like chain/sports bars. Not really where I’d think to go to pick up my Girl Scout cookies… although I have eaten a few weird things after a few too many drinks.
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