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.
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!
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?