Review Feature

Birth of a salesman

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It is the most difficult question moms and dads are ever forced to answer. Say "yes" and you'll alienate every neighbor, friend and cherished family member you possess. Say "no" and your child will conclude, once and for all, that you are the Darth Vader of parents.

But there's no way around it. You've got to say SOMETHING when Junior races home with one of those catalogs emblazoned with the words, "Earn Fabulous Prizes By Selling Hilariously Overpriced Junk To Every Grown-Up Nincompoop You Know!"

My advice: Say no, firmly and without hesitation. Eventually, your child will conclude that you are the Darth Vader of parents, no matter how obliging you are. And when that time comes, you won't be a complete social outcast. Like me. Ever since I allowed my son's burgeoning entrepreneurial spirit and love of merchandise to cloud my thinking.

"Look, Dad!," he once exclaimed while flipping through the catalog. "If I sell just 30 rolls of gift wrap, I can get a microscope! If I sell 200, I can get a mountain bike! And if I sell 146,500, I can get a luxury timeshare condo in Orlando!"

The first catch, of course, was that he had no real intention of selling anything. He fully expected every adult member of his family to do it for him.

After curing the lad of this delusion, I magnanimously offered to share with him my vast knowledge of modern, sure-fire sales techniques.

Mastering the art of the sale

In my lifetime, you see, I have fielded perhaps one zillion phone calls from smart, savvy telemarketers. So I know that the primary keys to success in sales are to 1) annoy people until they buy something just to get you out of their lives and 2) overcome objections with uncanny logic or, if that doesn't work, rudeness.

To demonstrate, I improvised for my son a typical dialogue between a smart, savvy telemarketer and his unsuspecting prey:

"Good evening, dear sir, You know, it always seems like somebody's birthday or one holiday or another is just around the corner and..."

"I don't need any gift wrap."

"Oh. I see. You're the kind of skinflint who doesn't buy presents for his loved ones."

"That's not what I said."

"Oh. Then you do buy presents for your loved ones, but you wrap them in... what? Newspaper?"

"What I use for gift wrap is none of your business!"

"Au contraire. It just so happens that gift wrap is my business. So...should I put you down for 20 or 30 rolls?"

"No! No! LISTEN. I'll buy one roll if you promise to never bother me again."

"Ha, ha ha ha. Sorry. I can't be bought for less than five rolls. That's my best offer. Take it or leave it."

"All right! Five rolls! Whatever you say!"

Wrapping up

Despite the proven time-honored effectiveness of this approach, my son ignored it, opting instead for a surprisingly effective telemarketing pitch of his own invention:

"Hi. Wanna buy some gift wrap?"

"No."

"Whaaaaaaa! Now I'm never gonna get that luxury timeshare condo in Orlando! Thanks a lot! Whaaaaaaaaa!"

"OK, OK! Jeez. Gimme 20 rolls."

"Would you like the floral design or the penguins dressed like ballerinas?"

"The penguins. And one more thing. Tell your parents I'm never speaking to them again."

"OK. Thanks, Grandpa!"

As you can imagine, this campaign has alienated every neighbor, friend and cherished family member we possess. Not only that, my son now thinks I'm the Darth Vader of parents because I won't let him check out his new timeshare condo in Orlando.

And me? Well, as we speak, there are 146,500 rolls of hilariously overpriced gift wrap in my closet.

You know, dear reader, it always seems like somebody's birthday or one holiday or another is just around the corner and ...

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