Thursday, December 11, 2008


Dear Young Man Who Came to the Door Yesterday,

First, I'm terribly sorry that after the first five minutes of watching you stand in the wide open doorway thus allowing the (expensively) heated air to go bless the lives of the sparrows on the drive I went back to the work I was doing on my computer and only glanced up now and then. I'd like you to know that it wasn't just that you were spending that time telling me how much you hated my neighbors and how little you wanted to be doing what you were doing - it was that you were missing a front tooth and frankly, that makes me feel like my skin is trying to crawl off my body.

Second, when you asked your clearly canned and prompted question about my job, obviously in an effort to imply that you really were doing something to better yourself (rather than being used as slave labor by a corrupt and exploitative organization), I did try to explain what it is I do. When you responded with, "well, but, I mean, how do you design the web? Isn't it already up there?" and then suggested that I must be, "real smart, huh?" I felt you wouldn't recognize the irony in my response. I was right. This does make me feel, I'm afraid, that your stated chosen occupation of school teacher might be just a bit ambitious on your part. However, I do wish you luck with that.

Thirdly, when you invited yourself into my house (at least allowing us to close the door) and proceeded to try to "sell" me a volume from a set of books which I could happily donate to a local charity (without ever seeing it) based on a) guilt and b) your clearly scripted patter I want you to know that my response would have been the same to any t-shirt clad, dentally challenged person: no. I don't buy stuff in this way. I'm sure this placed me firmly with my neighbors on your long, long list of Not Nice People but I'm afraid that I cannot hope that you managed to find the 50 Nice People you had been tasked to find as you worked your way down the block.

Finally, I think you might want to take a closer look at the promised reward you told me about; you know, the one this fine organization that sent you out on a cold December day said you could earn? You said that you got points for every book bought and donated, yes? And that all you had to do was earn 350,000 points and you would get $5,000. Then you pulled out a cheap piece of paper with a list of about 20 titles, each with a point value next to it (yes, I did notice you didn't show me the cost for each book, but hey if I'm helping build a young man's public speaking prowess AND giving some homeless kids one more cheap copy of Bible Stories for Children I don't suppose one can really put a price on that) and I couldn't help but see that the highest point value on there was 50. Just wondering. Did you crunch those numbers at all? Let's take a look at it.

You need to earn 350,000 points. Let's be generous and assume that you have some Very Nice People indeed who only choose 50 point books. So, 350,000/50. That's 7,000 books. We'll go ahead and further assume that you manage to get an order for every five doors you knock on. And hey, I'm being generous so I'll even let you assume it's a consistent TWO book order. Now, you spent ten minutes at my house and didn't get to go all the way through the sales portion of the pitch, but maybe ten minutes is a nice, round number. Five doors times ten minutes is fifty minutes. We'll tack the extra ten minutes on for walking which means you make 100 points per hour. Which means you need to spend 70 hours walking the streets, knocking on doors and making your pitch in order to make your goal. Two weeks work (well, minus ten hours, but work with me). On the one hand, $2,500 a week is pretty good pay, particularly at your age.


The organization that sent you out, the one providing the books, let's just guess that they're making a profit of... say... $5.00 on each book. You sell 7,000 which means they get $35,000 off of your work. Of course, I didn't see the price list you understand, but I can sort of imagine that they might charge something like $20 for a book and if these are the sorts of books I'm thinking about I just might guess that the profit margin is even higher.

And then let's just imagine for a moment that you didn't make your goal. That you, and the other teens I saw out walking the streets yesterday, somehow don't get to that magic number. Do you get paid anything then for the time you put in? Or is it all just down to experience.

I know I feel I've learned something.


Anonymous said...

Poor guy.

Anonymous said...

Unfortunately, there's also the possibility they were casing the neighborhood. Nice way to figure out who has a plasma tv inside.

I'm way too cynical of my fellow man. Sigh.

Megan said...

Anon1 - I know, I was simply furious at the entire scam. This company (whoever they were) hadn't taught this guy anything except how to be a cold call salesman - and they had done a lousy job at that as well. They dangled the prospect of this money (which he will never be able to earn) and tried to coerce people to buy their over-priced, cheaply produced books with the double lure of "doing it for charity" and "doing it to help the youff." Grrrr.


Anon2 - yup, a large part of me wondered that as well. Fortunately we are not the large-plasma-tv types (and some of our neighbors are - which sadly makes them more of a target) but it does make me very unwilling to leave the door unlocked even if we're home.