As we’ve discussed previously, it has become a popular sales technique to get a foot in the door by posing as a no-strings-attached research study, and then transitioning to the hard sell. (This is called SUGGING, or Selling Under the Guise of Research.) I’ve recently moved to a new neighborhood, and I’m finding that it’s a hot spot for door-to-door marketing tactics of all kinds. I get fliers left in the screen door by the ton, weekly visits from Jehovah’s Witnesses, and now the traveling salesmen. Salesmen in researcher’s clothing, as it were. Read on.

Earlier this week I answered my door to find a well-dressed man holding a box of baking soda. He asked if I was the lady of the house (who says that kind of stuff anymore? clearly, this should have been a clue …) and proceeded to hand me the baking soda and tell me he gets paid for getting my opinion about a product. As I was wondering, “How does one evaluate baking soda?”, he sprinted away calling over his shoulder that he’d be right back with the product, and I was left on my stoop, somewhat dumbfounded, holding a box of baking soda and watching a grown man run down my sidewalk in slacks and a button-down. He was back in a flash with a box and a friend, and before I knew what was going on, he had a vacuum cleaner assembled in the middle of my two-week-old living room carpet. Then guy number one was out the door (off to the next house) and the new guy was sticking filters in a window box on the vacuum and showing me what was coming out of my new carpet (mostly dog hair), then my couch (horrifying!), and then my mattress (ew!). I was kinda digging the couch cleaning because I’ve got a thrift store number that dates to at least the 60’s and he was doing a really thorough job. And because I’m obviously the most na├»ve person imaginable, (and in my defense it was my first encounter with the door-to-door salesmen) I was thinking, “This is great! When do I get the questionnaire to fill out?!”

But as you may suspect – and to my great disappointment – there was no questionnaire. There was only a price worksheet with available payment plans for this industrial quality vacuum, which retails for just shy of $2,000 (!), and, of course, includes the carpet shampoo kit, etc. And not only that, but purchasing the vacuum will help the salesman (in researcher’s clothing) to win a contest for which the prize is a trip to Phoenix (!) to hobnob with company executives. Now, I understand that Phoenix in the summer is a top vacation destination, so I can imagine the desire this man has to win the competition. However, under no circumstances (and I say this despite my obsession with cleaning and my newfound awareness of the filth in my home) am I going to purchase a $2,000 vacuum cleaner! So I politely, but firmly, declined and sent the nice men on their way.

What I’ve learned is this: If a strange man solicits your opinion with a box of baking soda (which, by the way, was ground into my carpet and then sucked back out for purposes of demonstration) do not get your hopes up for a survey! These door-to-door “researchers” are already confident that you will like their product; all they want to know is whether you can be convinced to buy it!