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The Dangers Of Door-To-Door Selling

22/05/2016 9:13 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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Stranger at the door

I answered the doorbell.

Two young women, probably in their early 20s, smiled brightly at me and said, "Good morning Ma'am! Can we speak to you for a few minutes?"

They were decently clothed, each carrying a backpack, and looked like the office-going women one sees everyday on the streets.

"May we come in?" They asked sweetly, totally ignoring my perplexed expression.

Of course, I wasn't sure if I could let them in.

I was home alone and I've read stories of thefts and scams by women like this.

They came in anyway, took their seats and started a sales pitch about caring for cancer patients.

They had been trained well. But despite their eager, hard-selling faces, I was frantically looking for excuses to pack them off as politely as I could without parting with any money.

[D]idn't they put themselves in danger by entering the drawing rooms of so many strangers' homes each day?

Sure enough, they took out a bunch of receipts and cheques to show me the transparency of their system. None of the cheques were made for anything less than ₹8500.

I gently told them I'd have to check with my husband and would get back to them through their website. They were reluctant and tried to appeal to my compassionate side, but I didn't give in.

They left after having a glass of water.

My sigh of relief was short-lived. I suddenly realized that while the women may have been part of a legitimate organization, didn't they put themselves in danger by entering the drawing rooms of so many strangers' homes each day?

There are so many lecherous, predatory men waiting for a chance like this.

And two isn't an ideal number for safety.

There is a report of rape in the papers every single day.

What exactly is the point of companies that use these women to canvas for their cause like this?

We, as parents, teach our children not to talk to strangers, not to accept money or any other gift from people we don't know. Then when they're barely out of their teens, we send them off to total strangers' homes to do the very opposite.

[My brother's friend] was so naive he didn't even think people mistook him for a beggar! At age 10, he was just following his teacher's instructions.

On the other hand, crooks use the guise of the same vulnerable sales force to gain entry into households for thefts.

My mother-in-law had a surprise visit one Sunday night from two women posing as officials from the gas agency to check the cylinder. They demanded ₹2000 to fix an alleged leak in the tubes. They left only after a belligerent neighbour from the next apartment stepped in and ordered them out.

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When I was in grade 8, there was this drive to collect money for an NGO for senior citizens in my school. A lady from the organization addressed us during the morning assembly to enlighten us on the plight of the neglected elderly and how we could help them.

Each of us was given a form with our names on top with 20 blank lines below to fill with the donors' names and the amount.

We were urged to ask our family, neighbours and friends for donations. We were also given a minimum individual target.

That evening, I approached two of my neighbours. One literally shut the door on my face and another reluctantly parted with ₹10.

Feeling very humiliated, I stormed back home and banned my younger brother from trying to get donations even before he began.

Once my father came back home from work, I related the incident to him and demanded he pay our minimum target to save us from further embarrassment. He readily agreed and offered to meet my principal the following day to give him a piece of his mind. He reluctantly let it go, after I begged him not to.

Imagine our shock a few days later, when my brother's classmate dropped in for a game of table tennis (on our dining table) with his pocket jingling with coins.

Please, please let's not support a system that puts so many children and young adults in danger, and helps conmen/women misuse it too.

When we asked him how come he had so many coins, he replied it was his collection of the day for the drive. He said the teacher said he could ask strangers too, so he'd been approaching people waiting in the bus stops on his way to school and everywhere else.

We were horrified. We told him off and asked him to stop it at once. He was a very well-off boy, who lived in a posh house with his parents and brother. And he was so naive he didn't even think people mistook him for a beggar! At age 10, he was just following his teacher's instructions.

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Really! Aren't there any other means to raise funds for a cause without using kids and young women like this?

True, there are certain smart kids who are confident and capable enough to collect money, but what about kids like me, my brother and his friend?

I'm sure this marketing system was a successful business model once, but what is the point of hard-selling door-to-door, when SMS/phone marketing have taken over?

Please, please let's not support a system that puts so many children and young adults in danger, and helps conmen/women misuse it too.

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