I opened a checking account at a local bank recently. The teller was trying her darndest to get me to agree to a credit card that I didn’t want. She was good at it too. Even though I deny this to my wife, she was young and attractive and I was enjoying our interchange. She didn’t come right out and ask me if I wanted the card, but got me talking about myself. She shared a little about herself and at just the right moment slipped in the credit card pitch. I listened politely and even agreed with some of the points she made, which was a mistake. I used my standard way of weaseling out of it which is, “Before agreeing to anything, I need to talk it over with my wife.” This is an absolutely true statement. Katie handles the money and is savvier about money matters than I am. But this tactic always feels like a wimp’s way out, like I can’t make decisions for my self. But this young woman was determined. She must have felt she had her fish hooked and now just needed to reel him in. She called me at home that evening. She wanted me to know that I’m a valued customer with the bank and to make sure my overall banking experience had been to my liking. Only after softening me up a while, did she mention the credit card, sort of an Oh by the way tactic. I told her I wasn’t interested. She is still polite to me when I go into the bank, but doesn’t seem to care too much about my overall banking experience anymore.
I guess I should expect attempts to sell me things when I’m at places of business, but I hate it. I don’t like being manipulated. And after all these years I am still susceptible to being caught in their trap. I don’t know anybody who likes being accosted by a sales person, but we accept it as a way of life. Many times I’ve told myself, the next time a sales person comes after me with their phony baloney sales pitch thinly concealed by an interest in me as a person, I’m not going to react at all, but just keep walking. Or maybe I’ll summon up my inner Dirty Harry and out of the side of my mouth whisper, “Get lost asshole”.
I thought I was prepared when I was in the mall the other day. A young man approached me from one of the kiosks. He asked me about my current cell phone service. I told him I had T-Mobile which is what he was selling and he launched into his spiel about a new plan. Before I knew it, I was hooked again. The young man looked a little like my son and I figured he was trying to make an honest living. When I finally pulled away and caught up with Katie and my sister Karen, Katie asked me why I always stop and talk to those sales people. I told her “I don’t know”, and quietly practiced my “Get lost asshole” comeback hoping I’d be ready for the next one.
There is an inherent evil in Capitalism that our former and current enemies see more clearly than we do. Karl Marx built a philosophy around it and the Islamic extremists see it as the enemy of their faith. I looked up the definition of Capitalism in the dictionary: An economic system based on the private ownership of the means of production and distribution of goods, characterized by a free competitive market and motivated by profit. It’s from the last 3 words of the definition, motivated by profit, where the inherent evil springs. If there are no other values guiding the profit motive, all sorts of evils can occur.
It was in the mid 70’s when The Pepsi Challenge commercials first aired. A man stood behind a booth on a city street or in a shopping mall and offered passersby sips from two unmarked cups with cola in them. He then asked the individual which one tasted better. The person of course always chose Pepsi. The other cola was revealed as Coke. Coke had its own ad campaign and these dueling advertisements were referred to in the media as the Cola Wars. At the time I was a long haired liberal and into eating healthy foods. I thought both of these beverages should be poured down the toilet.
In the 1980’s, President Reagan deregulated businesses and they began to merge, the big ones gobbling up the smaller ones. I again thought of the Pepsi Challenge and The Cola Wars and had an idea for a novel, which of course then would be picked up by Hollywood and made into a feature film. It takes place in the future. Pepsi and Coke have become the dominant companies in America. All other businesses are subsidiaries of these two mega-companies. Every employed person in the US has loyalties to one or the other. This included politicians who are financially supported by either Pepsi or Coke. So everyone was a “company person” and had received many years of corporate brainwashing. People were allowed to only talk about what their company approved of. Everyone spewed the company line, even the news organizations, for they were owned by the Cola companies as well. Our hero and heroine were part of an underground group that regularly got together and practiced speaking the truth to one another.
I never wrote the novel, which is probably why I’m writing this blog and not screen plays for Hollywood. But every time I get caught by a sales person spinning a load of crap, I think of my underground revolutionaries practicing truth telling in the shadows. I also rehearse my Dirty Harry imitation. You never know.