I feel bombarded by advertising. It creeps into my home through the mail slot; it shouts at me through the television set one moment and then crooks its finger and gives me a come hither look the next; it even jumps out at me from my computer like a child from behind the sofa, and clutters up the pages of some of my favorite blog sites. This constant nagging by advertisers may get my back up sometimes, but annoyance is fruitless. I could turn this post into a rant, blow off a little steam, but what would be the point? Commercialism is an inextricable part of the American economy and culture and I do not relish the idea of becoming a hermit in order to avoid it.
So I have learned to just deal with it. I sort through the mail as soon as it comes; most of it goes into the recycle bin, but with the increase of identity theft, more and more of it goes into the shredding pile. I open all of the sealed mail, extract the envelopes with prepaid postage and place them in the “return to sender” pile...unless they come from charities; I certainly don’t object to anyone trying to raise a few bucks for a good cause. With the others, I figure I am doing my small bit to keep the postal service in business a little while longer.
Unless television commercials are as equally entertaining as the show I am watching, I just press the pause button and go make a cup of tea, or change the load in the washing machine, or pick up a book and read for a few minutes. Tivo is a beautiful thing. Before you begin to suspect product placement in this post, let me hasten to assure you that I was not paid to say that.
I never even read the pop ups on my computer, although I must admit I did click on the one about belly fat, once, out of curiosity. I didn’t buy either the advertisement or the product.
But what do I do about phone calls? I cannot tell you how many times I have been in the basement shifting piles or pricing goods for a garage sale when the phone rings. I have a husband who travels frequently and I don’t want to miss his calls, so I race upstairs to catch it before the answering machine switches on. More often than not it is a recorded urgent message about credit card rates or a solicitor who won’t take no for an answer. I signed on to the “do not call” list some years ago and it helped for a while, but marketers and politicians are creative blokes and have found the loopholes in the system.
One of my first jobs was telephone soliciting for a charity that collected used, household goods. I will never forget the call I made to an elderly woman who had probably dragged her lonely, arthritic bones out of a comfortable chair to answer her phone. The disappointment in her voice when she realized I was only interested in her cast-offs rather than her conversation was palpable—and, for me, culpable. I quit after a week.
Having experienced the trade of telephone soliciting myself, however, I can’t blame someone for trying to earn a little money for college or put food on the table, and I know what it feels like to have someone yell or hang up on me. I believe in treating others with kindness and courtesy, so I have constructed a response that, hopefully, should satisfy each of us:
“Forgive me for interrupting you, but I don’t want to waste your time; I’m sure you have a long list of other, more promising folks to bother [this morning] and would like to get on with it. Thank you for your polite and professional manner, and I don’t blame you for trying.”
Click. The click is usually mine, but sometimes it belongs to the polite and professional person on the other end of the line.
Now, lest you think I am some kind of radical hell-bent on overthrowing the applecart, let me assure you that I am not. There are some forms of advertising I welcome into my home with open arms. A coupon from Pottery Barn can leave me weak in the knees, and I received a set of catalogues from Restoration Hardware yesterday that are so beautifully photographed I assigned them the homeowner’s place of pride; I removed the book of artwork by Robert Bateman and the book about tea traditions around the world and put the catalogues on the coffee table in the livingroom.