Over the years I’ve learned a thing or two about money from my wise parents. They set a good example for me that has carried over into my adult life. As a college student I began to run into people trying to sell a naive young woman something she totally didn’t need. Now, let me start by saying that I too have worked in sales and so I’m in no way saying anything negative about people who work in sales. Those people are simply doing their job. Everybody’s got to make a living! There is a big difference between sales people and con artists. You can be polite and respectful to sales people.
You may find yourself in various situations where people bait you to a store or presentation with something free only to put heavy sales pressure on you for the actual product they are pushing. If you find yourself in a scenario where you went into a situation thinking you were getting something free, you can walk out with that free item without buying into the other or “actual” item they are selling.
The Bait: A Free Honeymoon
One very distinct situation I found myself in was just before I got married. I went to one of those bridal shows and I put my name and address on everything they were giving away for free because I’d won gift baskets at similar shows. A few days later I got a call saying that my name had been drawn at the show and that I had won a honeymoon cruise or vacation to 1 of 6 destinations of my choice. I immediately asked about the “catch”. The person seemed a little thrown off and simply replied that in order to claim the prize I needed to show up at a hotel ballroom on a particular day and sit through a short presentation and after the presentation I would get my trip information all set up. In my situation the bait was a free honeymoon.
Now my dad point-blank told me not to go. He told me it was going to be a high pressure sales presentation. I however really wanted to see if I could go in and get out with a free trip as I was told I had won. My fiance (now hubby) was up for the challenge as well. So we went. They were also offering free food, so how could two college kids ignore that?
You’re Now Entering the Twilight Zone…
Once we arrived, there were about 6 other young couples in the room just like us. The presentation began and they were literally showing us this cooking set that could do all kinds of really crazy things. Almost Doctor Suess-like. You could stack them on top of one another and cook. You could steam, you could boil and these pots would make you the greatest cook in the world. Practically magical. What wasn’t magical was the price. When they threw down the price of $2,000 I almost fell out.
When they started talking “payment plans”, all the eyes in the room lit up and the young couples started really paying attention. This was one of those times I had a bizarre outer perspective. Like being in situations where everyone was drinking the sales cool-aid except for me. They handed out forms to complete to get your trip and so we filled out our form really, really slow. We did it on purpose. We sat there and watched 5 couples in-debt themselves to $2,000 worth of pots & pans for probably the next 10 years of their lives for a “free” vacation!
This was a total “bait” you and then switch what you were really there for. When it was our turn, the sales person came up with a grin and asked us if were on board like everyone else. I told him flat-out no way. They had told me that I won a free trip and that was what I came for. We had waited so long that the next group of “
victims” “winners” were waiting outside and they didn’t have time to talk with us so they shipped us out as quickly as possible. We walked out with our free trip.
Ironically, we didn’t even get to use it. You know why? Because there were strings attached. We had to travel on certain days and by a certain time that was months before our wedding! The only good thing I got from the whole thing was more confidence for the future in handling such sales situations.
Your Escape Plan:
1. Read the Fine Print– Anytime you find yourself in a situation where someone is offering you something free, I immediately look for “strings” or “fine print”. This is a good policy for coupons too. You probably see these kinds of things in a car dealership or gym membership mailer. If you see lots of exclusions or other requirements, it’s probably better to let it go.
- My favorite retail store is Kohls because they are one of the few places that don’t tack on tons of fine print to coupons. You can use them on almost every item in the store (regular price, sale or clearance) and you don’t have to worry that when you get to the register, you have 2 items that don’t “qualify”. When they send you $10 off your purchase, it’s $10 off period. You could get an item for $10 and walk out only paying tax.
2. Don’t Fear Confrontation- If you don’t see lots of strings and decide it’s worth if for you to go after the free trip or item you are going to have to make up your mind about one thing. You have to decide that no matter how good the switch pitch is, you came there for the free thing and you are walking out with the free thing. This means that you may have to stop with being all polite and be real with the sales person. I don’t mean being rude, nasty or mean, I just mean being direct. It’s not a social norm way to handle stuff (at least if you live in the South), but once you lay down the truth the sales person knows they have lost you.
3. Walk Away- If you find yourself in a situation where the sales pressure is getting high, simply tell the person that you have changed your mind and are uninterested. The simplest answer is, “No thanks, I’m not interested” and physically walking away. That is far better than trying to be nice and getting talked into something that you really don’t need.
- Mall Body Guard- I have several friends and relatives that don’t do well with saying no. Usually when we walk through the mall, I walk on the inside so that when a kiosk sales person tries to get us to stop to buy sea salts from the Himalayas or hair irons I can speak up and say, “No thanks!” and we just keep walking. Otherwise my sweet people pleasing friends and family would end up at least wasting 20 minutes of their lives or possibly end up with a new $50 piece of hair equipment that they don’t need.
4. Remember, You are In Control- No matter how high pressure the situation, you are in control of payment. You never have to pull out that card, check or use a pen to sign anything. No one can force you to sign something you don’t want to sign. If you are going into a situation you feel might be high pressure, don’t even take your wallet/forms of payment in with you. Then you can say, “Oh, I don’t have it with me” and it gives you a quick out, even if that’s just a chance to slip outside and think more on your purchase.
5. “I better ask my….” – One quick out for sales pitches is, “I really need to ask my ____________”. Depending on your age or situation it could be dad, mom, husband, wife or “financial adviser”. Sales people hear this a lot and so they usually come up with a some kind of situation where you are running out of time or you will lose the offer if you walk out without signing something. Just walk out. They did this to me at a gym once and I flat-out told the sales guy that I thought it was shady of them to tell me they wouldn’t offer me the same price again. Sometimes calling it like it is puts you back in the driver’s seat.
6. I’ll Call You– Sometimes when you attempt to step out of a sales situation, the sales person will ask for a follow-up number. I flip the scenario and ask for their number and let them know that I can call them back once I make a decision. It helps me end the situation if I’m uncomfortable or really need to move on.
I hope this advice will help you have more confidence retreating from high pressure sales situations in the future. As I said, I can’t be upset with a sales person for trying to do their job unless it gets mean, coercive or down right rude. That rarely happens to me so I just peacefully and respectfully bow out. Please share any high pressure sales situations you have encountered and how you dealt with the situation in the comments section below! I would love to hear your story. It might just help others as well!
Kim Anderson is the organized chaos loving author behind the Thrifty Little Mom Blog. She helps other people who thrive in organized chaos to stress less, remember more and feel in control of their time, money, and home. Kim is the author of: Live, Save, Spend, Repeat: The Life You Want with the Money You Have. She’s been featured on Time.com, Money.com, Good Housekeeping, Women’s Day, and more!