HomeOPINIONPushy sales: A surprising lesson in compassion

Pushy sales: A surprising lesson in compassion

There I was, lying under the Tuscan sun and quite happily forgetting all responsibilities as I looked out to the Mediterranean Sea. My tranquil moment was quickly destroyed by a shouted phrase I had heard over 50 times on this trip; “Ma’am! For sale, One Euro!”. 

Street sellers was the term given to this type of retailer. Men and women walking along crowded tourist areas pushing presumably low-quality goods for cheap prices. Selfie sticks, water, towels, magnets, bracelets, collapsible bowls and fake designer handbags. If it could be carried it was being pushed towards you.

Although I understand this is a main source of income for a lot of street sellers, the tactics becoming common place were aggressive and almost threatening. And traveling as a single female I was often a targeted selling point.

The thing is, these sellers will not leave you alone. Using the standard tactics of not looking, zero eye contact, and ignoring, didn’t seem to work. They are getting very emboldened, aggressive and in-your-face. Several times they approached groups sitting at dinner and would push their sales until the owner or waiter came out to shoo them away.

I had several people warn me that a selling tactic included handing you an item, as even the act of holding the goods they would consider as purchased, until you either gave in or placed the item on the ground and walked away. These sellers where so insistent they made car sales men seem aloof.

Admittedly I did loose my cool one or twice. A low point was cursing at one who pulled my handbag off me so I couldn’t walk off, and also rudely offering to Google translate the word ‘No’ for a specific gentleman who didn’t quite seem to get the message that I didn’t really want a collapsible bamboo fruit bowl. 

Now this method of selling is illegal, judging by how quickly they seem to scoop up goods and scatter as soon as police are in the area. And snatching handbags from women I’m certain is also illegal. Although as annoying as it was, for me it was a good lesson in compassion. These are real people, stuck outside in the middle of summer, pushing low quality goods at tourists who can often be quite confrontational. It is easy to see them simply as annoying, like a fly you just can’t shoo away. But unfortunately for a lot of these sellers, it is a main point of income and sometime aggressive selling techniques are needed.

I wanted so badly to tell these people to get lost, as even at the best of times my temper is a short one, but all that would have done would have offended a human being, made me look like an ass, and would have done nothing to deter the next eight sellers on the same stretch of road. It was about taking a deep breath, saying no thank you and walking onwards.

I think in our day to day lives we often forget the retailer serving us or selling to us are people. It is so easy to get caught up in your own life and forget that outside your own bubble there is another person doing their best to help you, or to make a living. No one tries to sell to you specifically to annoy you. As consumers we may get flustered, impatient or easily annoyed when selling techniques don’t specifically line up with how we want to be sold to.

You may want to be approached one day but left alone the next. The best thing both sides can do is respect one another and move forward with the interaction. Although this may differ greatly from someone offering simple help, verses a stranger handing you a bracelet and demanding that you owe them money, the lesson still applies. Be respectful to the people that are selling to you, as all they’re trying to do is their best.

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Courtney Devereux is a Communication Consultant at Clear Hayes and freelance business writer.