Saturday, June 24, 2006

Phony Friends

One of my blogging buddies (and now columnist for the Nashville Scene) Lindsay, wrote a funny story the other day about her and her husband getting "hit on" by a potential swinger.

Although this has never happened to my wife and me, it did remind me of another way we've been "hit on" by strangers. A way that not only baffles me, but angers and disgusts me as well. The amazing thing is, is that this has not only happened to us once, but FOUR times!

I know this came off as kind of a long post, but since each of these situations were unique in the way we encountered them, I wanted to share them all.

So here are the stories. I kept them short...

1. Our St. Cloud "friend"
When we first moved to St. Cloud we didn't know anyone. Shortly after arriving here my wife met a nice man who went out of his way to make sure we had someone we could turn to for help and support, as we learned the ins and outs of our new town. He was great and even came to the hospital to wish us well when our second son was born.

Then one day he stopped by the house with his briefcase and asked if it would be ok to "show us something."
"No problem," we said, "watcha got?"
It was then that he began to unload his version of a pyramid or multi-level marketing "business opportunity." Being how he was our first "marketer" (or troll as Lindsay calls them) we didn't know anything about these schemes and listened with interest. It wasn't until a few hours later that we began to realize that he was asking us to consider investing in something we were neither interested in nor prepared to invest in.

After politely declining his offer, he suddenly changed. The nice friend we once knew had now become a desperate businessman, in danger of losing a sale. We couldn't believe it when he left our house in a huff and never showed his face again. The reality that this person had just spent an entire month faking a friendship for the sole purpose of making a sale with us left us feeling disgusted and used.

2. Valley Fair
A few years after that, our whole family was spending a beautiful day at Valley Fair, a large Six Flags type of amusement park in the Twin Cities.

Early on in the day we were standing in line behind another family and struck up a conversation. They had kids the same age as ours and my wife and I really clicked with the couple. We enjoyed each other's company so much in fact that we ended up spending the entire day hanging out with this fun and lovely family. We even exchanged phone numbers so we could get together and maybe go to the lake or something in the near future.

AND THEN - about an hour before closing time, the husband leaned over to me and asked me, "Hey Jeff, are you satisfied with your job?"
"Sure," I answered, "why do you ask?"
"How would you like an opportunity to make twice as much money as you do now while working half as much?"

Holy crap! I couldn't believe it! I had to stop and look this guy right in the face to make sure he wasn't just jerking my chain. But nope, he was serious. I quickly explained that I was NOT interested in making any career changes at that time and was also not a fan of multi-level marketing programs. Guess what? Never heard from them again.

3. On the job
My wife worked at a nice restaurant as a server for a number of years. One night she was waiting on a sweet couple who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary. After an entire hour of making sure they were treated extra special the couple asked my wife to "have a seat for a second." No problem. She frequently sat down for a minute to chat with the guests, especially when a bond had begun to form. The nice couple immediately began complimenting my wife on how great her personality was and how professionally she treated her customers. And then - you guessed it - the husband pulled out a folder with marketing materials in it.

4. The Neighbor
Finally, to make a long story short - we lived a few houses away from a great lady who had daughters our kids' ages. For 3 years our kids played together and we socialized with this woman. Then one day she came over to the house with a faucet filter she said she was excited about and asked us if she could "treat" us to some filtered water. "Just try it out on me for a week. You'll LOVE it!" What do you think happened when we later told her we weren't interested in buying it? You guessed it again - POOF! Goodbye friendly neighbor.

The thing is, it doesn't really bother me so much that these people are trying to sell us something. I know they've bought into the concept of their system and really believe they are going to make it rich someday. And, we are certainly smart enough to fend off their advances.

But what really bothers me are two things:
1. They have to create a fake relationship so they can use you for a sale.
2. These poor people's lives are consumed by the need to prey on anyone who seems like a potential candidate.

I mean think about every one of these people above.
-The first guy had to spend a month of his life pretending he cared about us.

-The second couple lost out on a potentially great relationship with another family.

-The third couple couldn't even enjoy their 25th wedding anniversary for God's sake because they were too concerned with hooking my wife.

-The neighbor lady decided on her own that she couldn't be friends with us over a stupid faucet. How sad is that?

I suppose 'nuff said would be an understatement at this point, but in case you haven't noticed I feel passionately about this. Again, I don't dislike anyone who chooses to do this for themselves, but I do feel sorry for them.

Just don't expect me to join you!


Suburban Turmoil said...

Wow. I can't believe this has happened to you so many times!

It's much worse if you're a woman, though. I've lost two friends because I was broke and couldn't buy their Pampered Chef/ Avon makeup products.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

That's the truly sad thing about this.

Because my wife and I are very friendly "people" people, we apparently have the right personality for this kind of business. Therefore, we tend to draw these kinds of people out of the woodwork.

Anonymous said...

Hey. I've been commenting here for about a month. Least you can do is listen to my presentation.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad I'm not the only one. Got signed up for Mary Kay in college, my director was so consumed with her career (cult) she neglected her family and her husband tried to seduce me. Figured it was a fluke, signed up again in Duluth to make some extra money, my director basically told me to accost ugly women in the grocery store. Latest, my cousin suddenly deperately needed a 'girl's weekend,' which was cool until I discovered it was so she could talk me into selling Arbonne. That's my rant, now I need to go walk four miles.

Anonymous said...

It is ironic that others would approach you about promotional schemes, when the Receders have the talent to make a best selling record. After you played your harmonica solo at Avon, a man approched your mother, got down on one knee and said, "I am so humbled by someone who produced such talent", and he was sober. There must be a studio and promoter out there willing to work to promote good music plus a stock bonus!

Anonymous said...

Linda, I almost spit out my coffee when I read your reply. When we first moved to Duluth a woman came up to me IN THE GROCERY STORE and said, " I would like to invite you to my Mary Kay seminar, such a pretty girl like you could really look great if you just learned a few techniques" Now I know what she REALLY thought of me!!!! Oh my gosh, I am just rolling....

Anonymous said...

How horrible that salespeople would fake a friendship. I don't mind salespeople - the world need them. And it's truly okay by me if a friend asks me if I'm interested. I guess one measure of a true friend is that the friendship doesn't hinge on a positive reply from me.

Anonymous said...

Charli,if she was petite and had short black hair, it was probably my (former) director. I never understood how she could just walk up to people and basically tell them they looked like crap! I will be laughing for days about this!

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

One clarification...

There are many legitimate products available via the multi-level marketing model. I have no problem with any of these companies nor with the good people who offer these products. Feel free to show me your product line anytime, just don't attach conditions to your demo.

My only beef is with the people who approach you under the false pretense of friendship only to drop you like a hot potato if you don't buy into their philosophy.


Anonymous said...

F.Y.I. I always thought Charlie looked a lot like Ellen Barken. So does my husband. Not a bad one to be compaired to!!

Waya said...

Boy, do you have a sign on your back that said "sign me up people!" It's so like a cult, alright!

We had a really good family friend once, who we grew up with. He even had a crush on my sister until he worked for one of those Pyramid cult/companies...he tried to recruit my brother for a meeting. My brother refused and that was the end of the friendship. What a loser!

That's why Fox Mulder was right on when he said "trust noone!" Unfortunate, we have to live like that.

Anonymous said...

We've had friends desert because we chose to parent differently, never because they wanted to sell us something. I now know that I have been lucky.

yellojkt said...

I've been MLM'ed in by the guy working the Ticketmaster line and by people in the middle of Home Depot. It happens all the time.

annelynn said...

It is sad. I hate those pyramid marketing schemes. Their mercenary quality - which I think is expected - is just depressing. I had a brush with this recently with a woman who was selling some kind of spice additive for food (I can't remember the name because I could really care less).. she was so nice, and I was thinking that maybe I had found a friend, but no. I didn't take the bait, so that was it. It's almost cultish behavior - they instantly become your best friend, and who can withstand such instant connectedness? And then it all goes to naught.

Speaking of swinging... I was actually asked - in the middle of a surgery on a cat (she was the vet, I was the vet tech)- if I wanted to participate in a swinging session, as she had seen my husband and her husband had seen me and all was good, in their world. My jaw literally dropped. I always thought that only happened in cartoons and sitcoms, but no. It happens in real life too. I was also speechless for a moment. After that, I could only say, "No. NO! No. I would never do that!" Afterward, I could hardly look at her. Thankfully, I soon got a new job. The mind boggles.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if it really was their 25th anniversary...