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News Story
Updated: 07/24/2014 11:08:57AM

What part of “no” is so hard to understand?

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S.L. Frisbie

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If I had the power to ban three words from TV broadcasting, they would be “iconic,” “exclusive,” and “viral.”

Anything that has been in place for three or more weeks — like, say, a fire hydrant — is now “iconic” in the lexicon of broadcasting, and the first broadcaster to make mention on the air that it is leaking has an “exclusive.”

And any video that has been watched on YouTube by six or more people is declared to have gone “viral.”

Remember, you read it exclusively here in my iconic column.

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The latest “viral” (a word I tend to associate with a communicable disease) video is an 18-minute exchange between a cable company rep and a customer who is trying to cancel his service. The cable rep harangues the trying-to-be-ex-customer at length over what a stupid mistake he is making.

Few things in the workplace impress me as much as a good sales presentation. A salesperson who knows his prospective customer’s needs, his own product or service, and why his company is the best fit for the customer is a joy to do business with.

The best salesman I encountered in nearly 50 years of newspaper management sold graphic arts supplies (film, chemicals, and such). He was so good that he had the authority to walk through our composing room, check our inventory, write up an order, and leave without getting approval for the order.

Most of the worst salespeople I have encountered are employed in boiler rooms, many located in foreign countries where speaking English is a new experience.

The very worst, by far, is one that tries to sell me renewals to a magazine to which I have subscribed for most of my adult life.

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The renewal calls begin almost before the check from the last renewal clears the bank.

I don’t subscribe to magazines several years in advance. Not only is my interest in the product subject to change, but even some of the most popular publications in America have gone to on-line distribution exclusively.

There is nothing wrong with the Internet (though I secretly suspect that it is a passing fad, like CB radio and eight-track stereo) but my generation was brought up believing that newspapers, magazines, and books are printed on paper.

The renewal calls used to be polite, each making a more enticing offer than the one before it. By the time it was time to renew, the price had been cut by half or more, and a nominal “value added” gift was included. Each offer was made courteously.

Apparently the courteous approach is no longer the company’s policy.

A year or two ago, I got so fed up with turning down the frequent solicitations that I asked to speak to a supervisor. I told her that despite my long-time relationship with her publication, I was inclined to cancel if the calls continued. She apologized and promised to put me on their “Do not call” list. It didn’t work.

A couple of weeks ago, a salesperson called and offered me a $300 gift card, free subscriptions to two magazines I didn’t want, and less than half price on renewal of the one to which I subscribe if I would renew immediately.

“Didn’t you ever learn the old adage that anything that sounds too good to be true probably is?” I asked her, and hung up.

Last week, I got a call from an arrogant young man telling me that my renewal was now past due and demanding that I give him a credit card number or promise immediate payment.

“How are you going to renew?” he asked.

“I’ll make that decision when my present subscription expires,” I replied, and hung up.

A day or two later, a young woman with a pleasant voice called to “discuss the status” of my renewal.

“Let me speak to your supervisor!” I responded.

“Uh, okay,” she replied. Whereupon she hung up.

No offense taken; it was their turn to hang up.

Besides, I expect another call any day.

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(S. L. Frisbie is retired. Despite how it may sound, he does not hate all call centers; a professional telephone salesperson, though an endangered species, is pleasant to deal with. Not long after he and his wife sold this newspaper to Sun Coast Media Group, but before they retired, he got a courteous call urging him to subscribe to the paper. After listening to a professional sales pitch, he told the caller that he admired both the company and its product, but that he since was publisher, he already had a subscription.)


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