Door-to-door sales… can we ask them to be more responsible?

My wonderful grandma, who’s about to celebrate her 86th birthday (and will be furious if she finds out I’ve put that in here!) recently had some door-to-door sales people knock at the door asking her to switch her home phone to TalkTalk. Now, as you’ll be unsurprised to hear, my Uncle and I have ensured she’s already on the correct tariff (BT with an override and she doesn’t need broadband) and she told them “my son deals with this and he’s not home.”

They persuaded her to get her bills out for them to look at, even though she’d repeatedly said she didn’t deal with it – they were so persistent she felt she had to. Afterwards, she was upset about whether she’d done the right thing, even though fortunately she hadn’t signed anything, and this upset continued for a day or two.

Grandma comes from a different generation; when she’s been sent a letter from a utility company/insurance firm saying “get our policy and we’ll save you money” I still get calls from her asking me should she switch, even though she knows what I do, and knows we’ve ensured she’s on the best of everything. Often these are offers for abysmal products, but she considers if they say “you’ll save” then they can’t be lying. After all, “how did they get my address?”

So when we asked “why didn’t you just say, I’m sorry, I’m not interested thank you” and close the door, Grandma replied that she thought this impolite as they were trying to help her.

The wider point

I’m a great believer in the adversarial relationship between companies and consumers. A company’s job is to make money, and our job is to keep our cash and make it stretch further. Thus, while many rail on about ‘responsible lending’ my key message is about ‘responsible borrowing.’ For me then, in general I would say if a door-to-door salesperson tries to sell you something, you have to take responsibility and decide whether you’re going to be sold to.

Yet how do we square that with people who aren’t playing in the same sphere? Especially some of the older generation who operate by different rules, or following on from my last blog, those with mental capacity or health issues. Ethically I believe these salespeople should’ve seen my grandma, an older lady, and realised it was inappropriate to continue especially when being told she didn’t deal with it. Yet of course, they’re commission led and focused on that – without understanding that this type of thing can leave some people upset, or even in a panic.

How do we square that circle?

Comment and Discuss