February 7, 2013

Do you like this?

The other night I heard a noise as unfamiliar to me as a cheetah’s mating call. At first I thought it was something on the TV that was keeping my lazy, couch-potato ass occupied. Then I realized it was coming from my own front door, right behind my head. It was the ancient “ding-dong” of the doorbell I forgot I had. Who the hell could that be?

I work from home and my office is in the third floor loft. Usually the sound of the doorbell means that UPS or FedEx is dropping off a package. I say that because there’s no way I’m climbing down all of those stairs to see if it’s anyone else. However, if the doorbell rings after normal business hours then it has to be someone I’d rather not experience. Friends don’t ring doorbells because you’re expecting their arrival. Besides, some are too young to realize there’s an alternative to knocking. No, if the doorbell rings when you least expect it, usually it’s someone selling something.

Most of the time it’s Jesus. I don’t know how many times I have answered the door to find a group of front-porch evangelists from the neighborhood church that has survived the old days of hookers and gunshots to now reap the benefits of the Southside’s gentrification—and plenty of new souls to save just a few blocks away. I don’t mind nice church folk paying me a visit from time to time, but I’ve been attending St. Mattress on Sunday mornings for so long that I’m just too comfortable with my current congregation.

On the particular doorbell occasion in question, it was dark-thirty, so I had no idea what to expect. I opened the door and there stood a uniformed, clipboard-carrying subscription salesman from the Times Free Press wanting know whether or not I “get the paper.” Contemplating the double entendre of that statement’s possible meaning, I realized that either would produce the same answer so I replied, “No,” and shut the door.

What the hell was that? An honest-to-goodness door-to-door salesman? I haven’t seen one of those since I was a kid. I remember my mother answering the doorbell to receive sales pitches for everything from Avon products to encyclopedias. She would patiently listen to their brief “elevator speech” door-opener and then politely decline, saying she’d have to talk it over with her husband before making any decisions. Mom didn’t seem to mind random visitors dropping by, because back in those days everyone in the house was dressed and presentable at any given time—just in case.

That’s not true these days. Our homes are fortresses of solitude, where one can walk around naked or in sweats and an old T-shirt with layers of food stains so ingrained it looks like the drop cloth of a seasoned painting contractor. Therefore, the pop-in isn’t tolerated nowadays. In fact, it’s almost insulting. We spill our guts about every single detail of our inner selves on Facebook for all of our “friends” to see, but ring our doorbells when we’re not expecting anyone and we panic as if we’re experiencing paranormal activity. That’s because social interaction with anyone but your significant other happens in public—or online. That’s why cell phones and texting are so popular. In fact, with all of the options we have to communicate with people, why does anyone ever need to ring our doorbells?

This is so much more true from a marketing standpoint that advertising agencies coast to coast keep “think tanks” on retainer to devise the most effective, yet unobtrusive methods of getting people’s attention without them even realizing they’re being sold a product. Using social media, advertising gurus have mastered strategic product placement to get consumer buy-in in new and exciting ways. Then there’s the tried-and-true, yet antiquated door-to-door sales technique. And we wonder why encyclopedias are a thing of the past? 

Chuck Crowder is a local writer and man about town. His opinions are most definitely his own.


February 7, 2013

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