Several ladies in my neighborhood have recently gotten involved with direct selling organizations like Pampered Chef, Tupperware, and Usborne Books. As a result, my mailbox overflows with invitations to all of their “parties.” While I’m happy that they’ve found something to bring in some extra money, these invitations are tricky because I’m just not interested in the products they are selling. I feel like I can get better prices and quality through other retailers, plus I’m usually not in the market for any of the stuff they are selling. The question that I’m faced with about once per week these days is: Do I go to the party to be supportive and social even if I don’t intend to buy anything, or do I decline politely?
I’ve decided that the answer is a wishy-washy, “It depends.” It amuses me that many of these invitations come from women I barely know. We may exchange a smile if we pass while out walking, or wave if we pass in our cars, but I’ve never been in their homes or invited to any other parties they have thrown. Suddenly, though, they think of me when putting together an invitation list for a sales party? In these cases I don’t feel at all bad about declining the invitation because I know that my invitation was just a tactic to get a sale, not a gesture of genuine friendship or desire for social interaction. I am a wallet and that’s all.
I’m not mean about it when I decline. I don’t say, “I’m not interested in your stuff,” or, “I know you only want my money, not me.” I just simply say that I cannot attend due to other obligations. It’s usually not even a lie. Some of these women will try to overcome any objection, but I refuse to be drawn into an argument. They may say, “Oh, it’ll be fun,” or “You don’t have to buy anything,” or, “Everyone else from the street will be there,” but I just stick to my, “I have other plans,” story. Of course, you can always offer a simple, “No,” with no other explanation but the determined salesperson will want to know why and will try to break you down.
It gets tricky when I’m already friendly with the party host. In this case, if I’m very good friends with the person, I might go to be supportive or even offer to help with set up and clean up. I’m friendly enough with these people, though, to be honest with them about my intent to support but not to buy. Genuine friends are usually very happy if I attend, even if I don’t buy anything. For some of my best friends, I may buy something small and give it as a gift to someone else, even if the items don’t interest me personally.
If I’m friendly with the host but not overly so, I might go or I might not. If I feel like the person will be okay with just my attendance, I might make a quick appearance and then slip out. I’ve given some support to the host but I haven’t taken up a lot of the hosts’ time unnecessarily. If I’m not sure how they’ll react if I don’t buy anything, I’ll just decline.
The bottom line is that unless I am very friendly with the host already, I usually offer a polite, “No thanks.” I don’t want to be pressured into buying stuff I don’t need and I don’t want to resent the fact that I’m only there because the person wanted to sell me something. I also think it’s impolite to go and “mooch” off the refreshments and party favors if I already know I don’t want to buy anything.
I’ve decided that, no matter how much these parties are billed as social events, they are really nothing more than a sales pitch. If I’m not interested in what’s being sold, I generally decline, just as I would a salesman in a store who’s trying to sell me something I don’t need. The only exception is in the case of a true friend who values my support more than my wallet.