Sunday, April 24, 2011

The old upsell: America at its best.

"Thank you for calling Domino's Pizza, where your body may still be digesting our old crust, but we give you our word that our new and improved dough will slide right on through. My name is Ashton and I'd love to sell you as many carbohydrates as possible. Ask me about our meat and cheese filled cheesy bread topped with meat and cheese, plus a five-liter Coca-Cola for the price of a four-liter Pepsi. My I please have your address, natural hair color and most recent PSA test results? Thanks. Now how may I help you?"

I actually made up the second half of that paragraph, because halfway through the spiel, I had hung up and decided to whip up some pizza toast.

Doesn't it just seem like everywhere we go, someone is trying to sell us something? And after we've purchased that something, they squeeze us to buy even more?

Remember when ads began popping up at movie theaters? I know I wasn't alone in taking offense, as the audience usually booed, and then yelled things like, "Damn it! Get this Dr. Pepper commercial off the screen. I came to see Top Gun, not this crap!"

And now, we're resigned to viewing at least half an hour of ads for Sprite Zero, now with protein, and special two-for-one deals on popcorn and unlimited drinking fountain water out in the lobby.

Okay, fine. I can deal with the movie assaults, because, really, everything looks better on the big screen, except maybe John Travolta's ever expanding nostrils. My most recent challenge concerns what's been going down on my city's streets, and probably the crowded sidewalks of most other large urban settings, as well.

After leaving work, I usually walk the five blocks to the bus stop in silent meditation. I review the day's events, sometimes laughing, occasionally shedding a tear and on one occasion, throwing up behind a dumpster. These moments are precious and valuable to my psyche, and I don't wish to be disturbed.

That's when it happens. An energetic, thin youngster in skinny jeans and an eyebrow ring approaches me from three o'clock, hand extended. "Hello, sir. My name is Wyoming and I'm wondering if I could have a moment of your time to talk about some really sick children."

I usually just mumble a "Sorry," and execute a sharp post pattern around him, like a receiver shaking a defender on the way to the end zone, or in this case, the bus stop.

"That's cool, bro." I hear his voice trailing off from behind. "Not everyone is into helping children in Canada who are starving because they were born without heads. Have a peaceful evening."

I realize these are idealistic, young people who probably think they're simultaneously making money and a difference in our world. They bear the sword of righteous relentlessness, and even the Dalai Lama, the Pope and that hugging saint from India wouldn't be immune if one of these kids spotted them as they made their way to Happy Teriyaki for lunch.

What I'm not sure they understand is the amount of competition around them; they're not working in a vacuum, here, and we old folks tire of this onslaught. I consider myself a reasonably charitable guy; but I enjoy contributing to organizations where soft selling is the modus operandi, not the Billy Mays School of Terrier Tactics.

Whether they want to believe it or not, these people are vying for our attention along with that pregnant teenager holding a cardboard sign, and that nice elderly man yelling through a bullhorn that our existence will end next Tuesday around 4:30.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need a little breather, so I'm off to one of the few remaining businesses where the employees truly care about my well being.

I'm going to the bank.

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