Death of a Sales Phobia
Or, why I shop online.
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It started out innocently enough: Having filled in an entry form at a store in the hope of winning a "fabulous prize," my husband and I received a phone call with the offer of a free trip to Vegas. All we had to do was listen to some salesperson rattle on about a lifetime membership at some ranch in the middle of the California desert. For a free trip to Vegas? No problem!

My husband and I met with the salesman and were shown a video of the ranch, complete with happy families horse riding and skeet shooting. I stifled a yawn and peeked at my watch, wondering if we should fly to Vegas or drive.

An hour later, we stumbled into the sunlight in a state of shock, having just purchased a $5,000 lifetime membership at the aforementioned ranch.

"What just happened in there?" I asked my husband. "I don't even like the desert."

Over the years, I have tried to make sense of these senseless purchases and have come to the following conclusion: The truth--as I understand it--is, we have been brainwashed by pushy salespeople into purchasing something we do not want.

Salespeople have a wonderful knack for playing on your insecurities. They worm their way into your psyche and convince you that your life is worthless if you don't own that vacuum cleaner or this timeshare.

Over the years, my fear of pushy salespeople led to an avoidance of them at all costs. Whenever I answered the phone and heard the mangling of my name--"Good evening, Ms. Kenya..."--I knew immediately it was a salesperson. Eventually, I stopped answering my phone for fear it was "one of them."

So great was my fear of pushy salespeople that it prevented me from joining the online shopping frenzy. I believed that if I made an online purchase, I would be bombarded with unsolicited e-mails telling me how unfulfilled my life would be if I didn't also buy x, y and z. And then one day I had no choice. After searching unsuccessfully for a certain video that I wanted to purchase, I decided that my last resort was to find it online. As I prepared to make my first online purchase, my pushy-salespeople phobia still haunted me. What if I made the purchase and was flooded with e-mails insisting I purchase every other video in the collection? With trembling fingers, I hit the send button and waited for the onslaught.

And then, a remarkable thing happened--nothing at all. No phone calls, no e-mails, no harassment; just a confirmation of my order and the video in my mailbox a few days later. I had discovered the world of online purchasing and with it a sense of freedom and control that I had never experienced before. I could shop when and how I wanted to, and no one was going to tell me what to buy ever again.

Why, just the other day, the phone rang and I answered it: "Good evening, Ms. Kenya..." and with those words I did something I'd never had the courage to do before--something so wild, so reckless that it thrilled me to my very core: I hung up.

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