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Feb. 12th, 2018

Hogarth judge

The Salesman as Social Pirate

Wrote this back in 2002 for a long dead website called Kuro5hin. Worth saving, I think.

THE SALESMAN AS SOCIAL PIRATE


Sales cold calls --- calling on strangers and proposing that they buy something --- are in every case immoral. They break the Golden Rule, every time. More importantly, they are parasites on our willingness to read email, answer the telephone, or open our doors to strangers. Salesmen1 rely on offensive personality and manipulation of their marks, seeking to create a situation where the mark feels that more face would be lost by backing out of the "deal" than by buying, and where he must justify his refusal to buy to the salesman.

Perhaps as a defence against their social offences, salesmen have generated a large body of literature, seeking to bolster their faltering self-esteem. The leitmotif of these texts, translated into plain English, is that if they hope to successfully deceive others, they must first deceive themselves. In these texts, we are also instructed in the art of never taking 'no' for an answer.

Prologue

During the darkest days of the 1970s recession, I was a college student desperate to find a summer job. I answered an ad that seemed to be looking for sales staff for water filtering systems. What I actually found was a fraudulent operation.

We were required to get a week of "training" before being turned loose on our friends and neighbours. Perhaps half of the training consisted in learning to operate a demonstration set, and mastering the patter of the sales script. The script involved alarming people about the amount of chlorine in their tap water by the use of testing chemicals, familiar to anyone who has worked on a swimming pool, that turned the water an unsightly yellow in the presence of chlorine. We were expected to talk up the chlorine revealed by this method as an impurity and a health menace. This didn't work well on the local well water, which had very slight levels of chlorine, not enough to reliably change the colour of the water. Our water was probably more menacingly impure than the water that made the tests work well, but this was the script we were given.

This part of the training, though deceptive and manipulative, at least had to do with the product we were supposed to be trying to sell. The rest of the training concerned absurd motivational tapes that we were made to listen to. The entire operation was saturated with this version of the "positive thinking" theology. When we called back to the office after a sales call, they would ask us how we had done. We would say we were doing "fantastic" if no one bought it, and "super-fantastic" if we had suc cess fully found a mark.

The most obnoxious part of the programme had to do with the unpaid labour the scam operators reaped. We were expected to round up ten of our friends or acquaintances and test the spiel on them first before we could actually join the operation and draw a paycheque. This requirement of unpaid labour as a precondition, together with the obnoxious motivational tapes, caused severe attrition among the applicants. Of around fifteen applicants who showed up at the first session, only two stuck around to something close to the finish. It seemed obvious that nobody was ever actually going to get a paycheque, that the "job offer" was in fact a way to recruit marks who would try and peddle the filters to their neighbours for nothing. I concluded that these people were running a con job and quit.

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission urges consumers to always be sceptical whenever they get a "cold call" from a salesperson. This is unusual, if only because the U.S. government is, of course, notoriously "pro-capitalist" as a matter of policy. But sales proposed by cold calls are even now recognised by the U.S. government as posing particular problems. It is recognised that cold-call salespeople often sell overpriced, perhaps even deceptive goods and services.

But why does this method of selling raise these issues? To grasp the moral problems raised by these techniques is to start down the path of a general critique of the moral problems of capitalism itself.

The Golden Rule


This is a no-brainer. The Golden Rule, often cited as "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is a moral precept adopted by all of the world's major religions. It is fundamental to Immanuel Kant's moral philosophy.

Every sales cold call breaks the Golden Rule, period. A person who occupies someone else's time for the purpose of pitching a product is not treating their time and privacy with the same respect he would have for himself.

The Salesman as Social Pirate

The fact that a cold caller is obliged to daily break the Golden Rule underlines the fact that cold-call operations prey on human social conventions. They take ordinary human decency into account by imposing on people to deliver pitches. Their collective activity imposes costs on that decency.

If all the e-mail you ever got was spam, you'd never read it. If every time the phone rang, it was somebody pitching insurance, lawn care, or subscriptions, you'd never answer the phone. If everybody who ever knocked on your door wanted to hustle a donation or sell you soap or Mormonism, you'd keep a shotgun handy. You only read your email, answer the phone, or open the door because of the chance that it's somebody you want to talk to, not a cold-caller.

Cold-callers, therefore, are social pirates, preying on the social conventions that make human intercourse possible, turning them into opportunities to hustle their marks. They can only exist to the extent that they do not overwhelm the legitimate human contacts and make too many people close off that avenue.

Spam is starting to swamp email and seriously burden the usefulness of the email network. Cold calling has seriously undermined the usefulness of the land-line voice telephone system. People pay extra for answering machines and Caller ID services to defend themselves against the cold-callers subverting voice telephony. Or they simply use their cellular phones and ditch their land-line phones, a waste of valuable electromagnetic spectrum. In either case, the social costs of cold-calling goes beyond fraying the social fabric of human courtesy: they cost you real money, just by doing their "jobs."

Just Price and the Cold-Call Operation

The current notion that prices in a "marketplace" are set by processes free from moral implication is a recent and deleterious innovation. St. Thomas Aquinas would have none of it. Aquinas specifically condemned the notion that it was morally permissible to sell something for a higher price because the buyer urgently needed it and would be willing to pay extra to have it now. To charge extra in this situation was a sort of theft in Aquinas's eyes:

Si aliquis multum juvetur ex re alterius quam accepit, ille vero qui vendidit non damnificetur carendo re illa, non debet eam supervendere; quia utilitas, quæ alteri accrescit, non est ex vendente, sed ex conditione ementis: nullus autem debet vendere quod suum non est.
Theologia Moralis 2-2, q. 77, art. 1.

[If someone would be greatly helped by something belonging to someone else, and the seller not similarly harmed by losing it, the seller must not sell for a higher price: because the usefulness that goes to the buyer comes not from the seller, but from the buyer's needy condition: no one ought to sell something that doesn't belong to him.]


These traditional moral principles are, of course, lost on U.S. conservatives. The art of salesmanship is specifically that: it seeks to create artificial needs, and to manipulate people into a social situation in which the marks feel that they have less 'face' to lose by buying than they do by backing out.

What Aquinas's principle would do to the advertising industry, with its endless marketing of 'cool', its creation of new worries to create new demands, and its eternal cycle of increasing intrusiveness as the minds of your fellow citizens become numbed to the last outrage, is pretty obvious. Nothing that you have to be sold on is worth buying. The satisfactions such goods offer are the apples of Sodom, seeming red and ripe on the tree, that crumble to dust when plucked.

Any time you pay for an advertised product, you are paying for the ad as well as the product. Any time you buy from a cold-caller, you are paying the cold-caller's wages. What's worse, by doing so you are giving the cold-call operation a subsidy that enables them to continue to harass your neighbours. Finally, if you wanted whatever they're selling, you'd be looking for it already. Anything sold by cold-calling is automatically overpriced because of the cold-call operation. You paid too much, and you harmed your fellow man.

Cult of the Psychic Manipulator

I have sacrificed the well-being of my immortal soul. I have looked a book by Zig Ziglar. May my soul's peril be turned to your profit, however: let's examine the principles that Mr. Ziglar teaches:

Many times your very best prospect will almost adamantly refuse an appointment because he doesn't want to "waste your time or his time." He is often the best prospect for the simple reason that he knows he either wants or needs --- the product, goods, or services you are selling. However, at this particular time he doesn't want to be tempted by viewing the demonstration or listening to your presentation. He gives you the excuse that he doesn't want to waste his time or yours by looking at something he knows he can't buy. --- Secrets of Closing the Sale (1984), p. 16


Let's deconstruct this a bit. How, exactly, does Mr. Ziglar propose to distinguish those who do not want to be tempted from those who really do not have any interest? I cannot tell from this. What this particular bit of sophistry actually does, of course, is justify the salesman continuing to waste the time even of those who have told him up front they aren't interested.

Mr. Ziglar claims to be a Christian of some sort, and acts as a motivational speaker, travelling round the country with his positive-thinking circus of guest lecturers. His books are full of avowals that salesmen work to serve their prospects; this, apparently, is how. I submit, very simply, that here we have proof that salesmen train themselves to intentionally violate the G olden Rule. They rely on obviously fallacious reasoning to justify their behaviour to themselves. Here are some other brief excerpts from his 'closers':

"Premiums! Man, I can't pay any more life insurance premiums now!" You've heard it a thousand times, "I'm already insurance-poor!" To begin with, I would say, "I've never met a widow who felt that her husband carried too much life insurance. . . ." --- Secrets of Closing the Sale, p. 98


-----
The comment most frequently made by the prospect is, "I'm not interested." Voice inflection and tone will determine whether this is a mild objection, moderate objection, or strong objection.

If the objection is mild to moderate you say, "I'm a little surprised to hear you say you're not interested, Mr. Prospect, because this would [state your product's major benefit]. However, I'm sure you have a good reason for your lack of interest. Would you be willing to share that reason with me?" Once again, the ball is back in his court.

. . .

If the prospect's tone is harsh and dogmatic when he says Not Interested, you should adopt the policy of the late Charlie Cullen and be a little audacious. Repeat the words not interested in such a way you are making a statement and asking a question. . . . By handling it this way you effectively force your prospect to deal with your statement. . . --- Secrets of Closing the Sale, p. 284
 
 
How are you supposed to get rid of this asshole?

Let your Nay be Nay

If there is one practical bit of advice you can take from studying this twaddle, it's how to get rid of the cold caller as quickly as possible. Americans habitually waffle. A firm and decisive 'No' is heard as abrupt and rude. The salesman takes advantage of this courtesy, and uses your waffling 'no' as an excuse to keep talking. His goal is to turn the tables: to make you feel as if you have the burden of explaining why you do not wish to buy. Fall for this gambit, and you will be confronted by his glib and memorised response to most of the objections he will challenge you to come up with.

The dreaded Alumni Association solicitor has the worst trap here: he asks you first about your house, your job, your income. . . and then hits you up for a donation. You of course have no obligation to disclose any private information to this stranger. Fall for the trap, and you have to justify to them why you aren't giving, or if you are, why not more. If you want to have some fun here, remember you aren't under oath.

Your initial 'No' must therefore be conclusive, unmistakable, airtight, and stop the conversation. "No, I'm not interested" is perhaps good enough, but "I don't think so" offers too much room. You do not have to explain why you're not buying. If he challenges you anyway, turn the tables and take the sales talker out of his patter by calling attention to his method and "closers."

Let your refusal be unrelated to the product, and logically airtight. Try this:

"I don't buy anything from cold callers, because if no one bought anything from them they'd stop bothering me. I owe this much to my neighbours and my country."
Or this:

"You're trying to make me justify why I don't want this, rather than the other way around. I don't owe you an explanation."
 
If this achieves nothing else, it will be interesting to see if the salesman is fast on his feet enough to think of a glib and convincing response.
This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/216303.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Dec. 12th, 2017

Bad literature

Alien theologies

Look at it this way. When I hear 'privilege' and 'power' and 'intersectionality', I react to them about the same way as I would to 'sunnah' or 'transubstantiation' or 'ahimsa'. These words are about the theological concepts of a religion I don't believe in.

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/216036.html. You may comment there using OpenID.
Bad literature

Seamless web

A seamless web of hostility against all forms of moral-policing is what I aim for. 

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/215564.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Dec. 10th, 2017

Apocalyptic Price

Franken

If the criminal justice system decided to proceed against what Franken actually did, it would have gotten pled down to a minor misdemeanor at most. And that would be the correct response by law and precedent.  This is how we reward someone who gave up a life of successful minor celebrity to serve his country.

If this is what feminism demands, then fuck feminism.  You wonder if they know they've scored an 'own goal'.

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/215314.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Dec. 5th, 2017

Hogarth judge

Jerusalem

Nuke it.  Nuke it peacefully for maximum cratering, after announcing its peaceful evacuation.  There probably will be people who will not abandon Jerusalem before the countdown; too bad. 

Then use the site as the world's dumping ground for the worst sorts of radioactive and toxic waste.  This will make disposing of that sort of trash much easier.  So long as they get into the hole that used to be Jerusalem, nobody cares if the drums leak. 

Sick and tired of having half the world angry over who gets to rule Jerusalem.  Make it a kingdom fitting for those people.  Make the site something actually useful for humanity. 

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/215083.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Nov. 26th, 2017

needless noise

2017 audio greeting card

Spoilers for this year's mix disc.Collapse ) This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/215031.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Nov. 21st, 2017

I won't be forced to breed children!

An unfair playing field

With regard to the current moral panic about stale claims of sexual misconduct of widely varying types and severity. you should realize that it's much easier to wrong-foot Democrats and liberals by this sort of thing.

Republicans and right-wingers will, of course, circle the wagons, as we're seeing in the case of Roy Moore. For Alabama voters, the choice between a child molester and a liberal is a difficult moral quandary. Roy Moore may have chased children, but he stands up for the piss-ant god they worship down there.

On the other hand Democrats have to at least pay lip service to "feminism", whatever it means anymore. These things target key Democrat constituencies.  They implicate Democratic human-resources pieties and 'professional' standards.  They have invested a great deal in that kind of elite etiquette.  It's much harder for them to shake off these charges levelled against their leadership, no matter how stale or how trivial they may be. 

I know it goes against everything you've been taught to root for the home team.  But sometimes you have to. 
 

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/214687.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Nov. 17th, 2017

Hogarth judge

Signs and limits

There are posted signs and speed limits, and there are the rules of the road people actually live and drive by, and they usually relate to one another only very loosely. The sign says '30 mph' and the thing actually done there is 45 mph; the person who obeys the sign rather than the traffic becomes the stone in the stream, and an annoyance to his neighbors. Sign says 'no turn on red'; usage says 'fuck it'.

When there is a "crackdown" and the rules as written are suddenly enforced, people have every right to rebel. The victims of enforcement are losers at one of life's lotteries and don't really deserve it either. They did nothing everybody else wasn't doing.

The difference between these traffic enforcement situations and the current round of stale persecutions is that many of them are about things that there weren't any written rules for, even.  Yes, the facts will always very.  But at the very least,  Louis CK apparently did all that the law required of him. Now suddenly a copped feel thirty years ago is supposed to be a Big Deal. If it wasn't then, the passage of thirty years should not turn it into a present outrage.

The new sexual McCarthyism is like traffic cameras that see into the past and issue citations for the way you drove thirty years ago. If you get one from back then in the present you get fired, you become the object of a social media shitstorm, the target of a congressional investigation, and your movie isn't released. Because a faceless mob has decided out of the blue that punishing people who drove recklessly thirty years ago is now a major priority.

I am going to continue to have a problem with that.

This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/214284.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Nov. 12th, 2017

Apocalyptic Price

Enough of this wretched witch hunt

I hate the way this country treats artists.  We went through something similar during the McCarthy era, and it appears we're due for a rerun.  Kevin Spacey, in the last analysis, is a talented actor. I enjoyed The Usual Suspects, even if American Beauty was not my cup of tea, and Seven is something I never want to see again.  Likewise, nothing anybody says about Woody Allen is going to tarnish Bananas or Sleeper, and nothing anybody says about Roman Polanski will diminish the achievement of Rosemary's Baby or Chinatown. Judgmentalism and witch-hunts are a national vice going way back, I fear. And they really need to be resisted.

I was there for "Satanic ritual abuse". The media and lots of people were all about "believe the victims" back then, too. And people went to prison for no reason, and lives were ruined.  If I can do anything to head off a similar episode today I will. It does seem to me already that we need to be asking smarter questions about stale stories.

Creative and talented people are also often messed up people. It comes with the territory, and they absolutely need to be given some slack. What would contemporary America do to Van Gogh or Picasso, I wonder? All I want is that we step back a minute before we condemn people.

Punishment is always optional. The option to let it slide is always there. It always needs to be weighed against the question of 'what good would it do?' And when the incidents involved all happened twenty, thirty years ago, there's no hurry either.

There occasionally is some substance behind a moral panic, I will agree. But the way Americans treat people while caught up in a moral panic ought to frighten everybody. Woody Allen is a national cultural treasure. So would Roman Polanski be, if we hadn't chased him away to the safety of Poland, where their morally conservative government recognizes that there are other things to be weighed in the balance beside something that went down in the 1970s. Even Harvey Weinstein deserves more breaks than the media are giving him.

Some claim that 'accountability' makes the world a better place.  But a much bigger part of making a better world involves giving people breaks, giving them room to breathe, not multiplying the things they do that are considered wrong, not labelling them with derogatory labels. Othering generally does not improve things. You resist it, not with the people you've been told to tolerate, but when you refuse to judge people who are not only foreign, but seem evil and misguided to you according to the norms of your culture, which they don't wholly share.

I am rigid, but I am capable of changing my mind. I changed my mind about gun control when I realized that the guns were the totems of a strange culture I perceived as a threat. I tried to swallow my fear and anger to see things from a different perspective. There are many ways where people can attempt self discipline, and some will work better for them than others; this is mine.

There is a truth in the core of egalitarian progressivism, but that truth is that you have to let everybody speak in their own voices. Your 'tolerance' is phony unless it is extended to your 'others', to those you hate and fear. And an important part of allowing people to speak in their own voices, and truly listening, is that you have to be willing to entertain their excuses. This is where contemporary identity 'progressives' don't get it, I think.

Again, punishment is always optional, always subject to the tally of whether any earthly good will be done by carrying it out. There actually seldom is. The urge to punish people is another aspect of human cruelty that won't always be resisted but should be anyways. We do wrong when we rush to believe Roy Moore's accusers but are aghast at George Takei's. One is a member of my tribe; the other is the enemy. People shouldn't judge matters by these allegiances, even if it's rightly hard to find fault with them for doing that.

I try to have empathy and show genuine kindness to all sorts of messed-up people. This includes most of the rich, powerful, and authority figures. They too, suffer. And I understand the impulse to look at them as a cultural enemy and existential threat. To hang various labels on them, especially the labels of 'power' and 'privilege' which describe the threatening enemy.

Those people, too, deserve a break. You should listen to their excuses, and take them as seriously as you take your own.



This entry was originally posted at https://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/214095.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

Dec. 6th, 2016

needless noise

2016 Audio Christmas Card

Steve Gustafson - Heroic Overture
Bee Gees - Holiday
Espers - Flaming Telepaths
Purcell - Suite in A Minor mvt. 1
Judy Garland - Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas
Rosanne Cash - Motherless Children
The Highwaymen - Michael
Purcell - Suite in A Minor mvt. 2
Hot Rize - Won't You Come and Sing For Me
The Monkees - Riu Chiu
Handsome Family - Your Great Journey
Bee Gees - Hark the Herald Angels Sing
Ralph Stanley - This World is Not My Home
Purcell - Suite in A Minor mvt. 3
Vitalic - Poison Lips
Helene Böksle - Dejlig er jorden
I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas
Billy Joe Shaver - When I Get My Wings
Yoko Kanno (GITS soundtrack) - Christmas in the Silent Forest
Purcell - Suite in A Minor mvt. 4
Grateful Dead - Brokedown Palace
Vera Lynn - We'll Meet Again
Crosby Stills Nash and Young - Find the Cost of Freedom


This entry was originally posted at http://ihcoyc.dreamwidth.org/214014.html. You may comment there using OpenID.

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