Someone needs to explain to me the whole “No Soliciting Rule”, because it seems like every store I go into has at least one solicitor out front with an American flag, a card table, a poster board sign asking for donations to one worthy charity or another. The head scratcher here isn’t that there are solicitors, but that there are solicitors on private property, standing next to signs that read something along the lines of “Target/Wal*Mart/Stater Bros./Vons/Albertson’s does not support solicitors and we do our best to provide you with distraction free shopping”. So at this point I am really confused, if these stores are really committed to providing me with a distraction free shopping experience, and obviously the stores are built on private property…why are there ALWAYS solicitors outside these stores?! I would really like to have a distraction free shopping experience…or at least a distraction free store entry and store exit experience. But the distraction free experience isn’t even the biggest part of my concern, the bigger concern for me, and what I think should be the bigger concern for stores is that my shopping experience in these stores, thanks to Solicitors, is rarely guilt free anymore.
Today as I exited Vons after picking up my delicious “build your own” sandwich I just knew the friendly solicitor who saw me walk in and said a bright “hello” was going to hit me up for a donation on my way out of the store. Five minutes later, sandwich in hand, I prepared for the “would you care to donate to …” (I later learned he was collecting for community anti-drug programs for teens), but I was surprised, this guy changed it up. His spiel was “can you help save a life?” Okay, now, I understand why he asked that question, because who wants to be the bitch who responds to the “can you help save a life” question with “nope, can’t help ya out on that one buddy” after they just bought an overpriced sandwich?! No one…no one wants to say no to that! But at the same time, I don’t think anyone wants to be asked, “can you help save a life?”, “Can you help our basketball team go to a meet”, “can you help our homeless shelter”, “can you help keep kids off drugs”, “can you help keep teens out of gangs”, “can you help keep Girl Scouts raise money, buy cookies”, “can you help defeat measure 9xx”, “can you help…” every time they walk in and out of a store. But just saying “no I can’t help save puppies being put to death in local underfunded animal shelters” doesn’t mean it’s the end of the guilt trip…like any good infomercial…WAIT THERE’S MORE.
After successfully dodging the initial plea for support there is the catch all phrase that drums home the selfishness of your refusal, three little words, to tighten the guilt screw “God Bless You!” I don’t know what it says about me that this “God Bless You!” is the final straw…in some ways it’s almost like that friend that always draws God into an argument as the argument ender. God is the “big” gun in any argument, the God argument is the nuclear arsenal, and there is no arguing with it. I mean good luck walking away from a request to donate when you have just said “no, I don’t want to help protect unwed mothers from abusive partners” and this person calls after you as you scurry away hoping to make it out of earshot with your fancy three-ply tissue boxes or Charmin Ultra before you have to hear, “God Bless You”…this all just starts to make you feel like a real heel.
Of course it is good to give, and I am not saying that I give or don’t give every single time I am asked, but where is the line drawn at solicitation? Sometimes after a long day or when you are running in and out of a store at lunch I really, really wish corporate America would man up on something other than cutting prices and maybe if not get rid of the solicitors completely corral them in certain areas or get them to be around less, or prevent them from wandering the dark parking lots asking you if you want to buy discount cards for local eateries scaring the hell out of you at 8:00 in the evening. All of this and more is the reason why the UPS guy dropped off a 48 pack of Charmin on my doorstep the other day.