“No Solicitors” means you, actually

Courtesy of Subversive Cross Stitch

Yegads.  What is it with these door-to-door hucksters who think that 1) “No Solicitors” doesn’t apply to them, and 2) who argue with me about it instead of beating a hasty retreat?  (Aside from being just plain irritating, do they really think they’re going to make the sale?)

I looked up the definition of “solicitor” last year, after being argued with by a religious nut who claimed that he wasn’t a solicitor because he wasn’t try to sell me anything.  Here’s the first non-obsolete Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of solicitor:  “One who entreats, equests, or petitions; one who solicits or begs favours; a pleader, intercessor, advocate.”  Notice that this says nothing about sales–it suggests that anyone asking for my time in the service of any cause whatsoever (political, religious, or personal profit) without a personal invitation from me is in fact A SOLICITOR.

Aside from wasting my time, soliciting give me the creeps.  It’s nothing personal–I just never have had it in me to go door-to-door, so it probably follows that I don’t have a lot of patience for this kind of gladhanding myself.  I couldn’t even bring myself to sell band fruit in high school–it’s probably the main reason I quit the marching band, in fact.  (That, and the hats like giant Q-tips, and the gabardine uniforms that we had to wear in August and May.  And the fact that I chose to play the clarinet, which is a pretty pointless instrument to begin with, but especially so in the marching band!) 

I should have remembered that the warm weather brings solicitors out in my sweet, quiet small town.  I guess I’ll print out a copy of the above definition of solicitor and hope for an even quieter summer this year.  Oh yeah–that an a copy of the above sampler.

(Image above from Subversive Cross Stich, which I learned of from Notorious Ph.D., Girl Scholar last year.)

18 thoughts on ““No Solicitors” means you, actually

  1. Over to the east side of town I have seen signs that read: No Soliciting No Witnessing, which would seem to cover all door-to-door peddling of salves or salvation.


  2. You want a sign that says, ambiguously enough, “Green River Ordinance Enforced Here,” Historiann. Works every time, and the eponymous ordinance even got upheld by the notoriously pro-business Supreme Court during the Great Depression in “Fuller Brush Co. v. Town of Green River [Wyoming],” [1932]. (I think the Court simply refused to hear an appeal of the decision by the court below). Eugene McCarthy worked it into a poem called “Three Bad Signs” in 1968 which I read, ironically, while going door to door on his behalf in a sweet, quiet town in northern Indiana. And I later somehow worked it into a festschrift paper that I was still desperately writing the morning of the conference. The paper turned out to be so good (or bad) that I got two mock death threats from colleagues on the short walk to lunch!


  3. Didn’t know that physical solicitation is a plague. The only solicitation we encounter time and time again is the Internet one. It irritates and sometime very difficult to avoid. This includes the endless emails sent by political candidates even to email never given by me. I don’t want Obama and his wife, each separately, sending me emails.


  4. Over here in the land of the Jubilee we call such people “Cold Callers” and this bbc comedy clip has quite the best way I’ve seen of getting rid of them. If only I had a kid to train to do this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSzA4Nzx3xc

    “Do we know you? Did we know you were going to call? I think that makes you a cold caller”


  5. The ones that break my heart are the very earnest teens who are selling magazine subscriptions to earn money for college. They are inevitably neatly dressed and polite, black or Hispanic, and I get furious at whatever organization has sold them this bill of goods. Not so sorry for them that I’ll get a subscription, though!


  6. Solicit first? Preempt the pitch by handing to the solicitor one of these kept in a stack next to the door:

    (1) blank college applications;
    (2) fundraisers for your political candidate du jour;
    (3) “Application to Solicit This House”;
    (4) “Certificate of Nuisance.”

    A friend of mine has taken to using hir cellphone to snap photos through the window. It’s worked!


  7. I could whip up a version of that sampler in about two or three hours, H’ann! Want me to stitch you one that you can sweetly frame under plexiglass and keep handy to brandish in the face of solicitors?

    Regarding solicitors, dogs are useful. Growing up, our neighborhood was frequently targeted by [insert annoying denomination here]. We had a wall of windows at the front of our modern house with a landing right at the centre. Our border collie loved to lie in that sunbeam and a visitor he didn’t know inspired barking. We trained it out but realized we could also use it to our advantage.

    My father trained Inky to bark on command by saying “Get the [insert annoying denomination here]!” They’d come to the door, we’d say those words as we walked to answer. Then we’d just shrug helplessly as we closed the door on the earnest folk while our dog barked and lunged wildly.


  8. Our neighborhood had a chain phone list. The first person hit would call down the street and we just didn’t bother to even approach the door.

    On the other hand, my husband’s roommate in college answered the door naked when he saw Mormon’s approaching his door. That took care of things.


  9. The thing I worry about with the canine defense strategy is, what if some slick solicitor manages to flip your Mutt? You could end up with a permanent camp meeting in your own living room for, what, 7-8 (dog) years?! I’m sticking with the ordinance. Although I have to say, living on an upper floor of a locked building keeps some of this problem in the theoretical realm.

    I also realized too late last night that there was a similar post a year ago and I offered the same advice (the ordinance). Sort of like a fraying solicitor, hitting the same porch with the same tired pitch!


  10. I put up a sign when I got the first wave of solicitors this year, and have been pleasantly surprised to it actually work. I frequently work on my laptop from a couch in the front of the house that’s clearly visible through the front door and windows, and several times I’ve seen someone approach, get a foot on the porch, and immediately leave. I witness these scenes with nothing short of glee. I didn’t expect to have such success, and imagine there must be something larger process going on in the area that encourages people to take the signage seriously. (Perhaps being located in Texas helps..?)

    I believe the appropriate response to being argued with, once you’ve gone so far as to open the door and reiterate what your sign clearly states, is to simply shut it in the aggressive solicitor’s face.


  11. Well, that’s what it’s come down to, -k- and others. I put the sign up because I don’t *want* to be rude, but given a choice between the suck on my time and patience versus rudeness, I’ll go with the rude-itude.

    If I’m home alone, I feel like I can ignore unexpected doorbells, but if I’m not home alone, then the boundaries of my household have to remain more porous.


  12. Magazine peddling can, shockingly, cross the line into human trafficking: http://www.polarisproject.org/human-trafficking/labor-trafficking-in-the-us/peddling-a-begging-rings .

    At the very least, it’s often a scam, with the young people doing the selling getting very little benefit.

    Actually, that tends to be true of band candy, wrapping paper sales, and other fundraising schemes in more affluent communities — but just in the sense that by the time the company that provides the (usually overpriced) products has taken its cut, and taking into account all the parent- and child-hours involved, it would make far more sense for each family that can afford it to make a modest donation to the PTA, rather than become unwitting unpaid employees of fundraising profiteers.

    But the thing to keep by the door for magazine sellers is the Polaris project human trafficking hotline number — or, if you have time, you might offer a sandwich and ask a few questions to make sure the aspiring college student at your door isn’t being exploited.


  13. Great points, CC. I have heard about these scams before, but thanks for the link. I got suckered into buying some books from a foreign student trying to make some $$$ once, and he explained the system of debt peonage he had been conned into. I felt badly for the guy, but my sale probably just contributed to further exploitation.

    I guess it’s the economic inefficiency of these sales schemes for schools that piqued my butt even as a child. Is this money really so important? Really? Because maybe you grownups should just pay a tiny bit more in your property taxes so that we don’t have to go begging for band uniforms or a new playground!


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  15. I have always felt that making children sell ridiculous crap in order to fund COMPLETELY UNRELATED activities is cruel and pointless. Especially so for introverts, who joined groups and clubs in the first place because they want to engage in the subject, not because they want to engage with more people, and particularly do not wish to engage strangers about a topic they neither care about nor believe in.

    On the margins, encourage a small amount of related commerce, fine – the choir kids can sell “singing telegrams,” the cooking club can have a bake sale, etc. You know, the kind of fundraisers that draw on kids’ strengths and provide actual enrichment by virtue of participation? The kind that parents aren’t expected to artificially subsidize? No, Mom really doesn’t need to buy groceries and spend her time to bake “free” cookies for Jimmy’s sports team. No, Dad doesn’t really want to own 10 extra scented candles because Jimmy’s sales are low. Plus, what does this stuff teach kids? That you can make money by selling products you don’t produce and that it’s normal not to pay any materials or labor costs? Greeeeat.

    Sure, selling related noncorporate items and services requires more work – nobody comes in with glossy brochures, order forms and sales plans with cool prize “incentive” structures. Instead, the adults who think it’s such a great idea for youth to raise their own money to fund any activity beyond Math and English have to actually engage and monitor all those those creative fundraising ideas, spending strategies, cash-handling procedures, etc.

    When I was in school, I absolutely hated the selling…fruit, wrapping paper, frozen junk food, candy, all of it exorbitantly expensive. The corporate lit they handed out with the catalogs, and the corporate-designed “leaderboards” at school always stoked competition by heightening feelings of failure as a teammate for not selling as much as others. Plus, some parents would (and, judging by any workplace I’ve ever been in, still do!) sell on their kids’ behalf. Mine absolutely refused to do that (good for them, in retrospect). They also didn’t let me go door-to-door to strangers like an actual salesperson, thinking it was unfair to the other kids to “poach” a neighborhood territory we didn’t live in. And we lived in the country with only 10 houses nearby, so I always lost big. And even though I only had to sell to 10 households, I still hated every minute.

    There are huge class issues with this stuff, too, even though everyone thinks raising “external” money is somehow an equalizer for poor kids. Poor people primarily know poor people. Poor parents primarily work with people who are similarly poor (if they have workplaces). Middle-class people with disposable income tend to know plenty of people like that. How are kids supposed to bridge these differences when selling to their extended family, parents’ friends, neighborhoods? Being wealthier doesn’t necessarily solve the problem either — exactly who in the workplace should a business owner/manager type sell tubs of cookie dough to? Her employees? Her clients?


  16. I notice as an adult, though, that this backward thinking predominates among wealthy people. Participate on the board of a nonprofit and you will see where all of these “excellent” fundraising ideas came from in the first place — the ones that burn copious money and time, the ones that deal little, if at all, with the issue at hand, the ones that pressure people to raise more money than their peers to prove their dedication to the team. The boards where members are coded quickly into either “important” (fundraising, high profile) or “diversity” (poor, disengaged) categories, and everyone knows it. This noblesse oblige stuff was invented by the overclass to justify its continued existence and it finds new and exciting ways to promote that agenda at every turn. What a racket.


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