Becky Says...

May 2005

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Swarm - May 26

At this point in the calendar year, we in the Chapel Hill area think of swarms of insects, swarms of kids coming to the various basketball camps the coaches hold, swarms of people wanting to tour the campus, and swarms of people heading to summer school classes. Those are all familiar swarms, and we who live here year-round know how to deal with them.

But today I saw a swarm that I found truly scary. It was the new sales force for advertising in the directories that are given to students and faculty every fall semester. I won't use the publication's name, but you can probably guess.

I was downtown, sitting on the rock wall nearest my bus stop and minding my own business when all of a sudden down the sidewalk came this double line of people. In a few cases, the symmetry was interrupted by a third person. There were at least fifty young men and women in this leaderless parade.

They were not all dressed alike, but they did have matching canvas brief bags with the company logo on them. Carrier's choice of shoulder bag or shorter handles. And they were wearing matching nametags. The person's first name was in a larger type size than the last name.

This Stepfordesque sales force was all but marching as it headed east. I don't know for certain where the group was headed, but I suspect the plan was to have lunch as a group, following a morning sales instruction session. The demeanor on each face was grim.

From all my time spent in various offices, I know that by next week these people, traveling in pairs, will be calling on prospective customers. I know they will be using their best persuasive voices and their brightest faces in an effort to make their daily sales quotas. I suspect they will all be using the same pre-written pitch, and that they won't have any idea how to vary it.

This town has a lot of merchants and providers of various services who will want to advertise in this publication. Most of these people will welcome the sales force members. I hope the merchants and service providers take a moment to realize they're dealing with a programmed sales force, and will be patient enough to go with the program.

I'm afraid the force will have meltdowns if the prospective customer says yes too fast. If so, there will be a swarm of people carrying matching brief bags and wearing matching nametags all but marching to the local hospital.

Text © copyright 2000-2005 Becky