It’s Just a Newspaper

Many years ago, when I was like 19 or something, I had a job selling the Long Beach Press Telegram over the phone. Yes, I was one of those whacky telemarketers. I worked a 4 or 5 hour shift, at an office in Orange County, calling people and begging, uh, I mean, trying to get them to buy the newspaper.

We had a script we followed, and then on other pages, we had a list of every possible excuse people could give for not buying the paper, with an answer to the excuse. For example, if the customer said, “I already take the L.A. Times,” we would say something like, “I understand what you’re saying, and the Times is a great paper. But we think if you’ll try your LOCAL paper for six weeks, you’ll be more than satisfied,” etc. Or, if they said, “It’s too expensive,” we’d say, “I understand what you’re saying. (most of our responses began with “I understand what you’re saying). However, it’s only $1.10 per week, and with our money-saving grocery coupons in each Wednesday’s paper, you’ll save more than that amount in groceries.”

Our supervisor, whose name I can no longer remember, was actually a nice guy to work for but he refused to take no for an answer. So it was fun to watch him make calls himself, and most of the time he made the sale. And when all else failed, when all of our pre-written script stuff failed, he had a big gun he would pull out, which worked 99.82% of the time:

“Sir (or ma’am), I understand what you’re saying. But really when you come down to it, IT’S JUST A NEWSPAPER. I’m not trying to sell you a car or something like that. It’s JUST A NEWSPAPER, and it’s not really that big of a thing. So why don’t you just give me your address, and I’ll go ahead and sign you up for the trial period.”  The customer would then be so astounded at the manager’s gonads that he/she would almost always sign up. I never had the guts to actually do this, but a friend of mine tried it, and it worked.

Why am I bringing this up now, 30 years later? Because tonight, one of those kids came to my door to get me to take the newspaper. She had the usual sob story about wanting to sell a certain amount of papers so she could win a scholarship and “stay off the streets.” When I said no thank you, her response was a whiny “Ah come on… don’t be like that.” What the heck? How lame is that?

First of all, even without my subscription, I think she still has the power to stay off the streets. Second, I don’t respond to whining. And third, she needs to take a lesson from my manager from all those years ago and tell people, “I understand. But hey, IT’S JUST A NEWSPAPER!”

If she had said that, I would have been so impressed, I would have bought 2 or 3 subscriptions. Heck, I would have probably paid for her first semester at El Camino College.

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