Just how hard are hard sells anyways?

The thread in MPSIMS about the timeshare hard sell scam got me wondering, just what is a hard sell like anyways? I’ve never been in a position where someone has desperately tried to sell me something, so I don’t know how I’d hold up, but for many of these timeshare sells they offer incentives to attend - sometimes money, sometimes other sorts of prizes.

My question is, if I can spare the time, know ahead of time that I’m not going to give in, and don’t have the money to spend anyways, just how hard exactly would it be to sit through one of these things? What do they do that makes it so profitable for them to be able to offer stuff to give away, knowing that people won’t sit through the whole thing? Are they counting on people to just get bored after an hour or so or is it really that hard to endure?

That’s typical MO on the hard sell is to portray the seller as going so far out of the way to get the prospective buyer a good deal that the buyer feels bad for not taking the offer. Another one is to intimidate the buyer, so they fell that they can only leave once they purchase something, they get so cowed that they think the only way they can make the seller stop and leave them alone is to sign up for whatever they’re being offered. Same is another good one - a friend was looking to rent an apartment and said he’d have to talk it over with his wife, when a woman (whom he hadn’t spoken to before) walked in from the next room and asked what was wrong with him that he couldn’t make a decision on his own. Switching products is another thing: you don’t want this? How about that? No? This one’s so much less expensive (not cheap, mind you) that you can’t go wrong.

If they can’t get you to buy anything, then they try to get anything from you that they can, often asking for a deposit (see matress story below) that you can get back later if you change your mind. Of course, they know that you won’t ask for it back, or they’ll probably just tell you that it’s a deposit and you can’t get those back and why would you lie and say that the nice salesman told you that you could?

Some of the other shit they do seems right out of the CIA Interrogation manual. It’s really quite something to watch: closing doors and pretending to lock them, rolling up sleeves and flexing (heh), pacing, chomping gum, standing too close, etc.

I want to say there was a good scene about this in Glenn Gary, Glen Ross but I can’t remember… Douglas Rushkoff’s book Coercion has a great scene (true story) of the lengths that a matress salesman went to to sell old people shit.

I got the hard sell, trying to buy a matress, where the guy kept offering me better and better deals (“no, we got a room in the back of the factory where we can keep it out of the way of everything, so in two weeks, you can come back and pick it up!” This after telling me that he had to get rid of all the matresses because there was no room and asking me to give him a refundable $20 deposit. As if I would feel compelled to buy a $500 matress because I put up $20. Not to mention that a refundable deposit defeats the purpose of a deposit…) until I laughed and just walked out.

How far are they willing to go? That depends on what they’re selling and what you look like you’ll fall for. It is great fun to hear these stories (generally, they fall all over themselves, backtrack their stories and contradict themselves), but if you’re going to go out baiting these people, remember 1) that’s not nice 2) they’ll probably recognize that you’re not going to buy and not bother with you.

That said, if you get any good stories, please share.

Say I sign up for one of these timeshare pitches where they offer free vacation tickets or a blender or somesuch for my time. What’s to stop me from heading over, firing up the iPod and just zoning out for a few hours while they give their spiel to the group and picking up my prize on the way out?

Oh man, not time shares. I know a lot of perfectly sensible people who went to those thinking that they’d never get one and walked out thousands poorer…

I figured that when you meant hard sell, you were going to bait car salesmen…

I don’t know that I’d classify those people (indeed) as hard sellers, but they do have a spiel. I doubt that you’d actually get the blender though and it’s a surefire way to get your name on a list that will have people calling you for years…

So my girlfriend was at a bridal show about a week ago and told me yesterday that she got a call a few days ago from someone telling her that we had one a honeymoon (oh boy, I thought, now we don’t have to try and figure out where to go, we’ll just take the free one). She was told that this was a 4 day/3 night vacation in Ft Lauderdale, VIP passes to Epcott, Disney and Universal Studios then a cruise to the Bahamas for 4 days/3 nights, then back to Ft Lauderdale for a 2 HOUR SEMINAR. At this point she knew they were up to something. (I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing air fare isn’t included either). Anyways the lady went on to say that this is a $2500 vacation. And at the end of the whole thing she said “You only have to pay $299, I’ll just need your credit card number and expiration date.” My girlfriend said she’s going to have to think about it. The next day the lady called back and asked if she made up her mind yet. GF said no, she’s still thinking about it, she also mentioned that she’s NOT going to give out her credit card number until she talks it over with me, and even then she doesn’t have enough space on any of her cc’s right now to put another three hundred dollars on any of them. I was really annoyed when I found out that the next thing the lady asked was “What other financial obligations do you have?” or something to that extent. That was quite rude. Anyways they’re sending some info to us and we’ll go from there. The next time she calls I’m going to talk to her. It should be interesting. Since we’re not planning on taking the trip since it sounds like a scam, I’m not worried about screwing anything up. But I’m going to ask them to send us EXACTLY what the trip includes ie…Who pays for travel, from here to florida, from hotel to cruise etc…, What hotel are we staying at? What cruise line are we taking, what exactly is going on in the Bahamas, etc etc etc…and the most important thing What happens if we don’t go to the seminar (for ANY reason, sickness, had to leave early, emergency etc). I’m expecting that they’ll say either that they full $2500 will be charged to the CC we gave OR that the full $2500 will be charged to CC to begin with and you ONLY get a refund after you attend the seminar. Kinda curious to see what happens. My guess is that the last thing said will be “We’re not interested, please don’t call us again.”

I imagine that the “hard sell” works on the greedy, naive, timid and just plain ig’nant. The only experience I have being exposed to the “hard sell” is when applying for “financial analyst” (stockbroker) or sales jobs with shady pyramid scheme companies.

Basically, if you’ve ever seen Boiler Room, it’s pretty much like that. You basically sit in a big group of people while some rep or sales manager goes on and on about how much money you will make, how “entrepreneurial” it is, how you will be at an economic disadvantage if you don’t join, etc. They usually take you around to meet a few super-performers who gush for awhile about the company. The “interview” is more of a sales pitch than a traditional Q&A. No one will answer any questions until the main guy runs through his shpeil.
The end result is a job hawking junk or cold-calling for commissions.