Thursday, January 24, 2008


I am feeling slightly blog-o-riffic in my favourite wireless coffee shop, lap top situated perfectly and a fine aromatic dark roast in tow. I am observing and listening to the abundance of human activity around me. The constant conversational din in the background is inspiring and makes my little musings that I write here feel less solitary and more connected to the world around me.

One table over, two women in their late 30's appear to be having a fairly intimate and lively chat about motherhood, how it has transformed their bodies, their lives and the very essence of who they are. It is very compelling.

The conversation changes suddenly though as one woman pulls out a portfolio and a number of glossy pamphlets and charts suddenly appear on the table between the two of them. The tone suddenly becomes more formalized and takes on the "talking at you" rhythm familiar to anyone who has endured a telemarketing call.

From what I can gleam it sounds like a sales pitch for your classic pyramid scheme, or "multi-level marketing" endeavour for some magical skin cream product. Old high school chum suddenly transforms into "sales lady" and various predictable utterances are made;

"It's very flexible, you can work part-time if that's what is best for you. It all depends on how motivated you are"

"Once you have 5 associates working for you your monthly income will increase dramatically. The secret is to keep them motivated and excited about the product"

"I think we should book a conference call with Gary over at Corporate. He has done a lot of market research and can tell you about the great growth potential for this product. His vision for this company is really infectious."

"The initiation fee is only $50, which is standard of course. We do this just to make sure that we don't commit our resources towards a person who might not follow through"

I suddenly feel heart sick, disoriented, sort of like Neo after he chose to take the red pill in the Matrix. I feel sorry for the other woman, perhaps she knew this was coming, though it all feels so false and rehearsed. It makes their previous conversation suddenly seem completely contrived and more along the lines of calculated rapport building, a means to an end.

After the pitch is done Woman #1 whispers to Sales Lady "well you know, I live from pay cheque to pay cheque" and Sales Lady replies "yes, of course I understand". An awkward silence ensues, and the conversation becomes markedly more formalized from this point onwards.

I try my best not to judge others, though admittedly I found the whole interaction to be a little depressing and I had to work hard at suppressing my gag reflex. For a few minutes I feel like Holden Caulfield, aghast at the vanity and phoniness of it all. I quickly get over it, realizing that people do what they need to sometimes in order to get by in life.

I do have to say though, let's please keep the glossy papers and sales pitch out of the equation if we decide to catch up over coffee on day!

(Blogging the Bean - soaking in the ambiance at my favourite wireless coffee shop in North Vancouver - Beans on Lonsdale)


Lisa said...

Yes! Yes! Here's to authentic, deep, conversation about our messy lives. No sales pitches, no hidden agendas, no ego boosters.

I tried the MLM jobs in the past and they didn't work for me. Some of the products are worthwhile, but the brainwashing cult mentality reinforces the fact that selling the product is your primary focus upon meeting new people - and even for existing family and friends. Bleck!

We need so much more of the first kind of conversation they were having in this world. Perhaps if our leaders took off their masks and put aside their agendas - and had just those type of talks - the world would be a much better place.

Thanks for sharing this glimpse of your day.


Dean Wormer said...

I got hit with the Amway thing by a guy I hadn't seen since grade school.

He called up out of the blue and then asked me if I had an "open mind."

I said to myself "Uh oh."

Long story short he and a gaggle of about 10 Amway guys came over to my house and went through a schtick that included an upside down pyramid.

I said "isn't that a pyramid scheme? Aren't those illegal?"

He said pyramid schemes are illegal but this isn't a pyramid scheme since the profits flow downwards. Towards the CEO of Amway located on the bottom of the pyramid.


Westcoast Walker said...

Lisa - I agree we need more authentic, no holds barred conversation. The sad thing is that as adults many of our contacts become for increasingly instrumental reasons - i.e for "networking" or getting something out of it. I love just spinning yarns, laughing and enjoying good conversation for its own sake.
Let the revolution begin!

Hey Dean - I am glad you survived the attempted abduction from the Amway cult (good thing you didn't drink the cool-aid either). The type of scenario you described drives me crazy - an old friend and I had what I thought was some meaningful discourse on Facebook, and next thing I know I am getting e-mails about skin cream - I am so off social networking sites now!

Comrade Kevin said...

Do YOU want to have children?

Do YOU want to be a successful parent in this ever-busy world?

Well, then you've come to the right place! Try Parent-Aid! (trademark)

Dr. Zaius said...

Jeepers! I'm broke. Why don't you lend me the money for the entrance fee?

dguzman said...

Great post--sorry you had to experience such a yukky moment, especially in your favorite place. I too would've been disgusted.

So did Saleslady at least pay for (former) pal's coffee?

Westcoast Walker said...

Hi dguzman - thanks for all your great comments today!

I think she did pay - "the cost of doing business" I suppose. It was weird, perhaps I am too idealistic, longing for those days when conversations were not about simply getting something accomplished, but simply for the joy of good old fashioned discourse.