Attack of the COOP Saleslady!

Before Japan, my only concept of door to door sales were stories about back in the day older relatives would sometimes tell and jokes about taking up being an Avon make-up lady or knife salesmen if you were out of work, really desperate, and nothing else was possible.

Unfortunately door to door sales are still a thing here, and a very annoying thing at that.   Some of the regulars you’ll probably encounter are Jehovah’s Witnesses and the NHK guy.  Jehovah’s Witnesses are pretty universal, although Stateside I’ve only met them once.  I was rooming with a Japanese friend and an old Japanese couple came looking for her.  The convo went something like:

J: “Hey K… Did you happen to mention something about your grandparents visiting before?”
K: “No… Why do you ask?”
J: “Oh, okay.  Well there’s an elderly couple at the door asking for you.”
K: “…Okay,” she hesitantly replies and walks over to the door.
*cue 30 minutes of the couple trying to convert K over to the Jehovah’s side of life*

Anyways, my point is… If that old couple went to all that trouble of tracking down every Japanese study abroad student on campus, Japanese door to door must be pretty hardcore.  And luckily, I’ve avoided most of it up until now.

Like I said, we didn’t have very many door to door salespeople to deal with in the past.  At Apartment #1, the NHK guy came every now and then.  NHK is Japan’s public broadcasting network, and it believes anyone who owns a TV owes them money for the channel despite whether or not they watch it.  Think of it like UK’s TV tax except nothing happens if you don’t pay, so now most people don’t.  NHK is run by a bunch of right wing government cronies, the same party that often has foot in mouth syndrome when it comes to making comments on non-Japanese or foreign policy.  Their programming (especially childrens’) is great as long as you stay away from the political stuff.   The first few times the fee collection guy came around I spoke English and pretended I didn’t understand Japanese.  Then they sent a guy that spoke English, and I pretended to speak Spanish.  We moved out before they found a Spanish-speaking guy to send our way or they didn’t have one available.  Either way, it was a relief because I was running out of foreign languages I could BS with.

At Apartment #2, we often got Jehovah’s.  I think they were especially adamant because they automatically assumed I was Christian being a white foreigner; like if they tried hard enough I’d be more willing to join them at one of their events than your average Japanese person they solicit.  Our neighborhood was also pretty ghetto, and it probably looked like our apartment complex needed saving.  Eventually one of the crazier families scared them off for awhile and then we moved out.

At Apartment #3 there’s only been the NHK guy once and couple of salesladies trying to get us on the home delivery food bandwagon.  We never left a forwarding address for the Jehovah’s so it’ll probably be a few more years until they track us down since they weren’t the most technologically savvy.  And so, everything was pretty peaceful up until last week.

COOP was originally one of those food services that tried to get us to sign up with them.  We politely took the catalog sometime shortly after we moved in, and that was it until last Wednesday when a new lady working for them came knocking on our door.

I mistakenly thought it was the deliveryman at first, and about to leave for work in 10 minutes, I wasn’t going to be home to schedule another delivery that day.  So I answered the video intercom and unfortunately it was this lady.  I politely declined her talk with the excuse I was going about to leave for work, but she was insistent that it was only going to take like two minutes.  What followed is what I can only describe as how to make me not want to sign up with these people ever:

  • I open the door and the lady is immediately surprised I’m a foreigner.  She tells me I didn’t sound like a foreigner on the intercom.  Then she starts giving me the 3rd degree on what I’m doing here/why I’m living here/how long… D:
  • She asks me if I’m pregnant.  (I’m not.)
  • I remind her that I’m in a rush.  She says she just wants to show me a few things in the catalog and has a “present” for me.  She goes to her car and comes back with some salad dressing.  Great, free salad dressing.  Wait… this stuff is crappy Japanese-style cabbage dressing?  Uh, never mind.  Ya’ll couldn’t spring for some Italian or caesar or something good that people actually want to eat?
  • She starts flipping me through the whole damn catalog while she asks about how our family shops and who does the grocery shopping.  Even if I had had all the time in the world, it would’ve been torture on account of this lady’s bad breath alone.  I’m answer as vaguely and as noncommittally as possible and again remind her to speed it up because I’m in a hurry.
  • Not having the chance to get through her whole sales spiel, she wants our names and phone numbers so she can schedule a time to come back.  Tough chance!  I tell her I’ll have to confer with my husband before giving that information out and finally, that I’m sorry but I need to get my things and leave now.
  • I shut the door on her and wait until I can hear her start her car engine and pull out.  At this point I’m barely going to make work on time, if not possibly be late, and I’m a little pissed off.
  • On the way to work, I notice how badly backed up the road around my neighborhood is.  Great, I’m definitely going to be cutting it close.  I finally get at an angle where I can see who’s holding up the 15 or so cars in front of me, and guess what?!  It’s the freaking COOP lady in her truck driving slow as molasses causing a traffic jam.  So not only has she made me run late, she’s also made 15 other people besides me late to whatever they’re doing.

And since then, she’s been back to our house at least 4 more times leaving catalogs and notes on free tissue packets stuffed in our mail slot when we’re not home or I don’t answer.  It’s like we’ve got a stalker.  I almost want to sign up with the other competing food delivery service just to spite her.  I told Mr. J the next time she comes and he’s home, he needs to tell her off straight up.

But what motivates companies to aggravate their potential clientele like this?  I can’t think of any point in time aggressive sales tactics have made anyone want to do anything but remove themselves as far as they can from that company or product.

Door to door sales are facing a downward trend in Japan, and the only thing that probably hasn’t halted them completely is aging Japanese upper management not wanting to do away with it completely out of some strange sense of tradition.  (It’s the same crazy brand of tradition that makes Japan unable to part with squat toilets despite how annoying and unsanitary they are, why companies still push as much paper as they did before we entered the digital age, why fax machines are still a thing here, why housing construction sucks so bad, etc.)

On it’s own, COOP isn’t a bad service for people who have trouble doing daily shopping.  It’s really convenient for elderly people, people with mobility issues, singles/couples who work a lot of overtime, and families without a car.  The only thing that prevented us from signing up for it before is the fact that you have to order everything a week in advance from when you need it (I’m not adept at planning our meals a week in advance) and it’s more expensive than my current method of just buying what’s on sale at the supermarket next to one of the places I work and making meals out of that.

But yeah, WTF.  I’m crossing my fingers that by next week I can say the COOP saleslady is finally gone for good- at least until someone replaces her.

Have any of you ever had problems with door to door salespeople or telemarketers?  Any horror stories to share?

– J

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