food

'I can't say no to salesmen and con artists. This is the result.'

Every time the dog barks, my heart stops and sinks.

If it’s a friend, neighbour or delivery that’s making him yap, my blood pumps again.

But if it’s someone with a clipboard, I freeze. I want to hide, but my legs can’t move. My mouth dries up.  I usually croak ‘shit’.

And then, like an obedient little girl, I open the door. Because I am utterly unable to say no to salesmen and people who want my money.

Some years ago, on a summer night, at that bewitching hour when the kids were feral and my fuse was short, I heard a knock on my door.  I opened it frazzled and flustered. Behold! An extremely spunky young guy with olive skin, green eyes and great hair.

LIKE Debrief Daily on Facebook.

“Do you like art?” he asked. In spite of my surliness, I heard myself say: “Yes”.

Why? Because I knew that no one else in the street would have said yes. I knew he’d had rejection for hours, and I wanted him to have hope – all the time knowing that I’d end up angry at my weakness, willingness and need to be nice. I gave him a cold beer and he showed me terrible art.

They were rude copies of Rembrandt, vivid versions of Van Gogh’s Starry Night and pretend Picassos. They were so bad I laughed. He looked crushed and started telling me about his poor friends who had come to Australia for peace and relief from the stress of Israel.

And so I spent $120 on a painting I hated.

It wasn’t even framed. It was a piece of crap on canvas and it went into the garage until it went mouldy and got thrown on a council clean-up pile.

It was worse than this.

My husband is usually good natured about my problem. He laughed about the Israeli artist, even taking people to the garage and showing them the terrible artwork. Months later he stopped laughing when an electricity provider cold-knocked and I changed supplier. "They were a new company, they were into green energy, they will eventually get cheaper," I told him.

It cost us hundreds.

It's as if salesmen can smell my weakness. They are usually smiling broadly before they begin their sunny, up, positive psychobabble, down-on-their-luck story or 'think of the children/heart disease/animals/fire department/disabled' spiel. There's just something about me that must reek of sucker.

I try to say "Sorry, I'm not interested" but it comes out as "would you like a hot cup of tea?" I try to say "I already donate to many charities" but instead I say "how much?"  And they lick their lips and they get out the receipt book.

ADVERTISEMENT

I hate that moment. Not just because they've won, but because I know they sense my despair and my anger at them for exposing my weakness and it's uncomfortable and awful.

I've bought bad pottery and bad poetry. I've bought melted chocolate and homemade lemonade that was bitter and full of pips. I've bought tickets to things that never existed. I've helped fund research into heart disease, muscular dystrophy, brain cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, epilepsy and depression. I've bought vegetables that were meant to be organic but looked waxy and perfect. I've bought firewood from the scouts - and we don't even have a fireplace.

Recently, my bloke only just stopped me buying an entire dead cow from a "back to the farm" project.

We sponsor a village community in India. We regularly contribute to the local bush fire brigade and other charities. I admit one of the reasons we do so is so I can say to any door to door salesmen "I do my bit, now go away".

But I don't.

I know where I get it from. My dad died a few months ago and his phone is still running hot with charities.  Many sound devastated when we tell them he's gone, and they won't make commission this month. One week my mum went away, and he spent $800. Another time he let a real estate agent inside to do an appraisal, despite vowing he'd never sell. He just didn't want to hurt his feelings or make him feel like he'd wasted his time knocking.

Dad and I know many of these people are frauds and scamsters. But they've got to eat, right? I had a guy come last week to sell me a booklet of savings for what he said was the Special Olympics. His paperwork was torn, the free gifts in the booklet were past their use by dates.  I knew he was scamming. He knew I knew he was scamming. I gave him $20 bucks anyway.

Hey lady.

It's strange, because I learnt to walk past beggars while living in India. I pretend to ignore the homeless here. I don't fall for fake cancer fraudsters.

But when someone is in my door and in my face, I am undone. I have to be hospitable and invite them into my wallet, and my life. And every time I do it, I hate myself just a little and I tell myself I'm an idiot. And I shut the door and pull off the feeling like it's a leach and I've been suckered.

Thank god I'm not living in the 50s.  They'd be queuing at the door and I'd be drowning under stacks of encyclopedias and vacuum cleaners.

Surely door to door salesmen are an endangered species. No one will miss them less than me.

Are you a sucker for salespeople? Let us know in the comments.

Want more from Sarah? Why not try ...

‘The uncomfortable truth: I think I want to crush my kids’ dreams.’

‘You can call women my age a lot of things. But never call them this.’

Decluttering – pfft. These are the things we should keep forever.

00:00 / ???