Monday, 14 November 2011

Ding Dong, stressed woman calling

It just gone 6 o' clock on a Monday evening in November. It's pitch black already and just nine degrees above freezing. All I want to do is get some unattractive pyjamas on and sit with a duvet and a mug of turkish delight flavoured hot chocolate (my latest addiction) but that's not possible for at least a couple more hours, for soon I will have to go out on my round as a "lady" who sells brochure based cosmetics and perfumes.

I started working for this well known company- you know the one, they ring lots of doorbells- last month, in an attempt to raise some much needed Christmas money. So far I have earned £15 for myself, despite posting brochures through 180 doors. Anyone who thinks this is an easy gig is wrong.

Think of this kind of work, and you may think of perfectly turned out 1950's ladies in smashing blouses demonstrating their powders, cold creams and scents to an audience of gingham based housewives. This company has been running for decades, and while you can't deny that the products are indeed smashing, I'm sure my predecessors would feel that the standard of the "ladies" selling them these days have gone slightly orf. By the time I do my round, I've already done a day at work, picked my daughter up from school and started making dinner. By this point I am not so much Doris Day as Waynetta Slob, and caking my face in perfect make up is pretty low down on the agenda. It's probably no surprise, then, that the orders haven't exactly been flooding in yet.

Also, I think I need to accept the fact that I'm pretty rubbish at sales. I have lots of marketing ideas but when it comes to good, hard selling techniques I feel a bit awkward about it. According to the manual all new representatives are given, there are some tips you should use to enhance your sales. One of them is starting conversations with strangers at the bus stop; e.g "That's a very nice lipstick you're wearing, have you ever considered buying from us?" (at which point you whip out a pristine brochure, special offer booklet and a swiss army knife of mini lipsticks and tiny perfume bottles). This plan is flawed for two reasons. Firstly, where I live, starting conversations with strangers at bus stops is far more likely to result in a punch in the face than a lipstick sale. If you're very lucky you might get off with a funny look and some whispering, but it's very unlikely anyone's going to buy anything from you on our local bus services other than bargain priced crystal meth or rohypnol. Secondly,the last time I had to dig around my handbag at an impromptu moment I found the following: a pen with no lid; a sweet wrapper; a wrapper-less sweet; an unidentified black thing; several receipts; some yellow business cards (they weren't supposed to be yellow) and two expired vouchers. The idea of me whipping out anything pristine and sales inducing is pretty far fetched.

And I haven't even mentioned the customers yet. Some are of course lovely. But others have ranged from frosty to downright Antartic, despite my very polite "please just leave the book by the front door with a note if you'd rather not receive any more brochures" letter. I'll only knock if people haven't left their books out- partly because there's the vain hope that they may want to talk to me about an order, and partly because reps have to pay for them and I need them back if I'm going to be able to recycle them around 180 houses. As someone who despises pushy door to door sales people I'm very respectful of people's right to say no, but this doesn't seem to matter to some people, and I've had everything from mild huffing to very shouty "NEVER COME BACK AGAIN!!". In addition to the angry, shouty people, there are the countless ones who lose/recycle/blow their noses on the brochures despite the very clear, polite requests to leave them outside if not needed. And then there's the very nice lady who did make a £55 order, but paid me half of that in coppers.

Now it's getting darker, it's even more of a challenge. With most houses not having outside lights you have to rummage a bit to see if they've left the book by the door, and I am becoming increasingly aware that I could be easily mistaken for a burglar and hit over the head with a golf club or eaten by an angry dog. Last week I knocked on someone's door because they hadn't left their book out, and after much curtain twitching and the slow opening of a creaky door, a woman with one eye appeared , her good side flickering with blue light from the telly. Fortunately I was already shivering so much that she probably didn't notice me jump, but when she said "you frightened me to death knocking the door in the dark!" I nearly said "I frightened YOU to death? Hello!!", pointing at her one eye. Happily, I didn't.

I'm sure I'm not the only frazzled female who's doing this on top of a million other things and is far from the perfect painted ladies of the 1950's. I'll carry on for a few more weeks, but I'm pretty confident that this isn't going to be the way I make my millions. But I have got some very nice freebies, and if you want any doll's house sized perfumes, I'm your girl.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Who's that Trip Trapping Over my Twitter?

I can't claim to be either an expert, or a very high profile person, on Twitter- I've only been on for a few months and only have about 160 followers- but today my experience has stepped up a level and I feel compelled to write/rant about it. I have just been on the receiving end of a nasty little troll, which is something I thought was confined to Dom Jolly and other sometimes contentious Tweeters. I feel a bit like I've passed some kind of bizarre initiation ceremony now I've had my very own troll. Wonder if there's some kind of badge..

The reason for the trolling was that I "unfollowed" someone. I don't even remember how or when I started following in the first place, but, cursed with good manners and a need to please others, I've developed a silly habit of always "following back" when someone follows me. (This is starting to sound like organised stalking). This has proven to be a big mistake for two reasons- firstly, it's turned my Twitter account into another version of Facebook, and secondly people seem to get the right hump if you "unfollow" them.

One of the things I liked about Twitter at first was the anonymity that it can say whatever you like, and because you don't know a lot of the people on your list, you don't have to worry about getting funny looks the next day in the office/playground/ shop. I also liked the huge amount of people you can interact with, bounce ideas off and learn from, and the fact that you can choose whose comments fill your timeline. Every day I get to read the thoughts of 280 different people, ranging from the obligatory and brilliant Stephen Fry, to the Dalai Lama to the Big Ben Clock (who doesn't say anything other that Bong but is very helpful with letting you know how much of your day you've wasted staring at a computer screen). I love the variety, the fact you can keep up to date with what's going on in the world, and the probably immature and slightly ridiculous sense of satisfaction I get when someone off the telly replies to one of my tweets.

With Facebook there's an obligation to stay "friends" with people because most of the time you know them in real life; no matter how insanely, brain warpingly boring you find their comments about what mood they're in, what they've put on their toast, or how much ironing they have to do, it's very hard to delete someone from your friends list if there's a chance you'll have to face them the next day.  I have about 20 people I know in "real life" on Twitter, and about another 5 who I've grown to like so much that I forget we don't actually know each other, but the vast majority are people I never have, and never will, meet, so I thought it would be easy to disappear into the night. Or not. Apparently some people take it very personally if you do a runner, even if you'd never even recognise each other if you sat together on a bus.

Sometimes I "unfollow" by mistake, as I'm mostly using Twitter through my phone which is very temperamental and I'm a bit rubbish with technology. Sometimes I just do it because I find the things that some people say boring, annoying or offensive. Today was one of those days. This particular person had been filling my timeline for some time with increasingly offensive "jokes"- often involving violence towards, and humiliation of, women. Today he wrote about 9 tweets about what brand of chocolate he should use to stick up his (obviously imaginary) girlfriend's bottom. I'm far from prudish and love comedians who push boundaries and use satire. As someone who's followed, and defended, Chris Morris's work for years, I do "get" comedy that tackles difficult subjects and makes people feel uncomfortable. But Chris Morris he is not. Maybe I'm having an off day, but I just don't see the big joke in a "bitch" being anally raped by a chocolate bar. If this was real life I'd have given him a verbal what for, but this morning in Twitterville I just shook my head, tutted a bit and clicked "unfollow". Job done.

But here's the creepy bit.  Within a few minutes I had a very shouty, sweary comment from him asking who I thought I was. Apparently there's some kind of technology you can get that tells you when someone unfollows you, and who they are. This to me screams paranoia, self obsession and immaturity- who cares if someone takes you off their list? It's not like being dumped, get over it. I've been unfollowed a few times and although I did go a brief moment of "what did I do wrong?" it isn't exactly the ultimate rejection so I moved on pretty quickly. I write mostly about cooking, my love for Alan Partridge, current affairs and silly mistakes I make in daily life- this isn't going to suit everyone and I wouldn't expect it to. Mr Troll obviously wasn't able to be quite so sanguine about it and threw his toys not just out of the pram, but all over the nursery. Except with swearing and insults. Apparently I'm humourless, stuck up, stupid and frigid according to him and his team of little furry, wart ridden friends. Not sure what else has been said because now I've blocked him.

So, lessons learnt today:
1) in future, I'm only following back if people genuinely interest me
2) next time I unfollow, I'm blocking too.

If I do unfollow you, please don't cry/ jump off a building/ call me rude names- it might have been an accident. Or you might just be a really annoying, rude and unfunny blot on my Twitter who just needs to be a big boy and get over it. Now, where's my badge?.....