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OK to say no to friend’s sales pitch

Fri., March 15, 2013

Dear Carolyn: While talking to a friend, he might mention he has a home-based business. When I ask what he does, I get evasive answers like “Let me come over and tell you about it,” “Let’s go to lunch and I’ll explain it,” “I’ll show you a video,” etc. Sometimes I get drawn into setting a date.

By the time I realize he wants to sell me something, I’m deep into excuses about why there isn’t a good time to meet with him. I’d like a suggestion for what to say the next time this happens. I don’t want to be rude; but I don’t want to waste my time either. – Tired of Sales SpielsThere is nothing wrong with saying no to a sales pitch. Ever. It may be harder among friends, but the friendship confers no special obligation.

In response to one of those vague, “I’ll show you a video” answers: “Oh, that’s not necessary, thanks.” Optional: “ … though I’d love to have lunch for the sake of lunch.”

If the friend presses, or if you’ve already been trapped into meeting with him: “Oops, I didn’t realize what this was about – I’m sorry, I don’t do business with friends.”

This kind of clarity isn’t rude, it’s a show of respect. If a friend presses you to the point that you’re uncomfortable, that is rude.

Dear Carolyn: I have a former client who I have just learned has mid-stage Alzheimer’s. I worked for him and his extended family for over 20 years. We parted on friendly terms. I would love to see him and his family again, but I don’t want to be an added burden on his wife. What should I do? – Anonymous

Send the wife a note or, even better given the ease of responding, an email. Such low-obligation contact is an emotional lifesaver for people dealing with a major illness. Plus, her response will likely tell you whether a visit would be a blessing or a chore.

Email Carolyn at tellme@washpost.com.

 

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