Filled with excitement to start the new year, in the first days of January, I was looking for any signs to indicate what kind of year lay ahead. Although not overly superstitious, I do dabble looking for hidden messages, coincidences, or 'God Winks,' as Squire Rushnell call's them.
So on Monday, January 4, getting a potential new business call before 11:00 a.m. was invigorating. A few minutes later I received a call from a normal-seeming area code which my gut told me was a solicitation, but I answered anyway. It was offering a free 90-minute European facial. Yeah!! Had it been any other day of the year, most likely I wouldn't have answered, or declined and gotten off the phone quickly.
But I took this as a sign of positive new year energy, and that all things abundance would be coming my way; I bought into the sales pitch. Of course, the sales lady said the free facial had no strings attached and they wouldn't try to hard sell me anything. Their only interest was spreading the love for their services as they were just launching in the States and, if I liked it, they hoped I'd make referrals. From a career in marketing and branding, I understand that tactic, and should have definitely known they were full of shit!
With an appointment booked for a few days later, I went about my business with a little more bounce in my step.
On the day of my facial, I considered canceling the appointment but decided to indulge in the experience, take a break from the 24/7/365 life of an entrepreneur, and go for it.
The midtown spa was sparkling clean. I was taken to a very well-lit treatment room by Sandra, a beautiful young woman with, of course, perfect skin. When I found out she was in her early 20s I didn't feel so bad!
Sandra explained that she would take a picture of my skin with a special magnifying camera to gauge what was really going on. Mind you, my skin is good and happily, people always think I'm about ten years younger than I am. Some of this no doubt is genes, but I also attribute it to always drinking lots of water, doing yoga, and taking cold showers.
But, a picture speaks 1,000 words! There it was, my under layer of skin -- dehydrated, broken capillaries, clogged pores, I tuned out there. I was a perfect candidate for spa treatments, aka, a ripe target for a full throttle sales pitch.
When I laid down, Sandra explained the product was from Israel, with crushed diamonds, plant stem cells, and all sorts of other tasty sounding ingredients. First she would do half of my face, then take another picture to compare, and then do the other side. Sounded good, and the treatment felt great. Heaven, a free facial.
Our dialogue went something like this:
"A beautiful woman like you must be married," she said.
"No, I'm happily divorced, and single. So how much does this stuff cost?" I asked.
"Don't worry, I'll tell you everything after."
"But is it expensive?"
"No, we'll discuss later, just relax."
With the first half of my face done, Sandra took another photo and of course, there was a noticeable difference both when looking in the mirror, and at the photo.
And then it began. She asked, "Can you afford $200 a month in your budget?
"No, but out of curiosity, what would that get me?"
Twelve products that will last for 18 months, delivered in what looked like a James Bond spy case. And yes, they were the very same fabulous products she used on me.
"OK, let me talk to my boss and see if there's anything better we can do."
Sure, no problem, I'm always up for a game of negotiation. I was left in the room for some time, with only half my face done. Then there was a knock on the door which I found strange given it was her treatment room.
And there it was... A hot, sexy guy with big puppy dog eyes walked in, sat down with his piece paper and pen, and batted his twinkling eyes, which sent me into a fantasy frenzy.
He took me through some insane circular, money calculating, guilt tripping equation that made me spin.
Next thing I knew, it was $127 per month for 18 months for all the products and a monthly facial and anything else the esthetician thought I may need at no extra cost, and he'd throw in this and that which I didn't even understand.
"This works out to less than $4 day, isn't your skin worth it? And this offer is only good for the remainder of today. If you call me tomorrow it will be $300/month."
Dang, he pulled the 'how can you not love yourself enough to do this for your middle-aged skin that's only gonna get worse' guilt card. The, 'that's less than you probably spend a day at Starbucks' manipulation card.
Had I been married, would they have sent in the same sales person or would it have been an old lady with fabulous, youthful skin?
Hot guy kept at it, and next thing I knew he was offering a line of credit with 0% interest and no payment due for the first 40 days so I could cancel at any time.
I wanted to bolt but only half of my face was done -- a great way to ensure a captive audience! Finally after what felt like an hour but was probably only 10 minutes, I got him leave me with my head spinning.
Sandra went to town on the rest of my face while I tried to recover. I hadn't experienced the assault and battery sales tactic for a long time. Naively or not, I honestly thought in this day of brand authenticity, building trust with your prospective customers, the viral speed at which a bad review could travel, I believed the hard-sell was a thing of the past.
When it was over, Sandra said if I liked the treatment would I please refer friends who would want a free facial. Seriously? She was in the room with me and hot guy (and that's probably a good thing!) and saw what went down.
When I walked out of the treatment room, there he was. Waiting like a hungry animal about to kill its prey. "It will just take 5 minutes to see if you pre-qualify for the line of credit," he said.
"I'm late for a meeting."
"Let's just take the minute and then you can take the case of product and you're set."
Slow down bucko... I ain't taking no case, but my will power didn't get me to walk right out. Of course, I pre-qualified for the line of credit but then really bolted out the door, without the James Bond case.
The noise in my head was at volume 10 -- 'it's only $127, it's only money, once your skin goes you can't reverse it... and on and on.'
I stopped in Sketchers to see what I looked like in a different mirror. Damn, my skin looked amazing. 'Go back, don't go back - get on the train and go home. Go back, no don't,' said the dueling voices in my head.
My smart feet got me to the subway station and luckily a train was just pulling in. The conflict of what I should do was raging but I held strong and the doors closed with me inside.
The spa would have gotten me as a customer for 18 months at their asking price, with maybe a little more negotiating, but this experience left me exhausted, pissed off, and having lost time over nonsense in my busy schedule. Assault and battery sales tactics are not the way to go and they're a thing of the past.
Seduce your potential customer, leave them hungry for more, deliver on your promise, show them you understand their needs, respect their intelligence, that's how you'll earn their trust and business, and develop a mutually beneficial, hopefully long-term relationship.