Home Opinion and Features When you’re robbed by a bargain

When you’re robbed by a bargain

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At the end of the day no matter how unimpressed or irritated you may get, people and organisations genuinely believe that they are doing or offering something good, writes Lance Fredericks.

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TERROR? I know all about terror … OK, maybe not actual terror over something to actually be terrified about, but terror nonetheless.

Growing up, and as you matured, there were things you were sequentially warned about. First you learned that when you heard the word “Kaka” you’d better spit out whatever it was you had stuck in your gob.

Later you learned about not sticking your finger into a light socket, not touching a hot stove, how to cross a road, and so on.

Then came the day that I learned of something else to fear – envelopes.

One day, while flipping through a stack of envelopes, the colour drained from my Mom’s face. “I don’t like these things,” she said, holding a blue envelope in her trembling fingers. “Why do people do this?

It turned out to be a ‘chain letter’. A chain letter would start off by saying that this is a ‘lucky note’ written many years ago by a wise guru, and faithfully passed along over time.

Then you would be urged to send this message to 10 other people and by that simple act you would be blessed with luck and good fortune. But if you did not rewrite it – this was in the time before photocopy machines – and send it along, your life would turn into a Country and Western song.

My grandmother’s solution was simple. “Don’t open it, just burn it!”

Her solution seemed to have worked, our family went on quite well for a while. That is, until the day that a pair of conservatively dressed, smiling people carrying satchels stuffed with magazines knocked on our front door.

My parents trembled again. Mom motioned for us to be quiet and carefully peered through the curtains. I thought to myself, “The chain letter did this!”

However, though the visitors knocked for what seemed like an eternity they eventually left. The next day a neighbour told us that these people with the satchels were patrolling our neighbourhood. She added that once you let them inside your home, they would not leave … and they would cast a spell over you and brainwash you.

Of course it’s not true, but I was young and gullible and I believed the hogwash.

Then one day, years later, I was alone at home when two conservatively dressed, smiling people carrying satchels stuffed with magazines rang the doorbell.

I opened the door before peering through the curtains and I was stuck. But remembering the threat of the eternal visit, I had them sit with me outside on the stoep … It was mid-July, overcast and there was an icy wind blowing.

When one of the women asked for a drink of water, I poured water from the bottle in the refrigerator with the aim of making the ‘welcome’ even more frosty. It worked and they left after less than 10 minutes.

I have to admit that as I watched them leave I thought about how very kind and polite they were while they visited.

More recently, a friend of mine answered a knock at the door, and made short work of telling the two smiling women that she was not interested in anything they wanted to say, share or discuss, and abruptly slammed the door in their faces.

She told her sister, “I don’t know why these people come here to bother me! I don’t like them, they make me so angry!”

Her sister heard one of the women outside saying to her companion, “Why don’t people like us? I don’t understand it. We are such nice people!”

That got me thinking. People sending chain letters and people knocking on your door offering you free literature are not doing it to offend you or make your life miserable. They honestly, genuinely believe they are helping … much like I believe internet service providers think they are doing a good thing by offering you gigabytes of night-time data.

But to me, nighttime data is a waste. I sleep at night. Yet advertisers bombard you telling you what ‘incredible deals’ you are getting. Well, for some of us – those who are not insomniacs – you just end up losing half of what you’re paying for.

Now, let’s not go on wagging our heads and tut-tutting at what we consider to be irritating people who knock on doors or companies that offer mundane deals that they market as ‘amazing’ or even well-intentioned folk who send those irritating chain e-mails or texts.

At the end of the day no matter how unimpressed or irritated you may get, these people are sincere. They genuinely believe that they are doing or offering something good.

It’s as if we as humans or even businesses and organisations operate with the main intention of receiving the approval of those with whom we connect. And I am thinking that maybe that’s because people and even companies and organisations don’t know who we really are.

The formula is simple, if you want to know how kind, generous, loving or caring you are as a person, or if you want to know how ‘amazing’ the deals or services you’re offering clients actually are, don’t fool yourself by asking yourself.

Ask those on the receiving end of whatever you’re offering … it’s possible that what you learn might unsettle, or even worse, terrify you.

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