Oh No, Not The Guy With The Clipboard Outside The Grocery Store

I don’t mind going to the grocery store. It’s the leaving I don’t like.

I dread the onslaught of otherwise unemployed college grads standing outside the exit who have been hired by some anonymous group to get patrons to sign petitions, support their causes, or give money to charities unknown.  The grocery store isn’t my place of charity worship. It’s not where I go to learn about the fate of cats or the children of Burbank. I’m just there to buy food.

Truthfully, I never trust that the vest-wearing clipboard holders are actually who they say they are.  No woman I know stops, anywhere she goes, to have a lengthy conversation with a total stranger. And I don’t feel comfortable singing a petition supporting a charity I know nothing about.  With my luck, the one time I sign I’ll have unknowingly singed a petition supporting a porn star for mayor. That’s just the kind of shit luck I have.

So when I see the clipboard holding vest wearers, I do my best to avoid making eye contact while trying to get out of the grocery store without being heckled or scolded for not being a good American because I didn’t stop to hear about the plight of the monarch butterfly.

Just yesterday I was leaving Whole Foods when I noticed the team of bearded hipsters, vests on, clipboards in hand. I have no idea what their charity was because they never actually said the name. Truthfully, they probably don’t know either. They’re there just to do a job and that job is to get me to sign the petition of the day. As I exited, I politely smiled, and headed toward my car.

But one of the clipboard holders started to walk next to me and asked,  “Do you like animals?”

“No,” I said and walked away.

I do actually like animals. I mean who doesn’t? But if you’re going to ask a silly question, I’m going to give you a silly answer and get in my car and pop a wheelie if I have to just to avoid any more silly questions.

But as a mother, I couldn’t help but feel badly for this guy who clearly lacked a natural gift for sales. He wasn’t the only one. One by one, he and his vest wearing comrades struck out. Nobody signed their petitions.

That’s because these guys had no idea how to sell anything, which realistically is what the vest wearers are doing outside Whole Foods. They might not be selling handbags or coffee, but they’re selling guilt and their cause. My maternal instinct went full throttle and I knew I needed to help.

You should know that I’m not a natural salesperson by nature. Sales don’t come easily to me. I lack the confidence to sell anything including my own skills, but I’ve had to get better at it over the years. Adults have to sell something all the time, usually it’s their own skills and talent.

Justin’s a natural salesman and has an MBA for back up. So as I was walking to my car I could hear his voice saying, “Never ask a yes or no question, or at least ask a question no one would want to say no to.”

“Do you like animals?” was what the guy outside my grocery store asked leaving me wide up to say, “Nope,” and walk away.

Truthfully I do like animals, not in a way that makes me want to have one as a pet, but I do like them. The guy trying to get me to sign his petition missed the opportunity to get past a no.

I decided to help. After all, these bright young things with their low slung jeans and tattoos even they don’t understand, are the future of America. And here they were, unable to get a bleeding heart liberal like myself to take one second out of her day to hear their schpiel.

So I turned my cart around and went back to the guy who asked me if I like animals and I offered these tips so that the next time he wants me to support the llamas of Bombay or the poor children of Malibu, he’d at least get my attention.

Be cleaner. Go ahead and bathe (with soap) and even shave your face (guys too), before you expect busy mothers to stop to get into a full conversation with you outside the market. Be cleaner, people. No one wants to feel like they need Purell just to shake your hand.

Ask better questions. You want me to sign your save the animals petition, stop me by asking a question no one would ever say no to. “Do you hate animals?” comes to mind. Even I couldn’t say no to that.

Don’t talk to a mother in the company of her young kids about icky subjects. A mom holding her three year old on the way in to the market doesn’t want to have to explain abortion or capital punishment to her toddler when she  just came to the market to pick up eggs. A mom is never going to stop for you if you made her kid uncomfortable.

Don’t try to be funny. Unless you’re so hilarious we’re going to see you on TV next year, don’t try to be funny. Even the most diehard llama saver won’t sign your clipboard if you tell her a “Yo Mama” joke that falls flat.

Don’t follow me through the parking lot. If I have to call 911, I’m probably not
going to help your cause.

Notice that you already asked me to sign your petition on my way in to the market. If I didn’t sign then, I’m not signing now. Plus now my ice cream is melting, which makes me less passionate about harp seals.

I wish I could tell you the gentleman was thrilled to have my helpful hints, but he wasn’t. He smiled, listened and then said “Cool, but are you going to sign the petition or not?”

“Not,” I said and headed back to my car.  First rule of sales, never ask a yes or no question.

Oh and to the guy who said, “Don’t you care about you daughter’s future?” while I was holding my daughter’s hard, don’t do that. If I didn’t care about my daughter’s future I wouldn’t be shopping at an overpriced grocery store and forcing her to eat kale.

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5 thoughts on “Oh No, Not The Guy With The Clipboard Outside The Grocery Store

  1. I’ve been one of those guys, registering voters. One thing, though: the registration form was accompanied by ballot initiatives for the upcoming primary election. One other thing: those initiatives were often sponsored by conservative interests. Republicans paid by the signature. Democrats paid by the hour, and not much at that, the cheap bastards — and I’m a lifelong Democrat.

    So,while registering to vote at my command post, you would be offered additional petitions to approve the clubbing of harp seals to bolster the fur industry, equip third graders with handguns, and build a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico to curtail the influx of undocumented rapists and mariachi musicians.

    But instead of standing by the supermarket doors, I set up two collapsible chairs and a small table, and bowl of a taffy: I blogged about it.


    I enjoyed the experience, but it gave me a permanent dislike for Girl Scouts and their goddamned thin mints and s’mores. See, the little con artists would set up shop near my field headquarters and pirate my trade, one of the downsides of mixing political activism with free enterprise.

    1. this is fabulous! as a recovered girls scout, i can attest to their amazing sales skills. thanks for writing.

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