Last week I was (as always) waiting patiently for my bus, when a man approached me with the following offer: "I'd sure like to shine up your shoes."
The fact that he was indeed carrying a shoe-shine kit assured me that this was not a pick-up line, although I can think of several appropriately dirty responses that I won't repeat here.
As it was raining and I was a bit pressed for time, I responded with, "No thanks." His reply?
"So you're okay with them lookin' all messed up like that?"
To be fair, I was wearing my 9-year-old Eastlands, which have traveled with me worldwide and been the victim of numerous slips on the ice here at home. So, needless to say, they are rather scuffed and beginning to leak in wet weather. (Now that I'm actually typing this out, I begin to realize it might be time to buy some new footwear.) But that's why I was wearing them ... they're great for kicking around in and shuffling to and from work. I leave them with their scars intact, because A. I just don't care, B. They aren't Jimmy Choos, and C. They still feel like slippers. So suck it, Shoe-Shine Man!
I did have to admire his sales tactics, however. He offered a service nicely, was turned down, and resorted to insulting his potential customer, presumably with the goal of shaming me in public into accepting the aforementioned service.
It reminded me of the time I foolishly answered my apartment door to find a man asking me to buy magazines. When I politely declined, he proceeded to stand there and angrily demand to know why I didn't want to support his continuing education, while I gripped the spatula I'd carried to the door (mid-dinner preparation) ever tighter. Maybe you catch more flies with confrontation than honey. I've never tried.
But what if other businesses took this approach?
"I'd sure like to put braces on your kid .... No? So you're okay with those jacked-up teeth?"
"I'd sure like to be your personal trainer ... No? So you're okay with being a fat-ass then?"
"I'd sure like to cut your hair ... No? So you're okay with that outdated rat's nest on your head?
Just think of the possibilities! Would we be more inclined to accept services if we knew an insult (and most likely a terrible truth) were to follow, loudly and publicly? I don't know. What I do know is this: rather than inciting the mob around me to urge me to take care of my battered shoes, Shoe-Shine Man merely drew a few incredulous and annoyed tsks and laughs as he moved on down the street ... with no takers.