Friday, September 4, 2009

Solicitations, part deux: Child labor

One of my lovely followers (and cool blogger) Iapetus999 fully admits that he's brought his kid to the office to go around and make sales. He poses a good question:

What is the proper etiquette for the reverse situation...when kids (or parents) come up to you? Blow them off or politely buy a small amount? Report them to the manager?

Erm. EB is conflicted here:

  • On one hand, I think it's good when kids sell things, because the experience simultaneously teaches them about professionalism, entrepreneurship, sales, and rejection. I love buying lemonade from kids on the street.
  • On the other hand, hardly anyone can bear to say "no" to a kid (unless it's this kid), and might feel pressured.
One doesn't have to be so rude as to "blow them off," but if you don't want the product, a simple, "No thanks, but I appreciate you asking!" will do. If you want to make a purchase, purchase away!

I'd say reporting the offending kid (or parent) seems a bit harsh, a step that should only be taken if the pint-sized sales are becoming disruptive and work can't get done. A word to the manager along the lines of, "Hey, just so you're aware, Nick's kid is my cube and won't stop singing Christmas Carols until I tip her. It's sorta making the conference call with Tokyo difficult."

So far, I haven't heard of any offices that have strict "no kids selling/no solicitations" policies in place, but if everyone brought their kids to work to sell, well, that might make a dent in productivity.

A large part of etiquette is making others feel comfortable (read: not uncomfortable), and sometimes a sales situation will invoke that pressure (see yesterday's post). In these economic times, I suggest we all step back a bit and not make anyone feel like they have to fork over. At the same time, though, I'm not for kiboshing the spirit of the small salespeople.

So let's do this: like most things in life, everything in moderation.

Thanks for writing!

Everyone, enjoy the three-day weekend, and don't forget your summer etiquette out there.