The Sucker Factor

The Cost of Being Unable to Say No - And How to Get Out of It

Alan wrote in with an interesting situation:

My problem is that I can’t say no to people. I am a sucker for girl scouts selling cookies. I am a sucker for salesman at stores. I am a sucker for my church when they need money for something. I am a sucker for friends and family who need to borrow money. I am a sucker for the Green Party or Green Peace when they call and ask for money all the time. I have heard it called “The Disease to Please” before and I just wanted you to know how much it affects me not only with a lot of stress and anxiety, but also financially. I don’t think I am alone either. [...] I am trying to empower myself by saying “No”
to at least one person a day. It is not easy though. I always fear hurting people’s feelings or making them angry. Your article today about the left and right brain was fascinating. It got me thinking about other parts of a person’s psychological make up that could potentially affect their spending habits. For me, if I could grow a back bone and say no to people, I would probably save one or two hundred dollars a month. Sometimes more.

I have some of these weaknesses, too. The biggest one is Thin Mints. Thin Mints are one of my true weaknesses in life – curse the person who invented them. I also have a weakness for school-related fundraisers, especially those “discount card” fundraisers that seem to be popular around here. Kids will stop by and sell a discount card that will get you some bargains at local businesses and the proceeds for the card go to help out a youth group – I’m a sucker for these, too.

What I’ve found that works well for me is deciding about my giving up front and then sticking to it. Here’s the game plan I use to avoid the guilt that I’m not giving enough to others.

How to Avoid the Guilt of Not Giving Enough

Budget your giving

Each year, my wife and I decide right off the bat that we’re going to give a certain percentage of my money to charity – it’s usually 10% of our pre-tax income (yes, I’m a Christian, and I do view that as my tithe, but I don’t feel that my tithing necessarily needs to go to the church, though I do admire some their charitable works) but sometimes it’s been higher than that. All of our giving comes out of that amount. We allocate pieces to various things, including a set amount for Girl Scout cookies, for community fundraisers, for school fundraisers, for my church (we actually break this down, too, and give amounts to various projects at my church that we agree with), for a few other specific charities (Iowa Public Radio, Iowa Public Television, etc.), political campaigns, and so on.

We basically set this budget in stone. Once we decide how much I’m giving for the year and what I’m giving to, it’s done. We freeze it. If a good cause comes along, we’ll consider it for the next year, but this year is locked.

When new causes come along, such as telemarketers who call for donations, I tell them the truth. “I’ve already decided my charitable giving for the year. I’ll keep you in mind for next year.” Then I hang up. In fact, I usually knock that charity down a notch because they’re harassing me at home with their demands.

This same logic applies for all charity mailings we get in the mail. I just chuck ‘em unless they’re a charity on our list for the year.

What about salesmen? I completely ignore them unless they’re helping me find what I specifically want. I don’t go into a store without knowing what I’m intending to buy, and I view it as a deep personal failure to leave with anything else. Salespeople are there to cajole you into buying something not on your list, so just ignore them. If they bug you, just say, “I’m fine,” and walk away – that’s what I do. If a salesperson is particularly persistent, I leave the store and shop elsewhere – I know that if I listen to them, I might get seduced into buying something, plus they’re eating up my time and distracting me from the purpose I had when I came to the store.

I use a similar approach if someone comes to my door. If they’re on my “list” – like the girl down the block that I’ve bought Girl Scout cookies from or the boy who lives three doors down trying to fund his trip to Mexico with his youth group – I’ll listen. Otherwise, I just quickly say “No thanks” and end the conversation immediately.

That leads into another great tactic: end it quickly. As soon as the sales pitch begins and you recognize it as something not on your list (either shopping or charity), end it immediately. Say “no thanks” right then and hang up or walk away. The longer you stay, the more likely they’ll break down your guard. Do it fast and firmly and don’t give it a second thought.

It takes practice

Especially for tenderhearted people who aim to please, but by not saying no, you’re actually taking money out of the hands of the things you really care about. Saying yes to the salesman in the store means that you now have less money to spend on stuff you actually need – or on charities you actually care about. Saying yes to the person knocking on your door means you have less money to give to the people you actually care about who need it.

Every time you say “yes” outside of your plan, you let down something you care about even more. Once you really learn that, “no” becomes a much easier thing to say.

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  1. Saving Freak says:

    Saying no is so tough for many people. Budgeting has completely changed how we spend money on charity and life in general. One big help was the cash envelope. By switching to cash envelopes for areas we overspend we are not able to go over our budget because once the envelope is empty that is it. This has helped us with many things but most of all those delectable girl scout cookies. They are more addictive than any drug on the planet.

  2. Johanna says:

    One thing that helps me is to always use the same line: “I’m sorry, I can’t help you today.” Say it so often that it becomes second nature. Then you won’t find yourself fumbling for words trying to explain yourself when you want to say “no” to someone.

    True, it’s not that much of an explanation, and it might not always be literally true. But so what? When people are asking you for money that belongs to you, you’re not obligated to give them a detailed and convincing list of reasons explaining your choice not to give. “It’s my money, and I’d rather do something else with it” is reason enough – and really, this is just a nicer way of saying that.

  3. Anne K says:

    Your post can also apply to saying no to salespeople who badger customers incessantly to apply for a store credit card. I went shopping for tshirts the other day; tshirts are a mainstay of my summer wardrobe and with care they will last a few years. The saleslady badgered me throughout the whole process of ringing me up to apply for a store credit card. I didn’t go for it. Her tactic worked with other people- there were several people in line in front of me, about half of whom applied for the card. That’s frightening. Sure, it was a ‘savings’ of 45% for that day for things that were on sale (most of my stuff wasn’t on sale, it was simply cheap). But what about other days? Usually I would have simply dumped the clothes on the counter, told the salesperson why I was leaving, and then walked out of the store, but it was a sale day and I need the shirts. From now on I’ll shop at other stores.

  4. boardmadd says:

    I think the idea of having a set in stone “giving’ policy is a great one. I personally find that I have some creep in this area when it comes to Scouting. I’m a long time adult leader and know intimately the inner workings of the program, so I am often throwing money at scouting related areas and issues like it’s my mission to do so (please don’t ask me how much I donate or contribute to the Order of the Arrow Dance Team that I am advisor for; it’s a bit of a sore subject for me (LOL!) ). Still, that’s also getting better because, over time, the team has become more self sufficient, where my capital isn’t as requires as it was in the past.

    By writing down what giving you will do, you know what is going where, and if it can work within those confines, then consider it.

    As to telemargeters or salesman, I agree with the “end it quickly” approach. Tying them up and then saying no robs them of potentially four other calls they can make. Remember, they are not trained to dwell on the no, but work towards the “yes”. Cutting them off fast allows them to work towards finding the yes person. It’s just not going to be me :).

    Oh, and I deliberately set aside $20.00 per year so I can get Tagalongs when GSC time rolls around (LOL!).

  5. I do that too – set an annual giving budget and stick with it, but much like you, I just can’t say no to girl scout cookies, not so much b/c of the cookies, but b/c they are always so sweet and young and hopeful and I just can’t let them down.

    It’s true though, that if I don’t let *them* down, I am letting my kids down by spending too much. Thank you for the reminder.

  6. Louie says:

    i didnt make it all the way through this post because i stopped at where you said you have a weakness for thin mints…. you love cooking and baking? why not have thin mints any time of year you choose
    http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/001370.html

  7. Paul says:

    I admire anyone who chooses to tithe 10% of their income, but I don’t think you should include the purchase of Girl Scout cookies in that category. When you bought them, you got something in return … delicious cookies. If you continue down the logic that this was giving, you could easily fall down the slippery slope of thinking you are altruistic about purchasing virtually anything for yourself, because you are helping the economy or the workers who made the things you are buying. I think giving should be viewed as an act of sharing your wealth without anything expected in return for you personally, except perhaps a warm feeling in your heart.

  8. L says:

    I hate the little coupons at supermarket checkouts that they can scan to add $2 to your bill to go to a charity, they always get me.
    In the line last week, the teller asked each person and they all grudgingly agreed. I got to the checkout and was met with “would you like to add $2 to your bill for disabled children?” I took a breath and replied “no thank you”.
    I don’t think she could’ve looked more horrified, but really I have no idea what the charity was, how much good they do.
    I was left feeling pretty evil though.

  9. EdTheRed says:

    My own experience:

    Supporting local schools when they have carwashes and other fundraisers is a great way to give back, and may even be considered an investment if you don’t have school-age kids yet.

    It usually takes two or three “No, thanks,” or “I’m really not interested,” to be rid of persistent solicitors and sales people. Just lather, rinse, repeat and don’t get nasty.

    Telling telemarketers that you wish you could help but are unemployed takes you off of calling lists fast!

  10. I tell folks that I do my charitable giving in October (I truly do!) and if they send me a donation form, I’ll look at it in Ocotber and make my decision then based on available funds. I do buy the odd magazine subscription or box of girl scout cookies, but no more than one or two charities. Thankfully, I don’t work in an office with a lot of folks with kids, that helps alot.

    I do make a donation of either food or a grocery store gift card to the local food pantry in the summer. Food pantries need food year round, not just between thanksgiving and christmas.

  11. KC says:

    I try to keep myself out of “asking” situations to begin with. I live in an urban area and that means keeping my wood door closed throughout the day. We have a glass door, which is always locked and a wood door, which is sometimes open to let in the sunlight. But unfortunately leaving that wood door open leads to panhandlers, salesmen, “preachers” and other unwanted guests. If they persist I just let my 80 lb dog stand up and look out the door window – that usually takes care of them.

    I do the same with my phone – if I don’t recognize the number calling in I don’t answer the phone – I let the machine get it – my friends will leave a message.

    I know its hard to avoid the neighborhood kids (the ones I know, not the ones I think are working for a panhandler) and I usually give in, but not so much it’ll hurt my budget.

  12. Lynn in RI says:

    We are lucky here in RI – we can buy GS cookies and there is a column to have them donated directly to our local soup kitchen or food bank….That way everyone wins….the folks who get the yummy cookies and my scale (which does not – Ha)

  13. Ann says:

    This is a great post, Trent. Thank you.

  14. Diane says:

    I am a sucker for “St Anthony Messenger” magazine. They have this Brother Somebody who calls when you need to renew and he has a really bad speech impediment and I CAN NOT SAY NO!!! He just called yesterday. I guess it’s Catholic guilt. How do you say no to a priest? If you are Catholic I mean!

  15. Trent says:

    My two attempts at making my own Thin Mints resulted in (a) burnt hockey pucks that were more dense than cement and (b) large, extremely thin chocolate flavored tortilla chips with a wafer in the middle. The latter were actually good, but nothing like Thin Mints.

  16. Becky says:

    I used to hate dealing with salesmen on commission when trying to make a big purchase. As soon as I sent one away, another one would attack.

    I can’t think when they’re following me around a store or car-lot, asking questions and trying to “make friends” instead of letting me gather information in the way that actually helps me make a decision (look, read, handle, think, repeat).

    I finally developed a trick that works like a charm. When the first salesman swoops in for the kill, in my friendliest manner I say, “Hi. I need to browse around and look at all my options undisturbed. If you leave me alone to do that, and keep all the other sales staff away from me too, when I have questions and/or I am ready to buy, I promise I will come find you. On the other hand, if *anybody* else approaches me while I am browsing, I’ll leave. I appreciate your working with me on this.”

    Last time I needed to buy a major appliance I did that, and it was just fabulous. My sales guy guarded me from all the other salespeople. I browsed, snooped, thought, found my guy and asked him some questions, went back to browsing quietly and thinking, made my decision, found my guy again and made the purchase.

    I believe the sales guy appreciated being told how I *wanted* to be treated. He got his commission and was helpful when I needed him, and I got a nice shopping experience that did not overwhelm and infuriate me (rare for this introvert). And I actually got the appliance that I needed, rather than eventually running from the store in a hysterical fury because the sales staff would not leave me alone – which is how my previous shopping trips tended to end up.

  17. Geoff says:

    Nice post … couple of other tips:
    1 Place your name on the “do not call” list and the same for the “do not mail” list, cuts down the calls and mail solicitations.
    2 Place a “no solicitation” sign next to your front door … again it warns people not to ask.
    3 Practice and keep on practicing the “no thanks” routine. There is no need to explain your self, just a simple but firm no thanks works.

    Finally to the writers concern of offending or angering people, he needs to go back/inside himself and really try to understand/resolve were this need to please people [via the giving of money] arose from. Deal with it and let it go, you will feel much better and more in control of all aspects of your life.

  18. Gena says:

    The act of saying “No” is really practicing one’s assertiveness skills. If saying no is difficult for you, I’m willing to bet there are other places in your life where being more assertive would also be a benefit. In self defense classes, I learned that “No” is a complete sentence. It takes practice to say it consistently. Speaking to the budget, in my house, we decide who/what and how much we’re donating to charity early in the year and those monies go out over a twelve month period. I can say to the people at the grocery store “No, I support X charity in my own way” and feel good about it. And the magic phrase for telemarketers (if you’ve already registered with Do Not Call) is “Take me off your calling list.” That greatly reduces the number of phone solicitors. Guilt is great if it keeps you from making the same mistakes over and over, but highly overrated if it motivates you to self sabotage.

  19. Jeff says:

    Speaking as a former salesperson, a polite but firm “no” at the beginning of a sales pitch is actually a time saver. Most salespeople would much rather know that there’s no chance of making a sale immediately rather than at the end of a five-minute conversation. So, don’t worry about hurting their feelings. As long as you’re polite, by making your resolve to not purchase something known immediately, you may actually be doing them a favor.

  20. !wanda says:

    @Paul: The Girl Scouts sell those cookies to make money. They’re pretty expensive, especially considering that the “salespeople” work for free, so I’m guessing that a considerable portion of the purchase price goes to the organization.

  21. Elizabeth says:

    When a salesperson is badgering me to get the company credit card or pay a fee to join the “Preferred Buyers Club” or whatever the heck it is, I do find myself responding emotionally. I know how soul-deadening it can be, having to follow the same tedious corporate script with customer after customer, day in and day out. I tend to feel a tiny urge to say “yes” just to relieve that.

    Instead, I’ve had good results with smiling and saying, “No, thank you, and I’m sorry you have to say that all day.” It creates a more human interaction between us, plus the weirdness of it utterly knocks them off any badgering script they might be trained to follow. And it’s true: I really am sorry they’re required to say that again and again all day.

  22. Michelle says:

    I always fall for those supermarket donations too, I hate when they ask if you want to add money to your bill for the charity. Becuase you know you look like a real jerk if you dont agree to add just $2 for the sake of the children/pets/veterens whatever. I always think to myself are they allowed to do this? I feel really uncomfortable about this and it is making me not want to shop here anymore, but they all do it at some point or another, so what can I do? I dont beleive in giving much money directly to charities, instead I like to give my time. I have a full time job and studying for grad school but I still make the time to teach art classes to at-risk children once a week, where I can see the direct benefit of my contribution and really brighten up their lives and give them hope to do something with their life.

  23. partgypsy says:

    This is a work in progress for me too, it has been hard for me to say no to a worthy cause, and I know this economy has been hard on nonprofits because both government contributions and individual donations are being reduced.
    My response has been similar to Trent, what I have been doing is a) research and pick a couple main organizations I really want to support and automate my giving through payroll deduction (I work for the VA and b) for smaller yearly memberships consolidate them at the 1st of the year. This way it lets me decide where my money goes, and controls the unudation of requests throughout the year and having to decide/respond to each one. I’m not perfect and may still give $20 to a coworker’s cause here and there but I feel much better giving this way than the way I had done it before.

  24. Frugal Dad says:

    There are few things better than Thin Mints right out of the freezer in the middle of August. I digress.

    Your ideas on being proactive about a giving plan are very appealing, and something I could do better myself. I’ve found that I am most successful with things I plan for in advance – diets, shopping, etc, and giving is no exception.

  25. Paul says:

    Hey Trent,
    I’m curious.. Ever had anyone get hostile with you over telling them “no thanks” right away and trying to walk away? I have had this experience twice and found it to be very intimidating. What would you do in that situation?

  26. ericabiz says:

    22 comments and a whole blog post and not one person has recommended Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion”? Cialdini starts off with the SAME intro…he was a huge sucker and wanted to figure out how it all worked. He then took up jobs as a used car salesperson, with Amway, etc., and wrote an entire book detailing ALL of the strategies that these folks use. It is absolutely THE book for understanding in detail what strategies salespeople use and how to duck them without feeling guilty or obligated.

    Trent, if you haven’t read that one, it’s a must-read. Review it on the site. I’ll link to your review!

    -Erica

  27. HebsFarm says:

    I do understand the importance of having a backbone, making wise choices, and being able to say NO – but is a little confusing for me to have salesmen, solicitors for charitable organizations, and the church tithe all lumped together in one post. I thought the church tithe was supposed to be given “cheerfully.” No one said we have to cheerfully sign up for the store’s credit card of the day, but we have been directed to care for widows and orphans, bind up the sick and the lame, and such. I hope if something horrible ever happened to me, I would not be told that I would have to wait until next October’s budget review for an evaluation.

  28. M-Jay says:

    I do a similar thing, by taking a few moments to plan out how much money we give to charity, I can honestly say “I’ve already made my donations this year, but thanks for your time. Please take me off your list.”

    I love that if I ask them to take me off the list, they legally have to. This reduces the times of year that I’m solicited and the amount of times I have to say no!

  29. Holly says:

    Practice, practice, practice a handful of pat lines:
    “I’m sorry, I don’t have any cash on me.”
    “I wish I could, but I’m overextended right now.”
    “Not this time, thanks.”

    etc.

    Works like a charm if you say it sincerely and firmly. That’s where the practice comes in. :)

  30. Pam says:

    I want to take a moment to thank you for supporting Girl Scouts. In my area, nearly 75% of the Girl Scout Council’s budget comes from the product [cookie & other] sales. Both of my daughters are girl scouts, and I have to tell you that by being involved with the program, they have learned many life skills which are not taught in school [budgeting, changing a tire, minor home improvement projects, etc.].

    I’m not an overly outgoing person so, I’m always a little hesitant when I take them around to sell cookies. But they have learned some skills through that process, which they might be able to use later in life – especially when they go to apply for a first job [customer relations & customer service, sales experience, cash handling, etc.]

    So, thanks again.

  31. jaushwa says:

    Trent I agree you don’t have to give your whole tithe to the church, but I do believe you should give as your led to those suggested in Deuteronomy

    Deuteronomy 26:12 (Amplified Bible)

    When you have finished paying all the tithe of your produce the third year, which is the year of tithing, and have given it to the Levite, the stranger and the sojourner, the fatherless, and to the widow, that they may eat within your towns and be filled,

  32. Khaki says:

    Bear in mind that you do not have to buy the overpriced fundraising option that is being offered by the sweet child (or sweet child’s parent in your office). Offer to donate directly to the cause. You can get away cheaper and have a bigger percentage go directly to the organization. Having chaired some of these fundraising efforts I am thrilled to have someone offer $5 directly to the cause rather than but the $10 item, as I would be lucky to get $4 “profit” from the sale, plus have more work involved in schlepping the product when it gets delivered.

  33. Khaki says:

    Whoops, that should have been – have someone offer $5 directly to the cause rather than *buy* the $10 item.

  34. Meg says:

    I have always planned to buy GS cookies every year, and to keep it reasonable for both my wallet and waistline I limit the number of boxes I buy to about 4-6 (sometimes I take some to work). They are gone in about 1-2 weeks, then I wait again.

  35. Joe says:

    How and why did you lose 10,000 readers in one day? I see your feedburner stats report approx 22K readers as opposed to the 30K+ seen earlier this week?

  36. jtimberman says:

    We do our charitable giving to our church, period.

    We give gifts as appropriate to friends and family for things like birthdays, Christmas, etc.

    Both of these are budgetted and set in stone on a monthly basis. I don’t accept door to door solicitations, and I hang up on telemarketers that actually do call – we have opted out via the Do Not Call list.

  37. Ro says:

    I don’t mind being a sucker for Thin Mints…mmm, as someone said above, right out of the freezer….wish we hadn’t already eaten the four boxes I bought in February!

  38. Patrick says:

    I am a sucker, my wife will not allow me to answer the phone or door anymore. Thankfully though she is able to hang up on them, give them a smart comment, or slam the door in their face.

    Me and my attempt at being a salesman in the past can relate how hard it is so I always try to play the nice guy. so I let them talk and talk, they never give you the chance to intervene until the dreaded, so I have you located at “blah blah address” is that correct? Before you know it UPS drops off that shiny ‘waffledong’ at my front porch which serves no purpose but to throw money away.

    Anyway, excellent strategy and ideas, ofcourse it sounds like I just need to grow a pair!

    P.S. Dont bother looking up waffledong in the dictionary

  39. jm says:

    Wow, good description of something I do automatically and naturally.

  40. jm says:

    Taking this a step further, why not have a ‘miscellaneous’ category for things that come up during the year that might have been on your list.

    Like for example if there is a natural disaster somewhere. You had no idea in January there would be a cyclone in May in Asia, and you really want to help the victims out. If you allocate, say, .5% for miscellaneous out of your 10%, you can send money to things not on your ‘list’ and still maintain your budget. If you haven’t used the money in your miscellaneous charitable category by the end of the year, send the rest to someone else on your list, or just buy some christmas presents for orphans or something.

  41. My wife can’t say no to a good sales pitch. I spend a lot of time answering the phone to “protect” her and our savings. She knows it is a pitch, but still doesn’t want to hurt the other person’s feelings. When i ask how about my feelings, she says, “You’ll get over it.” :)

    Best Wishes,
    D4L

  42. luvleftovers says:

    You can never have too many GS cookies – Never!

    AND, you can do as I just did, and buy some that GS will send to troops overseas.

    “Telling telemarketers that you wish you could help but are unemployed takes you off of calling lists fast!”
    EdTheRed @ 9:24 am May 9th, 2008 (comment #9)

    I do this ALL the time! It really works.

  43. I too have a hard time saying no to Girls Scouts, Salesmen and the like. I will definitely try your method I like your method of giving.

  44. K says:

    Anyone have helpful info on how to get rid of the Jehovah Witness people? I am at the point of buying a “WHAT PART OF NO DON’T YOU UNDERSTAND” t-shirt to wear the next time they appear at my door.

  45. getagrip says:

    It’s your money. It’s your time. They (charity or salemen) are making a request of you. Remember, it’s okay for them to ask, but most importantly, it’s okay for you to say no. Once they forget the second half of the above, they are no longer a charity, your friend, or your pal. They are people intent on harassing you and bleeding you for money.

  46. Chad says:

    One thing about budgeting your giving is that it may not give you the flexibility to give to unexpected needs later in the budgeting year–e.g., Tsunami relief, Katrina relief, etc.

    One could allocate a portion of his charitable giving to particular charities and then leave a portion undesignated, but to automatically say no to spontaneous needs strikes me as inhumane.

  47. Eden says:

    Good advice. I agree that having a plan ahead of time makes it easier to say no. I really like your answer for charities though, I think I need to take that approach. I’ve become pretty good at saying no, but I still mess up from time to time.

    Regarding the Thin Mints- no need to get crazy and turn those down!

  48. A.M.B. A. says:

    K: re: over-zealous religious people at the door. I either don’t answer (but hard to do in the summer when I like my front door open with the screen door locked); answer and appear harried – “No time, I’m making dinner, about to give the kids a bath, etc.”, then close the door and/or leave: or say “Sorry, I’m Catholic (or Jewish or etc.) and am not interested in changing my faith”, then close the door.

  49. A.M.B. A. says:

    K: re: over-zealous religious people at the door. I either don’t answer (but hard to do in the summer when I like my front door open with the screen door locked); answer and appear harried – “No time, I’m making dinner, about to give the kids a bath, etc.”, then close the door and/or leave: or say “Sorry, I’m Catholic (or Jewish or etc.) and am not interested in changing my faith”, then close the door.

  50. gr8whyte says:

    If only it was as easy as saying no. A company I worked for supports X (a large, widely-known charitable organization) by including them as an available payroll deduction. Before the payroll deduction was built into the system, employees would receive X’s mailed requests for donations at the office. One day, X, with the employer’s blessing, implemented a new procedure where non-donating employees were required to sign a no-donate return post card. Many employees refused and had simply trashed the card while standing at the company mailboxes like anyone would if it was received at home. The signature response was apparently poor for secretaries were then sent around to ask employees if they’d signed and to bug them to sign if they hadn’t. All thought this human intervention extortionary and some threatened lawsuits. After a few days of uncomfortable management/employee relations, the signature requirement was dropped.

    @ K : A “Christian worker” left a message with the local JW Hall’s phone # on my voice mail. I ignored it. A few weeks later, I received a hand-written letter from a JW (same phone #) which freaked me out. Haven’t heard from them since. If you feel uncomfortable with their visits, you have every right to refuse contact. Have you considered a “No solicitation” sign? If they continue to harass with the sign up, call the cops. If all else fails, file a restraining order.

    On telemarketing : I’m on the Do-Not-Call list so I put these on indefinite hold but am considering turning the game around and try to sell my junk to them, cajole them to send money to my charity or say there’s an intruder in the backyard, could they call the police please and beg them not to hang up.

    On check-out solicitations : Say no and complain to management (essential to let them know you don’t appreciate being hounded for donations).

    On GS cookie solicitations : Easy. I’ve mostly stopped eating cookies many years ago and only eat them rarely today so I don’t buy any but given the response on this blog, I’d say the GSs ought to be selling Thin Mints year round or begin offering TM options/futures.

  51. I think this just about sums it up perfectly: “Every time you say “yes” outside of your plan, you let down something you care about even more. Once you really learn that, “no” becomes a much easier thing to say.” — Trent Hamm

    Those who know me closely, know me for being such a nice guy; I always give in and I almost always say “yes”. When I do say “no” I have that guilty feeling cloud over me. But come to think of it, when you change your perspective to the way you phrased it, it doesn’t feel as wrong ya know.

  52. Lenore says:

    Well, Trent, the first step toward recovery is admitting you have a problem, so good for you!!! My addiction to Thin Mints was causing financial and nutritional havoc, but I’ve managed to wean myself away. First I tried the Grasshopper cookies you can get at any grocery store for less than Thin Mints and found out they were really good. Then I discovered some chocolate-covered mint cookies at a DOLLAR store that are even better. That eased the financial trauma, but my weight and health were still in jeopardy. One glance at the fat gram count made it clear there’s nothing “Thin” about “Thin Mints” or their imitators. Although the 100 Calorie Packs so popular these days are overpriced per ounce, I was delighted to discover some with chocolate wafers, mint flavor and a light coat of chocolate. They’re not as delicous as the Girl Scout version, but they probably cost no more and are definitely better for you. So that’s how I got to Thin Mint sobriety in less than 12 Steps, and I don’t feel particularly guilty about not contributing to the cause. Sometimes my favorite charity needs to be myself, my family, my friends and keeping all of us away from high-calorie temptations. Good luck in your ongoing struggle!

  53. Kimmer says:

    #1 Making “Thin Mints” is dead easy–I do it every year as part of our Christmas treats for teachers, etc. Melt some chocolate, pour in a tiny bit of peppermint oil (I’m talking about just a few drops–a friend of mine accidentally added too much once, and ended up with what she called Thin Mint Air Fresheners), and dip Oreo cookies or a reasonable facsimile–I use Aldi brand. Take them out and let cool on a cookie sheet covered with plastic wrap. They’re also great frozen!

    #2 Saying “NO” gets a lot easier when you realize that you’re doing the other person a favor by not wasting their time. If you’re not going to cave, letting them move on to the next person is in their best interests as well.

  54. Colleen Costello says:

    For K, I have a plan for “religious telemarketers” on your porch. I smile sweetly and tell them “Thanks but we’re not Christians” or “Thanks but we’re agnostics.” The look on their faces is usually PRICELESS. I live in an area where it doesn’t occur to many of these solicitors that non-Christians even EXIST… This method has never failed me. They are usually still standing dumbfounded when I shut the door.

  55. If I have time, I always like to string them along making them think they’ll get me to buy. Maybe I save someone else from the sales pitch by doing that.

  56. Louise says:

    @Elizabeth #39 said, “Instead, I’ve had good results with smiling and saying, “No, thank you, and I’m sorry you have to say that all day.” ”

    I love this line and am totally stealing it! What a great response. Thanks!

  57. Louise says:

    Sometimes I feel like I’m the only person on the planet who despises Girl Scout cookies. They taste foul to me and give me a headache later.

    However, I like to support the GS. I used to buy the cookies and then give them away. Now I can choose the option to just give the money directly and it’s great. But ONLY if the girls themselves ask. I don’t buy cookies (or any other fund raiser item) from the parents.

  58. deRuiter says:

    Dear Friends, I give to small, local charities with low overhead. I favor animal rescues where the bulk of the staff are volunteers, and the subject, animals, are unable to help themselves. Larger charities are often slick business operations which pay VERY HIGH salaries to management and have on staff large numbers of professional fundraisers, all of whom take a generous cut from your kind donations. United Way pays an extraordinary amount to their president and lots to other officials. Keep in mind that the U. S. government takes large amounts of one’s taxes and distributes the money as charity 1. to government officials (non producers) who take a cut of your taxes in salaries and benefits and pass on a relatively small portion to: 2. the non productive who mostly spend their lives making bad decisions (pregnancy among the young, violent crime, drug dealing, vandalism, dropping out of school, refusing to defer gratification and save money, taking section 8 housing subsidies) who live by feeding at the public trough. ALL OF YOU AND I DONATE A LARGE PORTION OF OUR TAX DOLLARS AS CHARITY TO THOSE WHO HAVE NOT EARNED THIS MONEY. So I give to the animal rescues, and figure the U. S. Government has taken my tax dollars by threat of force and has distributed them to non workers, and that’s enough charity for me. Better I put my extra dollars in a retirement account so I don’t have to depend on others to sustain me when I am no longer able to work. CHARITY SHOULD BEGIN AT HOME.

  59. Mark says:

    I don’t know if this has been mentioned already, but this is an interesting idea.
    When donating to charities you should do the opposite of diversifying your investment. You diversify to spread the risks of not making a profit, to be more certain that you will make a smaller profit. When donating to charities there is no chance of making a profit, but there’s a chance your money may be wasted, or used in a way you don’t want. So you should find a single charity, and donate everything to just one.
    It’s not my idea, but I think it’s a good one.

  60. Sally says:

    I justed wanted to say I used to work for an organization that raised money for non-profits via telemarketing. I’m not arguing the other points, and a telemarketer would much rather have you hang up on them (politely and quickly. EX: Not interested – click) than argue with you. However, I encourage you not to “punish” a charity for telemarketing. It’s probably more effective to contact them directly and tell them how you feel about telemarketing.

    FYI – Many of the laws for “do not call” lists don’t apply to non-profits.

  61. Oleg K. says:

    It took some practice to do this on a regular basis and with proper effect, but it works. It’s a simple technique I call the “No and-stop” (Actually, initially I called it the “No, end stop” like the poetic term ‘end stop’, but “No and-stop” defines it better).

    When I’m asked for money(or anything) by salespeople, preachers, homeless people, etc. I just say “No” and stop talking. I’m not giving a reason, I’m not apologizing, most of the time I have nothing left to say. Oftentimes I revel in the moment of silence following because people usually don’t expect a flat No.

    In my mind, it’s my money or time, I work for it and I’ll do what I want with it. There are many terrible things happening in the world, but we can’t give to everyone – that’s the bottom line, really. There is no guilt in saying No, we are all free to allocate our resources as we wish. Just as others are free to ask me to donate, I am free to say No. And stop.

  62. Osho says:

    I have a very simple policy. The money I earn with my hard work is MINE to keep. Period!

  63. Kat says:

    The one that bugs me the most is that my parents buy from the kids next door because their parents always bought from me when I was in school. The problem is, my parents can’t afford it now! The stuff they sell is always ridiculously overpriced, as is most school fundraiser stuff. An $18 box of 12 chocolates? Please.

  64. And says:

    I was very surprised to find at my door a parent with his child who was home schooled collecting for a school trip. When I asked the child would it be educational, the child was at a loss for an answer. It turned out the donation would be towards a trip to Disney World.

    I recognized the pair from a similar event the previous year. Though I did not know them as part of our neighborhood.

    This is an interesting spin on the home schooled taking part in fund drives similar to those of the public school.

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