Updated on 03.02.10

A Pre-emptive Strike Against Selling to Friends

Trent Hamm

A while back, I wrote about the dangers of selling to friends and family. Recently, a reader wrote to me stating that they wanted to make a “pre-emptive strike” against these kinds of sales pitches, but didn’t know how to go about it.

Please feel free to copy and paste the following email, edit it as you please, and send it to your friends. Trust me, almost all of them will thank you.

Hey friend,

A while back, one of my other friends invited me to a [Tupperware/Princess House/Pampered Chef/etc.] party at their home. I accepted, because I felt like I was supposed to – after all, I didn’t want to let my friend down.

When I got to the party, all of the items at the party were way overpriced and, frankly, I didn’t want any of them. But my friend was trying so hard to sell the items that I bought one out of guilt. There went $30 down the tubes. The item’s now gathering dust until I find some excuse to re-gift it to someone else.

The more I thought about this, the more irritated I got. Why should I have to buy stuff I don’t want just to maintain a friendship? I don’t think friendships and sales pitches mix.

So let’s make a deal right now. I’ll never host this kind of party and “bank” on our friendship by inviting you to it, so you’ll never have to feel obligated to buy some junk just because we’re friends. You’ll do the same for me. Deal?

Your friend,

In other words, be straightforward about it. Make it clear that you don’t want to participate in such parties – and also make it clear that you won’t ever utilize your friendship in such a way.

Yes, yes, I’m sure I’m going to hear from lots of people who are happy with the items that they bought at such a party. I’m not writing to you. If you’re interested in the goods these businesses have to offer, then seek out a party in your area and attend one!

I’m also not decrying the products sold. Some of the items at these parties are perfectly fine, though I make no claims about them being any sort of bargain.

I’m also going to hear from people whose friends were glad to have such an opportunity. Perhaps some of your friends did feel this way. However, I’m willing to bet some of them did not – they went to your party and made a purchase merely to be polite and that item found its way to a yard sale somewhere. I know many, many people who fall into this latter category.

If you enjoy hosting such parties, that’s great! Sell to strangers instead of selling to your friends. If your friends are interested when they find out you’re hosting such events, they’ll ask to attend, but make it clear to them that you don’t mix your business and your friendships so that they don’t feel obligated to come. If not, don’t cash in on the friendship.

My concern is simple: selling to your friends usually diminishes your friendship. They feel obligated to come, and when people start feeling as though a relationship is based on obligations that they don’t want to fulfill instead of things they’re happy and excited about, they begin to grow apart and drift away. That’s never worth the small commission you might get from selling to them.

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  1. leslie says:

    I have been invited to many of these things and never felt guilted to go. If I’m not interested in the product, I’ll just pass.

    At the same time, I have hosted similar selling parties and had no hard feelings if a friend didn’t want to participate.

  2. Nicole says:

    I think the polite thing to do would be to bow out of going to the party in the first place. The pre-emptive strike seems a bit off.

    Lately when schools etc. come trying to sell me things I don’t want, I just make a flat out donation. Our son’s school wanted us to sell $200 worth of stuff, I went online and figured out how much they make off each sale and wrote them a check for $50. I did buy girl scout cookies this year, but it’s so difficult to make your own thin-mints.

  3. Elizabeth says:

    I find this idea a bit abrasive for the circles I run in. To me, a Miss Manners-esque approach is more appropriate: simply decline the offer without comment or, if you’re really feeling passive-aggressive, ring them up and offer to loan them some cash if things are tight. (I realize that this was a reader’s request, so no hard feelings, Trent.)

    To compare: there are things I wish my friends wouldn’t do [bring their anti-social husbands to happy hour, meet me for coffee with their incontinent pets, complain about their cushy jobs], but friendship is a package deal and I’d be hard pressed to find a polite way to say “Your taste in [thing] is terrible!” without damaging the friendship.

    If you’re so intolerant that you can’t decline an invitation when it doesn’t suit you and overlook a friend’s perceived flaw(s), perhaps you *should* send an email like the one above – I’m certain you’ll see the decrease in social invitations you’re looking for.

  4. Amanda says:

    The house parties like Pampered Chef, Mary Kay and so forth don’t bother me so much. I never feel pressured to buy or to even attend. It is the school fund raisers where they sell $10.00 wrapping paper and $8.00 ounce chocolates. Those are much more uncomfortable to me because it’s more one on one with an expected result. I wish schools would stop doing those all together. I’m sure people (me for example) would prefer to just donate money or even just items for a silent auction event hosted by the school.

  5. Johanna says:

    That email strikes me as really horrible. Friendship and sales pitches don’t really mix, sure, but neither do friendship and badmouthing your friends to your other friends behind their backs. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but if I got an email like that, my first thought would be, “What are they saying to their other friends about *me*?”

    I’m with Nicole: Just decline to attend the party. You could even say something like, “No thanks, I don’t like these kinds of events, because they make me feel awkward.”

  6. leslie says:

    I am with the posters above…the pre-emptive strike seems a little over the top. Just turn down the invitation.

  7. Moby Homemaker says:

    Add hiring friends and working for friends to this…
    Couldn’t agree more–there is nothing but BAD NEWS when buying/selling with friends.

  8. Adrienne says:

    I dislike these parties too but would never send out a letter like this (and would be insulted to receive one). Anyone can say no to an invite. To say no BEFORE you’ve been invited is like sending out a “if you get married don’t invite me to your wedding” letter. It’s rude.

  9. Ruby Leigh says:

    A few months ago I considered becoming a representitive for a direct sale organization. After researching the option quite thouroughly, I felt it would not be a good long term choice for me for a number of reasons including: lack of natural sales ability, offered products were sometimes overpriced (though argubly higher quality items), and having to initially rely on sales from friends. The last being one of the more powerful.

    But I was thinking about how at this blog you probably intially relied on some word of mouth advertising from friends, and how maybe even some of your friends bought your book. I was also thinking about my husband’s current buisness opportunity, and how some of the original sales may come from people we know. What would you say is the line between these two types of “Friend Sales”… Thanks!

  10. Brent says:

    You have to stop the cycle! These things are parasitic and demolish perfectly good friendships. If you don’t let that be clear then it will just happen to others. Your friends are not marketing tools, try using me as one and I will stop being a friend AND stop being a marketing tool. Just like paid for reviews. You have to call it out and say “bad salesman! bad!”. These people really need to find a different line of work.

  11. Virginia says:

    I also hate the Tupperware/Avon/Amway/School Fundraiser approach of selling to friends and I’m so glad that the problems of that particular model do not have to extend to every business transaction one might consider with family or friends. I’m a SAHM/artist who specializes in jewelry & wearable fiber art. Many of my best customers are long time friends and many new customers are becoming good friends.

    The trick is that I don’t attempt to “capitalize” on my relationships. I let people know what I’m working on and show off my work by wearing it but I never solicit sales when I’m in a social situation with friends or family. I think people understand that I sometimes talk about my projects because I’m passionate about my work and not because I’m trying to sell something.

    If someone sees something they love and want to have, they’ll ask me about it or go look for it at one of the galleries I sell at. When a friend does buy something directly from me, I make sure that it is very well made and that I price the item in a way that is fair to both of us – no hugely deep discounts but priced reflecting the fact that I didn’t lose any gallery commissions on that sale.

  12. Shannon says:

    Trent, once again you’re overthinking things. Just don’t go to the party, instead of writing out such an abrasive email like this.

  13. dangermom says:

    Most of the time I just don’t go to those parties. It turns out that Tupperware parties in particular turns me into a sullen teenager. But I have this one friend who I always felt obligated to–she’s easily offended and is so excited by this stuff…I did get a good cake plate out of it, but otherwise always felt that I’d wasted hours of time and was irritated at my friend. I wasn’t happy to see her move away, but I don’t miss those stupid parties.

  14. Vicky says:

    Oh, I don’t know…

    Those Pleasure Parties can be quite entertaining :p

  15. Andrea says:

    Once the very idea of these parties has come up in your friend circle, that’s the point at which it’s too late to make it known that you’re not interested. If nobody you know has hosted one or talked about hosting one, it would be fine to, well, not send a letter like Trent’s, but to post on a blog or facebook page or what have you about your disdain for such parties; after one of your friends is involved in the cult of friend-salesmanship, no way.

    I wish, before some of my friends went a little insane and started trying to host these things, I had had the foresight to write a Facebook post remarking on what a bad idea I found them. If I wrote such a post now, the people who have hosted them, and from whom I’ve been guilted into buying, would think I was being EXTREMELY rude and passive aggressive to them. Truthfully, they’d be right: I harbor resentment! ;) Not much, but it’s there.

    Seriously, I have seldom spent a more awkward afternoon than listening to a friend of a friend read a hard-sell sales pitch for overpriced products off a series of laminated cards.

  16. Gwen says:

    I hate the Mary Kay parties, although I like the products. When I was going to college, Mary Kay ladies would roam around where the students lived and get parties by goating people into writing down everyone in their cell phone address book on a piece of paper for them. Then, when you went to the party (and these are college students I am talking about, not wealthy people), the Mary Kay ladies were trained to take people aside, one by one, and ask, “So, what are you going to buy?” I was so pressured to buy something once that the Mary Kay lady made an installment plan for me. She would absolutely not let me leave with out purchasing something. I was horrified when later, someone in my apartment complex hosted another party and used the same tactics on her “friends.”

    That said, I wouldn’t send an email to anyone like this because I too think it is abrasive. I would simply follow Amy Daczczyn’s advice in TTWG and decline the invitation to the party by saying,”You know, my husband and I are working hard to save for a down payment on a house right now, so I wouldn’t be interested in attending the party, but thanks anyway.”

  17. Eve says:

    If someone tells me they tend to accept party invitations because they feel like they’re supposed to, rather than out of genuine pleasure of hanging out with the other invitees doing the sorts of things planned at that party, I’d hesitate to invite them to any parties at all.

    Say I throw a costume party. Are they going to send out an email next month saying they only accepted my invite because they didn’t want to let me down, but in fact they didn’t enjoy the effort of putting together a costume, so no more costume parties?

    If I throw a pool party over the summer, are they going to say yes and show up and then later let everyone know that it was their duty as my friend to attend, but in fact they hated wearing a bathing suit in public and regret getting chlorine in their hair, so no more pool parties?

  18. Kathy says:

    I have to agree with the majority: the best and most polite way to deal with this is just to decline the invitation and be done with it. Being “pre-emptive” just makes you look rude.

  19. Des says:

    This letter sounds very demeaning to the person who threw the party. That person wasn’t TRYING to make you feel guilty (and, if they were, they’re not much of a friend, so you have no reason to feel guilty). This makes it sound like you look down on the people who throw these kinds of parties. If you MUST send a preemptive letter, please at least TRY to be nice about it.

  20. lurker carl says:

    There are easy solutions that don’t offend anyone. Don’t attend these parties if you’re not interested in the merchandise. Don’t buy fund raiser junk, donate money directly to the cause instead.

    Guys don’t have these issues, we don’t have parties to sell multi-level marketing crap to each other.

  21. Michelle says:

    Wow, that is incredibly rude. Honestly, if I received that, I would feel insulted and it would diminish my friendship with the person. The solution is not rude e-mails/letters, the solution is to politely refuse the invitation.

    If you’re really worried that refusing the invite would mess up your friendship, then “I can’t make the party, but would you and your husband like to come for dinner another night?” is the solution.

  22. Snowy Heron says:

    Most of the parties that I have attended have been to sell things that I like and am glad that I have purchased. The quality of the stuff is often better than what you can find in most retail stores. Some of those Pampered Chef kitchen tools are better than anything I have been able to purchase anywhere else. I would actually prefer going to one of these parties than buying more wrapping paper that will take me years to use up! I can understand not wanting to attend them, though. But I would just say that you aren’t into this sort of thing and turn them down.

  23. chacha1 says:

    I agree with Nicole: it’s really hard to make your own thin mints cookies.

    I disagree with Lurker Carl: guys DEFINITELY have these issues … they are just selling Amway or supplements or timeshares instead of cosmetics and candles and Tupperware, and they tend to do it one-on-one.

    And I further agree with those who have nightmares about having to sell stuff as kids in school, and with those currently facing the nightmare of having kids who have to sell stuff. If a school needs money for a specific purpose, it should have a public fundraiser event, not put the burden on the kids and their parents.

    All that said, I’ve been to one of these parties and didn’t mind buying something, because I knew my friends needed the cash. Offering them cash, however, could easily have seemed condescending or patronizing, or just too damned blunt. It’s a little different right now, but people still tend to feel bad/embarrassed about coming up short. They’d rather think you got something tangible in return for helping them out. It’s just a shame that so many of these sales schemes result in people being worse off – why not a post about that?

    I think Gwen’s suggestion is one of the best: politely decline any sales-party invitations, but counter with one of your own that is purely social. That solves the problem of the party – you don’t have to go – and at the same time affirms your friendship.

  24. Nick says:


    Did you actually send that letter to your friends?

    If you did, I’d be curious to know how your friends responded. I’d be weirded out if one of my friends sent me that out of the blue…

    A response could be appreciated even though I know you don’t reply to comments…

  25. Benjamin says:

    LOVE IT!!! Never mind the “haters” Trent! I’ve got your back!

    The problem with these parties is that the friend (err host) rarely realizes the huge imposition they’re putting on their friends!

    They’re so brainwashed by the “selling” material provided by the various companies they honestly fell they are doing their friends a “favor”!

    I’ve even over heard people saying:

    “Well, she comes over here, eats and drinks and has a good time, and she doesn’t even buy anything”?

    Good grief!

    Get a real job people; stop taking advantage of your friends!

  26. friend says:

    Anybody need an apple corer-peeler thingy from Pampered Chef? (By the time I set this thing up and wash it, I could peel 10 apples with a kitchen knife. It is cute, though!)

  27. JB says:

    I understand the thinking behind the pre-emptive strike but I am not gutsy enough to send it out.

    Being asked to those things is so awkward. I physically can’t bring myself to buy something overpriced just because of a friendship. Recently my aunt was hounding me to sign up for some cell phone plan, it was so awkward. I just kept saying not right now.

  28. Jenn says:

    Ack! Tacky, tacky, tacky! I’ve been to many, many of these parties and never felt pressured to buy anything. Maybe they are a completely different animal in other circles, but around here we tend to go and have a good time with friends… purchases or not.

  29. Karen M. says:

    My friends would not be thanking me for sending that rude email.

    It sounds like you meant for this email to be sent to someone’s entire email list, just in case anyone might start selling something and think to invite that person to their party. I would be extremely offended if a friend of mine sent that to me.

    As an adult, I can politely (stress politely) decline an invitation without isolating the hostess and my entire social circle.

  30. George says:

    @lurker carl – “Guys don’t have these issues, we don’t have parties to sell multi-level marketing crap to each other.” Oh yes we do… haven’t you been invited to try out the videophones as endorsed by Donald Trump?

  31. George says:

    Overall, sending an email because you can’t say “no” in person is not a good idea. It is as bad as terminating a relationship via Facebook.

  32. momof4 says:

    Please feel free to copy and paste the following email, edit it as you please, and send it to your friends. Trust me, almost all of them will thank you.

    I’m not sure about this. Home parties aren’t everyone’s thing, certainly, but when I don’t wan to attend, I politely decline. I think that sending something like this out would be alienate some of my friends. It seems rude.

  33. Gretchen says:

    Rude *and* tacky.

    I’ve seen online recipes for thin mints. Don’t ask me where, though.

  34. That does seem like something that might be better done in person…I find that in sticky-ish situations, it’s easier to communicate in person. Email can be offensive when you don’t mean for it to be, simply because the email recipient can’t hear your tone of voice and see your expression.

  35. koilie says:

    I do private tutoring in maths and chemistry and all of my students have come to me through word of mouth (None of them were previously existing friends of mine). When my pastor asked me to tutor his daughter I couldn’t bear the thought of them paying me for it – they tried very hard to pay, on the argument that it is my professional source of income – but i just couldn’t accept the money. So instead they sent me a meal for me and my family each time their daughter came to tutoring. ….. a much much more pleasant option than taking their money!

  36. Nicole says:

    #33 Gretchen. They make much better thin mints than the girl scouts but it is a laborious process. Especially if you start with fresh mint, but even if you don’t.

  37. Johanna says:

    In addition to the various other problems with the email that have already been mentioned, it describes as a “deal” something that isn’t, really. A deal is “I’ll do something that you want, and you do something that I want.” But here, presumably you weren’t planning on hosting any of these sales-pitch parties anyway, and you don’t actually know whether the recipient likes attending them or not. So it’s more like, “I’ll do something that I want, and you do something that I want.” That’s not a deal, and pretending it is makes you sound like a jerk.

    I tend to skip over the “networking” and “people skills” type posts here, just because I’m less interested in reading about that type of thing. But to be honest, Trent: If all those networking and people-skills books that you read and review aren’t enough to teach you that this email is a bad idea, perhaps you should consider whether they’re a waste of time.

  38. Rosa Rugosa says:

    I’ve just always let it be known that I don’t do the tupperware-party type things, and so I haven’t gotten invited to one for ages. If I did, I would have no trouble at all declining – just like I do for all invitations to baby showers, christenings and other obnoxious social occasions. (I do send a gift for the showers and christenings though so as not to alienate the world entirely). I’m also very consistent in my behavior, so I think people don’t take it personally (wouldn’t go to a baby shower if it was my sister’s, for example). I’m definitely not someone who has trouble saying no, and a lot of very nice people seem to love me anyway. I recognize that I do have a bit of an anti-social streak :)

  39. Gretchen says:

    The thin mints involves melting chocolate, adding peppermint extract and dipping ritz crackers.

    Although I, personally, like those ones with the coconut best.

  40. Larabara says:

    If only a polite decline did the trick in these situations. Some of these “salespeople” are trained in how not to take no for an answer, (and some naturally don’t). They are pleasant, but persistent, and it becomes a very uncomfortable back-and-forth when they press for my attendance.

    Having said that, many years ago my sister briefly did sales for a halon fire extinguisher company. She did a one-on-one sales pitch at my house, and I reluctantly bought a small unit just to help her out. She was unable to sell any units to anyone else, and eventually found another line of work. The thing sat in my kitchen, unused and locked, until five YEARS later, when I had an oil fire in my kitchen. I hadn’t even taken the plastic locking ring tag off of the extinguisher (I was supposed to do that as soon as I bought it), but when I finally did, the fire had already spread to the kitchen wall. But after one short burst from that extinguisher, the fire was brought down and put out instantly. Boy was I glad that I bought it! However, when I contacted my sister to get another one, she said that the company had gone out of business. Drat! Shoulda bought two.

  41. Tammy says:

    I don’t mind home parties – I think they can be kinda fun – and I never buy anything unless I have a need for it and money in the budget.

    School sales, however, are a sticking point for me. I always TRY to buy from kids who have the gumption to come to my door (or simply give them a cash donation) – whether neighbors, family, or friends – but I never, EVER let my daughter sell overpriced crap for school, I’d just send the packet back with a check and a letter telling the school that she wasn’t allowed to participate, but here’s $20, or whatever, for their fundraiser.

  42. Toby says:

    I hate tupperware partys. I hate tupperware partys almost as much as I hate potato salad. I think I’ll edit the above email and ask my friends to never offer me potato salad again. I feel gulity declining to eat their potato salad when asked, and eat it even though I hate it. So I’ll just ask them, via email, to never offer me potato salad agin. That’s not weird or anything is it?

  43. Kay says:

    Okay, now can we agree that Trent is pompous? Who cares about these parties? If you would like to go, do so. If you would not like to go, decline the invitation. Trent is so, what’s the word… self-righteous??? The letter is totally inappropriate, ridiculous and guarantees drama. Just be yourself.

  44. deb says:

    I also think the letter is rude.

    I never go to those parties, just a polite decline is needed. Sooner or later they seem to get the hint. We also never let our kids pester friends or relatives for the school fundraisers. I think it’s exploitative of family and personal relationships to do so. It’s kind of rude when other family members let their kids solicit us, knowing how we feel about it.

    I’d love to know how to keep my husband from buying into the crap at work. He feels obligated and comes home with all kinds of overpriced stuff. He has never brought our kids’ things to work to sell, he wouldn’t think of it. Why buy it from others?

  45. Nicole says:

    #39 That sounds disgusting. Ritz crackers do not a thin-mint make. We made a very heavy chocolate refrigerator dough that had to be rolled out and cut and baked. Then coated with chocolate that had been infused with fresh mint. Delicious, but difficult and agonizingly time consuming.

  46. J says:

    Trent, didn’t your mother teach you how to politely decline an invitation? That letter is 100% rude and full of itself. Politely decline, and if they pressure you again, just say no, politely, again. There’s no need to be a pre-emptive jerk about it.

  47. Erin says:

    So Trent, you’ve never mentioned your business – i.e. this blog – to any of your friends or family? They don’t read it?

    And I were, say, an accountant, or a hair stylist, or a makeup artist, or a landscaper, I shouldn’t mention that to my friends and have any of them as clients?

    If I opened a restaurant, I shouldn’t tell my friends about it or have them as customers?

    If I opened a clothing store I couldn’t invite my friends to my grand opening or tell them about it and hope that they might come by and buy something if they liked the clothing?

    These are all businesses, the same as the home party businesses. Some of your customers might be friends and family and some might be strangers. Most people when starting a business start out by telling friends and family or people they run into about it to get word of mouth out.

    Anybody is free to say no to any of the examples I gave above, or to attending a home party, or even buying something at that party if you go and don’t like what is offered. Yes, sometimes people go overboard with their sales pitch – sometimes friends go overboard of get weird with non-business related stuff too. That’s life.

    But the wording of that email, and the idea of sending it out at all, is pompous, condescending, passive-aggressive, and just plain rude.

    Also, you’re getting angry at people just for *inviting* you to something? Good grief. You don’t have to feel obligated to attend or buy something to maintain the friendship – you’re putting that interpretation on it, not your friend.

  48. Brittany says:

    “If all those networking and people-skills books that you read and review aren’t enough to teach you that this email is a bad idea, perhaps you should consider whether they’re a waste of time.”

    Hit the nail on the head, Johanna. As I often want to tell my boss, all the Power Phrases in the word don’t make up for a lack of awareness of genuine human interaction. These “super polite” attempts only make it significantly worse. You’re an adult! Act like one! This includes not just politely declining the invitation, but also giving an honest, but tactful reply if it’s something that really bothers you. (AFTER an invitation, something along the lines of: “Sorry, house parties really aren’t my thing. I like spending time with you, but I just don’t like to spend money on those sorts of things. Good luck with the party, and I hope we can get together next weekend.” You still get to say your piece, but without sounding like a jerk.)

  49. Michele says:

    Fortunately for me and all my friends, I love going to these kinds of parties- usually it’s a fun time, I get to see and try some cool new products, have some great snacks and a cocktail or two with people I know and love. And once in a while, I buy something I just love! Especially candles! And I only ask people I love to attend these kinds of parties if I throw one-and they usually attend because it’s FUN! I am giving the party, after all! Or one of my buddies who will have an awesome fun time no matter what they are hawking! And we always get something for free even if no one buys anything.
    Trent, if you can’t tell your FRIENDS that you don’t do fun candle/tupperware/sexy undies/cooking stuff parties, they aren’t really your friends, are they? It’s pretty easy to tell some random stranger ‘no thanks’ if they ask you to go to a party but a friend? They should be the easiest to tell ‘I’m seriously broke and saving for a new bumper on the truck’ because if they are a friend, they will already know about it and ask you to come only for the free snacks and booze. That’s what friends do- make sure you get invited to a party for the fun of it!

  50. cathleen says:

    This strikes me as slightly passive-aggressive. IMO.

    The word “no” or “we’d love to but we can’t” etc…, without explanation is all that graciousness requires.

    It’s worked for me for many years.

  51. Suzie says:

    I have never been invited to one of those parties anyway, and if I had I’d be perfectly happy to say ‘no thanks, not interested’.

    Sending an email like that is just…. strange!

  52. Rob says:

    WOW – is this person really your friend or are you really this persons friend – you would really have to evaluate your commitment to your friends here to go on such a rant and send such a toxic email!!!

    Why cant you just say ” Friend, cant stand *xyz product* but hey, why don’t I come over and have a coffee with you while the others look/try/buy”

    The email option seems a little over board & have to agree with #51 Suzie – STRANGE!!!!

  53. C says:

    I emotionally lost a couple of friends (meaning I choose not to associate with anymore) because I bought a business from them (now closed for various reasons). Sure I had the opportunity to do my research. But because of my stupidity, I didn’t research the way they’d priced their business…because I trusted them (knew them since high school).

    As I ran the business, I realized how overpriced this business was. While in the process of closing the business, 1) she was employed by us – she quit with same day notice and filed for unemployment anyway 2) she violated no-compete contract. 3) she even asked me to use my place to do her work for one of her “friends”.

    The whole “friendship” thing kept me from doing rational things that I needed to do.

    I’m still working on confronting them. Not so close.

    I agree – never ever mix business/selling/purchasing from/with friends unless you don’t plan to be friends no longer.

  54. wickham says:

    To believe that someone who has invited you to a Tupperware party is going to be “let down” if you decline the invitation is quite self-centered and this preemptive email epitomizes such a lack of manners, that it makes me sad. The Tupperware party is not about you, and if you don’t attend, you might be hurt to know how much that would not matter. The party will go on, with or without you.

  55. marta says:

    Just say “no, thanks” IF you are invited. If your friend insists, THEN you say something like that “no, thanks, I am not interested in buying this product”, whatever. This e-mail? Bad, bad, bad idea. I have to agree with the others on this.

    I am a tad puzzled, though. You generally are very quick to accuse people who post not-so-positive comments of being negative, trolls, or of simply not “getting it”. Can you apply this same filter to the e-mail you posted here? Don’t you see any issues with it?

  56. deRuiter says:

    That’s a rude email! It will certainly cut down on the number of people inviting you to anything. Why not be polite and turn down the invitations with Amy D’s line which was quoted above, or say, “Thanks for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to attend.”? I’d rather be polite. This way the person who wasn’t going to invite you to a Tupperware party doesn’t get that abrasive email.

  57. triLcat says:

    I had a friend who sold Tupperware for a while. When she had a party at her house, I told her upfront that I wasn’t interested in buying anything, but I’d be happy to come if she wanted me to. She said she’d like me to round out the group, so I did. It was a slightly boring evening, but I didn’t feel bad walking out without buying anything.

    If the person is really your friend, then you should be honest with them face-to-face and not in some form letter.

    Over the years that she sold Tupperware, I bought a few things from her and was happy to give her the business, but I only bought the items that I actually wanted – never bought because I felt pressured to.

  58. Steffie says:

    This whole thing bothered me in part because of the use of email for something that should be done in ‘person’, a phone call politely declining the invitation. I’m not a dinosaur, only 50, but it seems as though we as a people are losing the human touch and a good deal of our civility. Voice communication, hand-written notes etc. seem to have gone by the wayside. Everything is done on a mechanical basis, email is the preferred method of contact. Even our ‘phones’ are used for texting not actual talking. I use email for business but much prefer to ‘speak’ to my friends, we don’t lose the nuances in voice tone etc. And I don’t know how ‘lol’ replaces hearing the actual laughing till you cry sounds people make when they really ‘laugh out loud’. All that said, this pre-emptive email is just plain rude.

  59. Elizabeth says:

    I think a lot of people who consider this rude are missing a big point about these parties: It’s not just your inner circle of close friends that invites you, it can be anyone and everyone you know at some level. When it gets to the point that you’re invited weekly or more to these things, politely saying no everytime gets really old and it can create resentment from the person who tried to get you to come. Not every host is easy-going enough to happily accept a no: part of their sales pitch is to not take no, and that would include invitations too. An event that masquerades as a fun time to hang out with friends without children and “learn” about “exciting products” but is really on opportunity to push you to spend on over-priced stuff you wouldn’t buy otherwise deserves a rude email, IMHO.

    My guess is that he and/or Sarah were invited by people in different circles in a really short timeframe, which would become really annoying. Someone from church invites them to a Tupperware party, and they feel pressure to go and buy stuff because they see each other on a weekly basis and maybe participate in church activities together. Then a friend from school invites Sarah to a candle party, and her colleague is offended that Sarah “couldn’t just show up” (as though there won’t be a sales pitch when she gets there). A relative invites them to a Pampered Chef event, knowing Trent and Sarah like to cook, but heaven forbid you don’t support a family member trying to get by.

    Yeah, too many invites too close together would have my saying enough is enough.

  60. Beth says:

    If you can’t say “no thank you” to a friend, the problem is inside you, NOT with the friend or home sales. I LIKE Pampered Chef and always buy if a friend is hosting a party. On the other hand, I don’t want any $20 candles, so I say “no thank you.” Don’t blame other people for your own inability to say no to buying. It is not rude to invite because we can all say “no thank you.” It is stupid to accept if you know you don’t want to go. PUT ON YOUR BIG GIRL PANTIES AND SAY “NO THANK YOU” AND DON’T BLAME OTHERS FOR YOUR OWN CHOICES.

  61. Kevin says:

    Wow, 60 comments, and not a single person has mentioned the recruiting aspect of these “opportunities.”

    It’s one thing to be asked to buy a $15 potato peeler. It’s quite another to be pressured to pay $500 to sell crappy overpriced videophones. Especially when it’s your friend, and they wrap it in “Do me a favour?” THAT’S rude.

    I was disappointed that Trent completely omitted any mention at all of the corrosive “recruiting” element inherent in these scammy MLM’s. Maybe he’ll do a future article focusing on MLM’s?

  62. GayleRn says:

    Reminds me of the sales party that I didn’t really want to go to but went anyway. I had no use for the stuff being sold which was home decorating items. Much to my horror I was the only person to show up. I try not to go to these things at all unless I have some actual interest in buying the item. I recently ran across an item I really would like to buy more of but have no interest in hosting a party. Now to figure out a way to do it without the party. Especially since the sales person is not a friend of mine.

  63. J says:

    @Elizabeth — Civility can be SUCH a burden sometimes. If the initial “No” doesn’t work, then repeat the word, “No”. If they again persist, you can say “No, thank you, and I will not respond to any further requests. I am not interested and I’m considering the matter closed”. Then ignore any future sales pitches.

    With this tactic, though, he won’t need to worry about getting invited to anything at all soon.

  64. Rob says:

    Anybody ever heard of supporting a friend?

  65. Kevin says:


    There’s a difference between providing emotional support, and being emotionally blackmailed for financial support.

  66. Brandon says:

    My wife sold Tupperware for a while but she gave it up because she found it hard to make money because she was not willing to ‘hard sell’ her friends. At the same time, there are acquaintances who have started to sell stuff and suddenly are hounding her to host parties to a point that she feels used like you spoke of above.

  67. J says:

    @Rob — you can support a friend to a point. For example, some friends of mine are very involved in a hobby that can consume considerable amounts of time, energy and money. They would like me to participate in this hobby with them, and while I’m sure it would be fun, I don’t have the time to participate. So I tell them no. But we still get together to do other things, and it’s no big deal.

  68. J says:

    Another thought on this was how incredibly cruel and cold-hearted it is, especially in today’s economy with 1 in 10 people out of a job. You probably don’t have to go far in your circle of friends and acquaintances to find somebody who has been out of work for a while and might be really close to financial ruin, and this type of employment might be a way for them to try and make ends meet and put food on the table or keep their house from foreclosure.

  69. sandycheeks says:

    I HATE these parties and rarely go. I have no problem saying no and leaving it at that. Eventually people stop inviting you. Real friends will continue to seek you out for social activies, not just their own financial gain.

    I think the suggested email is a bit rude and really won’t solve the problem long term. As your family meets other families (sports, scouts, church, preschool, elementary school etc) you will continue to be invited. How will you be pre-emptive then? If you meet someone new and then immediately send this type of email it’s like establishing rules for friendship with you. I just don’t see it working.

    I think that email comes under the category of “things you want to say but can’t”

  70. Melissa says:

    I dislike these parties and for a while, politely attended. Then I realized most of the products were overpriced and the parties were really just a poor recruiting tactic for an MLM organization. I then politely declined invites.

    I think when you continually decline invites your friends “get the message” that you’re not really into the products they’re hawking.

    Now…If your so-called friends or colleagues try to pressure you into buying their “investment opportunity” or “Amway business” it’s time to bring out the big guns and have an honest chat about your dislike of such opportunities. If they leave you alone, great. Let them find out they got involved in a waste of time and money. If they don’t leave you alone and become virtually brainwashed, it’s time to reconsider your friendship…I say this from personal experience with friends involved in the cult of Amway.

  71. jgonzales says:

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve gone to parties, feeling embarrassed because even if I had wanted something, we couldn’t afford it, but I didn’t want to upset a friend. Made me miserable.

    I did once host a Mary Kay party. I love their products and wanted to get a discount. A friend I know was a rep at the time (although she never pushed it, it came up in conversation once). I invited a bunch of people but I made sure they knew it wasn’t a huge deal if they didn’t make it. Only people to show up were my mom & sister (who also love Mary Kay). I was fine with that, we had a good time together.

    Unfortunately, my friend got sick at the last minute and couldn’t host so sent along another rep in her place. The woman was very pushy and gave me a lot of headaches. She even tried to get me to sign up as a rep! My friend stopped selling, so I’m not having any more parties.

  72. Mary W says:

    To defend Trent, he composed this e-mail in response to a reader request. He never said that he ever sent it himself.

    I agree with most commenters that the e-mail is rude. More importantly it will likely be ineffective! Which of your friends and acquaintances will remember 2 years later when they are hosting a party that you hate ’em? Probably only those that are still offended by the original e-mail.

  73. Crystal says:

    I have friends who love these parties and friends that can’t stand them. I’m pretty neutral.

    I wouldn’t ever send a pre-strike email since it would offend the ones that throw these parties already. How hard is it to turn down an invitation or to go but to simply not buy anything?

  74. Tammy says:

    My sister in law always tells me that is “no big deal” and that there is no pressure to buy anything from her, but she calls me every month to ask if I want to buy something. It feels bad to tell someone I care about no over and over again.

  75. Michelle says:

    I don’t like the idea of a pre-emptive email. But if you really felt the need for an email because you’re absolutely being hounded by invitations all the time, then at least send one that is polite and doesn’t expose all your own weaknesses:

    “I accepted, because I felt like I was supposed to – after all, I didn’t want to let my friend down.” i.e., I have no backbone and cannot say no to anyone.

    “…all of the items at the party were way overpriced…” i.e. the stuff at your parties is crap.

    “There went $30 down the tubes. The item’s now gathering dust until I find some excuse to re-gift it to someone else.” i.e. It is all my friend’s fault that I bought her crap anyway. And now I’m put in the position that I have to find a way to push this crap off on someone else. My resentment of the host is boundless.

    “Why should I have to buy stuff I don’t want just to maintain a friendship?” i.e. I am a spoiled whiner who has no idea what friendship is about in the first place.

    “I’ll never host this kind of party and “bank” on our friendship by inviting you to it, so you’ll never have to feel obligated to buy some junk just because we’re friends. You’ll do the same for me. Deal?” i.e. You really don’t want to become one of those people I resent, do you? What’s that? YOu actually like and use the Tupperware/Mary Kay/Candles I just called junk? Oh…well, geesh, you’re pretty oversensitive. Maybe you should get some therapy for those issues you have…

  76. Candi says:

    My friends know me better than that. They would never invite me nor would they sell the stuff in the first place.

    But seriously would anyone even think of asking Trent to go to one of these things? He writes a blog on frugality and money management. MLM organizations are not known for their frugal products, rofl.

  77. Kbet says:

    Rude, rude rude! Not only would I never attend a home party of the person from which I received this email, I’d probably never attend anything they ever invited me to, including birthday parties, baby showers, dinner parties, etc…after all, I’d be expected to bring a gift or a bottle of wine which would be money out of my pocket, too. Shame, shame, shame. Get a backbone and say “thanks for the invitation and for thinking of me, but I won’t be able to make it.” Come on, people!

  78. Jennifer says:

    You can just have a very chatty friend in the neighborhood who just tells everyone for you that you don’t like to attend those types of parties…I don’t expect I’ll get an invite to them anymore.

  79. I can see both points – I for one hate these parties with a passion, and the reason is exactly what others have pointed-out. They (or the upline if your friend is new) absolutely will directly ask you for a sale, and possibly try and guilt you into it. Also, for anyone who doesn’t know, MLM folks sell direct product because if they didn’t it would be an illegal pyramid! I have yet to find a “legitimate” MLM, however, that pays as much or more in commissions from product than it does from adding folks to your network. That’s why not only is is annoying to be invited, but good intentions or not, eventually reps quit because they never see the $$ promised and it’s because they can’t talk folks into joining the business, too.

    I would imagine if the original reader is wanting a ‘pre-emptive strike’ it’s most likely because several of his unemployed/income-deficient friends and/or family have been looking into some of these opportunities. I think rather than a pre-emptive strike letter detailing his inability to say no, his friends and family (IF they haven’t already forked-over $$ to join) would benefit from an email detailing all the crap about xyz MLM, readily available online with about 20 minutes worth of searching. :-)

  80. Just another thought –
    This type of marketing is quite a bit of the reason most reps don’t succeed and went out-of-fashion about 20 years ago. Definitely not necessary now with the invention of Google, Facebook, Twitter, etc. So long as you market smart (i.e. don’t spam your twitter page with ads for your teeth whitening system or whatever) there will be plenty of customers for whatever product you have! Selling folks on the idea that they will have some sort of ‘jumping-point’ market within their inner-circle is crazy. Demographics 101 should rule that out, but somehow they keep selling that as the way to do it. (The ones who actually do make loads of $$ don’t do it that way!)

  81. Andrea says:

    I am quite happy selling to my friends … in fact, I have a 10% FF (friends and family) discount. If someone wants my lampwork beads and jewellery, great!! Ask me. Buy from my 1000Markets and ArtFire sites. Visit my booth at the craft show. *Ask me* to bring in my “box of sin(ful indulgence) to the next faculty meeting when you have that birthday coming up. If you believe in supporting your local artisan, great (and thank you for your business as well as your friendship!) I draw a line: I never sell to students, period, even though I teach adults. So long as I have the power of the gradebook I do NOT NOT NOT NOT want any business arrangements as well.

    But I *will not* put friends into a position where they feel they have to make a purchase. I think candle parties and other sorts of home shows are problematic. They are basically thinly disguised shopping. BO-ring. Mind you, if you have a bunch of friends who WANT the product, that’s one thing. But …. Grrr. Friends know I make and sell beads and jewellery. Those who have the money to buy and who want my products have to ask, because I’m not waving them in friends’ faces.

  82. Sarah says:

    I have a rule with myself about those kinds of parties (mostly arising out of a bad experience in almost hosting one myself and the lady who was coming to sell her stuff…) It doesn’t matter who invites me – I just don’t go. I don’t care what kind of friend they are, I figure I’m doing them and myself a favor by staying at home. And it saves our friendship. And my wallet.

  83. Pattie, RN says:

    We lost what we thought were good friends when they got involved in a MLM organization. We foolishly thought they wanted to spend more time with us…until every meal, movie, and pool party ended in a sales pitch. We made our total lack of interest in joining this “group” crystal clear from day 1. The final straw was being invited over so they could practice their sales pitch—except WE were the true intended targets, the “practice” session was a ruse.

    Last we heard, they packed up and left Florida for Idaho or Wyoming after he lost his job at our church for using CHURCH records to dig up “prospects”. They thinnly avoided legal action against them, but it ruined his reputation and clouded hers heavily.

    I don’t know why a couple that included a PhD and a Divinity Degree in their resumes got to this point. A real shame, in every sense of the word.

  84. Christine says:

    I, too, found the e-mail a bit abrasive. But… lo and behold, a few days after this post appeared, I was invited to one of these “parties.” I chose a different response. I thanked the woman for the invitation, but said I don’t attend those sort of parties. Then… I added that I would love to spend some time with her and suggested we meet for coffee soon. I think it’s a win-win, because I loathe those parties, but I really like the woman hosting. I hope she takes me up on my offer to meet for coffee.

  85. clare says:

    I’ve been invited to two TupperWare parties this year and the person throwing both parties knows I hate TW. I told her that it is very overpriced and that I have no room in my kitchen for anymore plastic. I’m going to the party but I’m not buying anything. I’ll take a plate of food instead. When are women going to get over these crappy parties?????

  86. Laura says:

    I think the biggest problem is the lack of respect and common courtesy, not the invitation to a party… Both sides should be honest AND respectful to each other. A rude letter is not the way to talk to a friend.

    I sell Tupperware myself, but I am not a pushy salesperson and I always tell the friends I invite that there is no pressure to buy anything and if they can’t come it’s ok. I sell Tupperware because we need the extra income very badly right now, my husband has been very sick and can’t work.

    I present the products in a fun way, and at the end of the evening I let people know they can see me to place an order while we all hang out after, but I never ask anyone directly to buy anything so as to not put them on the spot.

    I DO think that people who sell need to make sure that they treat their friends with respect and don’t pressure them to buy things, and to not get upset if they don’t come or buy something.

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