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Consumer Reports

Push back against pushy sales people

During the holidays last winter, Consumer Reports staffer Tod Marks was accosted by a manicure-kit saleswoman who grabbed his pinky, buffed the nail “as if it were Aladdin’s lamp,” he says, and peppered him with personal questions. He escaped only by yanking his finger away.
Readers of his Tightwad Tod blog, on, suggest these strategies for handling the (fortunately rare) salesperson who is too aggressive:
— Say you’re just looking. Salespeople might walk if it’s clear they’re wasting time trying for a sale that isn’t about to happen.
Be decisive. If you’re unsure about what you want, say you’ll peruse on your own but will check in if you have a question.
— Ask for a business card. If you decide to buy, you can ask for the salesperson, who will get any commission.
— Say you’re comparison shopping. You’ll seem like a savvy shopper not easily impressed by slick talk.
— Use body language. You don’t need to stomp your feet to be left alone; just avoid eye contact, smiling and other gestures that make you seem approachable.
— Be direct. When you encounter a grouchy customer-service rep, ask if the person is having a rough day. If the employee continues to grumble, demand an explanation for the rudeness. “Both techniques make that person snap out of it and consider their behavior,” a reader says, “if only for a second.”
— Go elsewhere. That’s what a reader did at a shopping-mall hair salon when the receptionist introduced him to the stylist, who was too busy texting on her cell phone to offer a greeting.
— Give a canned answer. To whatever question a pushy salesperson asks — whether it’s “Are you a businessperson?” or “Would you like to save a hundred dollars today?” — a reader repeats “No thank you, excuse me, goodbye.”
— Develop “the look.” Another reader suggests “the look of hitting the mall with a toddler in tow…a cross between exasperation and madness.”
No matter how brusque the salesperson, there’s no excuse to spew profanities or step on the person’s feet (two suggestions CR received), says Renee Evenson, author of the book “Customer Service Training 101.” “Back off, remain calm, and take a deep breath,” she says. State clearly and respectfully to the salesperson that you’re having a problem with the way you’re being treated. If the hounding continues, complain to a higher authority.
Everyone has a bad day now and then, Evenson acknowledges, and a little empathy (“I can see you’re busy, but can you spare a few moments to help me?”) can often result in better service. So can words such as “please” and “thank you.”
How to tame your paper piles
Do you have a mountain of more than a year’s worth of credit-card bills, ATM receipts and pay stubs? Hanging on to every scrap of paper is not just a fire hazard. It could take you days instead of minutes to get the information you need for a tax preparer, a financial planner or an attorney. If you’re the victim of a fire, flood, or theft, locating the data you need to file a claim will just add to your stress. And if something happens to you, loved ones will have a hard time finding your medical power of attorney, insurance papers, and accounts.
Chances are you’re storing lots more paper than you need to. CR suggests reducing your paper load by switching to electronic statements and records whenever possible. And make a list of your important documents and their locations so that you or the person you’ve designated to carry on your affairs can consult it for quick access. Include details about how to find your safe-deposit-box inventory and key, insurance policies, and computer log-ons and passwords. Give the list to loved ones and be vigilant about updating it. To help avoid identity theft, shred anything you throw away that contains personal information.