Stop Me and Sell One

It's getting harder and harder to get across any city centre without being waylaid by someone with a clipboard. Whether they’re trying to sign me up to their catalogue or sell me car insurance, I seem to be a particular target. I think they assume I must be married or cohabiting, or have children, or drive a car. Doesn’t everybody?
Well, no actually. And once they discover that I don’t fit their demographic profile, they invariably send me on my way with: “Oh, I’m sorry.” As if I should be disappointed that I can’t help them fill out their forms.
There seems to be a remarkable illogic to it all. A few years ago there was a trend for legal companies wanting to help you sue someone who might have been responsible for a mishap.
“Have you had an accident?” they would ask as they stepped out in front of you, almost causing one of their own. I can’t count the number of times I was stopped by these people. Until, that was, the six weeks I spent hobbling through town on two crutches.
Time after time I passed by the same people, who now seemed blind to my obvious impairment. Actually, my accident was largely self-inflicted, so I’d probably have had to sue myself. Nowadays the only people who don’t stop me are the ones giving away free samples of things I might actually want, like chocolate.
I don’t object to people trying to earn an honest living. It’s better than hanging around on street corners – although I suppose that’s precisely what they are doing. No, what annoy me are the looks of abject surprise when I don’t want to sign up to the latest offer. Clearly I have taken leave of my senses. I mean, who wouldn’t want a new credit card/insurance policy/health club membership?
You do have to give these clipboard pests credit, though. Because some are so devoted to their cause that even inclement weather won’t deter them.
During a recent spell of bad weather, I watched from my sheltering spot in a shop doorway as a representative of an energy provider attempted to persuade passers-by to sign to his company. You had to admire his persistence. It was teeming it down, people were hurrying past and yet, despite raindrops falling from his nose, he continued his relentless pursuit.
Only two actually listened. One of those stopped only because the red man on the pelican crossing had prevented her escape. The other decided to chastise him. Yet, even as she disappeared into the distance, his sales patter continued, rising a decibel for every step she took away from him. I wondered whether he’d get a single taker all day.
Aside from the obvious security risks of handing over your personal details in the middle of St the street, do people really sign up right there and then? Nowadays, even charities have begun to use this technique. Don’t you miss the days when fundraisers stood on street corners rattling collection tins?
In Derby we have a wonderful, and huge, shopping centre so you'd think we could avoid these street-scene clipboarders. But even the Westfield Centre doesn’t provide much refuge. There we have another niggling group of people: the ones who try to spray perfume, curl your hair, or massage cream into your hands.
To be honest, my patience is beginning to wear thin. They seem to station themselves at the narrowest crossing point, preventing any chance of escape. I don’t mind them asking once, but how maddening is it when, having collared you going in one direction, the same sales person literally corners you on the way back?
Actually – accidentally as it happens – I discovered an effective tactic for discouraging them. When one young lady grabbed my hand offering to attend to my cuticles, I carefully explained that I sometimes had a nasty allergic reaction to skin creams. She looked horrified and withdrew immediately. So now when I’m stopped, one of the first things I mention is “allergic rash”. You’d be amazed just how quickly they scatter. If only the clipboard people were so easily deterred.