DoNotWantFilter: How to avoid buying tschotkes from coworker?
June 19, 2009 9:48 AM   Subscribe

How can I politely decline to buy stuff from a coworker who is constantly selling candles, Tupperware, etc?

She and I work in the same area, about two cubes apart. She's a single mom and I know she doesn't have a ton of money but I don't want candles or dishes that are junky and overpriced! My other cop-out is that I'm in grad school and work full time on an entry-level social work salary. I don't have even "pity purchase" money, so the "buy something small and let it go" doesn't really work.

The tipping point was her inviting me to a "passion party" at her home where a representative would be selling sex toys. She invited other women, including my boss and her boss, which clearly ups the awkward ante. I rsvp'd online and she walked to my cube and said, "You said 'no' already?". I lied and said I had to take a licensing exam that Saturday. How can I get her off my case without being completely awful?
posted by ShadePlant to Human Relations (30 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
"I'm sorry. I really appreciate you inviting me, but to be honest, with things as they are right now, I'm/we're on a really tight budget and I can't buy anything. I know you understand."
posted by anastasiav at 9:50 AM on June 19, 2009 [10 favorites]

By making excuses, maybe you're accidentally stringing her along?

How about: "I'm just not interested in that stuff."

It is not completely awful to be straight-forward.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 9:53 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I would persistently say no, and if the opportunity comes up ("can't believe you said no again/already!") just smile and say, "I know, I don't mean to be rude. My feelings won't be hurt if you just want to stop inviting me. Knick-knacks and Tupperware parties just aren't my thing."
posted by juliplease at 9:55 AM on June 19, 2009 [7 favorites]

Buy a few rolls of wrapping paper and offer to sell them to her for the same price as whatever she's selling you?

Outside of that be direct. "No Thanks", "I don't need any X", "I already have plans for that date". I've made the mistake of saying "That's not my style" and being suckered into listing family members who might like said item, so now I deal with "Tell your sister I have Y".
posted by syntheticfaith at 9:57 AM on June 19, 2009

"I'm not interested but thank you."

If she pushes the matter, "I have absolutely no extra money to spend, and I won't have any in the foreseeable future, so please stop asking. Thank you."

Be as polite and respectful as possible, but be firm. Don't give any indication that you have any plans of buying something in the future. She is being rude by refusing to take no for an answer, so don't let her make you feel bad about it. I have a "friend" who is almost exactly the same way, and I don't let her guilt me into buying anything.
posted by Lobster Garden at 9:58 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

I was in this situation in my previous job. I was constantly being invited to candle parties etc etc. Initially I bought a few items, but did not attend any parties. I then got fed up and decided that I was just going to be honest. The next party I was invited to was one where they sell environmentally friendly cleaning products (can't remember the name). I flat out said that I have no interest in attending the party, and I did not want to buy anything. After that, I was never invited to another party, and never saw another catalogue.

I say just be truthful. Tell her you are on a tight budget, and can not justify spending money on ....
posted by cleo at 10:04 AM on June 19, 2009

Best answer: I have neighbors, friends, co-workers and relatives who used to constantly invite me to those types of parties. At first I used to buy something small just to get them off my back, but that only made it worse. I just got fed up one day and started saying "No," to everyone, no matter what it was they wanted me to buy. The niceness of my "No" depended on how vested I was in keeping the relationship intact. Eventually I got the reputation as someone who "never buys" and these people stopped asking me. Mission accomplished.

Just keep saying no. Don't elaborate or embellish. It's none of their business how you spend your money. You may feel rude the first few times, but honestly, they're rude to keep trying to foist these things on you when you're obviously not interested. "No thanks." Smile and walk away.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 10:05 AM on June 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Civility doesn't preclude refusal. Seriously, who decided that declining something would be horribly rude? That's what a lot of these types of questions sound like. Assertiveness isn't the same thing as aggressiveness. The vast majority of misunderstandings and awkwardness come from simple noncommunication. Adults (mostly women, it seems) need to understand and accept that polite refusals and their polite acceptance are required for mature interactions, period. All the lines suggested above work just fine. "No thanks, but we're tightening our belts these days. Why don't you sell on Craigslist or eBay?" etc.

But inviting coworkers and bosses to a sex-toy-sale party? It makes me wonder if this woman has absolutely not concept of what is "proper" given specific situations, which tells me that she's not the type of person to understand social "hints" to begin with. Will declining somehow put you on more awkward footing with that particular person? Maybe. A lot of people are like that. But maybe these aren't people you want to be friends with anyway.
posted by Ky at 10:09 AM on June 19, 2009 [6 favorites]

"No, thank you, that's not my cup of tea."

Making up excuses probably sounds like you did actually want to go, but couldn't because x or y came up. She'll keep on asking.
posted by cobain_angel at 10:17 AM on June 19, 2009

"I don't buy things from co-workers. Thanks though."
posted by JoannaC at 10:38 AM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: The "blanket no" policy has worked for Facebook... I don't "friend" anyone from work and that has been pretty helpful so I will employ that here as well. Thanks all.
posted by ShadePlant at 10:43 AM on June 19, 2009

Years ago I had a coworker who responded to requests like that with a very to-the-point answer: "No thanks, I come to work to make money, not to spend money." It's a little direct, but is certainly effective. He said it in a friendly way and AFAIK never made enemies over this - it kind of became an office joke, actually, as in "Don't ask him, he's busy making money!"

I'm still waiting for my own opportunity to try out this line and see how it goes :)
posted by chez shoes at 10:47 AM on June 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

I go with the "No thanks, I already have everything I need." It works well and I'm known as the cheap guy who doesn't buy stuff.
posted by jmd82 at 10:54 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

If this is extreme - to the point it affects job performance, your / her ability to interact with people at work, etc. - I'd go to her boss, or H.R. Most things like this in places I've worked don't go that far, but if she's inviting your boss & co-workers to a sex toy party, that seems inappropriate to me.

I hope it doesn't go that far, but definitely say something if it looks like it will, and other tactics won't work. You don't want it to become messier to deal with down the line.
posted by GJSchaller at 10:58 AM on June 19, 2009

In my experience, saying "No, I can't afford it right now" won't work, because the response is "Oh, just come for party, you don't have to buy anything." And then you still get the sales pitch at the party. It's better to be constantly busy. If you're a grad student, then you now have a paper due every week, the day after each party.
posted by donajo at 11:03 AM on June 19, 2009

i had a new cat show up on my doorstep about a week ago. i already have 4, all rescues. two of the permanent cats *hate* the new one, and i can't afford another one. so what do i do? i feed the damn thing. every morning. i know he's never going to go away as long as i keep feeding him.

your coworker is never going to go away with her requests as long as you keep feeding her, either--and making up excuses as to why you can't buy it this time might not be feeding her, but it's equivalent to the promise of breakfast tomorrow. so my advice is: don't be like me. say no, mean it, and be done with it.
posted by msconduct at 11:49 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Eeeew to inviting coworkers (and a supervisor?!) to a sex-toy party. I mean eeeew.

You've gotten really good advice. Just stick to it: "No thank you, no thank you, no thank you." And escalate to HR if she persists in a weird way (and honestly if she's inviting work people to sex-toy parties I wouldn't be shocked if she does have trouble processing the polite-but-firm No Thanks.)

Yikes, how egregious.
posted by Neofelis at 11:56 AM on June 19, 2009

Going to a "passion party" with your coworkers just sounds a little too awkward...doesn't seem like she has much tact in work place social rules.
posted by Groovytimes at 12:23 PM on June 19, 2009

Don't make excuses, the invites will keep coming and, eventually, you'll reuse an excuse (like your sister's second birthday party in 6 months). That will be awkward.

Just keep saying no. If you're pressed to explain your refusal ("you said no already"), just say that you're cutting out any non-essential and/or impulse purchases, and you have no money to buy the products, no matter how fantastic or life-changing they may be.

If she's really pushy, she'll respond with "that's ok, you don't have to buy, just come anyway, it's going to be really fun!" To that, you should simply acknowledge that it probably would be fun, but you're going to have to refuse because if you go, you probably will end up buying something and you refuse to tempt yourself (which isn't untrue, no matter how great your intentions are to keep your wallet in your purse, the guilt will come at you from all angles, and you'll eventually just buy the smallest thing to keep the sales person from whining about how the hostess will get a free orange peeler or giant scented candle, but only if EVERYONE THERE buys at least SOMETHING).

If she persists, just say "No. Thanks for the invite, but I'm not coming. Since I am trying to be more responsible with/save money, please stop trying to pressure me into shopping/purchasing situations"

If she continues, it's completely appropriate to go with this response "No, you greedy cow, I have no interest in buying guilt trinkets from parties or sales rep catalogs. My answer will always be no, so stop inviting me. In fact, if you do continue to invite me, don't expect me to RSVP because this is my RSVP: no. no to all purchasing opportunities now and in the future!!" That should do it.

(I'm actually kidding about the last one. It's a bit over the top)
posted by necessitas at 1:40 PM on June 19, 2009

I don't know if there's anything actionable here if she persists, but in my workplace this might even constitute a hostile work environment. While you're figuring out what to do, explore the option of complaining to a supervisor.
posted by teg4rvn at 1:51 PM on June 19, 2009

Yeah, that's not cool for the office. In my (government-affiliated) job, we have a policy that says that we can't use e-mail for solicitation of those kinds of things, and it's not appropriate to sell stuff. We're a fairly relaxed place nonetheless, and we have an Avon guy (really) who discreetly walks in and drops off a booklet every month, but that's it. Girl Scout cookie requests go on the table in the conference room; requests for fundraising pledges usually go in a single post on our internal blog. I would really resent more intrusion; you have my complete sympathy.

I guess the moral of the story is that you really should not let this get in the way of a) your work or b) your workplace relationships, and as it seems like that boundary is being violated, it's time for a chat with your supervisor.
posted by Madamina at 2:03 PM on June 19, 2009

While I can't comment on being invited to sales parties.. when it comes to outside-work activities in general, if I'm not interested, I just simply decline. I don't say I'm coming if I'm not. I don't need to make an excuse. Invitations are not orders.
posted by TravellingDen at 2:17 PM on June 19, 2009

Eeeew to inviting coworkers (and a supervisor?!) to a sex-toy party. I mean eeeew.

I totally agree, but the goal in multi-level-marketing schemes (like home parties for whatever product) is to invite as many people as you know, because a good 70% of them won't show up. So it's not uncommon for co-workers to invite you to whatever party they've booked, from baskets to candles to Mary Kay to Tupperware to Undercover Wear to yada yada. Throw enough invites at the wall and you'll get enough people to make a "party." This was one aspect about working in a large company that I hated - invitations from co-workers I barely knew to all manner of home parties. I attended a few in my youth but then finally developed the backbone to say "No." All the products offered at such parties were overpriced (no matter what the rep told you about the inferiority of similar cosmetics available at drugstores...) and a lot of it was stuff I'd never use. But the MLM home party scheme is spreads to places you'd never suspect. I used to frequent a small diner that was the only eatery located near my place of work, and one of the two regular waitresses there eventually approached me with a home party invite, and when I said I couldn't attend, she shoved a catalog in my hands and said I could order from it at my convenience. When I was regularly working late at one small company during tax season, I became acquainted with the female custodian who came in and cleaned the office. Just on the basis of me exchanging pleasantries with her, she felt close enough to me to invite me to some cosmetic home party, and also give me the catalog so I could order without attending..... Argh!!!
posted by Oriole Adams at 2:26 PM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: I'm glad other people have run into this and have lots of advice... I was worried I was being crabby/anti-social. The "How To Act Like A Human" manuals frown upon such things.
posted by ShadePlant at 2:47 PM on June 19, 2009

Best answer: Ugh. That other people will be afraid that they will be perceived as "rude" is half or more of the business model with these companies. Don't be suckered by emotional manipulation! I hate, hate, HATE these things. The last time this happened to me I said, "Wow, thanks for thinking of me but I just don't do those things," and turned back to my work.
posted by amanda at 4:01 PM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

This type of sales model is the worst. It basically depends on the person squeezing every last bit of good will out of all your family and friends, then moving on to coworkers, customers and people that just glance at you. If she doesn't let up on you after you've tried the other suggestions, agree to buy something, then either don't pay her for the longest time (if ever), or upon receiving the item begin complaining about the poor quality and how you want your money back. Basically become the worst customer ever and she'll take you off her list quick.
posted by orme at 4:42 PM on June 19, 2009

Best answer: I totally sympathize. A few years ago there was this woman in my office who went around selling things to raise money so she could go on a Christian missionary trip to India. I'm an atheist so you can imagine how much I was dreading her approaching my cubicle.

But I managed to cut it right off the first time she came up to me. She was selling Krispy Kreme donuts. I started by just saying "no thank you" hoping to avoid further talk. But she said "oh, you don't like Krispy Kremes?" (with that tone like "EVERYBODY likes Krispy Kremes"). Well, I thought, since she's pursued this she's in for it now, and replied "no, I like them, but I don't approve of religious missionary work." As she patted my shoulder she wordlessly gave me that Evangelical condescending smile that means "bless your heart, but you're going to Hell you vile heathen scum" and she never asked me to buy anything ever again.
posted by dnash at 6:03 PM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

Tons of great stuff!

The only thing I would add is keep it as close to "no" as possible. Giving excuses or apologies leaves the subject open to discussion later. Which means you're going to have to say "no" again.

The only people who have taken "no" badly have been people who don't respect personal boundaries very well, and I'm better off putting them off.
posted by Ookseer at 7:23 PM on June 19, 2009

First, it seem to me like the sex toys party could potentially fall under a company's anti-sexual harassment policies. Seems like a really un-smart thing to do in this day and age.

Second, here's what I say to telemarketers: "Sorry, I don't make purchases over the phone. Click."

Your version for work can be: "Sorry, I've decided not to do any non-work related business with my co-workers. It helps me stay focused on my job." Period.
posted by caroljean63 at 10:26 PM on June 19, 2009

I think it's really inappropriate for her to be soliciting this at work. Have you thought about talking to HR? She is using work time to work for another company! That must violate some part of the employment contract or employee handbook.

It's one thing to say "hey if you're interested, I sell xyz on the side, here's my card if you want to contact me on the weekend sometime" but another to sell things at work.
posted by radioamy at 7:57 PM on June 22, 2009

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