Death of the (Door-to-Door) Salesman

On this week’s WVU Integrated Marketing Communications discussion board for my New and Emerging Media class, classmate Christina made a good point when the question was asked about which types of marketing we each felt would become obsolete or completely disappear over the next several years.  One of her choices was door-to-door selling.  She wrote:

I think this one will eventually fail just because people will become more unwilling than they already are to open the door to strangers. I have nothing that supports this hypothesis; it’s just a hunch. No one likes to be sold to; especially in this day and age when we are being sold to everywhere we turn around.

I think she brings up an interesting point that as time goes on and populations, especially in the U.S., become increasingly suspicious of people and afraid to open their doors to strangers, this form of marketing will fade away.  It’s unfortunate that as a society, the core concepts of trust and safety have eroded to the point that this traditional form of selling is almost unthinkable nowadays.

Interesting commentary that supports the statements made above can also be found on West Seattle Blog where area consumers who read and subscribe to the blog detail their own experiences with door-to-door hucksters (if I can still use such a ’50’s era, grandma-like term to describe less-than-reputable salesmen) who were trying to “sell” home security services.  The feedback presented makes me think of these remaining types of door-to-door sellers as being more of an offline version of banner ads promising crazy good mortgage rates if you bonk the right monkey on the head rather than purveyors of legitimate products.

Other parodies of the classic door-to-door salesman also make this form of selling tough to take seriously, as seen in this classic clip from Pee Wee’s Playhouse:

It seems as if the days of the suit-clad, fedora-wearing door-to-door salesman who arrives at the door, knocks, removes his hat, and politely asks “Is the lady of the house in?” have come and gone. 

In the glory days, homemakers would be shown miracle products from knives to vacuums that could handle any job and may have even shared a smoke with the traveling salesman.  After all, cigarettes were recommended by doctors for their smooth taste and calming effects.

It seems that classic door-to-door selling has, for the most part, been replaced by infomercials, which, are being replaced by online tosses for ordering products. There are even “As Seen on TV” stores in malls that allow consumers to decide which gimmicky products are right for them. Even Avon, which epitomizes the traditional door-to-door, woman-to-woman selling approach, has a significant web presence these days to support sales efforts.  They’ve even moved beyond just selling to philanthropic causes, like the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer, and allow participants to easily set up a site for donations, as my wife has done here.  So, not only are Avon products able to be purchased online, but traditional door-to-door donation collections, for causes from the American Heart Association to Avon to Jerry’s Kids, have all moved online as well.

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