It’s not just for governments and media anymore. The peddling of fear has become so epidemic I drove two salespeople off the other day with the words, “I refuse to live in fear.”
What were they selling? The product matters less than that they were selling fear. Ugly fear. Fear of my neighbors’ kids.
They appeared to represent General Electric. I won’t say that GE came up with this brilliant marketing plan. Chances are it was devised by some local genius. But maybe not. Worse, they weren’t the only solicitors I’ve had at my door trying to sell the same thing: “Be afraid, be very afraid.”
The approach seemed reasonable enough. “We were doing some work for the X family down the street. Do you know them?”
Of course I know them. What’s more, Mr. X is president of both our HOA and our CDD (Community Development District, a local taxing entity). A very nice guy, though I don’t always agree with him. My first thought was, “Gee, Mr. X probably wouldn’t be happy that you’re using his name since our neighborhood is clearly posted No soliciting.” And he’s at least partly responsible for that rule.
But I’ve heard this approach so often: We were working at your neighbor’s down the street… Yeah, okay.
Then comes the fear sell: “Were you aware they had a break-in?”
Of course I was. It happened a couple of months ago. A rare event in our neighborhood, actually. It isn’t exactly anywhere near the top of my list of fears. Not even close. Burglaries happen everywhere.
“Well, you have a security system that depends on the phone lines, and you should be aware that the new thing is for kids to cut the phone lines to shut down the alarm system. You wouldn’t be able to call the police, or fire, or an ambulance. And we’ve got this system…”
That’s where I halted them. I refuse to be afraid of my neighbors, and I refuse to believe in that scary terrorist group “kids.” Come on. Most kids I know are pretty darn decent, and most burglars are actually professionals. They won’t hit your house on a whim, and they won’t be “kids.”
I gave these guys a lecture about peddling fear and closed the door on them. Then I called the police.
Not because they were soliciting, but because they were knocking on every door in the neighborhood, and in doing so, they were learning something: which houses were unoccupied, and which houses were entirely vacant. That’s the reason we don’t allow soliciting, because soliciting is an easy way to case the neighborhood. All you need is a clipboard.
And the police actually encourage us to let them know. It’s part of neighborhood watch and community security. I called them because I was watching out for my neighbors, not because I was afraid.
As for my alarm system, I have it because the insurance company wants it. I seldom turn it on, and only when the house is going to be empty for more than a few hours. Why? Because the insurance company will give me hell if I have a break-in when no one’s home and the alarm is off.
I don’t have it because I’m afraid. And the simple truth is, it would be easier to break into my home by smashing a window than by cutting the phone lines. As long as you don’t dislodge those magnets, you’re in. On the other hand, if you cut the phone lines and make a clumsy break-in, everyone for six houses around is going to hear that damn alarm whooping.
But that’s neither here nor there. Fact is, we’ve become so steeped in fear that now sales guys are using it to make us spend more money. Buy that gun for protection. Buy our little device that will make sure your phone line can’t be cut, or your alarm signal goes through, or better yet, buy our system which is wireless.
Um, I have a cell phone. Have a go at my land line. And quit trying to make me afraid of some group or other, most especially my neighbors and their kids.
I’m really very tired of it.