My Encounter with a Door to Door Salesman

by Sharell शारेल on June 5, 2010

in Daily Life in India

The doorbell chirped (yes, chirped not chimed, because it makes a strange bird noise). On the other side of the door was a small round Indian man, with a woolly beard and glasses. He looked a bit like a bear. He introduced himself as being from Vodafone.

Forceful in nature, much to my dismay, he was inside the door before I knew it. I wasn’t pleased because I’ve started wearing a mini skirt around the house in retaliation towards the heat. Fortunately though, he seemed more concerned about the fantastic Vodafone birthday offer that he had for me, rather than my lack of attire.

“Where should I sit?”, he demanded. Reluctantly, I directed him to the sofa cum bed in the living room.

“What are you? Are you Indian?, he wanted to know next. Partly, I told him. The answer obviously didn’t matter though because he’d already pulled a book out of his briefcase, ready to sign me up for the birthday offer.

The birthday offer, from what I could gather, was another SIM card for my mobile phone, one that would allow me to have free calls to any other Vodafone number. He didn’t really give me too many details, and I didn’t really want to know. I told him I wasn’t interested because I have a pre-paid account and rarely make calls.

“It doesn’t matter’, he insisted. “It’s a special birthday offer, and you must take it. You can have two SIM cards. All you have to do is pay a one-time charge”. Despite my protests, he prepared himself to start writing down my details.

“Do you have a PAN card?”, he asked. No, I told him. “A driver’s license?” No. “Huh, why don’t you have these things?”, he questioned me. Because I don’t pay tax here and I don’t drive here. “Oh, well, you must have a passport. Get that for me”.

I don’t want your offer, I insisted. And what about this one-time charge? How much is it? “1,000 rupees”, he replied. What?! “Okay, okay. You can have the other offer, 350 rupees only”.

My husband was working in the music studio at our friend’s bungalow next door, so I decided to call him. What if it really was a good offer? (Thinking like an Indian who believes it when they receive a text message saying they’ve won a jackpot). “Send him over”, my husband said.

“And what does your husband do?”, the salesman asked me. When I told him that he works in the music industry as a DJ/producer, his eyes lit up and he eagerly jumped up off the sofa. “Yes, yes, I’ll go and see him now. Wow. Maybe he might have a job for me!”, he enthused.

As he headed out the door, he turned to me. “Have you had your lunch?, he questioned. It was 4 p.m. And he was asking me if I’d had my lunch! I’m constantly amazed at how obsessed Indians are with people’s eating habits, even the habits of strangers.

My husband called me five minutes later. He was a freak wasn’t he, I laughed. “Yes”, my husband replied. “A huge freak, I told him off and sent him on his way”.

What? Without even finding out about the fabulous birthday offer?

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© Copyright 2010 Sharell शारेल, Diary of a White Indian Housewife 2008-2014. All Rights Reserved. Do not copy and reproduce text or images without permission.

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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

Amit June 5, 2010 at 6:09 pm

Salesman, there are always a headache… I encounter a lot of them in my office daily… some are selling phones, some are offering discounts of Restaurant cum bar. The last one I encountered with was from a Beauty Salon and was offering one year membership of his salon for rupees 500… which includes services from Haircut to facial, bleaching, waxing and a big list most of which are for girls…when I told him he said u can give this membership card for your wife or any other family member…. I told him that I am single and living away from my family… he asked me to use it for my gf…. again I told him that I don’t have one… he insisted that may have one and I should grab this great opportunity… but when I said ‘no’ again he paused for a minute and then said I should buy one and give it to him so that he can gift it to his gf… very smart… Finally I got some relief as he left saying that he’ll visit again


Sharell June 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Lol Amit, they have an answer for everything! ;-)

Ram, that’s a useful tip. I’ll start doing that from now on. :-)


Ramit June 5, 2010 at 8:21 pm

You need to be more careful with opening the door to strangers! Funny salesman though!


Jennifer June 5, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Interesting to note that asking what one has for lunch, dinner or whatever is too personal! :) Maybe it’s cause I have been ingrained in the Indian culture more than 15 years so it’s one of my fave questions to ask anyone! :) Plus, though asking I get to know what people like to eat, so if they come over to my house someday.. I know what to offer them! :)


jerry singh June 5, 2010 at 10:55 pm

Very nicely written blog….so now the travelling salesperson has arrived in India! Never let them in….every time I have, I have regreted it–either I end up buying what I do not need or waste my energies figuring out how to get rid of them.I was told once that the invite-in rate is 5-10% but once in the closure rate is 40-50% ( here in these United States).Wonder what it is in India….


manoj June 6, 2010 at 12:16 am

vodafone calls me n asks if im free for 10 mts,they hv an offer…..I say .im not free…they ask..can i hv 5 mts….i say no…im busy….they ask…when can we get time fm u…i say next mnth…aftr my busy period is over…..they ask…can we get pls pls get 5 mts now?…we hv an offer……i say thnk u bye n disconnect my mobile….till nxt week n the nxt offer….fed up of these guys…!….they’re at u all the time…and grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr……!


MDG June 6, 2010 at 1:54 am

MIM has told me how in the past he and his family would open their doors to salespeople but these days they don’t risk it. Good thing he was just a “freak” and not out to rob you! whew. Were you tense the entire time?


julya June 6, 2010 at 3:56 am

Sharell dont open the door to strangers , is realy very very unsafe, is crazy to invite that man in your house and alow him sit on the sofa. If he wants to speak, open the door and speak like that but never invite strangers in, even if they work for a big company, you dont know what kind of people they are.


Shufuinjapan June 6, 2010 at 5:56 am

There are also lots of annoying door to door salesmen here in Japan. These days I only open the door when I know who it is or I can clearly see that it is a delivery person (for a delivery I am expecting). It helps that I have a “door phone” with a camera so I can look on my little screen in the living room and decide if I want to open the door or ignore the person.


vikas June 6, 2010 at 8:44 am

Dear Sharell,

How can you allow a stranger salesman so much liberty in your place? While I can see your manners justifying, your conduct pattern in allowing strangers might land you up in unpleasant and dangerous situations in the future. After all you still are a woman!


Abdullah K. June 6, 2010 at 2:32 pm

If a stranger enters my house without my invitation, I wouldn’t let him sit. I’d respond with a, “No, you don’t sit. Turn back and walk out”.
As for the question about lunch, perhaps he wanted to take you out to lunch if you didn’t. Indians can be very sleazy in that aspect.

@ Amit – “I told him that I am single and living away from my family… he asked me to use it for my gf”

A good response to that would be to smile conspirationally and say, “I don’t have a girlfriend, but I am open to the idea of having a boyfriend.” He would never call you or visit you again.


Gopal June 6, 2010 at 7:43 pm

Hi Sharell, I am regular reader of ur blog.. I agree with most others’ comment that u should be careful while opening doors to strangers.. It is really very dangerous in afternoon particularly in metros. Never do that.. have a small viewer in door, from which u can see who is standing on door.. do not take it something frightening.. but just be little cautious when u are alone at home.. and enjoy India.. it is ur home now.. :)


nickki18229 June 6, 2010 at 11:17 pm

Sharell glad you are safe do be careful next time or in fact don’t answer the door. You never know these days even here int he states who is at your door and wht they want. Glad you husband got rid of him for you least he was just freak though.


Rubi June 7, 2010 at 4:11 am

This is new for me! Ive never heard of door to door salesmen for cellphone services…!


Amit Desai June 7, 2010 at 6:11 am

@ Rubi, “…This is new for me! Ive never heard of door to door salesmen for cellphone services…!…”

India is a different planet. People not only sell door to door, but also trade door to door. Have you heard of an exchange scheme where people donate certain kind of clothes to get certain utensils in return? Can you think of a reason behind it?


Akash June 7, 2010 at 9:26 am

Hi Sharell,

It is dangerous to allow such “Salesman” inside the house. I would not recommend it at all. Have always turned them away no matter how good the offer is. I can always go to the market and get what I want or research on the internet.



chris June 7, 2010 at 10:50 am

Do NOT open the door for strangers.

Does your housing-society not have a security-guard (a watchman) to turn away such salesmen, before they even have a chance to ring yuour doorbell ?


Sharell June 7, 2010 at 12:16 pm

There are plenty of watchmen around, I don’t know where they were then though! :-( This guy really caught me off guard. It doesn’t help that I’m usually really polite to people until they do something that totally pisses me off. But agreed, I won’t be letting anyone like that in again.


Rubi June 8, 2010 at 3:59 am

@Amit Desai “India is a different planet. People not only sell door to door, but also trade door to door. Have you heard of an exchange scheme where people donate certain kind of clothes to get certain utensils in return? Can you think of a reason behind it?”

Well i have heard of trading door to door, and i have done it actually, i take out things i dont use anymore, i call people who will re sell it, they go to my house pick it up and give me some money in exchange, i find it more logical than cellphone service door to door..;)


Amit Desai June 8, 2010 at 4:33 am

@ Rubi, “…i call people who will re sell it, they go to my house pick it up and give me some money in exchange…”

But if you get money in exchange, that’s more like selling (and buying). I am talking about the old school (and inefficient) way of trading – such as trading goods for goods, without any money involved. Do you still do that in U.S?


Jon July 25, 2010 at 8:26 pm

I once had a problem with those door to door salesmen. Until i came across an Australian site that sells “No selling” stickers. I purchased one and stuck it to my front door and havent had a problem with door-to-door solicitors since! Family and friends comment on it saying “Thats a great idea” and about its nice design. Just sharing my experiences.. check it out im really pleased with the sticker, it worked for me.


Bhagirathi August 13, 2010 at 1:59 am

Unexpected and uninvited visitors landing up without informing, staying for hours on end without any sign of leaving, making it clear they will have breakfast, lunch, dinner and a few cups of tea and mukhwas (consisting of laung, dalchini and elaichi). I’ve had umpteen of these kind of experiences for the past several years. Anyone and everyone landing up at home, some even ending up staying for months. Being relatives it becomes difficult to drive them away. No amount of hints are taken. You use every conceivable trick without success. Desperate situations call for desperate measures. I have cut off such people and don’t open the door for them. For this purpose I have installed a door viewer which helps me view the person on the other side of the door. Be it a salesman or any unwanted, uninvited person, they can keep ringing the bell, the door is not going to open for them. PERIOD.


Sharell August 13, 2010 at 10:08 am

I’ve had umpteen of these kind of experiences for the past several years. Anyone and everyone landing up at home, some even ending up staying for months. Being relatives it becomes difficult to drive them away. No amount of hints are taken.

Hi Bhagirathi, it reminds me of that Bollywood movie Athiti Tum Kab Jaoge. :-P It obviously is a common and troublesome situation for a movie to be based on it! I couldn’t believe it when my sister in law said to me that if I continued to be friendly to our very intrusive previous neighbours, they might very well ask us to accommodate their guests if there wasn’t room in their apartment! :-o


Bhagirathi August 13, 2010 at 4:11 pm

Sharell, my nephew and DIL stay in Mumbai. My DIL is a stickler for cleanliness. She keeps cleaning the one bedroom apartment and putting everything in place. The house resembles those you find in interior design magazines. One day my nephew’s friends had another model friend visit them. Since their houses were not well kept, it was decided that the guest stay in my nephew’s house. He did not really mind and agreed to let the guest stay, but My DIL, after facing a day of inconvenience requested the group to make some other arrangement. If she had not nipped it in the bud, the guest unknown to her, would have continued to stay with them and would have treated their house like a free hotel, providing free service whenever she came to Mumbai. In Hindi there is a saying ‘na jaan na pehchaan, main tera mehman’. Some people feel entitled.


Gary newmous August 29, 2010 at 2:17 pm

There is an Australian organization called knockstoppers that sell packs with 7 or 8 differently designed “no selling stickers” as well as drafted complaint letters. I’m pretty sure they even give u an alcohol cleaning wipe to prepare your sticker area.. Anyway, it looks like they are a non profit organization as they sell their packs for a couple of dollars


Barns October 16, 2010 at 9:42 pm

I had one the other day. In VARKALA. First time ever. He was selling a combined book/software package on how to learn English. Of course, he didn’t understand enough English – or was too bad a listener – to get what I was saying.

“Sir, for you please take, very good offer, only 1000 rupees today only.”

“No, thank you. I speak English already.”

“It is coming with book and CD-ROM also, only 1000 rupees.”

“No, no – my education, child time, full English. I don’t need-”

“Sir, this offer only valid today itself, please look this CD-ROM.”

“For me, this one, no good! I am already speaking English!”

“See here, MRP usually 2700 rupees. For you today 1000 rupees…”


Sweet enough chap, but I eventually moved him on to the neighbours.


Sharell October 17, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Haha! What a funny one. And even funnier how your English degenerated while trying to talk to him.


Ragesh November 16, 2010 at 8:04 pm

Hey once in Mumbai, a pale looking profusely sweating man came and gave a gift box to a resident and went away immediately without mentioning any details. That gift box is nothing but a Bomb which goes off on a slightest disturbance. Please Be careful .


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