He called me a f**king pig. I did nothing. I hope it was the right thing to do
Conor Pope: I didn’t want to let it lie, but I didn’t want to ruin this guy’s life either
Selling anything door-to-door on a dark winter’s evening and dealing with grumpy people can’t be easy. Photograph: iSTOCK
‘Fu*king pig,” the salesman shouted as I closed my front door after declining to sign up for a service he’d done a spectacularly bad job of convincing me I needed. The words had me transfixed. I stood on one side of the door holding a baby as he stood on the other holding a grudge.
I was at a loss as to what I was supposed to do next. The drama had started shortly after 6pm with the ringing of my door bell. It rings so infrequently that I can’t recall the last time it chimed – it’s more of a raspy burr, really – to herald the arrival of someone or something pleasant. So I tend to tense when it rasps.
Not as much Toby, however. Toby is a small dog with a big bark and nothing sets him off quite as loudly as the doorbell. To answer the door, I had to scoop the baby up and shimmy into the hall through a crack in the door wide enough to accommodate a man and infant but too narrow for a small dog.
I could take to social media and tell tens of thousands of people, including his employer, about my experience. That would show him
Having achieved this physics-defying act, I opened the front door in time to be greeted by a hard-faced, beanie-wearing man in his late 30s. He launched into his patter and told me he was from some quasi-official-sounding body like “the electricity and gas board” or “the broadband and network utility”. He asked me who my existing supplier was and he didn’t show any ID.
I was suspicious. I knew no such organisation existed and – with a howling Hound of the Battervilles behind one door and a baby insufficiently dressed to be exposed to the elements standing in front of another one – I cut into his spiel in a not hugely polite manner.
“What company are you from?”
“What? I told you. I’m from…” He said the name of a company.
“You should have properly identified yourself from the start,” I said. “And where’s your ID?
He waved ID vaguely in my direction and broke into his patter again, telling me that a provider I wasn’t with was about to increase its prices but if I switched to his company I’d avoid a lot of financial pain through the winter.
Now what he didn’t know is that I know quite a bit about the world in which he operates and a lot more about the company he represents than he knew – and possibly more about it than he did.
I said I wasn’t interested. He persisted. With the dog at risk of a barking-related aneurysm and a baby now bored by the beanie-hatted man and anxious to explore the great outdoors wearing nothing more than a nappy and vest, the conversation needed to end. So I said – in a manner that was brusque – “Sorry, didn’t you hear me? I don’t want to switch.” And I moved to close the door
“There’s no need to be rude about it, “ he responded as the door closed on him. And once it had shut fully he shouted, “F**king pig!”
He was raging as was I. This man had called to my home at dinner time and used subterfuge and dodgy tactics to try and sign me up to a bad-value service before calling me a “f**king pig”.
What if he was just a bad person? What if he routinely used intimidation to target vulnerable people to get them to sign up to a service that was not in their best interest?
I considered releasing the hound, but looked at tiny Toby and decided against it. I thought about opening the door and remonstrating with him further but he was bigger than me, with anger management issues and, potentially, a violent streak. And didn’t I have a baby in my arms?
So I returned to my livingroom, violated and in a powerless rage. Except I wasn’t powerless. In fact I had all the power. I could take to social media and tell tens of thousands of people, including his employer, about my experience. That would show him. Or, I thought, I could contact his employer directly and give them the details of the incident.
But then I thought some more. I could do both those things and either one would see him – probably – lose his job. And it’s a tough job. Selling anything door-to-door on a dark winter’s evening and dealing with grumpy people – people like me – can’t be easy. And it can’t be well paid. I’d no idea what road he had taken to get to this point in his life or if he was dealing with some trauma or had had a bad day, a day I could make a whole lot worse.
But what if it wasn’t a bad day? What if he was just a bad person? What if he routinely used intimidation and dodgy sales tactics to target vulnerable people to get them to sign up to a service that was not in their best interests? What if he called everyone a “f**king pig”?
I was conflicted. I still am conflicted. I didn’t want to let it lie but I didn’t want to ruin this guy’s life and put what was already a miserable job at risk over a stupid spat. So in the end, I did nothing.
I hope it was the right thing to do.