Monday, March 12, 2007

In which I am an Unethical Cowbag

I've just lied my arse off about the nature of my disability to a couple of salespeople and I feel really very guilty about having done it, so I thought I'd confess to The Internet (iGod isn't as satisfying as it once was).

I was coming up for my next dose of painkillers when there was a tap at the flat door. So I hauled myself up to answer it. Two people, a man and a woman, in suits, were standing there. We got as far as "Hi, you're Mary, yes? I'm Mark and this is..." before my legs gave way and I slid halfway down the wall. And it's impressive that I lasted that long.

There's then a short piece of confusion. The man asked me if I should be sitting down and I agreed and then somehow we were all in my flat. I remember inviting them to sit down because that's what you do when people are in your flat, and then everyone standing in confusion because there were three of us and only one seat available (the others being taken up with my laptop, and the cutlery tray from the kitchen drawer that broke a couple of weeks back - really must get that fixed). They told me to sit down, which I happily did, and as my head got back on track the man knelt on the floor by the sofa and asked if I was okay.

Then they introduced themselves again and that is when I realised they were salespeople. My first thought was "how come there are salespeople inside my flat?" followed by "oh bums. Salespeople aren't going to leave until they've got my signature on something. I can't stand up, so I can't shoo them out, and I don't have the oomph right now to be terribly over-assertive..."

As they opened their spiel I couldn't think of anything apart from how to get them to Go Away. I don't care if I could save up to 10% a month on my electricity bills. A direct debit goes out every month to cover my electricity, and if I'm paying a couple of quid more than I absolutely need to, well, that's the price I pay for not having to muck about and try to understand deals and shift suppliers and adjust payments and so on, and the state my brain is in that's a price worth paying for things to carry on smoothly. I was trying to work out how to explain this to them when it hit me that this might, after all, be a way out.

"Can I cut you off for a moment?" I said. "As you can see, I'm in a bit of a state. I have long-term cognitive difficulties so I'm not going to be able to take in half of what you say." So far so true. Then the lies spilled forth. "I can't sign anything, but if you can leave me, like, a leaflet or something, then I can discuss it next time I see my advocate and take it from there." That's tosh. I don't have an advocate, unless you count my mum. I'm perfectly capable of signing things and I don't have any alternate signatorys on my bank account or anything like that. And even if I did, I very much doubt I would waste an advocate's time trying to change electricity suppliers.

It worked. The young man told me they didn't have any leaflets, but if I could show him my last electricity bill, he could write on it exactly what the difference would be so that I could show "my advocate". As it happened, my latest electricity bill was lying on the table, so I gave it to him and he wrote down his phone number (a regular mobile phone number, which I found odd) and the price comparisons between my current supplier and their company. They said I should tell my advocate that with my current supplier I was getting the worst deal possible and that it was really quite important to sort it out. After a bit more of this, to make sure the message had sunk in, they left, thank god, and I locked the flat door behind them.

I really hate playing the disability card and I'm really bothered about having lied. I phoned Steve, but he was more upset about me having let them into the flat in the first place, which is understandable, but it's not like they'd come to rape, mug and murder me. What bugs me most is that not only did I use my disability as an excuse, but I also painted myself as being less capable than I actually am. I think I had a good reason, and it's not something I intend to make a habit of, but I feel very unhappy to have done it at all.


The Goldfish said...

Clear your conscience this minute, young lady! ;-)

Okay, so in many other circumstances your strategy would have been naughty, but you had uninvited strangers in your flat while you are incapacitated. Presumably, you didn't even have a chance to check these guys IDs?

Any pretence, disability related or not, to get them out of your flat so you could do what you needed to do to recover would be excusable. Apart from the fact that you didn't have your wits about you so you were going to say the first thing that came into your head anyway. Hardly unethical and certainly not cowbaggish.

However, it may be an idea to plan a tack for future occassions - especially if you feel compromised by making up excuses. I am dead against being rude or disrespectful to these folks, who are just doing their jobs, but to be insistant, and to twist the truth when insistance fails. I'm not sure what choice you had.

Roxy said...

If you had lied to people who you hoped were going to be lifetime buddies then feel upset but these are people you will (hopefully) never see again. I understand what you're saying about using the disability card but since you were feeling less than brilliant and weren't up to just saying "thank you for your help but get the hell out of my flat" I think as lies go you'll be let off with it come judgment day :)

As for the normal mobile number I would assume that door to door sales people are given company mobiles so it would therefore have an ordinary number but that's just an assumption.

Mary said...

Thanks ladies :)

Crikey, it hadn't even occurred to me that I never saw their IDs. Usually salespeople ring the intercom buzzer outside and downstairs, and I treat them the same way as I treat telephone salespeople - slowly, clearly, politely and calmly tell them thanks very much, but I am completely uninterested and they are wasting their time, and then hang up. ID doesn't come into it. But these people were already in the building, which isn't something I've dealt with before - generally the only people tapping on the flat-door would be my neighbours, or my parents (who have a key).

I think part of this is because as a kid, it was drummed into me that lying was just about the worst misdemeanour one could commit and something that would absolutely NOT be tolerated. And then the disability aspect puts icing on, in and under the cake. I felt uneasy and anxious and wanted them out, but my life wasn't exactly in danger, so where's the cutoff point for when lying is OK?

It's not St Peter at the Pearly Gates I'm worried about. Just whether I am being the sort of person I like to think I am.

domino said...

Think of it this way. You were "in a bit of a state" needed a sit down and your meds, and they still tried to sell you something. I know it's their job, but I can't help thinking it would have been nicer if they'd said "we can see you're not well, so now's probably not the best time - we're from X Electric, can we come back another time maybe?"

I dunno, maybe I'm just soft ;) I don't think you were cowbaggish either. What you said was quick thinking, and wasn't rude or horrible. You got rid of them, without resorting to pain or threats, and that's fine. Anyway, don't think of it as lying, think of it as massaging the truth.


Mary said...

Yeah... Mumsy dearest has also eased my conscience by reminding me that she DOES do a certain amount of advocacy for me. Not signing things, admittedly, but stuff like going over letters from the bank/benefits agency/utilities companies when I'm unable to be 100% sure that I've understood it. And IF I had any inclination to change my electricity supplier, then I WOULD be discussing it with her (or someone else) first.

The more I think about this, the further I get away from "I abused the disability card" and towards "how DARE they come into my flat/try to sell me things when I was obviously unwell/put pressure on someone they believed to have severe cognitive difficulties/expect to see confidential documents regarding my household bills/not show me ID/etc?"