A fine line exists between promoting your business and being obnoxious. When I used to work in RL Renaissance Faires, hawking was (often unfortunately) par for the course. If you walked past a shop, someone would be standing outside using whatever tactic– ethical or otherwise– to get you inside to look at their product. Once in, they’d talk you into trying something on. And they’d make the hard sell until you either bought something to shut them up or left in utter disgust. And of course merchants would have to do this in order to get attention, because if they didn’t, the cast performers shouting “You’re going the wrong way!” if you went any direction other than toward their stage would take their potential customers right out from under them.
This practice, sadly, is not limited to Faires. At Faire I’m somewhat willing to give the benefit of the doubt to those doing what they believe to be in period. But when I’m at the mall it drives me nine kinds of bonkers. Just yesterday my Little Sister and I were walking in the mall, and everywhere we turned, we were accosted by salespeople pushing ridiculous items in which we had zero interest. And it wasn’t “Hey, want to try our product?”; it was slimy tactics such as, “Can I ask you a question?” The worst was a handful of carnies when I was a kid, who shouted at me that I’d dropped a $20 bill. Dicks.
And that’s the very impression I get from inworld businesses who shout too much. They pile volumes of all-caps floating text in a variety of colors, add everyone who so much as enters the sim to their group (worst is the auto-invite notecard type groups in SL…), spam the forums (often the wrong forums) with ad after ad for their shop and/or region. And if you’ve actually seen their products, you see that they’re nothing special–probably not even their own product, but some “business in a box” deal; or barely altered open source skins; or, good lord, resold freebies. What they are, is overpriced and overhyped mediocrity.
What bothers me isn’t so much that people do this; it’s that people fall for it.
It’s believed by many that it was P.T. Barnum who said that one will never go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American (or any other) public. Often referred to as “Barnum’s Law”, it is actually a rewording of a quote by Henry L. Mencken. What Mencken actually said was that one can’t underestimate the intelligence of the American public. Whether he meant that it’s not possible or that it’s not right, I’m not certain. What I do know is that people who employ the tactics I mention above are probably staunch believers in “Barnum’s Law”; as well as the quote that “There’s a sucker born every minute” (also attributed to Barnum; also believed to be a misquote.). And, indeed, when people actually give in and give their business to the noisy and mediocre, they prove that the quotes– whether actually said by Barnum or not– are true.
It’s frustrating to watch. I spend hours and hours on each item I make by myself. I don’t have piles of time to overhype my products, because I’m too busy making quality products. It’s like back in the Ren Faire days, when my hubby’s band would get overshadowed by bands that lacked any originality or talent in their performance, and would instead promote promote promote. And because they hawked the bejeezus out of their act, they got the crowds; while hubby’s band was quietly brilliant.
So while it bothers me that noise distracts from the good, I will keep doing good work, and not stoop to the level of the noisy. I prefer to bear in mind an actual quote by the late P. T. Barnum:
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business. Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly.
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