The high school student, who is 17, has been selling Girl Scout cookies since she was in the first grade. And while most strangers will buy a box or two, she said some people hide when they see her approaching their door.
“A lot of people will buy one or two boxes just because you’re out in the cold,” Grotto said. “But there are a lot of people who just don’t answer the door.”
Girl Scouts, along with Rodan & Fields reps, LuLaRoe consultants, Matilda Jane trunk keepers, Jamberry consultants and other independent direct sales businesses have popped up in doorways, on social media and in email inboxes in recent years, as stay-at-home parents and overworked career people seek ways to create positive cash flow.
But it also means that friends, family and even strangers have had to navigate tricky etiquette situations at home and at work when asked to support these business endeavors.
There are no real rules when it comes to whether you should purchase from your friends or family, but you really shouldn’t feel you have to do it, said Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas.
Gottsman’s friend recently asked her to purchase a bottle of shampoo from a friend who’d started selling a new line. Her answer: No.
“She’s pitching everyone privately and calling and badgering us,” Gottsman said.
On the other hand, sellers do have a right to sell. That means they can post on social media and they can let friends know that they’ve started a business.
They can also sell at the office if their job allows it, but many offices have “no solicitation” policies for this specific reason, Gottsman said.
But when you start to tag and put pressure on others to purchase your goods, then you’ve gone too far, Gottsman said.
You’ll know that you’ve gone too far if you notice that your friends feel uncomfortable.
And if you’re continually asking friends and families to make a purchase, then it’s going to get uncomfortable quickly.
“Etiquette is using common sense and making others feel comfortable,” said Sue Fox, founder of Etiquette Survival in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Lisa Pilotto, a consultant with Rodan & Fields, said she tries to do this by being as authentic as possible.
“I truly believe that the products and business that I have to share are a gift, and when I have the opportunity to share them with people, I think my genuine love for the products and the opportunity shines through,” Pilotto said. “However, it doesn’t matter how genuine I am if people don’t know that I have a gift to share, so I post information, testimonials and personal videos frequently on social media, and I find ways to weave what I am doing into conversations in an authentic way.”
As a result, she said, 20 percent of her customers are people she didn’t previously know.
But, she said, friends shouldn’t feel any pressure to make a purchase, nor should they feel bad or guilty if they decide not to buy something.
“It might break up a friendship, but if it does, then that wasn’t a very strong friendship,” Gottsman said.
Still, if the people selling are good friends or family members, they may want to know why you simply won’t purchase their product or the cookies that their child is selling, said Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach. “And realize that when it’s your turn to sell something, that they might not buy something in return,” Whitmore said.
If the person selling is a good friend or a child of a friend, but you really don’t like the product or cookies, it may be worthwhile for the sake of friendship to simply offer to make a donation, Whitmore suggested.