Teacher Tim's TEFL International Blog August 21st, 2010

The Sales Bug


This subject has been broached before, I know, and probably by more capable writers than myself, but it’s now become a bête noir for me personally, so I wanted to take a whack at it while my blood is still boiling.

I have read some entertaining blogs over the years about the Thai passion for turning all relationships into sales opportunities. Anyone who has spent any significant time in Thailand is aware that the Thai personality is open and friendly – and also calculating. Making friends with the Thais is as easy as breathing – if you don’t mind the not-so-hidden sales agendas they have with you in mind. You can be their friend, but you are also most definitely their customer as well.

I must admit that in the past I looked upon this penchant among the Thais with smug good humor. My Thai friends and my Thai girlfriend would never sink so low as to presume upon my friendship and affection to sell me anything. My quiet little soi, where I have taught and lived and eaten many glorious curries, was totally free of that mercantile curse. I could visit and pass the time of day with anyone in the neighborhood and not be pestered with so-called bargains or mid-level marketing blather.

Alas, all that has changed this very week! A madness has descended upon Thanon Suan Son, where I make my home, and I am contemplating a quick move to either the Philippines or the Moon to avoid further affronts to my dignity and wallet.

It started with toothpaste. No need to mention brand names or company logos; suffice it to say that my lovely Thai amorata started insisting that I use one particular brand of toothpaste and no other. She asked me to get the other farang teachers I know to start using this toothpaste. I made the fatal mistake of asking why?

Well sir, she pulls out a catalogue featuring toothpaste, hair cream, skin cream, water purifying systems, and quite possibly a home nuclear reactor (my vision started to blur quite rapidly), and excitedly explained to me that if she sold enough of these catalogue products she would make the tremendous sum of ten baht for each and every sale. I weakly agreed to approach my farang compatriots, catalogue in hand (anything for peace between the sexes – that’s my motto) – but I did it with dread and despair.

But it didn’t end there. One of my favorite little hole in the wall curry joints has been taken over by a fruit juice company that claims it can cure everything from warts to beriberi. Where before I could sit and sweat over a fiery green chicken curry in peace and quiet, I am now bombarded with entreaties to drink a bottle of this miracle juice to rid myself of fat, bad breath, indigestion, and male pattern baldness. As a neighborly gesture I was prepared to buy a bottle of this snake oil, until I learned the price was a cool twelve-hundred baht per bottle.

No way, Jose!

Let me say up front that I have nothing against anyone who wants to make a buck in this money-obsessed world we live in. Until frozen pizzas and televisions grow on trees we all must earn a living by the sweat of our brow. I have always been a friend of free enterprise. Unrestrained capitalism doesn’t give me the heebie-jeebies.

However.

I draw the line at being subjected to a sales pitch in the guise of a friendly visit or as an interruption to my all-too-infrequent snuggling with my sweetheart. I do not buy life insurance, medicine, hair care products, or (shudder) wheat grass drinks, from my friends or lovers. I buy that stuff, when I buy it at all, from complete and indifferent strangers. That is the real strength of our capitalistic system! I give you money, you give me the product, and we go our separate ways. That is the way it is intended to be.

But let’s be realistic. I know now that even here in my little bit of heaven-on-earth by the sea there is going to be one sales pitch after another, and I am simply going to have to suck it up and practice saying in a stern voice: “May sonjay . . . may ow . . . may tongan.”

And I think I can actually turn this deplorable characteristic into a benefit when I’m teaching.

Since the Thais are all mad for selling things to each other, I am going to set up a store in every classroom I have from now on. Little Tuptim needs another sheet of paper to complete her assignment? No problem – just fork over five baht for this quality brand student paper that is guaranteed to impress your friends and insure that your teacher gives you a passing grade. What’s that, Somsak? You need to use the restroom? Of course! An investment of ten baht will get you the best hygienically tested toilet paper on the market!

Soon I’ll have the little darlings selling to each other and to their classmates and their families and I can retire to a condo in Phuket, living off the commissions I charge.

So the Thais are greedy . . . so what? Turns out that I’m greedier!!!