Door-to-door salespeople

It may seem peculiar in these post-pan times to entertain the notion that people might randomly knock on your door to sell you things. After all, in this wired age, we can just summon up items from Amazon, conjure take-aways to appear almost instantly on our doorsteps, or download the latest episode of our favourite TV series without having to go to the video rental store. We scarcely need to move away from the keyboard.

But it’s true. Once upon a time, you could be relaxing after a hard day at the office and someone might turn up on the off-chance that you wanted to purchase a set of encyclopaedias. I’m not sure French people on bicycles ever appeared wearing strings of garlic around their neck in the optimistic hope that you needed some condiments. Yet I can remember catalogues for various items that might be useful additions to your home — Venetian-blind cleaners spring to mind — arriving on the doorstep and a forlorn youth turning up a week later to enquire whether I would like to place an order for some shoe polish.

We continue to vanish the human from our interactions. Sometimes it is forced on us, by supermarkets eager to exchange staff for self-service checkouts, or banks — still merrily closing branches — keen to substitute ATMs for someone with whom you could remark upon the weather while cashing your cheque.

Of course, I’m glad the online world offers us such ease and satisfaction but I do wonder whether we will one day regret the vanishing hitch-hikers, carol singers and people who want to sell you all the world’s knowledge contained in hard-backed print. Mind you, as that print is out of date as soon as it is printed, perhaps not.

Is it just me? Is it only in my area that the only form of mobile merchandising available is that which transacts via an actual mobile? Or do you see carters of catalogues still in the wild? Avon ladies? Tupperware parties? I’d love to know.


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