Sure, I might have a Costco problem. Most Costco members do. My kids have had a few meals consisting solely of samples–the toddler buffet, as I’ve often called it. And once those sample-inspired purchases darken the doors of our home, the kids turn their noses up and I’m left pedaling bulk-size bags at every meal.
Now, I don’t know what Costco’s procedures are, but sometimes, it feels like the sample chefs work on commission. And like they maybe weren’t given proper sales training.
Example #1: Steak Jerky
(For the record, unless it’s mayo- or fish-based, I try every sample. The tiniest bite can fool even the pickiest of taste buds.)
I took my sample, expressed my thanks, and started to move on. The steak-jerky sample chef finished her spiel about the antioxidants, protein, price, convenience, etc. When she noticed I hadn’t tossed a bag into my cart, she reached for her last-ditch effort:
“Well, you have to have something to feed your gardener.”
I did one of those quick head shakes and eyebrow furrows to communicate “you talking to me?”
Who has a gardener?
What about me, stuffing a steak-jerky sample into my then-two-year-old, made her think I fit into such a category?
And who’s feeding their gardeners an overpriced bag of organic steak-jerky, anyway?
I tucked the odd exchange into the back of my mind.
Example #2: Rice, Pea, Black Bean Veggie Crisps
To be fair, I paused longer than the obligatory go-slow-enough-and-engage-so-it-doesn’t-look-like-you-came-just-for-the-samples pace. I bit. I tasted. I contemplated. I was aware I was making a strange face. The RPBB Veggie Crisp didn’t taste awful or anything. It’s just, I was trying to taste it from a child’s perspective. My child’s. Imagining the reaction to these being sent for snack at school. Contemplating if I could sneak such power foods into their diet . . . and even get the kids to ask for them. I was mom-tired, so this taste process took awkwardly long, inviting an explanation. I divulged my thought process, which invited an exchange even odder than the steak jerky.
Me: “I’m just trying to decide if my kids will like it.”
Sample chef: “They’re packed with lots of healthy things. And they taste good, too.”
Me: “Yes, but I’m trying to taste them from the kids’ perspective. I want to know if they’ll actually eat them and even ask me for them.”
Sample chef: “Do you like them?”
Me: “Yes, they are alright. But, I’m not going to buy them for me. I’m going to buy them if my kids will eat them. I will eat peas and black beans without them needing to be hidden in a chip. I’m trying to figure out if my kids will like them, so I can pack them for their snack.”
Sample chef: “Well, you could always serve them with alcohol. That should work.”
She wasn’t joking. I backed away slowly. Granted, I was mom-tired, so I paused some extra moments in case perhaps somehow her suggestion made sense. But, nope, it didn’t. Either she thought I was still packing snacks for my grownup children, or she thought it was appropriate to spike my children’s after-school snack.
Sometimes you just need to ditch the hard sell. If someone isn’t digging what you’re offering at face value, no zinger is going to make them sign on the dotted line.
For years, I’ve had the opportunity to engage with people about matters of faith, eternity, and Jesus. Incredible conversations sharing the hope of the gospel and listening to the very real hangups of people not quite sold on Jesus.
But many of those types of conversations push people away, rather than draw them closer. Because it’s tempting to try for the hard sell–seeing the decision window closing–and hope that closing thoughts will turn the whole train around.
But those closing thoughts aren’t always relevant. They don’t major on the majors, but rather build more barriers. Politician tie-ins. Behavior modification. Rules or legalisms. Christianese. Fear tactics. Equating faith with anything other than trusting Jesus to put you in right relationship with God.
Not all conversations about Jesus end in ahas and expressed faith. But the ones that don’t end with a pushy hard sell create room for future possibilities. The pushy hard sell simply seals the deal in the wrong direction.
Instead of dumping out the bags and begging someone to buy the lot, give them something to chew on. Give the conversation space to move and a place to return.
If you have to overreach to “sell” Jesus, it might not be Jesus you’re selling afterall; it might be some version of him you’ve invented and that’s a hard sell.