Wednesday, January 12, 2011

“One thing I have asked from Yahweh, that I shall seek: that I may dwell in the house of Yahweh, all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of Yahweh and to meditate in His temple.” ~Psalm 27:4

It’s rather a humorous moment in time when you discover, while pressing your clothes, that your breath is creating more steam than the iron.

I was valiant when I pulled on a skirt today. And I actually wore it for close to half an hour, before I took pity on my poor, shivering limbs and changed. Papa and I arrived early at the Internet Marketing Conference for which we’d received tickets. We stood in the sunshine streaming from the cafeteria window and watched as other guests arrived, most not conforming to the requested business casual. Poor, I thought, as I watched them file in. Many of them seemed to be on the low side of the bell curve for income. Of course. That’s why they would be at a free internet marketing conference. Who could blame them? Stores Online Inc. was emblazoned across the polo of the gentleman who took our registration and pointed us into the conference room. Where we sat. And sat.

Finally our speaker, Mr. Mike Webb, took the platform. Papa whispered to me, “His father is named World Wide.” How appropriate for an internet conference.

He was very up-front about extra costs, realistic about effort required and reasonable about expected results. He pumped up the audience with declarations of his honesty and the quality of Stores Online’s help. Expected. It was a promotional dinner. And he offered great prices for great services. At least, from the sound of them. “You can check this out for yourself!” he declared over and over. But he never gave us the chance. At the end of the day, he was offering impressive exclusive rates for a workshop—if we could qualify and if we signed up before we left the room. What about checking this out for ourselves? What about research. “If you even have to stop and think about this price,” he insisted, his eyes wrinkling up, “then you’ll never make it. You’re just one of those do it tomorrow folks that never does it.” All around me, folks agreed enthusiastically. Someone needed to take a shower. Of course, as he’d pointed out, on the internet, no one cares who you really are.

We filled out our questionnaires to see who would and who wouldn’t make the grade to qualify for an invitation and exclusive rates to the workshop. I filled in the answers I knew they were looking for. I couldn’t wait to get started, I marked. And I was willing to put maximum effort into it. Because I’m not so introspective that I can’t see what’s coming. My name was called with the rest of those who qualified. Almost everyone. Immediately, they hustled to the back of the room to register for the workshop and pay down their money.

I sat down to eat my free sandwich.

Whether he noticed me in particular or whether others who had received certificates of qualification were also missing the invaluable opportunity, I don’t know. With an air of great patience, Mr. Webb carefully explained that the opportunity was only good until we walked out of that building. We couldn’t call in later, hoping to catch the workshop. We couldn’t show up at the workshop without registering. As soon as we left, our lovely little certificate would be worthless. Our certificate that said we were worthy to attend a training workshop and receive a free netbook because we put down the right answers on a short questionnaire. Anybody that wanted the opportunity to go should have known which answers would have been considered worthy.

He looked straight at me from across two tables as he spoke and I smiled at him and ate my pickle.

“It makes me sad,” he said, after a drink of water, “to see people drowning. But I’m doing this for you. Some of you even qualified and aren’t going to do anything about it. It makes me even sadder to see someone drowning and to throw them a lifeline and watch them refuse it and continue to drown. I can’t help you if you won’t even help yourself.”

He had gone out of his way to be very reasonable. He’d encouraged us to be reasonable and to think reasonably about whether this was something we could take on and succeed at. He’d been up front about fees and costs. Didn’t he expect us to think reasonably about it?

It might be a legitimate business. It might be a good deal. I’d have loved to do a bit more research later and consider it. But if they’re so confident that they can deliver, why aren’t they willing to give us some time to back check them? I pondered if he was paid a flat fee or a commission based on how many attendees sign up.

As I’d listened to the presentation, I was overwhelmed by the subtle seduction of greed. “You’re here because you want more money” and “you wouldn’t be here if you were satisfied with how much money you have.” They offered free, then they offered cheap, to get you into a program that promised to teach you how to make more money. Sure, it was a marketing conference. I expected it to be all about money. Mr. Webb hyped up the audience and built up their trust by insisting that Stores Online Inc. works to make money for them. Sure. Nobody works to make money for someone else. Or at least, if they do, it isn’t intentional and they don’t market it. I watched a group of folks, none of whom looked lavish of money, write over big checks without a second thought, paying for the chance to make money. And I wondered how many of them would ever actually reap back that price. The play on greed and impulsiveness disgusted me.

I tucked my certificate into my computer bag, pushed my potato chips aside and ate my brownie.

We arrived home and sold the dining room rug for more money than the workshop would have cost. I think maybe we’re doing a-okay selling online, for now. Thank you, Craigslist.

I found my heart exposed in Psalm 27. And I found His heart exposed in return. “Be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for Yahweh.”

No comments: