Thursday, 4 October 2012

Door knocking - to open or not?

When people knock on my front door and I'm not expecting them, I don't usually open the door.  I'll ask who it is as I look through the fish eye peep hole and that will be the end of the encounter.  They are usually sales people and I'm not in the market for what they're selling.

They want to put me on a plan which will only work if I combine my gas and electricity. I entered into this conversation once and said at the very beginning that I don't have gas connected.  They said it didn't matter.  The deal sounded good.  They got all the way to the end and then realised that I really wasn't kidding about not having a gas connection.  I wasn't eligible for the deal.  What a waste of time.  I don't talk to them anymore.

Or they want to sign me up for pay TV.  When I told one salesman I wasn't interested he told me he didn't believe that I wasn't and wanted to know why.  I told him that I really didn't have to explain myself.  He called back (through the still closed door) "it's because of the internet isn't it?  They're not the same you know?"  It wasn't because of the internet but even if I was interested in paying to watch television that I would hardly ever see and when I did there would be nothing to watch, his tone wasn't making me inclined to let him sell it to me.

When I have opened the door I have flashes of Bernard in the first episode of Black Books avoiding doing his tax.  He invites the religious door knockers in and engages them in conversation.  They don't know what to do; it's never happened before...

Today, the door knocker was one of my local councillors. Today I opened the door.  On a fairly hot afternoon he is out door knocking the neighbourhood and talking to constituents.  He was from the ALP, but I would have been happy to talk to anyone who is prepared to pound the pavement and engage with the community.

I commented that I'd been impressed that the Mayor had come by a few months ago.  I was sorry that I had missed the opportunity to speak to him but pleased to come home and find a card and his invitation to call him about any local issues.

Door knocking is hard work, but it can win elections - especially if you're the only one doing it.  There is nothing at all like the power of the face to face conversation at a person's home.  I learnt this during the 2007 federal election campaign where I led my union's Your Rights At Work campaign in the crucial seat of Solomon.  (It was held by the other side, sat on a thin margin and was seen as necessary for Labor to win federally.  We won it, with an even thinner margin. As it turned out, if we hadn't won it, Labor would still have won government.)

Michael who visited today was friendly and interested, a good start for any conversation.  He asked me if there was anything I was particularly concerned about locally.  I put in my pitch for the return of the pop up park to Yarraville village.  Now that the warm weather is back, I realise how quickly the pop up park had become the heart of the village. I miss it.  I asked him how his door knocking was going and he said that people are generally pleased to talk to him.  He'd only had a couple of refusals and a few people who wanted to argue.  Nothing wrong with an argument, I reckon;  it's better than apathy.  Argument at least shows a level of engagement.

He was about to turn away and I asked him if he would like a cool drink.  He looked like he was going to say no, but then he said yes.  I gave him a cold glass of sparkling mineral water and it looked like it went down very well.  (One of the tools of influence is to accept hospitality when offered.  He also looked thirsty.)  We stood on the front step continuing our conversation.  I discovered that he saved two years' worth of annual leave so that he could door knock for this election.  Whatever else could be said about him, that deserves respect - it says something about his commitment to the community.

It will be interesting to see if anyone else comes knocking.  I'll be equally happy to speak to them and even offer a cool drink.

"It was nice to talk to you," he said has he waved and walked down the steps.

Who has knocked on your door lately?  Do you talk to them?

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