Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Price of Friendship with Women

Men have it easy. The birth of a new friendship can be had with some commonly shared trait as simple as the possession of a fishing pole or love for the same ball- baseball, basketball, football- no matter.

For women, not so easy.
Or so it has been in my experience.

Frankly put, women pimp out their friendships. There is always a cost; it's just a matter of waiting until the friend "makes the sell."

A few years I joined a "Stamp Club." The experience could be likened to "Fight Club," since when I mentioned to another member that I had joined she questioned how I even found out about it. Super Secret Stamping Society was sure to be an outlet of creative fun. I did learn a lot about stamping & card making, and I did have fun during the event... but the cost of getting together for about an one Monday per month? $30. To be a member of "Stamp Club," you had to by a minimum of $30 of stamping supplies from the distributor's catalogue each month. Members of Stamp Club took turns being the "hostess" each month and earned free goodies. However, the growing accumulation of stamping supplies resting in the entry table drawer (pre-craft room) because I didn't have time to actually do anything with them, could not justify my continued endeavor.

Then, there was the local Woman's Club. The Key Clubbers had volunteered with events the group hosted for a couple of years and I really wanted "in." I felt almost like the awkward girl during Sorority Rush Week that could not get a bid until I, more or less, invited myself to their recruiting event. I emphasized to the girls that I didn't need a venue for community service, I had that covered, but that I was joining for sociability of membership. Well... that didn't go so well either, and I will avoid detailing any further estrogen-laden drama about that here & now. The group did some nice work in the community and there were some socializing opportunities, but the price for that just grew too steep also. To be such a "fundraiser" I hate selling, and membership meant paying dues & selling more&more&more fundraising tickets & buying something new for the collective donation (or communal meal) each month. After two years, among other reasons, I just couldn't justify the cost of those "friendships" either.

Then... there is the most obvious crime of female friendship. It reads like a rap sheet of criminal charges for solicitation: Pampered Chef, Longaberger, Thirty One, Premier Jewelry, Mary Kay, Tastefully Simple... with new ones joining the fray all the time- like the "Cash for Gold" parties that I find very odd (a pawn shop right in your living room?) and Origami Owl (which I unfortunately am rather fond of). The prude in me, despite my occasional taste in reading, is far too prudish to attend one of those "naughty" parties, but I have a make-up basket filled with Mary Kay that would look too modest on Snookie, baskets too expensive for me to actually use, and far too many kitchen accessories for someone who disdains cooking as much as I do... Honestly I can't joke on the jewelry or Thirty-One bags, I love that stuff! The point of all this being that inevitably, some friend will have some party, and I will feel left to puzzle out the equation of how much I had to spend to be a "good friend." Then there's chain created by these parties that offer bonus goodies to current and future hostesses, so the invite to one becomes two becomes three- that is if you can avoid succumbing to the peer pressure to be an event hostess yourself!

That being said, I still like those parties... usually. But now, it seems they are growing more sparse. That could be a good thing. But no, rather than closing the retail relationship between friends... and co-workers, and neighbors, and acquaintances that you don't talk to much any other time... the sales technique has been streamlined to "catalogue parties"- pass around a book and wait for the financial return of those who feel obligated to thumbs-up your friendship by opening-up the checkbook. Easier for the "supplier," and quick "money" (i.e., free stuff) for the "dealer"- Yes, I am likening a company found on the goal of rewarding the virtues of a "Proverbs 31 Woman" with a crack dealer.

Lastly, there are those painfully abundant friends whose kids are selling something for some fundraiser, some club, some sports team- pancake breakfasts, and spaghetti dinners, and cookie dough, and fruit, and candy, and gift wrap, and pizza kits, and popcorn, and, and, and... don't even get me started on the COOKIES Oh, you know what cookies I'm talking about! And the truth is, these things do not annoy me. I sincerely try to support all these events and more because I know that I ask so much of those that support my Key Clubbers and our Relay teams. But, overall, the truth is... it's just one more time when "friends" are putting their hands out, it's not for a warm hug.

So, what's my point? I don't know really. It's just something I have pondered about for a while. The business minds behind these woman-focused businesses are rather brilliant. A founding principle of all sales, whether or not sellers wish to admit it, is to find your customer's weakness and determine the level to which you can exploit it for profit. What weaknesses do these at-home parties target? Women's genetic addiction to shopping? No... guilt and the need to feel liked, those aren't major issues for women at all, are they?

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