Snake oil hard sells?

中国日报网 2015-03-17 11:18



Reader question:Snake oil hard sells?

Please explain this sentence: “They don’t like his snake-oil hard sells, though.” “Hard sells” means forcing you to buy, but what does “snake oil” mean?


My comments:

Yes, when he tries to sell you a product, like, an insurance policy, he pushes you very hard, giving the impression that he’s not going to quit until you buy it.


That type of sales methodology resembles that of the snake oils salesman, someone who peddles things like snake oil as medicine.


Snake oil is what gives the modern-days sales people their bad name, but let me explain.


Many societies in ancient times believed in the medical qualities of plants and animals, including the Chinese and American Indians. Where we Chinese are concerned, our traditional medicine thrives on things like the snake oil, tiger bones and such like. Today, however, most people begin to doubt the effectiveness of herbs and oils because at least some of that effectiveness cannot, so far, be proved by science, or the Western scientific method.


Anyway, the long and short of it is that “snake oils” have seen better days. Once, they were legitimate deals, such as clinched among American Indians and Chinese immigrants who built the cross-country railways back in the frontiers day. Now, however, “snake oil” is synonymous with a fake or shoddy product. A snake oil salesman, therefore, is someone who tries to sell you such a product.

Their sales method doesn’t help, either. You see, when someone tries to sell you something that’s less than pure and genuine, they tend to work too hard in order to accomplish a transaction. The original travelling snake oil salesman in the old days, as you can imagine, may have found it necessary to exaggerate the magic wonders of his medicine, proclaiming up to the effect that it cures all that ailed you.


Especially on occasions when they had to make a deal because they had mouths to feed at home. Hence, the snake oils salesman might very well have given you the impression that they were forcing a sale on you.


In a manner which is not much unlike the present-day insurance people, as a matter of fact. Once they have secured your phone number, you know, the insurance man or woman won’t mind calling you at every hour of the day, cooing on and on how you have to have this or that policy, how, by buying the policy, you can live the rest of your life with the peace and comfort of knowing that once you are dead, your wife and kids will be able to reap the benefits of your early demise – the sooner the better, actually, if you don’t mind.

Of course, as the insurance man said in the old Hollywood movie His Girl Friday says, it is death that matters.


In short, the insurance salesman works so hard and sounds so convincing that you are made to feel like you don’t mind dropping dead then and there.


I’m exaggerating more than a little bit, I know – so that you’ll get the picture.

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