Topic from March 2004

This month, the Advising Forum presents the fifteenth in a series of advising case studies.

Case study #15: Will, one of your quietest and most insecure advisees, makes an appointment to tell you about the great internship he had last summer that helped bring him “out of his shell.” He explains excitedly that he is still working for the same company this semester and that he has been given increasing responsibility, now managing and training other students who are working for the same company. As the appointment progresses, he begins to concentrate on the product his company sells—high-priced cutlery. You start to feel more and more uncomfortable with the interview until he finally asks if he can make another appointment with you to demonstrate some knives and scissors—with no obligation for you to buy anything, of course. What would you do in this case, and why?

Your Responses
At MWC we consider this soliciting. We prohibit soliciting on campus but allow students to make application to the Office of Student Activities to obtain permission to set up at a specific location where interested parties can view and purchase goods.

I would refer the student to this office and explain that the institution requires that all student vendors comply with these rules. I would also explain that our office hours are dedicated to academically related matters and that any staff should patronize a vendor visiting the campus on their own time (off the clock), as it is unrelated to their job.

I would further advise the student that s/he should pass along these regulations to any students s/he may recruit from our student body. I would probably tell the student that I personally buy my knives from the local discount store. They regularly fly out of my knife drawer into oblivion or are used in place of screwdrivers, hammers, crowbars, plant shears and other myriad all-purpose implements not immediately at hand. Low cost ($5.00 and under) is essential in such a household.

-JoAnn Schrass, Mary Washington College, March 3

“Well, you've certainly made quantum developmental progress, Will. Really, I'm quite amazed and proud that you've become engaged in the world around you. I'd like to talk to you sometime about what factors went into allowing you to grow and mature in this way.

But ... oh, you knew, Will ... there's always a but.

I'm not sure about this cutlery pitch. First, it doesn't seem to be connected in any way with the special relationship that we've developed over these past few years. In fact, for you to assume that I might want to hear a sales presentation during an academic advising session, well, Will, I find that a little disconcerting. I wish you great success, Will; but I'm afraid I'm going to have to insist that we use our time together to talk about your education and future career plans. That's what I'm all about.

Is that okay?

Oh, and by the way, Will. You might want to check with Institutional Operations in regard to soliciting and selling on campus. There are stringent guidelines.

Are you registering for summer classes?

Ok, then. I'll see you during registration in September.

Nice seeing you again, Will. And, honestly, I want to talk to you about these marvelous changes you've experienced. Just no more sales pitches, okay?”

-Thomas G. Fairbairn, Ontario College of Art & Design, March 3

I would compliment Will on his great achievement of overcoming his shyness and tell him how proud I am of his being able to do that as well as the obvious accomplishment of becoming a manager and trainer. I would tell him that I would be happy to let him practice his presentation with me as a potential customer. But, I would make clear to him that I have no need for the product so that he can decide if he needs a practice session or not. This way Will understands that his time would be wasted if he is only hoping for a sale.

-Carol Gilster, Saint Louis University, March 3

I'd compliment the student for his salesmanship skills, but then tell him the story of every Kirby Vacuum cleaner's first sales pitch—to their parents. I would then discuss the differences between the kind of relationships he/she would like to preserve for future use, mentoring, advice or friendship and those he/she might not mind exploiting for a sale.

-Steven Stolar, Cumberland County College, March 3

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