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Bulk Mail Invitation To A Product Sales Party

I recently received an invitation to a sales party from one of my neighbors. This is not someone I’ve ever met or even heard of but they do live in our smallish subdivision. The invitation was dropped at our home to my husband for “the woman of the house” otherwise I could have just declined when they dropped it off. My etiquette question is this, am I required to RSVP to this unwanted invitation when doing so would require me to give the host personal information that she does not currently possess, my name and either my phone or email address? 0109-14

I would view it as a marketing flyer for an event that will serve to increase the monetary assets of the host and pitch it in the circular file with no further thought.


Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Dee January 14, 2014, 2:33 am

    The invitation was not addressed to OP so she is not required to reply. She is smart to not encourage an opportunistic stranger by giving out her personal information to be used further against her.

  • Marozia January 14, 2014, 4:49 am

    Yes, I get those as well.
    I usually file them in the circular cabinet and forget about it.

  • Kirsten January 14, 2014, 5:58 am

    Addressed to “the woman of the house”?

    No, thank you. You didn’t receive an invitation, some generic female in your house did. Definitely ignore – ugh!

  • Maggie January 14, 2014, 7:54 am

    If you found a flier on your car advertising a sale somewhere, you don’t contact them to say you won’t be attending, do you? I don’t see the difference here.

  • Jinx January 14, 2014, 8:05 am

    This woman doesn’t even know your name and she dropped this off? Super Rude.

    When I read “the woman of the house” I just assumed it was typical sexism (I also assumed the product was societally gender-specific), rather than the person literally not knowing what else to call you.

    That being the case,I agree you should feel free to not RSVP, as she doesn’t even know who she sent it to. This would be different if it were a neighborhood meeting, but really this invite is just an attempt to make her some cash… and if she’s this bold about giving out invites, she would certainly not be shy about calling you or emailing you in the future.

  • Whodunit January 14, 2014, 9:09 am

    Or…. You could consider it a chance to meet your neighbors?

  • Cat January 14, 2014, 9:17 am

    Drop off a note with no address or phone number and sign it “Woman of the House.” Perhaps that’s sexist-just write, “Person of the House”. All in good fun.

  • DGS January 14, 2014, 9:18 am

    To quote my two-and-a-half year old, “Dump it”!!! Rudeness.

  • Silverpixiefly January 14, 2014, 9:52 am

    Whodunit, I doubt it is the type of event one goes to meet the neighbors. It is likely a sales pitch, which isn’t the best environment to meet new people. If the OP has no interest in what is being sold, then she should trash the “invite” and forget it.

  • Lo January 14, 2014, 9:52 am

    I definitely wouldn’t feel obligated to give out personal info in order to RVSP.

    I’ll give this woman the benefit of the doubt that she truly believes she’s offering you an opportunity and being neighborly. I can definitely see the train of thought that would lead someone to believe this was a fine idea. That train of thought also includes the justification that if someone doesn’t want to go they simply won’t be bothered to come. And so I’m sure the host won’t be waiting anxiously for a reply but will take those who do bother to respond as those who will attend.

    I do not like to entertain the idea that she is both clueless enough to drop off an impersonal invite for a sales pitch to a neighbor she’s not acquainted with AND histronic enough to take it as a personal slight. But if someone who’s given you such a poor first impression thinks poorly of you in return then who cares?

  • Library Diva January 14, 2014, 10:23 am

    Ahhh….this question has plagued me, too! I’m apparently at the point in my life where everyone I know is doing these. I get them fairly frequently.

    I have a related question: how should one respond when they receive an invitation to someone they would like to socialize with, but they have no interest in the product on offer? My former co-worker’s wife has gotten into these parties. She’s a very nice woman and a good hostess. I’ve socialized with her on many occasions, but since I no longer work with her husband, the relationship is sadly beginning to drift a bit. She hosts parties for Tupperware, candles, etc. and I never know how to respond.

    If she were simply having a party at her home, I would attend. I’ve declined the most recent invitations, feeling that it was rude to go to something like that with absolutely no intention of buying, but I didn’t feel good about doing it. I felt like I was rebuffing an attempt at staying in touch.

    In another case, I got invited to the home of a current co-worker for one of these parties. I said no to that as well, but I also felt badly about doing it. She’s a nice person and has been friendly in the past. And again, if this were a normal party, I would have gone.

    What’s the right thing to do, other than wishing these “home-based businesses” would go the way of the dinosaur?

  • Skaramouche January 14, 2014, 10:31 am

    LOL Whodunuit. With such an impersonal invitation, who could resist 😛 All snark aside though, I would personally be more inclined to meet the neighbours at a gathering that wasn’t sales oriented. If someone really wished to meet the neighbours, wouldn’t it be better to host an informal gathering with that purpose in mind?

  • Surianne January 14, 2014, 10:47 am

    Yes, it’s just a flyer, there’s no need to RSVP. I don’t think the woman was rude to hand them out, any more than other businesses or charities that drop off flyers at doorsteps.

    If you’re interested in the product at all and are good at saying no (if there’s pressure to buy), Whodunit has a good point — it might be a fun chance to meet your neighbours. Depending on the hostess, sometimes sales parties can be pretty fun.

  • KarenK January 14, 2014, 11:08 am

    I don’t necessarily think what the party-throwing woman did was rude, but I certainly would not feel any compulsion to let her know I wasn’t coming.

  • Yet Another Laura January 14, 2014, 11:49 am

    Product sales events are not parties. I’ve had the misfortune to attend a couple of those, and I swore them off for good.

    Recycle the flyer. Do not give this person your personal information. As far as meeting your neighbors, there are better events at which to do that where you’re not being pressured to buy something you probably don’t want or need.

  • ally January 14, 2014, 12:18 pm

    @whodunnit… If the woman was interested in meeting her neighbors, she would have made an effort to talk with the OP, learn her name, and invite her over for coffee or something. This was the worst form if sales pitch, because the women made the least bit of effort required.

    Why should the OP have to sit through a sales pitch, and possibly be pressured to buy, when a simple hello while going to the mailbox is enough to start meeting the neighbors. She can ignore the neigh-boors if she wants.

  • lakey January 14, 2014, 12:31 pm

    I would consider a block party or a neighborhood barbecue a chance to meet the neighbors. I’ve been to these things. The reason they are effective is that it is a lot easier to say no to a stranger than to a friend, relative, or neighbor. The whole point is to make people feel guilty about not buying.

    These are business functions, not “friend” functions. If they have products you like, that is fine. I’ve gone to them for the few companies that have products I want. I just think we need to be honest about what the purpose is. There is nothing wrong with going to these, or having them if you really like the products, but I think it is best to be direct and open about what their purpose is.

  • lakey January 14, 2014, 12:33 pm

    Also, if the OP’s neighbor had wanted to meet and socialize with the OP, she would have stopped by and introduced herself.

    Again, this is fine as a selling function, but that is what it is.

  • Kirsten January 14, 2014, 12:49 pm

    “You could consider it a chance to meet your neighbors?

    Who don’t bother to find out her name when hitting her up for money and call her ‘the woman of the house’?

    Personally, I’d rather not.

  • HollyAnn January 14, 2014, 12:50 pm

    @Jinx, why is it sexist to suggest that there are products (I.e. cosmetics and jewelry) which appeal almost exclusively to women? Why must we pretend that there are no gender differences?

  • just4kicks January 14, 2014, 12:57 pm

    Since your neighbor didn’t give any forethought or interest in even finding out your name, I would spend as much time and interest on her “party”. Circular file, indeed!

  • SamiHami January 14, 2014, 1:09 pm

    Why would anyone respond to that? Would you RSVP to a flyer from the local department store? It’s essentially the same thing. This is not a social invitation; if it were you would certainly be required to respond. But an invitation to shop? Nope. Not at all.

  • KA January 14, 2014, 1:25 pm

    If you know which house is hers, you can drop off an RSVP stating, “The Woman of the House at 123 Birch Street sends her regrets.” Of course that’s not necessary but I think it would be funny.

    This was not in any way a personal invitation and doesn’t seem like the neighbor wants to get to know OP… just hopes to sell stuff to her.

  • JeanLouiseFinch January 14, 2014, 1:58 pm

    You have no duty to RSVP and no reason to go, unless it’s a product that you might want to buy.

  • MyWorldand January 14, 2014, 2:34 pm

    Library Diva, I feel the same way you do about these home “parties” After winding up several times spending a lot of money for cheap products I didn’t want in the first place, I started being honest. I would call and say it was nothing personal, but I don’t do the home party thing, but that I would love to get together with them to socialize this upcoming ____ night. That way hopefully I did not hurt anyone’s feelings.

  • Shoegal January 14, 2014, 2:37 pm

    I actually received an invitation to a sales party for one of my neighbors. My husband and I had actually called these neighbors one evening prior to this invitation when they built their home and moved into the neighborhood to come over and socialize. They turned us down saying that their children were ill. I viewed this sales invitation as an opportunity to get to know the lady of the house better and to use the visit as an avenue to becoming friends.

    It was clearly just a sales party and I found it difficult to get to know anybody there. There were too many women all talking and checking out the merchandise. To top it off, they all seemed to know each other. The only person I knew was my sister in law who was invited to the same party because she lives next door to us. We came together and after a reasonable amount of time just left. I was $60 poorer since I felt obligated to purchase merchandise I didn’t want and I didn’t know my neighbor any better than I did before. We never attempted to socialize with them again.

    Don’t RSVP and throw the card in the circular file.

  • Jinx January 14, 2014, 3:30 pm

    @HollyAnn it’s not so much that I don’t acknowledge that we do have societal norms that are gender-based, it was my assumption that it was a generalization to “the woman of the house”

    It’s somehow less insulting to say “here, this make up party invitation is for Jinx” than to say, “here’s a make up party invite, give it to the women. All of them. I don’t care who they are. They’re a woman, they must be wearing make up”

    I apologize, because I know my argument sounds off, but there is just something that inherently grates on me as being addressed “the woman of the house” in terms of someone calling to sell something. Maybe I’m over sensitive, but it seems like saying “oh, girls must like Barbies, boys must like building blocks”… whereas a personal ID seems like someone noticed something about you “I got Marcie a Barbie bc I noticed she collects them”. I think it’s my thing, really. It just bothers me, but I can understand it wouldn’t really bother others.

  • The Elf January 14, 2014, 3:41 pm

    “Woman of the house”? People still use this term?

    I hate this kind of party/sales pitch anyway. Hate, hate, hate. But I hate this kind of bulk mailing even more. Can’t even be bothered to put my name on it? And then you double down with sexist phrasing?

    The only time I can think of one where you’d only invite women would be for a sex toy sales party. Even then… well, I suppose it’s a matter of balancing lost sales with comfort level for customers. For any other kind of sales party, it’s just plain sexist. What, men don’t cook? Men are forbidden from enjoying scented candles? Men are incapable of scrapbooking? I wouldn’t think twice about ditching it. Since you don’t know the neighbor, no need to respond or anything. If this sort of thing comes up again and you do know the neighbor, it would be fine to say you “have other plans” or something if you see the neighbor in passing, but you still don’t have to go out of your way to RSVP.

  • The Elf January 14, 2014, 3:45 pm

    HollyAnn, men use skin and hair care products too. Men wear jewelry. You could accomplish the same thing (inviting strangers) with a less sexist form of address. It’s not like people are forced to go; anyone (male or female) who is uninterested with the offerings of that company can simply opt out.

  • Rap January 14, 2014, 4:02 pm

    “Jinx, why is it sexist to suggest that there are products (I.e. cosmetics and jewelry) which appeal almost exclusively to women? Why must we pretend that there are no gender differences?”

    In fact, a wise sales party person in my area totally latched onto the idea of having crystal and Pampered Chef parties with gay men and their many gay associates, female and male, who often get excluded from these parties.

  • Cat January 14, 2014, 4:23 pm

    The “Lady of the House” sounds like Hyacinth Bucket answering her phone. She’s an English actress who had a comedy series, “Keeping up Appearances”, for years.
    “Woman of the House” is how the drunken John Wayne character in, “The Quiet Man”, addressed his wife when he brought her equally-drunken brother home to tea. “Woman of the House! I’m ready for me tay! ”
    I have the kind of memory that records these golden comments, but I can never recall where I left my keys. Anyway, both terms seem oddly antiquated to American ears.

    • LizaJane January 21, 2014, 8:31 am

      Love Hyacinth AND The Duke!

  • Kate January 14, 2014, 6:07 pm

    @Library Diva – next time you get an invitation from this woman to a product sales party, why not reply with “sorry, I’m unable to make it that day – do you want to get coffee next Saturday?”. That way you can organise a catch up with this friend without the obligation to purchase. And if she’s not interested, you’ll know she only sees you as a money-making opportunity.

  • La January 14, 2014, 7:26 pm

    *imitates the noise of the flyer going through a shredder*

    @HollyAnn, I know my social circles involve some unusual (and awesome) people, but I know plenty of people who aren’t female who love wearing jewelry, makeup, perfume, sparkly things…

  • Kimstu January 14, 2014, 7:28 pm

    @Library Diva: “I have a related question: how should one respond when they receive an invitation to someone they would like to socialize with, but they have no interest in the product on offer?”

    Miss Manners says that you should say something like “Oh, I’d love to see you, but I don’t really care for shopping parties, can we get together some other time?” Pretty much exactly what @MyWorldand suggested.

    It’s not being rude or overly picky to say you’re not interested in shopping parties in general, any more than it would be to say you’re not interested in camping trips or spa visits or pot parties or anything else you don’t happen to fancy. You’re rejecting the activity, not the person or their hospitality.

    Of course, the confusion between an offer of hospitality and a commercial consumer activity is EXACTLY what these “home-party” companies are counting on to rope in the marks. They know that many people will feel guilty or uneasy about “rebuffing” the organizer, as @Library Diva says, by turning down the shopping-party “invitations”.

    Don’t fall for the scam! A shopping party is ultimately not a social event but a commercial one, and people are invited to them as potential consumers, not as friends. If you happen to enjoy shopping parties there’s nothing wrong with that, but if you don’t happen to enjoy them, you are not snubbing anyone’s social overtures by declining to attend them.

  • ArtsBeatLA January 14, 2014, 8:16 pm

    @ LibraryDiva – “What’s the right thing to do?”

    Keep doing what you are doing. Decline the sales parties if they are not your thing and there’s absolutely no need to feel badly about doing so.

    Just make sure you have a cheerful reply up your sleeve that you are comfortable with for the times when you feel (perhaps) cornered by a co-worker — “Oh, I never go to those kinds of (sales / tupperware / amway / cosmetics etc) parties! Hope you have fun!” or similar.

  • Pinkiu January 14, 2014, 9:24 pm

    Library Diva: In my church this happens often. I say, “If you ever have a get-together without sales involved, I would love to attend.” Unfortunately, I don’t get invited to get-togethers because all of them here involve sales. I don’t support any mlm/ds because of the ethical issues of the rewarding of recruitment of your customers to become your competition and pushing either inventory (like Mary Kay) or the latest product revolving samples (like Pampered Chef or Thirty-One) . True sales are not rewarded to move up the ladder of success in any of them. Recruitment and inventory is required. If one of the ladies ask me why, I share, but otherwise don’t talk about it.

  • Angel January 14, 2014, 10:54 pm

    I have had sales parties at my house before. However I always invite friends/family, etc., by name. I couldn’t even imagine dropping off invites to people I do not know! Ick 🙁

    I know that most people probably do not want to attend these things, this is why I am pretty selective about the kinds of parties I have. I generally only have ones with products I really like, myself. I recently was introduced to origami owl and I think it’s pretty neat. However, I will invite people I think would like the product–I don’t know most of my neighbors and certainly would only invite people whose names I know lol.

    Personally I think handing out invites without names on it almost guarantees people will not come. How would the person giving the party even know if you received it or not? I would say the OP is in the clear to toss it out.

  • Rebecca January 15, 2014, 12:33 am

    “@Library Diva – next time you get an invitation from this woman to a product sales party, why not reply with “sorry, I’m unable to make it that day – do you want to get coffee next Saturday?”. That way you can organise a catch up with this friend without the obligation to purchase”

    I’d be afraid the response would be, “Sure! And I’ll bring along a sample of some of my (jewelry, make-up, whatever) so you’ll get a chance to have a look even though you were unable to make the party.”

  • Stacey Frith-Smith January 15, 2014, 12:42 am

    Most people prize their time far too highly these days to offer up an evening on the mixed altar of business and social trade that is the MLM forum. This one strikes me as a complete “pass” for all invitees- just say “no”. (Or say nothing at all- an option that strikes me as acceptable if the invitation is not a purely social one, especially if the invitation is something so slap-dash as a generic flier.)

  • Library Diva January 15, 2014, 10:46 am

    Thanks, everyone, for the advice!

    I don’t know the woman in question all that well, but she has never struck me as very greedy. In fact, I suspect it’s the opposite motivation that compels her to continue hosting these dratted things. I bet she has a lot of friends or co-workers that push this stuff, and she wants to help them out. She does enjoy cooking, baking and hosting (at the job where I met her, she would frequently drop by with treats for us all), and she just moved into her first home a little over a year ago. Next time I get one of these invites, I will RSVP no and invite her and her husband for a drink in the near future (been meaning to do that anyway, actually!)

    @Cat: Ever since watching Keeping Up Appearances, I always hear the expression “The Lady of the House” in Hyacinth Bucket’s (it’s pronounced boo-kay, dear) voice! I don’t think I could say it out loud without doing her voice. I loved that show, am also a big fan of Are You Being Served?, As Time Goes By, and Vicar of Dibley.

  • Politrix January 15, 2014, 1:14 pm

    @ Cat:
    “It’s ‘BOUQUET’!”

  • gellchom January 15, 2014, 1:32 pm

    You don’t need to respond (unless you are planning to attend). This is an advertisement for a sales event. It’s in someone’s home, and it might even be fun, too, but it’s still a sales event, not a social event, and this was a flyer, not an invitation.

    The word “party” can throw us off. But that’s what these events are called; it doesn’t change them into a social event. And I agree, there wasn’t anything more wrong with distributing these flyers than any others. I’m guessing that “woman of the house” was there because of the product (not necessarily kitchen or cleaning products — which would offend me, too — I’ve heard of these parties for jewelry, fashions, makeup, and even for sex toys and lingerie), so to me it sounds like the flyers we get in the mail to “The homeowner/voter/car owner/taxpayer at [address].”

    The only time I think you would need to respond would be if you were specifically invited to something like this by someone who does know you (as opposed to the whole neighborhood getting flyers). Then they do need to know if you are coming.

    But if you are invited by someone you don’t know, but would like to, there’s really no dilemma even if you don’t want to attend this event. In that case, I’d tell them, “Thanks for including me. I really don’t need any Scupperware right now, but I’d love to get together some other time. How about _____?” Then they can either say great, or say please come anyway and don’t worry about the Scupperware, or blow you off if they really aren’t interested in a relationship,

  • EllenS January 15, 2014, 4:31 pm

    If the hostess lived on my street or the next street over, I would RSVP “no” and keep her contact info on file, just because I think it is good policy to have contact info for your near neighbors in case of some emergency, or for an opportunity to be neighborly at a genuine social event. I have known some people who got into MLM specifically because they had trouble meeting people and could not figure out how to introduce themselves without some “purpose” or something to “offer”.
    If the neighborhood is very large and there is not much chance of us crossing paths in future, I’d just toss the flyer and not bother to RSVP.

  • kingsrings January 15, 2014, 5:06 pm

    I also receive a lot of invitations to these product sales pitch parties. I handle it several ways: if I am truly interested in the product and know I will purchase, I attend. If I’m interested in the product but know I won’t be able to afford anything right now because of my financial situation, I ask if it’s okay to attend, but not purchase anything right now. Note: I only do that one when it’s someone I feel close enough to ask that question. I dislike it when I get one of these from someone whom I normally don’t socialize with. Please don’t use me in that way! There are other ways to recruit attendance at your party.

  • Amanda H. January 16, 2014, 12:28 am

    @Kermit: presumably the orange names are those who included a website when they left a comment.

  • JGM1764 January 16, 2014, 6:39 pm

    *Groan* Ugh, the sales “parties”. Seems like every female I know is involved in at least one MLM, some up to four. I cringe every time an invite to one of their “parties” pops up on facebook. I, too, like to socialize with these people on the regular, but am loathe to attend their sales pitches.

  • NostalgicGal January 16, 2014, 6:47 pm

    I went to a Longaberger Basket party once; because the gal was wife of good friend coworker of hubby. I give her the benefit of the doubt, she didn’t realize how expensive those things ARE and how most of the circle of her friends and acquaintances she got to come; were on a lot tighter budget than this. There had been a short term paycut at the place of employment, we were all making do for several months (rather than chop heads once in awhile they said take the early retirement package or accept 3-6 months of a pay cut-they did this twice)…

    The lady that came in to run the sales party, all dressed up for the upscale neighborhood not our cut of middle class… realized when she looked at how we were dressed, this wasn’t happening. Friend did not get the sales to get her doted on hostess basket, that I felt sorry for. I think out of 11 of us (not counting our hostess) she sold two small ones. Um, the cheapest one was $28.50 at the time. (Mininum wage was under $5.00/hr)… and anything of any size and want was $65-90 and up. (I looked through the samples to see what the cheapest one was, out of curiousity)

    Anyways. That was the first and last Longaberger party I heard of… I held a few Tupperware and got some people to come, but I always opted for the demo and bought the food; so coming meant you could eat supper. (I could also feed hubby, heh). I bought Tupperware, so if nothing else, I held the party and bought what I wanted, and got my hostess gift too.

    Tupperware went through the dorms in college, and only the first one or two got anyone to attend and buy; after that we were too busy with classes to do the (you got a fab hostess gift if you could get two more booked parties at your party) snowball…. invitations I countered by waving my calculus book. (big thick scary even if you didn’t open the cover) I was one of the few in that dorm that had real homework, so I got left alone after awhile.

    If you don’t know that person well; and you don’t want to go; and it was block/mailed (just above ‘occupant’ mail) you don’t have to respond or go. If you got a true invite done out to you, an RSVP and decline is acceptable.

  • Sir Antony January 21, 2014, 1:41 pm

    First, the “invitation” was addressed to an actual person and secondly, the RSVP is used only to indicate an acceptance of attendance, otherwise, a lack of response is to be taken as “No”.

    A regret is sent by a receiver of an invitation if they know the person and are in the same social rota, or if the nature of the invitation or the rank of the extender requires a response either way. An example of such would invitations from Royals for specific events such as weddings or jubilees or similar events of an occasion of state. Many times, these are needed so that others on the list may be considered to fill slots opened by regrets.

  • gb January 31, 2014, 9:15 pm

    I agree it’s a flyer and doesn’t need an rsvp. I also don’t think the neighbor was rude to drop it off, but she also doesn’t expect you to rsvp. Yes, it’s for business, but not rude because it gives you a choice, like a flyer stating cheeries are on sale, can choose to browse the store, buy cherries, buy something entirely different, go to the competition, or not go at all. It would be rude to insist you go or insist you purchase if you do go. I’ve gone to those and not bought anything because it wasn’t for me. If the sales people are rude or pushy, then that’s a entirely different etiquette issue all together, and a bad way to do business.
    Throw it in the trash, unless it’s for an item you might want.

  • Enna February 3, 2014, 6:47 am

    I would just disregard this. My friend is a partylite hostess, yes I have gone to her candle parties and brought stuff because I LIKE the products. However I would not accept such an invitation from a stranger.