"No obstacles are insurmountable when God commands and we obey"
- - Heber J. Grant
August 2, 2012
A Visiting Teaching Sales Call
by Cyndie Swindlehurst


My visiting teaching companion has a photography business. Every time we go on visits, she tells me how much she wants to take my family’s photos. I know she helps support her family with her photography, and I’d like to help her, but I don’t really like her work. And her prices are way too high.

Also, we’ve had some awkward interactions while visiting teaching, and I don’t especially wish to do business with her.

But she keeps asking me, and I can’t put her off forever. Do I tell her no, flat out? Do I explain why I can’t hire her? What do I do when she tells me that she needs the money and my business would be a big help to her family? That’s true for several photographers I know. And how on earth can I have family photos taken by someone else? She’s sure to find out!

I feel sympathy for her situation, and admire her for trying to support her family. But I don’t want to pay high prices for photos I don’t like.


Please, Mormon businesspersons, hear my plea. If you have some good or service for sale, just tell me what you are selling. Tell me how I can obtain your price list. You can even invite me to a “party” where you pitch your wares. (I probably won’t come, but I won’t mind the invitation.) Tell me that I can contact you any time to make an appointment or a purchase.

Then drop it!

If I want to buy what you are selling, I will call you. Do not press me to divulge why I have not yet bought it. I will tell you now that I have not bought it because it is one of three things: too expensive, unnecessary, or unappealing. I’d rather not explain any of that to you personally. And I doubt you’d want to hear it.

Now back to our question.

Unfortunately for you, you are being pressed to hire your visiting teaching companion while visiting teaching. I can only hope she does not apply the same pressure to the sisters you visit, which would be wildly inappropriate. It would also leave you bereft of appointments in a very short time.

And I’m sure you know that you shouldn’t be telling other people in your ward about this problem you are having. That would be gossip.

So how do you tactfully turn down your visiting teaching companion’s solicitation of business?

First, know that you are not obligated to hire her just because she keeps asking. It would be ridiculous if nice manners required you to purchase something just because a salesperson asked you a million times.

Second, know that you are not obligated to hire her out of charity. As you pointed out, all businesspersons need business to provide for their families. If you hire her, you are not hiring someone else.

Now, you may feel moved to hire her out of charity, in which case you should. And you should think of it as charity. But if you don’t feel so moved, you don’t have to. You are free to hire someone else.

Third, the next time she asks to photograph your family, just say regretfully, “Oh, I’m sorry. We just can’t right now.” Do not explain why or elaborate. Make no excuses (money!) or promises (maybe next year!). Keep repeating things like, “We just can’t,” and “Not right now.”

Fourth, do not volunteer what you perceive to be defects in her business. You said that you have had awkward moments with this person. Your critique of her business could only be more awkward still. And what are you going to say that won’t boil down to: “Your photos stink!”

Finally, it is perhaps true that she will feel hurt when you get family photos made by someone else. You can show consideration for her feelings by not advertising it. Tell your photographer that you don’t want her to post the pictures or a link to them on Facebook. Don’t write a post about the photo shoot on your blog. It will mean you don’t get to boast about your adorable new family photos, but it’s worth it to spare her feelings. It will also be a good exercise in modesty and self-restraint.

Alas, you cannot control how she will respond. No matter what happens, you will have to be content with knowing you acted correctly and with all efforts to spare her feelings.

Do you have a quandary, conundrum, or sticky situation in your life? Click this button to drop Cyndie a line, and she’ll be happy to answer your question in a future column. Any topic is welcome!

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About Cyndie Swindlehurst

Cynthia Munk Swindlehurst spent her childhood in New Hampshire and her adolescence in San Diego. She served a mission in Manaus Brazil. She graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in English and from Duke University with a law degree.

She practiced law until her first child was born. She enjoys reading, tap dancing, and discussing current events. She and her husband live in Greensboro, North Carolina with their two sons.

Cyndie serves as the Sunbeams teacher in her ward.

Visit Cyndie at Dear Cyndie
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