How to Deal with a Coworker Who Is Aggressively Tryingto Sell Expensive Products

Updated on July 29, 2015
M.W. asks from Rosemount, MN
25 answers

I have a coworker who is selling very expensive essential oils at work. She has been pursuing me relentlessly for months! She approaches me at work, contacts me through fb and send me text messages about wanting me to buy her products and go to her parties. She has frequent parties at her home (45 min. drive 1 way for me) in which she charges people $50 to attend. I have told her many times no saying that I can't go because I am busy. Some of the time I really was busy and other times I was just trying to be polite. I have told her that her products are too expensive and I can't afford them. I have also told her that my husband does not want me buying her products because they are too expensive. She then went on about how her products were of excellent quality and worth the investment. I did once order a 1 ml bottle of lavender oil from her and it ended up costing me $42 with tax and shipping. I ended up not liking the scent, it smelled like insect repellent and I sent it back over a month ago and have yet to see my refund.She invited me to yet another party through fb and I completely ignored the invite this time. I noticed that she invited 25 people. 2 people responded that they were going, her and her mom. 3 people said maybe and the rest did not respond, including other coworkers.She ended up cancelling the party. I am wondering if it I worse to completely ignore an invite or click not going without explanation? I was brought up with old fashioned morals, you always respond to an invite, never invite yourself to someone's house etc... So it felt rude to ignore the invite. Any thoughts on how best to handle the situation without making thing awkward at work?

UPDATE-Thanks to everyone who has taken the time to read this and respond! LOTS of great advice and ideas! The brand is Young Living. As far as her party I believe she was intending for guests to go home with a "oils to go kit" No idea how much product you would get for this $50 since I had no intention of going I did not ask. This coworker always seems to have a on the side job. She has done jewelry, candles, and food. A couple years ago she invited a bunch of people to her house and supplied guests with a list of groceries to buy and to bring to her home. Guest were to bring the groceries and then prepare the food then put into freezer bags to bring home, kind of like Let's Dish. I told her the list seem like a lot of groceries and asked about how much she thought that list of groceries would cost. She replied about $250. (I was like no way am I spending that much and none of the dishes sounded like anything that I liked) So I didn't go to that one either and I have never once gone to any of her parties. A fellow coworker and this woman got into it over the food preparation party still to this day have a strained relationship at work.

What can I do next?

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answers from Pittsburgh on

In person, "I'm not interested." On FB I just ignore these types of things. I don't consider a sales pitch a real event invitation that requires a response.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Kansas City on

I would report her to HR. Most companies have a problem with people doing this kind of selling. I know at my company, if someone's kid has girl scout cookies, they leave the order form on their desk and people can come order if they want, but they aren't allowed to push it.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I always say, "sorry, not my thing". And they don't have a response for that or they get what I am saying.

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

how aggravating. i love essential oils, but have zero interest in the young living pyramid scheme.
but i can't for the life of me get behind people who don't just say no. i guess i your mind 'i'm too busy' or 'my husband doesn't want me to spend the money' is 'no' but it's not. you're stringing her along, and it's flimsy and borderline passive/aggressive in the face of her more overt aggression.
it's not rude to say 'petunia, i wish you luck with your business, but i'm not interested. i'm not going to buy your products or attend your parties. please stop asking me.'
i also would not have let the refund slide.
there's nothing wrong with her being an entrepreneur and trying out different sales and business opportunities on the side. stop putting it on her. she puts out there (aggressively- that's how those successful in these businesses create success) and no one's got a gun to your head making it awkward.
NO is one of the most useful words in anyone's vocabulary. it is courteous. it is clear. it is unambiguous.
grown-ups make use of it frequently. get to know it.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

I was stalked by a Mary Kay consultant. I feel your pain.😊

Btw...I don't respond to those party invites either unless it is a friend hosting. If it is the sales person trying to drum up business I feel absolutely no obligation to respond.

Also, every time she brings up her products, remind her she owes you a refund.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Well, I would keep it short and sweet and say "Thanks for the invite, but I'm really not that interested - no offense, it's just not my thing. And actually, I would really appreciate getting that refund for my item as soon as you can manage it".

There are ways to say no that are pleasant. It took me a while to figure this out too because no one wants to hurt people's feelings or make a situation awkward. But you're allowed to say no - there is nothing rude about this.

I don't mess around with "not a good time", "I'm busy.." etc. because they WILL keep coming back. Because you're just putting them off. They don't realize you aren't interested. It's sending a mixed message.

Good luck :)

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Some people won't take 'no' for an answer.
If saying No politely doesn't get through to them, their continuing to pester you is no longer polite - it's RUDE.
Since she's a co-worker, when she starts on any sales spiel -
cut her off with
"If this isn't about work - sorry - but I just don't have time for it" and walk away.

Or if she's brought it to your desk you say
"I've got work to do and if this isn't about work then you need to leave so I can get it finished".

If she's harassing you and others at work, you need to take it to your boss.

In the office I worked in for many years - it's not that there was any harassment (of this variety) going on but there was SO MUCH going on with parents selling stuff on behalf of their kids that management declared it was getting in the way of official business and therefore selling stuff was banned from the office.
Management said
"We're not paying you to conduct secondary businesses on company time on company property. What you do on your own time at home is your business. Just don't bring it to the office.".
And that was the end of that!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

Learn to just say no. It's ok.. You can do it. You " owe" no one any explanation or anything.

If this person were my employee... I would most likely let her go to pursue these interests on her time vs time I am paying her to work for me. Reasons for letting her go... pressuring my other employees, conducting outside business on my time and with my employees which takes the productivity away from all employees and being a nuisance by pushing her products to others.

HR should be aware of this because in most companies, this behavior breaks the rules of the company.

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answers from Columbia on

I would visit with HR to determine just what the policy is within your company, first and foremost. If the policy is that employees ought not be moonlighting or selling, then let them handle her. Go through your normal supervisory chain of command with your concerns and let them deal with it.

If she IS allowed to do this, then it's up to you to place a boundary and tell her that you're not interested. You have to say no. You already have a strained relationship, so nothing is going to change. If you're friends on Facebook, unfriend her so she can't invite you to events anymore. If you don't want to unfriend, just click that you're not going and be done with it. You don't have to explain yourself. These aren't "normal" a birthday, bridal shower, or anniversary, they're sales pitches. You're not obligated to the same Miss Manners rules. Stand up for yourself, dear, and stop letting this pushy lady make you feel guilty.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Dear M., You must learn in this life that you don't OWE anyone any reasons for saying no. Please stop convincing yourself that the parties are too expensive, stop convincing her with your excuses....just stop all of it....stop totally OK with your position that you prefer not to mix business with pleasure. People can and do say no all the time.....and inviting people through FB and emails is the way for those organizations to connect.

Stop taking every invite so personally. It's just a group and generic invite. If it weren't you at your particular desk, it would be the next person at your desk who is constantly being invited.

Please stop seeing her invites as being pestered or badgered, but just that an invitation, that you can always politely decline with a simple "No, I can't make it. " And then stop right there, do not offer reasons. You don't need to.

You have seen and witnessed her pattern and you are smart to say no given the end result of the food preparation party. This gal really likes to take advantage of everyone around her and your wise to stay out of her path.

So, mind your own business, gently and firmly and confidently say "No Thanks." If she asks for reason, be vague..."Too much going on." if she pushes you then honestly, the best way to deal with aggressive people is actually with aggression. Research has proven that. Treat her with the same can assertively say " Look, I've said no as nicely as I can for as long as I can and you are not respecting my NO. You need to respect my answer. Get It? Good."

Then move on.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

First off, check her company to see if it's a member of the Direct Selling Association, which is an invitation-only organization. Here's the link:

It is COMPLETELY unethical for her to be charging people to attend parties! There should be not charge at all - if anything, she might be giving away something, at least through a drawing for one winner. That's not necessary, but charging is wrong wrong wrong. No DSA member company should be doing that. If they are a member, report it to the DSA as well as to the company itself. See if the oils company has a compliance Department; otherwise go to Distributor Relations and report her. If you have her distributor ID number, give them that (it will be on your old receipt if you still have it). Also tell them that you still don't have your refund for a product your returned within the 30 day guarantee period. DSA member companies value their membership status and won't want to jeopardize it by allowing employees to violate standards & practices. (Only about 200 or so of the 5000+ network marketing companies are invited to be members, based on business ethics.Look at the member names and you will see only top companies.) If a company is not a member, you can still go to them directly - and you should.

Secondly, tell her - firmly and within earshot of others at work - that office hours are for the company's business, not her side business. Tell her if she disturbs your work day or tries to solicit you again, you will report her. If this doesn't work or if there's no opportunity, send her an email and cc her boss or your boss or HR, saying that her persistent attempts to use work time to promote her business are unwelcome, and indicate that you have told her this before.

You can block her on FB but that doesn't solve the bigger problem. It's a little too passive and she'll still approach you at work.

YOU are not the one making the workplace uncomfortable or awkward - she is.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

I just say, No Thank you. If she is bothering you at work, report her it is not appropriate for her to be selling product at her work.

And if she gets mad or it hurts her feeling, so sorry, not sorry.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

There is nothing wrong with telling her,"I don't want to buy anything, so please stop wasting your time and mine by continually pitching your products at me."

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I'm sorry you have to endure this.

She also may not realize that, depending on your workplace's rules, she may be jeopardizing her "real" job with her aggressive pursuit of her "side job" among coworkers.

First, for yourself: Please don't worry about whether it's rude NOT to reply to a FB invitation or an e-mail invitation etc. Block her on FB and do not reply there or elsewhere. If she asks you why you haven't replied yet, tell her that you turned down the previous FB (or e-mail or text or whatever) invitations and thought it was clear to her that you were not interested in her products or parties. Then say, politely and with a smile but firmly, "Please don't send me any more invitations and please don't ask about my buying your products. I've said that I'm not interested in the products and that isn't going to change, so I don't want you to spend your valuable time asking again when my answer can't change. OK, what do you think about that meeting this afternoon?...." In other words, tell her NO more repeat approaches, and then divert immediately to work-related topics. If she presses that her products are great, you really would change your mind, you did try it once, etc., repeat and repeat with a cool smile: "I know you love your products but I am not going to purchase them, so save that slot at your party for someone else. Did you see the latest report from the finance office about...." Say no and move on to WORK topics instantly.

She may never take the hint but you can get in the groove of "No plus talk about work" every time.

Also, you could report her to your human resource department if you have one. Many companies prohibit employees from doing this kind of selling at the office and HR might call her in to tell her to cool it. She likely will figure it's you who blew the whistle, but frankly, what she's doing is inappropriate for a workplace (and, to me, it shows she's not working very hard in the office if she's got this much energy for selling products while there). Of course if she blathers on like this to lots of the employees and not just to you, then she won't know who told HR. I would not worry about whether it's rude to tattle. This isn't tattling because she's keeping you from giving the employer all of your time and attention while she does her distracting sales pitches. Your employer deserves better.

I'd try the clear "I will never buy so please stop pitching to me" approach first, but I would not hesitate to go to HR or a supervisor if she keeps on pressuring you. Depending on your supervisor's personality, he or she could blow it off or say, "Handle it yourself," but an HR office might take it more seriously.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

(Without reading the entire post):

Politely say, "No thanks"?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

Just hit no. No need for an explanation. If she corners you again in the work place tell her point blank you are not interested and move on away from her. Maybe ask the boss to put up a note saying no outside business can be conducted on the premises. A lot of companies have that. It keeps people from bringing in a million sales packets of everything from girl scout cookies to Mary Kay etc.

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answers from Washington DC on

A friend of mine purchased some cool and personalized art work years ago so I asked for the contact info of the person who made it for her. I had my piece the next day - and she harassed me to give her my friends contact info. NOPE! She didn't stop emailing me until I told her I was going to press charges on her for harassing me because I had all of the saved sent messages where I told her to stop contacting me. She stopped then. Two weeks later she started in my office.

We never talked about it at all....not a big deal. But I would flat out tell your friend you aren't interested in the items and do not want to be bothered by her sales pitches anymore.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

Report her to HR - they probably have a policy against selling like this at work. Block her on FB and block her number on your phone. If the only contact you have is for her to try to sell you her products, you don't need to be FB friends and text each other. The fact is, a sales person is trained to overcome objections and not take no for an answer. They even have an answer for "I hate your product." The more excuses you give, the more answers she'll have. Just say no, I am not coming to the party, hosting a party or buying anything, and give no further explanation. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Tell her no, you are not interested. Stop inviting you. I think you need to be firm and direct. If you haven't seen your refund, contact the company.

While I usually do RSVP even if I am saying no, under these circumstances, I would not feel obligated to reply. You can remove yourself from the invitation as well.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Barbara on

I would consider going to HR. A real friend would not harass you.

Sure other co-worker may do this (Mary Kay to candles), but most know it is annoying.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

What brand please? I have friends who sell all sorts of brands of oils and not one charges anyone to come to their parties. Ever. That should be against their company policy.

"I'd like my refund within 24 hours please and my husband said I better never buy another thing from you so please, stop bothering me or he's going to turn you in to our bosses as harassing me".


"My husband said if you don't get my refund for the lavender oil to me by the end of the day he is calling your company and filing a complaint. He also said I can't spend any more money on oils because it cuts in to our grocery budget. So please don't talk to me about them again."

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

You say "I am not interested in buying those products and I would appreciate you not asking me anymore". Is it YL oils?

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answers from Las Vegas on

I am with you, it's rude NOT to respond..however, you needn't feel guilty either for responding NO and NO, you don't owe her a reason, unless she asked.. I find with this type of situation, you have to be firm.. example, at the store, they always want you to get their credit card and you ll save money, I tell them pointblank, I can't have a credit card, it's not safe, I smile and give them my cash, OR I have it ready ahead of time. it's funny though, although I tell them I don't use a credit card and imply that I was in debt for it.. some still don't let up.. I just let them ramble..
however, when it comes to co-workers, I tell them I am on STRICT budget and extras aren't in the budget.. you have to have an ironclad reason .. but even if they try ways around it, tell them again.. BUDGET... however, you will have to be the one to stand your ground and not waiver.. eventually they get the hint..
I used to have this friend who had candle parties and scraping parties where you buy all kinds of things.. I really couldn't afford it nor did I want all that junk... I went to one... a candle party.. SIGH.. I bought a few candles.. and it cost me a lot !!! but no one forced me. from that point on, I said no, I can't' afford it,, eventually she stopped inviting me..

most of the time, this friend, herself couldn't truly afford the candles..... BUT.. to this day, she is a compulsive spender and her addiction, if allowed, will steamroll others .. I think that co-worker also sounds a bit compulsive.. if you have even the least compulsion to be an enabler or co-dependent, then her addict compulsion hooks into your feeling guilty..

this is actually a blessing in disguise.. this whole instance will give you a chance to reflect on the fact that when you say NO , you feel guilty... I bet this has happened in other aspects of your life.. I say this, because it's usually never just one instance.. but this is a red flag and can now give you good reason to evaluate how you interact with others and what you might like to change about that .it's not a bad thing, but it bothers you enough to have posted.. I think this is a good start to find a new approach .. I used to feel guilty ALL the time about this or that. I no longer feel so helpless all the time... it took a lot of work to get to this point, but it's worth it... ask yourself, other than wanting to be polite.. why you feel guilty... go from there and keep unearthing the reasons why and then ask yourself.. are they valid reasons or do you feel guilty and sometimes say yes, when you want to say no because you are afraid of confrontation. I think the answers might surprise.. they did me.. most of the time, I was afraid that someone would reject me and not like me... well, truth is.. now I don't care. I don't say yes or no for the sake of saying it. I say it because it's what I feel...
I think this is a good oppty to grow..

good luck... and keep telling that person NO.. :)

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Fayetteville on

I feel like you've done what you can to politely and matter-of-factly say no. Can you approach a supervisor to say something?

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answers from Miami on

Don't worry about how she feels when you tell her you aren't interested. Tell her to take you off her invitation list. No more invitations, at all.

Is she telling people that they can get refunds if they don't like the product? If she is, then either she's a liar or she's a poor customer service rep since you haven't gotten your refund. Tell her that you are STILL waiting for your refund.

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