1. Women worry about wrinkles.
Even my oldest customers, those in their 80s and 90s, are looking for the miracle cream, ointment, or serum that will smooth away their wrinkles, erase the fine lines, blur their pores and brighten their tired eyes. Some worry about it more than others like the few gals I know who would stand on their heads while applying their night cream if I promised them they'd look 20 years younger in the morning. It's funny, but really, it's sad. And it gets me to the next thing I've learned.
2. Women need to be told they're beautiful.
Want to watch a woman lose 10-pounds and shed 10-years in mere seconds? Tell her she's beautiful. Compliment her lipstick color. Point out how that shade of blue really makes her skin glow. Notice that she's changed her hair and tell her how nice that new, lighter shade looks on her. She'll instantly perk up like a flower getting rain after a dry spell. And yes, this applies to my 20-something customers and my 90-year-old customers. All of them crave compliments and none of us give them enough, nor receive them enough.
3. Everyone is lonely.
When a visit from your Avon lady or your Schwan man is the highlight of your day, you must realize you're lonely. My customers, and their husbands, average 70-years-old. That's not old, folks. But, so many of them are forgotten by their families. Some of them have friends and activities to keep them busy, but I see them in the quiet desolation of their homes and the loneliness hangs in the air. I've often wished I could call up their kids and say, "hey, call your mom." Or send a text message to their grandkids saying, "stop in and see your grandma." I heard about a commercial in Europe where an old man fakes his death so his family will all come home for the holidays. They've been too busy in previous years to see him and each other and I guess he's desperate. A lot of people are mad about this, saying it's manipulation and cruel. Well, after twelve years of visiting lonely, aging folks, here's what I think: it's the truth. We're all so busy with our kids and our lives that we've forgotten about the generations before us.
4. There is such a thing as a clean house.
The only customers I have whose homes aren't model-home perfect are the customers who still have kids at home. By the way, they may have kids at home, but they're still lonely. Anyhow, this little nugget is the one that brings me a lot of hope but tucked inside it is sadness. Why sadness? Because every one of those customers with the neat-as-a-pin home will tell you that they miss the mess of kids. I'm still not sure I completely believe that, but when they tell me this, I see the sincere sadness in their eyes, so it must be true. But man, I'm willing to give this one a go. I'd love to not step on Legos or trip over Barbies just for one day.
5. We all have burdens too heavy to carry alone.
Some days I'd come home from deliveries so worn out, so emotionally drained that I'd lay down on the floor and breathe deeply. Dying loved ones, debilitating illnesses, money stolen by crooked accountants, divorces, estranged children, lost jobs, and mental breakdowns. That's just one year of customer experiences. I could tell you stories about in-laws and bosses that would blow your mind. It's always amazed me how many deeply personal things people share with their Avon lady. Who needs the hair salon? I'll come to you and listen to your burdens all for the price of lipstick. Sure, it's funny when I say it that way, but it didn't take me long to realize my services were cheaper than seeing a counselor. In these cases, a listening ear and a warm hug go a long way. And just to be clear, there were plenty of times when a customer relieved my burden. Once, I was on my way to see a customer when I received an email from a high school buddy that his mom had just passed away. Marge had been a special person in my life and I was pretty sad. That customer saw my tears and took me in her arms and held me while I cried.
Oh I could tell you some hilarious stories, too. Like the time I went to the wrong house and rang the doorbell before I realized it. Or the time a customer hid on her porch and yelled "boo!" as I knocked on the front door. She's 82. Yes, I've laughed and I've cried my way through the last 12 years as an Avon lady.
I used to always say, "it's just lipstick" and remark at how nothing I do or sell actually saves a life. If the world ran out of lipstick tomorrow, it would still keep turning. Granted, it wouldn't be pretty, but it would be turning. Being an Avon lady is really a trifle in the grand scheme of life. But look at all I've learned. Look at all the people who have touched my life and the ones whose lives I hope I've touched, too. So, ya, 12 years is a long time but I guess that's how long it took to learn these things. Maybe you'll catch on quicker than I have.