Listen up. In that tightly knit military community where you work and live, you may know spouses who sell kitchenware, jewelry, baskets, skin-care products and any other item imaginable.
Many are great, well-known products, and for some of these entrepreneurs, it's much-needed income for the family coffers. Maintaining a career as a military spouse can be a Herculean feat.
It's great to have a night out with the girls, and these parties can be fun.
But if you are invited to a "selling" party, do you have to go?
If you go to the party, do you have to buy something?
Some of these products can be expensive. As with any other purchases, the bottom-line questions have to be: "Can I afford it? Do I need it?"
Spouses of lower-ranking troops often feel pressure when a party is held by a spouse of a higher-ranking person, said Meredith Leyva, founder of CincHouse.com, an online community of military wives, girlfriends and women in uniform.
You may also feel pressured to buy something because the person is married to someone below your spouse in rank.
Or you may just feel pressured because the person is your friend.
Leyva's solution? She generally avoids selling parties.
When invited, "I say if I had to attend all my friends' selling parties, I'd be broke," she explained.
If you do decide to go, here are some tips to break the seller's grip:
• Do your homework. Research the company online, if possible. As you would with any purchase, do price research beforehand. If it's a cosmetics party, for example, look at the prices of some of the products you use. Write out the names and prices of those products, and take the list with you.
• Leave your cash, checkbook, credit cards and any form of barter at home.
• Go easy on the alcohol, if it's being served. A few drinks might make you more likely to buy something you wouldn't purchase otherwise.
• Be ready with an excuse to leave early.
• Ask for a catalog, but don't commit to buy. And you may need to dodge phone calls for the next few days.
• Before buying, stop and ask: Do I need this, or am I buying it because everybody else is buying and I want to please this person selling it? And, more important, can I afford this? What are the consequences of this purchase? Does it mean my family will go into debt or further into debt? Will this purchase take money out of the family food budget?
After your research and careful budgetary considerations, you may decide you do need the product and it is indeed a good deal. If so, go for it.
If you decide not to buy, you could say it's too expensive and you can't afford it. But Leyva says that may not work because the seller may start rationalizing why you really can afford it.
"Say you're just not interested," she recommended. "That usually nips it in the bud."
BBB for airmen, too
The BBB Air Force Line has officially joined the fold. Air Force officials signed an agreement with the Council of Better Business Bureaus.
Now, like their Navy and Army counterparts, airmen will have access to consumer classes and briefings that local Better Business Bureau offices provide, and the local BBBs will also work with businesses in their area to ensure ethical treatment of military customers. Air Force members can find information online at http://www.airforce.bbb.org, or linked from http://www.military.bbb.org.
BBB officials will also help airmen with complaints about unresponsive businesses, provide reliability reports to help airmen do research before making purchases, and provide guidance on how to avoid being victimized by predatory lenders, misleading advertisements, high-pressure salespeople and other suspect business practices. BBB also tracks data to identify trends and issues affecting airmen and their families.
Vonage officials announced the names of the four Military Times readers who won V-Phones and six months of free unlimited local and long distance calling service: Amy S. Brumley of Annapolis, Md., who works at the Pentagon; Air Force member Jesus DeLeon in San Angelo, Texas; Coast Guard reservist Wilbur A. Velarde of Danbury, Conn; and Katharine Giddings, an Army spouse at Fort Bragg, N.C. Congratulations to all.
Got that? You're good to go.