The morality of selling door-to-door during the worst storm in 45 years

My city, Wellington, New Zealand, suffered its biggest storm in 45 years this week, with peak wind speeds of 200 km/h.

Two mornings after, and still raining. Photo I took of debris on Petone Beach. Storm surges drove timber from the Hutt river right up on to the road here.
Two mornings after, and still raining. Photo I took of debris on the footpath above Petone Beach. Storm surges drove timber from the Hutt river right up  beyond the sea-wall.

The night the storm hit all we could see from my house were flashes – not of lightning, but of the 400 volt lines outside crashing into each other. Then the street lights went out. I have my computer plugged into a surge protector rated to stop insanely huge transients, but figured it was wise to shut down.

Sirens wailed around us as emergency services responded to one call after another, the wind screamed, and I worried about how well the roof was nailed down. Sustained gusts were around 130-140 km/h at Wellington airport, with peak speeds of 200 km.h measured atop Mount Kaukau.

Nothing like private enterprise...
Nothing like private enterprise…

This storm classes as one of the five biggest since 1960. Waves off Baring head were the highest on record at 15 metres. Even inside the harbour, high seas smashed rail and road links between Petone and Wellington – cutting off thousands of commuters, while the storm beat into the southern coastline, sending rubble and fish inland. Trees were knocked down, roofs ripped off and buildings damaged across the city.

In the middle of it – in the freezing cold, wet and darkness as the first full day closed and the wind howled, some guy knocked at our front door to sell us a commercial service we already had. He’d have needed to work his way past a small tree that had fallen and was obstructing the approach to the house.

What, I have to ask, has happened to the moral compass of companies that require their employees to go door to door during one of the worst storms on record?

Here’s that storm, by numbers:

Peak wind speed: 200 km/h
Houses without power: 30,000 (out of about 185,000 houses in the Wellington region)
Number of emergency callouts: 935 in first night alone
Schools closed: dozens
People on board the ferry that snapped its moorings: 45
Minimum temperature without 200 km/h wind chill factor: 6.1 degrees C
With wind chill factor: -4 degrees C.
Railway lines washed out: 1
Trees knocked over on my section: 1
Door-to-door sellers trying to make us buy a service we already had: 1

We survived, and so the clean-up begins. I hope the poor guy that came to our front door was OK.

 Copyright © Matthew Wright 2013


15 thoughts on “The morality of selling door-to-door during the worst storm in 45 years

  1. Now on the other hand someone selling house insurance could have made a fortune.

    1. Thanks! Yes, all safe and well. There is a small avalanche of loose leaves and plant debris to scoop up around my house. I have no idea where it came from. Other people had it a lot worse, though, so I can’t complain.

  2. One shouldn’t laugh, but the thought of anyone being that dedicated to their job is kind of funny, but like something you’d see on a TV advert, not in real life!

    I hope he got home ok.

  3. Almost seems like there is a story in that, Matthew! That he was out selling is one question but that you already had the service begs another question entirely or maybe it answers the first in that it is a comment on his success as a salesman. Like I said, a bit of a story, perhaps.

    Sorry about the all the damage and storm stats are staggering. All these storms, worldwide, breaking records. Are we listening, yet? As always, enjoyed the post, Matthew.

    1. Sales team not being given a customer database, maybe. We get that fairly often with door-to-door sales pitches, most of whom seem to be peddling telecommunications – the days of the shoe polish and nick-nack seller are over.

      It was a pretty wild storm, part of a wider blast across the country that left half the South Island awash and the rest of it buried under unprecedent snow. Unusual for this time of year, coming after a bizarrely dry summer and autumn. And yes, I think there is little question about what’s really going on here. The phrase ‘own goal’ springs to mind. Alas.

  4. I guess I’ve grown cynical enough that I doubt the man was a real employee, but someone who was hoping to garner “premiums” or “down payments” for his own spending, using fear factor as a strong incentive for you to jump on it. Even as a Home Health nurse, the company I worked for let us off in bad weather.

    1. I think he was genuine – it was a media service, not insurance. We had someone who came to the BACK door a little while ago that wasn’t the real deal – luckily he left without causing any trouble.

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