Photo: Ann Larie Valentine via Flickr

Dear friend,

I got your text last night. It came in while I was making dinner for the kids. Your name popped up on the screen, and normally I would jump to answer it, but yesterday I actually groaned.

And that startled me. I stood there at the stove, stirring the mac-n-cheese, letting my thoughts swirl around in my head. When did I start avoiding you? And why?

I picked up my phone to browse Facebook and it hit me. I saw yet another update from you about the product you’ve been selling.

We need to talk. Heaven knows this is uncomfortable for me. I’ve really debated writing this letter. But I think a lot of women feel the way I do, and maybe this letter will be a launching pad for them to talk with their friends.

A few months ago, you announced that you were going to start doing direct sales. It took me by surprise; I never knew you had a passion for those products. But with your charming and charismatic personality, it made sense. You were so excited to make some side money and get out of the house a little. Amen, sister! Who doesn’t want those things?

But over time, your quirky and insightful Facebook posts were replaced by product plugs and sales pitches. It didn’t even sound like you anymore. I was mildly annoyed, but I figured your posts would return to normal after a few weeks.

No such luck. This was only the beginning.

It wasn’t long before you started asking me to host one of your “parties.” (May I just say, if college taught me anything, it’s that parties do not entail catalogues…)

Then came the invitations to join your sales team. “I think you have great leadership skills, and you would be an asset to my team,” your Facebook message said. It felt impersonal and opportunistic, and sounded like something you copied and pasted.

I didn’t know what to do. I’ve experienced this with other people in the past– mostly high school friends I hadn’t heard from in years who suddenly popped out of the woodwork to sell me detoxifying supplements at the low, low cost of our non-existent relationship.

But I wasn’t expecting this from you. It caught me off guard. I wanted to handle this with graciously, but there’s no handbook called What to Do if Direct Sales Hijacks Your Friendship.

So I stopped answering your texts and phone calls.

But you deserve better. You deserve honesty.

I feel like you’ve been leveraging our friendship in order to make a little money. In the process,  I’ve been downgraded from a friend to a client. You’ve traded in the intimacy and honesty of friendship for a sales opportunity.

Consider the damage you may be doing to your friendships for the sake of making money. This company is asking you to tap your most significant relationships for money. Is that something you really want to be known for? Realistically, how likely is it that you’ll still be selling these products in five years? And what will have become of those relationships?

Please don’t trade my friendship for your business. If you’re going to continue with direct sales, I’ll support you. Just don’t let it consume your life and friendships. Because one day, the job might be gone, and I’d hate to see your friendships go with it.

And the next time you call me, I hope it’s to talk about the crazy things your kids did that day. Or to invite me out for drinks (I am RSVPing yes right this minute because my kids did crazy things today).

Treat me like your friend, not your client. And trust me: I’ll let you know if I’m interested in being both