Friday, September 4, 2009

A deal unclosed

I signed up for a pickup bootcamp here in Toronto, and walked away from it before starting. As much as I wasn't convinced by the person running the camp, I don't want to run him down so I am not going to name him or link his site.

For people without the background, the idea of a pickup bootcamp is that an experienced pickup artist will take you into clubs, show you how to approach, make you practice approaches and attempts to get girls' numbers and try to seduce girls, and give you feedback on how to improve your game. I thought it was time for me to try talking to girls in clubs, and that maybe some support and feedback from someone with lots of experience would be useful in doing so. I ended up feeling like the particular coach was the wrong choice, and I will explain why.

If you are a pickup artist coach trying to make a living from doing bootcamps, let me offer some free advice. I walked away because I wasn't convinced, and if he couldn't convince me, I didn't see him being able to convince a girl, and if he couldn't convince a girl, I didn't think he could teach me how to do so.

First off, the positive. Why did I sign up with him? Well, I did a search for Toronto pickup artists, and his site was high on the rankings. The $3000 bootcamps offered by Love Systems and Stylelife don't strike me as good value for money - I think they would be interesting, and good, but hard to justify paying that much money for them. This person charges less than half that, and is local, so I thought that it would be good to get the benefits of a bootcamp - to see an instructor demonstrate skills in the field, to have someone provide thoughtful feedback on what I'm doing wrong and what I can improve. The testimonies, reviews, and essays on his site all seemed plausible, though I didn't find them totally convincing (bad reviews can always be removed, after all, and good reviews composed from whole cloth). So I walked in a bit skeptical.

The first red flag came when I emailed him to ask about the upcoming bootcamp and got a message back pressuring me to sign up and provide a deposit. I have had bad experiences before with pressure sales. The false pressure was that there was competition for my "spot" in the bootcamp and if I didn't sign up soon my spot would be given away. I waited for the expiration date to pass, just to see what would happen, and got another pressure note (as expected, I didn't lose my "spot"). So, I said I would bring the full amount to the bootcamp.

The second red flag - minor, but he called me to say he would be late to meet me on the night.

The third red flag - something I learned from my lavalife experiences: when I got to the hotel lobby, he didn't look like his photos. He was with a woman, he introduced as his girlfriend, and I saw no chemistry between them at all, no connection at all actually. And, what do you know, I was the only one taking the bootcamp. The other person, who was coming from Washington (which I didn't believe) had to cancel for some reason.

Fourth - he looked me up and down and said "based on how you're dressed, we're not going to go to a club tonight". Now I wasn't in a tux, but I have gone to clubs dressed just as I was, and done fine. He'd had no intention of going to a club tonight - the look up and down and the "based on how you are dressed" was to bring my confidence down relative to his. A neg, I guess, but a poorly executed one because not accompanied by signs of interest or warmth towards me.

Fifth - his own style, and his girlfriend's, were nothing to write home about. Black slacks, black shirt open over a black t-shirt, black pants, not particularly well fitted. He himself isn't very fit and didn't present particularly well. Greasy hair, possibly implanted. Nor did she. Not seductive, in short.

Sixth - a million little signs of dishonesty and manipulating the situation. We were going to have dinner (which, I suppose I was going to pay for). We went to the bar for drinks (which I presumed I would have to pay for). Given the amount of money, being unwilling to incur small expenses isn't a "demonstration of high value".

Seven - the sales pitch itself. Perhaps I have read too much. But I knew all the tricks he was using. After asking my profession, he suggested to me that I was too intellectual and that caused me problems with women (which I don't think is my problem). His "cold reads" were way off. He said I had shielded and nervous body language and my face wasn't expressive. All true in that moment: I was distrustful of him and the situation (spidey-sense firing like crazy) and didn't want to give him more information than I was giving, and as I became more convinced that I was going to walk, my body language conveyed that - cold, unresponsive. He tried to challenge me: "Are you committed to this?" When that didn't work (I said, "hmm... maybe not."), he tried a kind of hypnosis, "Imagine having choice and dominance and power..." which, because I don't actually feel like I like choice or power and don't particularly want dominance, didn't play. Then he tried negative: "You might miss your soulmate..." and confidence: "I don't care about the money, and I could demonstrate any time, but you have to convince me that you are committed." All of these were pressure sales tactics, and I was feeling the buyer's remorse before the sale was even complete. It felt like when those cults try to recruit you (the latter day saints have a church on my block and ask me about Jesus regularly), or the time-share hotel salesmen try to sell you (I have a vivid childhood memory of when an American salesmen was trying to get them to buy timeshares in the Caribbean, clumsily, that has provided great protection against snake oil salesmen since).

In the language of pickup, he lacked social proof, he lacked authentic demonstration of high value, and his body language betrayed a dishonesty that prevented me from feeling comfort or believing that he could deliver. I told him I wasn't ready to commit. But it wasn't really that I'm not ready, nor that I'm completely satisified with my life as it is. It was actually that I didn't think that he could help me.

When I told him I was going to walk, he took it gracefully, which I was grateful for. On the subway ride home, I chatted up a girl, thought about Lex from the Naked Loft Party's statement that "there is no such thing as rejection" and how it's not about dominance and power but about finding people who want to take that journey with you as far as they want to.

Now back to my unsolicited advice for pickup coaches: you've gotta be what guys want to be. Selling hard and preying on insecurities as this fellow tried to do might work, since most of the guys who come to you come with insecurities. But it's not cool to do that. What these guys need is friends, as much as anything, and you'll help them more if you can make them feel like you care about them even a little.

Conversely, boys, if you're looking for help picking up, remember you're in the position of power when you're looking for a coach. Try to remember that, and remember that they fancy themselves as having many tactics in their toolkit for making people feel certain ways. You earned that money, and you're foregoing other things for this bootcamp (or workshop or whatever), on the scale of years of membership at a gym, a vacation, a small car, a term of college, a home renovation, a half a year of therapy. And these things might help you a lot more. Just make the decision sober, is all I'm saying.

No comments: