The culture of the 'con man' : an ethnographic study of 'value' direct selling organisations
This thesis is an ethnographic study conducted within two home improvement 'Value' Direct Selling organisations (VDSOs) in the UK. This industry and form of selling have been overlooked by sociologists thus far despite its potential as a rich sociological field of enquiry. Home improvement VDSOs are engaged in the selling of high priced durables, such as replacement windows, fitted kitchens and related products directly to customers in their own homes. A key characteristic of the industry is its reliance on pro-active persuasion, impression management and emotional labour on the part of its operatives, as a means of finding new customers and selling its products. Deception and misrepresentation are integral to the industry's operations on a number of levels. This extends to the nature of the organisations themselves, where their public image belies their internal reality. As well as providing an account of the industry's interaction order, culture and organisational features, the site also provides a vehicle for the exploration of themes that are central to current sociological debates. The thesis sets out to provide fresh insights into some key sociological issues, such as trust, emotional labour, identity processes and the relationship between rationality and irrationality within contemporary organisational settings.