Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Appliance Store

I was at the local appliance store the other day, clutching a wad of bills in hand and looking critically at the displays.

I hate buying wedding presents. There are a number of present-giving occasions that provide plenty of opportunities for innovation (Birthdays, Christmas, and so forth), but a wedding just isn't one of them. Whoever dictated that you can only give appliances as wedding presents must have been one of the most boring persons on the face of the earth.

I suppose that it is possible to give an innovative wedding present, but it's a risky prospect. Either the bride and groom turn out to have no use for strange new appliances, or the present doesn't quite have the correct impact. I remember watching one unfortunate married couple open a present to find a set of strobe lights underneath all the paper. The creative gift-giving was there, yes, but strobe lights? Was the giver expecting them to turn their bedroom into a little nightclub or something?

I finally settled on a nice-looking model just inside my price range and got one of the salespeople over. I like dealing with salespeople nowadays - they're a constant reminder that how they act with me is pretty much how I have to act with my own clients. For that reason, I lapse into my personal patented approach whenever I deal with salespeople:

1. Act surly. Not "angry" surly, but merely "quiet" surly. Frown, but don't scowl.
2. Speak in perfect English. Add the American or British accent if you can.
3. Make a show of inspecting the product. Check it for dust if you have to.
4. Ask questions. Nothing nonsensical, but enough to catch them off guard.

What usually happens when I do this little patented approach is that the salespeople usually handle me carefully, as though I were an anthrax-laden package wired to explode. They even ask me to inspect the box they package my purchase in.

While this does seem like a mean thing to do, I get impressed a lot by salespeople who handle me perfectly. They look me in the eyes despite the fierce frown, they talk to me in their best English, they answer my questions without that memorized-this-from-the-manual accent. It's worth it just to find the good ones, and even if I don't, I at least get treated to the sight of someone squirming under simulated pressure. You'd better improve your skills there, sir.

Their display piece happened to be their last stock in that model, so I waited patiently as they cleaned, boxed and bagged the whole thing. I watched them the whole time, refusing a seat in favor of maintaining the masquerade.

So there I was, stuck in a landscape of flat-screen television sets and stainless-steel refrigerators. I checked out the prices on one or two of them - perhaps one day I'll be making enough money to buy one as a wedding present. I mean, if the whole logic of wedding presents involves getting the married couple started on the right foot, then we should really be giving them things beyond mere rice cookers, water heaters, and - heaven forbid - strobe lights. I know a lot of people who could use a car, for example. :)

Once it was all over, I shouldered my package and walked out the door. Although I was relatively satisfied with both the purchase and the service, I figured that I was unlikely to pass by the place until the next wedding rolled along.

On the other hand, I took one look at the bare-box appliance I was holding and decided that it would be a good time to get it gift-wrapped. Here we go again, then.

No comments: