Thursday, June 18, 2009

Confessions: Salespeople

I am the worst negotiator in the world.

When Sven took me to buy our first car together, it went like this:

{Scene: Used car lot, the year 2000}

Deb: I want this car. Can I have this car? I love this car.

Sven: The salesman's coming. Just let me do the talking. Act like you don't care about the car.

Deb: Okay. {Attempts to look suave and unconcerned}

Sven: You look constipated.

Salesman: How are we doing today?


Sven: (facepalm)

Salesman: Mwa ha ha ha ha.


Sven, being the wonderful adorable caring conscientious strapping meat-loving lawn-mowing music-writing hazel-eyed guy that he is, bought me the car. We didn't get a very good deal, but he wanted to make me happy. So, he bought me the car, then told the story to everyone about how I probably cost him thousands of dollars because I couldn't keep my mouth shut around the salesman. Sven would point to the pretty little white sports coupe and say, "She loved the car that much."

I laughed and played along, of course, because I didn't want him to know the truth.

I did love the car. I loved it a lot. But the reason I blurted out those horrible words was not my love for the car, it was my fear of salespeople. The truth is, I would have told the salesman the same thing about whatever vehicle I was standing in front of. It's a problem. I confess it now: I am terrified of salespeople.

I bring this up because of a horrible new trend I have noticed at several malls I have visited: the Pushy Demonstration People. (I shall henceforth refer to them as PDP's.) PDP's populate those small booths that sit in the "roadways" that pave our malls. The PDP's have chairs at their booths, but they never use them.

"Excuse me, can I ask you something?" their pitch begins. PDP's are almost unfailingly polite, at least in the beginning. The first time this was tried on me, I automatically responded by stopping and allowing her to ask her question. It turned out this young lady was deeply concerned about my nailbeds. It cost me $120 to get out of there, and I still have that Dead Sea salt scrub somewhere.

It has taken me years to train myself to not be polite to the PDP's. It was a long process. First, I avoided walking by them. I would walk outside the mall and around it before willingly passing a PDP. I soon recognized that I was ridiculous and sweaty, so I decided to head it off at the pass: a fake cell phone conversation. When I sighted the PDP, I would dig out my phone, flip it open, and begin babbling. Unfortunately, I got very involved in these fake conversations, and had to stop when my imaginary friend Ramona left her husband Thorny for Thorny's friend Paladin who had 35 hit points and +5 charisma. I had my own problems. It was just too draining.

It was go time. I was not going to allow these PDP's to run my life. I decided to ignore them. Most of them got the hint. I was free, though not satisfied. I longed to ask them some questions of my own. Like, "Do you really think bothering me like this will make me want to buy what you're selling?" Or, "Has it occurred to you that the fact that you are accosting me every time I walk by guarantees that I won't buy anything you're selling?" But I never did. I ignored them, they gave up easily, and the world went on.

But yesterday and today, I encountered two of the pushiest PDP's I had ever seen.

Number One was a man. He was tall, with wavy black hair and an intriguing accent that could have been Latvian, if I knew what Latvian sounded like. He was dressed in a black t-shirt and slacks. He was holding a stick of something that could have been wood or wood-colored chalk.

"Excuse me, I have a gift for you," he said, holding out the stick. I attempted to ignore him.

"Come on, take it, it's free," he said, moving so that he wasn't quite blocking me, but it was close.

"What's wrong? You can take it, it's free," he persisted. I took a deep breath, remembered a Very Special Punky Brewster, looked him in the eye, and said:

"No, thank you." What power! I felt as though years of restraint had fallen off of me in one fell swoop. I felt willowy and lithe and tall. I could conquer the world!

"Why not?" he asked. Again I was plush and short. It didn't work! I spoke to him directly, told him no, and he's still asking! Suddenly, it was like the end of the movie Labyrinth (except with different pants): he had no power over me.

"Seriously?" I said, stopping and looking up at him. "Really? I said no. Just, no. Excuse me." And I laughed.

Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha. I laughed.

That was yesterday.

Today, when he saw me pass by, he sat down. Victory.

The second PDP ignored me yesterday, as I did her, but with other women she was very assertive, even aggressive. Today, emboldened by my defeat of PDP #1, I watched her, curious as to why she ignored me. I noticed that she was targeting women, but I couldn't see anything else. Then I looked more closely.

"Better than Botox" her booth was called.

I could only draw one conclusion: I looked too young for her to bother with.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Here's The Pitch

Deb: A comfortably plush yet devastatingly attractive working mom, trying to make it as a writer.

Princess: Deb's writing partner

Billiam: A slick Hollywood producer

Scene: Billiam's office at Award Winning Studio

{Deb and Princess are here to make a pitch for a new family film. They enter Billiam's office.}

Deb: Thank you so much for taking the time to see us.

Billiam (stunned at her beauty): Please, sit down. (They all sit.) All right, I'm listening.

Deb: What we have for you today is the ultimate family movie. It's very special.

Billiam (intrigued): What's the pitch?

Deb: I'm going to pass this to my writing partner, Princess. She comes up with all of the ideas. Go ahead, Princess.

Princess: There's a dinosaur and my friends the Backyardigans have to leave our house and go up in a tornado because the Red Bull was chasing the unicorns and I said "You don't do that!" and I chased the Red Bull to the chocolate factory and I was a good girl and I peed on the potty and the Little Einsteins showed me a snapping turtle and you have to sing a high note or they'll get you when Charlotte makes a word in her web and she drinks blood.

Billiam: Go on.

Princess: Well, Spongebob and Patrick and the Backyardigans and Imagination Movers all came to my birthday party and the big boy got stuck in the pipe because he was too greedy when the dogs ate the spaghetti the boy dog gave the girl dog the meatball and the princess didn't want to live in the castle she wanted to stay in the forest but the lion had to be the king and then we all dance like this: (Princess flails and spins on the floor.) And that's all.

Billiam: (Silence.)

Princess: (whispers) Mommy, why isn't he talking?

Deb: He's blown away. Let him absorb, baby.

Billiam: If you can put a mermaid in, we have a deal.

Deb: Yay!

Princess: I want a peanut butter sandwich.


The above post is based on a story Princess told me this morning.