Friday, April 16, 2010

I Was Too Direct With the Salesperson

When he got completely tongue tied and disappeared into the back office for several minutes, my husband started cracking up.  At first, I didn't realize what I'd done.

We're trying to get a backyard playset for the girls without taking out a loan. Complicating our search, our older daughter is fascinated with monkey bars.  It is remarkably hard to find an affordable playset with monkey bars!  So we wandered into the various backyard playset stores, braced to hear unthinkable numbers, but hoping to find out what they could do with monkey bars.  At the first place, a low-key salesperson came over and showed us the options, giving us a catalog and price list so we could measure our needs against their offerings.

At the second place, we got the pitch.  When he heard "monkey bars," dollar signs seemed to circle his head like the tweeting birds on Tom & Jerry.  Monkey bars must be a serious jackpot for playset salespeople.  Instead of answering our questions, he picked out a monstrous castle with a million cargo nets and rope swings.  He informed us that we need to add on a bigger swing beam right at the get-go because our five year old isn't going to be satisfied with a ten foot beam.  If we don't get her the twelve foot beam, the whole multi-thousand-dollar playset is going to sit unused by our bored, ungrateful kids.

My husband, ever good-natured, was trying to wait the guy out, but every add-on we didn't challenge encouraged him to suggest another add-on.  I could see my life slipping away from me; time I could never get back.  So I asked him to pause his sales pitch and said, "I know it's going to sound like I haven't been listening to you explain your philosophy on challenging kids to grow into their playset, but you keep trying to up-sell us and I'd like to redirect you to down-sell us instead.  We're looking for a small fort with monkey bars," there were probably three sets in the room that were more like what we had asked for, so I gestured to one of them, "like this one here...can we put monkey bars on that?"

He stammered a little, but hadn't given up on the castle.  After pointing out a few features on the smaller set, he began to emphasize its limitations and was motioning back toward the castle.  I wasn't having it. "I'm sorry, but it seems like you are starting to try to up-sell us again.  We came in to find out about a playset we might want.  You need to give us the information we are asking for, instead of telling us what you think we should do, so we can make a decision about what we really want."  Then he stammered fitfully and retreated to the office.

I honestly thought I was being helpful to the guy.  We're not going to buy the castle.  He's wasting his time and ours, and he is also potentially missing out on selling us what we actually want.  My husband, who is an expert on "handling" me, pointed out the stammering and long absence (through his mirth).  The salesperson's discomfort hadn't actually registered with me, because I was focused on the task at hand - finding the right playset - not on the social implications of hurting a salesperson's feelings.  When he came back out, he did have better information for us, and even felt courageous enough to run back to the office and get his card to staple to the catalog (no price list) he gave my husband.

But now I feel bad.  I thought it was about a business transaction.  But, and in my line of work I should know this, nothing is just business.  Even between strangers, it's still about relationship; otherwise there wouldn't be road rage, right?  So I'm sorry Craig or Greg or whatever your name is.  I know you're just doing what you've been trained to do.  I'm not out to get you.  I just wanted to know about the smaller playsets.  Next time, I'll try and say it nicer.  I really didn’t want to be mean.  If it's any conciliation, there's a clerk at SmashBurger who hates me, too.  I declined to add a $5 side salad onto my daughter's kid's meal when she asked for roughage instead of fries.  I think she thought I should have bought the salad; our relationship hasn't been the same since.

You can tame a tiger, but you can't tame a tongue—it's never been done. James 3:7-8


  1. LOL Craig or Greg, or whatever your name is. :)
    Way to go Emily! In this economy, they should feel lucky to have any sale at all...give the customer what they want. A happy customer tells a few friends, an unhappy customer tells EVERYONE.