After the usual series of career missteps,
I find myself back in retail. It’s less fun this time because rather than the music
shops of the past – few of which still exist – I’m selling furniture.
While all retail is painful, at least
customers in music shops either wanted to buy the CD, or they didn't. Sometimes
they’d need to listen to a bit in order to decide. And maybe haggle over a
couple of dollars. But they’d make a decision: they genuinely wanted to buy
different. Nobody wants to buy furniture. They certainly don’t want to buy a
Sure, they'll pretend they do, admiring the
exquisite, intricate marble inlay that makes a golden mango wood extension
table even more attractive than the rustic paneling of the Tasmanian oak equivalent.
They’re both fine tables: handcrafted from solid hardwood whose respective
grains display great character, they’re beautiful as well as sturdy. Built to
look good and to last.
You'll show them how the mango wood’s synchronic
extension mechanism works: pull one end and the other moves automatically. Much
nicer than the Tassie oak, where it takes two of you, or just one running up
and down the length of it.
Sometimes your customer has no
self-respect, and is happy for you to have none for them either. They'll tell
you they love the table so much, they’ll go home to measure the room to ensure
they have the space for it.
You won’t be seeing them again. They don’t
want a table. If they did, they’d have come armed with measurements.
Although measurements are no true measure
of a would-be table buyer. When they want you to believe they’re serious, they
already know whether or not the double extension table will fit in their house,
both leaves unfolded, with room to spare. If they still need to ‘go home and think about it’, you
won’t be seeing them again. They don’t really want a table.
Sometimes people have far too much time on
their hands. They’ve been in with the measurements, gone home to think about it
and returned to pretend they want a table some more. Beware these time-wasters.
They’ll feign a preference for chairs as they discuss the cleaning convenience
of wood over fabric and the frustration of sticking to the leather in summer
and freezing on it in winter… but rest assured: they don’t want a table. Not
even if they send their cute daughter in a tight top and too short a skirt to
have a look at it the next day.
Her outfit won’t influence the final price,
of course. Her parents have ‘gone home to think about it’ twice. The purchase
of no table requires that much thinking time, so she’s not fooling anyone. Just
smile, perve as best you can without getting caught, but don't waste more time
than it takes to commit her to your spank bank. Everyone has better things to
do. Maybe tomorrow they'll send their dog to yap at a table they don’t want to
My favourite one’s the guy who comes at
closing time, the ruse of ‘customer’ so well developed he’ll go as far as to
declare the one table he could actually afford as ‘ugly’, somehow implying that
it's for reasons other than the wrong colour, size and style. Don’t fall for
that – he’s just the furniture equivalent of a tyre-kicker. After running up
and down the length of the Tassie oak, he’ll develop an infatuation for the
extension mechanism of the mango wood so disturbingly intense that he has to ‘pop
home – just around the corner’. Not to ‘think about it’, mind, but to ‘get the Missus’.
“Yes,” I’ll assure him, “of course I’ll
stay open.” After all, isn’t that why a shop still exists? Otherwise we’d all have
to pretend to want tables online, and that’d be no fun. Whose daughter would we
perve at then?
When he returns with his wife, he’s clearly
extolled the virtues of the mango wood table a little too enthusiastically. She
regards it with the same distrust wives have for husbands’ sudden love of
unlistenable chart-topping hits – that happen to be performed by impossibly
proportioned, near-naked nymphets. She’ll roll her eyes whenever he’s sprung
looking at it longingly. This leaves no option but the Tassie oak – a fitting
punishment, as far as she’s concerned, since he’ll be forever consigned to the
Sisyphean task of running up and down the length of it whenever they entertain.
Except he won’t.
Because they don’t want a table.
But don’t imagine that they’re done.
He’ll start asking about the chairs. How
much for the Tassie oak with fabric chairs? With wooden chairs? With top grain
leather? Honey legs? Chocolate legs? How do all the variations compare with the
mango wood (wife rolls her eyes and shakes her head)? What about, he asks, his
decision to stop punching above his weight momentarily taking you by surprise,
the one he can actually afford? The ugly one? The one that happens to be the
wrong size and colour?
“Sir,” I’ll politely point out, more to the
clock on the wall than to him. “Happy as I am to determine the price of
something you definitely don’t want, wouldn’t it be more helpful to determine
the price of something you might actually want?”
But that’s just
it: he doesn’t actually want a table.
Now’s the time. Not to close the
store – that was twenty minutes ago – but to have some fun. This is where I’m
compelled to offer the customer the impossible discount: a sale price so good
that he’d be a fool not to take it and I’d be an idiot to show my face in the
store again even if my employer was too stupid to sack me. “But,” I’ll add, as
I stand with the purchase order form in one hand and the key to the door in the
other, “you have to buy it now. Before you leave.”
“Um…” they’ll reply, clearly torn, their
world standing still for just a moment. “Let me go home and think about it…”
Lucky me, I get to keep my job. They just
don’t want a table.