After the usual series of career missteps, I find myself back in retail. Itâs less fun this time because rather than the music shops of the past â few of which still exist â Iâm selling furniture.
While all retail is painful, at least customers in music shops either wanted to buy the CD, or they didn't. Sometimes theyâd need to listen to a bit in order to decide. And maybe haggle over a couple of dollars. But theyâd make a decision: they genuinely wanted to buy some music.
Furnitureâs different. Nobody wants to buy furniture. They certainly donât want to buy a table.
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. Theyâre both fine tables: handcrafted from solid hardwood whose respective grains display great character, theyâre beautiful as well as sturdy. Built to look good and to last.
You'll show them how the mango woodâs 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, theyâll go home to measure the room to ensure they have the space for it.
You wonât be seeing them again. They donât want a table. If they did, theyâd have come armed with measurements.
Although measurements are no true measure of a would-be table buyer. When they want you to believe theyâre 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 âgo home and think about itâ, you wonât be seeing them again. They donât really want a table.
Sometimes people have far too much time on their hands. Theyâve 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. Theyâll 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 winterâ¦ but rest assured: they donât 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 wonât influence the final price, of course. Her parents have âgone home to think about itâ twice. The purchase of no table requires that much thinking time, so sheâs 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 donât want to buy.
My favourite oneâs the guy who comes at closing time, the ruse of âcustomerâ so well developed heâll go as far as to declare the one table he could actually afford as âuglyâ, somehow implying that it's for reasons other than the wrong colour, size and style. Donât fall for that â heâs just the furniture equivalent of a tyre-kicker. After running up and down the length of the Tassie oak, heâll develop an infatuation for the extension mechanism of the mango wood so disturbingly intense that he has to âpop home â just around the cornerâ. Not to âthink about itâ, mind, but to âget the Missusâ.
âYes,â Iâll assure him, âof course Iâll stay open.â After all, isnât that why a shop still exists? Otherwise weâd all have to pretend to want tables online, and thatâd be no fun. Whose daughter would we perve at then?
When he returns with his wife, heâs clearly extolled the virtues of the mango wood table a little too enthusiastically. She regards it with the same distrust wives have for husbandsâ sudden love of unlistenable chart-topping hits â that happen to be performed by impossibly proportioned, near-naked nymphets. Sheâll roll her eyes whenever heâs sprung looking at it longingly. This leaves no option but the Tassie oak â a fitting punishment, as far as sheâs concerned, since heâll be forever consigned to the Sisyphean task of running up and down the length of it whenever they entertain.
Except he wonât. Because they donât want a table.
But donât imagine that theyâre done.
Heâll 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?
âSir,â Iâll politely point out, more to the clock on the wall than to him. âHappy as I am to determine the price of something you definitely donât want, wouldnât it be more helpful to determine the price of something you might actually want?â
But thatâs just it: he doesnât actually want a table.
Nowâs the time. Not to close the store â that was twenty minutes ago â but to have some fun. This is where Iâm compelled to offer the customer the impossible discount: a sale price so good that heâd be a fool not to take it and Iâd be an idiot to show my face in the store again even if my employer was too stupid to sack me. âBut,â Iâll add, as I stand with the purchase order form in one hand and the key to the door in the other, âyou have to buy it now. Before you leave.â
âUmâ¦â theyâll reply, clearly torn, their world standing still for just a moment. âLet me go home and think about itâ¦â
Lucky me, I get to keep my job. They just donât want a table.