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
different. Nobody wants to buy furniture. They certainly donât 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.
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
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.