Saturday, February 26, 2005

Adventures at Sam's Club

Somehow yesterday I found myself in a Sam’s Club. I hate shopping, but shopping there means it’ll be another year or so before I have to go buy toilet paper, which was the one item I couldn’t do without. A case of toilet paper and a few other items was all I had on my list. But then I got suckered in. The intercom invited everyone over to aisle 23, or something like that, for a free paring knife. Since I could always use another paring knife, I wandered over that way. "What was I thinking?" Of course, they weren’t just handing them out. "I’m in a store," for heaven's sake. They may say their goal is to save me money, but it’s really only to sell me stuff. So before I could get my paring knife, all the other suckers and I had to listen to a sales pitch for a whole bunch of knives. The salesman said to think of it as us getting paid to watch him work.

I started to walk away, but this guy was so bad I had to watch. He told his well-worn jokes without any sign of emotion and didn’t wait at all for a response, as if he was afraid they’d be none. He never even looked up at the gather crowd of paring knife lusters. We watched his super-duper knife cut tomatoes and hammers and assorted other stuff I’m always needing to cut in my kitchen. He asked who had seen such knives advertised on TV, but he never even looked up at the few brave or stupid enough to raise their hands. He just kept running his monologue. He was so bad, that he was funny.

His sales pitch had at least four false endings. He’d promised this would the last thing he’d show us, only to follow it with another demonstration about another knife he’d throw into the offer. The entire set of knives ended up being worth something equivalent to the national debt, but could be ours for only $29.95.

At first, his little demonstration ironically brought gladness to my heart. "Things could always be worst," I thought. "I could be a knife salesman in Sam’s Clubs." About half way though his pitch, I began to ponder if I could do a better job. I thought about wearing a few Band-Aids on my fingers. Nothing like a little visual aid as to the sharpness of the product. Then my thoughts became more sinister and somewhat sexist. I thought about focusing on selling the product to the best-dressed woman in the crowd. (This idea came from the playbook of a former boss who taught me what little I know about sales.) My hunch was that if he made such a sale, others, men and women, would quickly follow suit. But this guy was so clueless, he never connected with anyone in the crowd. I also thought that a useful trick would be to offer a Japanese hara-kiri knife in the set. But then, by the end of the show, there would have been a mass suicide on aisle 23. It would have been a mess, but then, there's always Mr. Clean.

To my surprise, a few sets of knives were sold. However, most of us exchanged our time for a flimsy paring knife. Afterwards, I quickly made my way to the checkout.


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