Last week while shopping at Home Depot, a nice lady struck up a conversation with us, and proceeded to ask if we’d ever had our water tested before. Would we be interested? It’d take about an hour, and Home Depot would give us a $20 gift card for our trouble.
Oh sure, we figured, we’d not had our home water tested before. And yeah, we expected a sales pitch about some water treatment system, but whatever. And we can always use a $20 Home Depot card.
The night before our scheduled appointment we got a phone call from a call center confirming our appointment, making sure multiple times over that yes, both Becky and I were going to be home at that time, and then asking a series of questions that really didn’t have anything to do with our home water solution. Becky answered as few as she could and then hung up the phone. We ended up having to call back to reschedule, and we ended up on the calendar then for 4 pm Monday.
At five minutes until 4 the lady we had met at Home Depot knocked on our door with her three briefcases of equipment. Guess we tried to cut it too close by giving the girls a bath, but hey, who ever shows up early for an appointment? So, we rushed the girls out of the tub and set them up with an hour-long TV show.
We sat down at the kitchen table and she told us briefly about her company, RainSoft. Then came the water testing. The kitchen sink didn’t quite work to hook up her little mini-water-treater, so we all huddled in the bathroom as she ran a battery of tests. I knew she was getting verbose, but next thing I knew we were still running tests and it was 5:30. That’s right, 90 minutes, and we weren’t even close to getting the sales pitch. She did let us taste a bottle of their tasty drinking-water-treated water, though.
Finally the tests were nearing completion, so she set us down and worked us through her little notebook-driven pitch, warning of bad things like acid rain (didn’t that get debunked at least a decade ago?), chlorine (“many water systems have more than is safe for a swimming pool!” oh, guess what, we don’t have any in our water), and other nasty chemicals that can cause bad things. (Guess what: we don’t have those, either.) Her sources were as reliable as Women’s World magazine articles from the late 1980’s can be. Eventually we found out that our water is very hard (which we already knew), but otherwise safe.
So then it was time for the sales pitch. It was as bad as a TV infomercial. Guess what? They normally charge $300 for installation. But they’ll waive that today. Then the price of the unit is $4000. And, oh, by the way, you don’t really need the drinking water filter, so how about a home air filtration system instead? Normally it’s $2000, but how about today’s special deal: it’s only $1000! What a great deal! (I would’ve really liked the air filtration system about the time she walked in the door – she must’ve been smoking in her car all the way here. The dining room smelled of smoke for 30 minutes after she left!)
Then she “ran the numbers”. Here’s what a typical family spends on cleaning supplies. You won’t need to spend that much at all because of your soft water. Oh, and we’ll give you a long supply of soap so you won’t need to buy any at all. Here, Chris, you run the calculator. Are you with me on these numbers? They make sense, right? Here, so see? You can get our deal for only $99/month. You’ll actually be saving money! Don’t believe us? We have this free coupon program we’ll toss in free for 5 years, too! Just as a special gift!
It was nearly 7 pm when we had finally convinced her it didn’t matter how rosy her numbers were, we weren’t about to open up a $5000 line of credit to buy the thing tonight. She sullenly packed her bags and audaciously asked for the names and phone numbers of 5 homeowning friends who she might be able to contact. “As a favor to” her, she said. She’d get a gas voucher if we gave her names. We declined.
So, if you’re our salesman reading this, here are some helpful tips for how to make a sale to this cynical engineer next time:
- Be on time and don’t go past the time you said you’d take. I have three hours between the time I get home from work and when my kids go to bed. Don’t take all of them. Did you ever wonder when we were going to eat supper?
- Don’t make us feel like we’re doing you a favor by listening to your pitch. We don’t owe you anything.
- Don’t use the old bait-and-switch. Sure, the nifty specially-filtered bottled water tastes good. But then you didn’t recommend it for us. And you didn’t let us taste the normally-filtered water. Tsk tsk.
- Be up-front about the costs, including the financing. I’m a pretty sharp guy, I know how the numbers work. You preach $99/month up front, but when I ask “for how many months?”, you finally admit that it’s just a $99/month minimum payment on a line of credit that charges 17.99% interest. That’s 8 years at $99/month. Ouch.
- Don’t try to rush me into a sale. Seriously, you’re asking me to make a snap decision, without doing any other research, on a $5000 system? In 10 minutes while you’re here staring at me? If it’s a good value today, it’ll be just as good a value tomorrow. If not, you’re trying to pull one over on me. For shame.
- Don’t try to talk circles around my wife. Yeah, she was struggling trying to verbalize her objections to the deal. But making her feel stupid because she doesn’t see it your way? Bad form. A little hint: if I have to choose between my wife and you, she’s gonna win every time and twice on Sundays. Be glad it wasn’t a Sunday.
- If you’re really trying to sell a product, leave some literature behind in case I change my mind. You didn’t even leave as much as a business card tonight. That gave me the idea that you were only in it for the quick sale tonight, and not interested in the long-term cultivation of a customer.
Now, what have I learned? Maybe I should’ve just turned down the test in the first place. But really, is there some unspoken social contract that obliges me to purchase the product because I invited the salesperson into my home to make their pitch? I didn’t think so. In the future I’ll stick to doing my research on the internet and proactively contacting vendors when I want to make a purchase, thank you very much.