The woman on the phone was friendly, polite, and persuasive. Her company sold air purifiers and would like to come to our house and show us one. The demonstration, she promised, would take no more than half an hour. There would be no pressure to buy. Oh, and by the way, just for taking the time to evaluate their product, we would receive as a gift a set of steak knives. "The same ones they use at Outback Steakhouse."
Having a fireplace, a wood stove, and some allergies, we had been considering getting an air filter. Besides, we could use some better steak knives. We made an appointment.
The young man who showed up at our door two days later was enthusiastic, friendly, and very good-looking. Also, apparently, strong, based on the number of big boxes he hauled in from his car.
The first thing he unpacked was the air purifier, ultrasonic or ionic or ironic or whatever it was. He also pulled out a handy-dandy little air quality meter. Its blinking red numbers, he explained, revealed the alarmingly high levels of unhealthy particles in our air.
He set up the air purifier in the bathroom, shut the door, and left it to scrub the air. I hoped it might scrub the tub and the sink while it was at it.
While we were waiting for the air to become pure, he started unpacking the remaining boxes and assembling—a vacuum cleaner. The nice young woman on the phone had not mentioned a vacuum cleaner. We had expressed no interest in a vacuum cleaner. Oh, but this one, he said, was actually a multi-filtration, super-sensitive, supersonic, sanitizing cleaning system.
We politely told him that was very interesting. We also pointed out that (a), we have mostly hardwood floors and (b), we employ a wonderful woman, with a vacuum cleaner of her very own, who comes in every other week to clean house. So (c), we were not even remotely interested in buying a vacuum cleaner.
He was undeterred. His machine was so spectacular, so much more effective than any merely mortal vacuum cleaner, that we simply had to see how it worked. It would only take a few minutes.
My partner, as he admitted after it was too late, was curious. Not about the machine itself so much as the sales pitch. I wasn't curious. Not in the least. But I was trying to be polite. Besides, I hadn't seen any sign of the steak knives yet.
So we let the nice young man demonstrate. He cleaned spots on the underside of the rug. He cleaned spots on the couch. He used up a couple of dozen white paper filters to prove to us just how dirty our house really was. (I've always wondered who decided that telling people they live in filth and squalor would be an effective sales technique.)
After a long, long time, he took his air quality meter into the bathroom, where the air filter had been working away. The meter—surprise, surprise!—showed almost no nasty particles in the air. I was disappointed to see that the sink and tub had not been scrubbed along with the air.
By now the 30-minute appointment had stretched to more than two hours. My partner's curiosity had long since been satisfied. Dinnertime was approaching. I was getting hungry, and when I get hungry I get irritable.
So maybe it wasn't the ideal time for the salesman to quote us the price. It was high. We said sorry, no. He went outside to "let us talk it over." We still said no.
He got mad. Turned out he was upset because we wasted his time. Excuse me? I didn't remember hearing us beg him to drag out his vacuum cleaner.
At least, before he packed up his stuff and left in a huff (well, actually, he left in a Honda Civic), he plunked the steak knives down on the table.
We've used the knives several times. They're okay. But next time we need any kitchen utensils, I think I'll just go to Wal-Mart.