Sunday, July 29, 2007
We went to go buy a sectional a few days ago. Now that we are out in the burbs, we have enough room for furniture that is not featured in the latest dystopian sci-fi film with a good-on-paper but terrible-in-practice brainwashing authoritarian regimes and limitless seas of white people dressed in grey. Films that illuminate the unreachable spark of the human soul and how the bastions of technology and society will never breach it, nay, not in a thousand years, not in a thousand million years, and definitely not with shock troopers that have been creatively garbed using 3 gallons of white spray paint and a $57 spent at the army surplus store.
In fewer words, we can now afford furniture that can fit more than two petite, overly polite exchange students.
So we went to the area around town that sells furniture: it has great edifices built on the idea that industrial warehouses can be semi-attractive and not depressing at all furniture showrooms. Never mind the exposed metal rafters overhead, or the fact that the waste incinerator is a scant 30 meters away. No, keep your eyes downward. To the richly textured laminate flooring which expertly reflects the more boring hits from the 70's, 80's (and the tamer parts of the 90's) piping from two tinny speakers across the vastness of the warehouse.
I mean showroom.
And it's not enough to have one of these monstrosities. No, we have to have several of them. All in a row. Which gives one the silly impression that maybe there are savings to be had. Large showrooms brings to mind bulk sales, which brings to mind vaguely shoddy furniture at deep deep discounts.
You would be wrong, of course. They aren't any cheaper. The stores managed to maintain whatever sliver of pretension they had; before they became enormous repositories of dark green corduroy barcaloungers that will never be as valuable as your father-in-law cherishes it in-between rousing NFL plays.
Salespeople hover nearby, dressed three times better then you even at your own funeral. They dote. They question. They cajole. But not too much. They don't lay it on thick. They know today's internet-ipod-community -sourced-edgey -XGen-progressively -forwardly-backpatible-yuppie -ecowarriors are wise to the old plays. The motormouth listing of features. Grandiose comments on luxury and nefarious claims on 'quality'. No no no. That won't due. For the consumer nowadays knows what Finnish village the lumberjack grew up in who happened to fell the particular white spruce that makes up the main supporting frame of the ottoman. They know price per yard of this or that fabric. They know the commission rate of the sale-peoples, the latest benefits to be cut from the warehousing staff, and the why light mauve will NEVER be the 'new black'.
And so we trudged, we walked, we marched through all the stores. Comparing, squeezing, measuring. We were treated with distance.
Particularly in the stores that were for only the upscale clientele. The ones with ostentatious chandeliers (are there ever un-ostentatious chandeliers?) and salespeople who look too well monied and well-bred to be working at all, and perhaps work the job every odd Thursday as a lark, and to get away from Odessa Wordsworth, who simply won't stop crowing about her latest small slam at that bridge tournament three months prior. In places like this, ordinary furniture has prices of biblical proportions. A child's bookcase can run a full $1500. One thousand five HUNDRED dollars! All to carry a few completely ignored toys, one beloved stuffed teddy bear from the latest cartoon, and a single book that is read, by memory, every single night.
So those stores we quickly run from. But the rest, no matter how different their branding is, always manages to be the same inside. The same couches, the same salespeople, hedging around you, making sure not to tread on any well-known and well trodden booby trap. Respecting the customer, letting the customer come to them.
It got tiring.
On our last trip, to the last store, in the Great Big Furniture Store Block of Massiveness, we were met, or, er, intercepted, by a salesman. Not a salesperson. A salesman. Because when he started his career, there were only men on the floor. They smoked cigarettes and made disparaging remarks about the 'damn pinko ruskies'. They wore one type of glass frame (horn rimmed with enough plastic to withstand the shrapnel from a point blank grenade) if they did at all. They had the same ranting discussions about baseball, or hockey, and somehow still managed to blame it on the 'commies'.
So this fellow intercepts us. His moustache and hair are dyed in what can only be described as a Black-Hole Black. So overly dyed that you can hear the screams from photons as they got sucked into the pigmentation. Light steadfastly refused to reflect off of the hair.
He takes one look at us. I'm not even sure if he breathes before he's off and running with his pitch. It's fast, it's furious. His arguments and points go up, around, does a little loop-de-loop, buzzs the control tower, then explode into several smaller, faster planes, which continue on their paths. He's confused, we're confused, but he continues on. He makes wild claims on quality, outrageous remarks about luxury. And although his speech is fast, it has an easy-going quality. One gets the impression he missed a very good living being a highly successful -- if FBI-sougt-after cult -- leader.
I look around, wondering if maybe we wandered on a used car lot without really knowing. But we haven't, and he isn't selling cars. He's selling us a fabulous sofa. It's ridiculously fabulous. Why is he even selling anything else? The showroom is a waste of space is what it is. Waste of space. This right here is top of the line. Better than (insert some sofa brand we supposedly know about) and much better than (insert another name, possibly a sofa brand, possibly a brand of unfiltered cigarettes). Hell, the material is (mention an arbitrary value, say, British Coinage Stamps per farthing).
It's hard not to get wrapped up. Luckily, he is selling a sort of good product. It's made by local furniture makers. It has a really good warranty. It, as the saying goes, practically sells itself. Which is either a testament to how conducive I am to slick devil-may-care salespeople, or a reflection on the very real sectional we'll be getting in 2 to 3 weeks.
Hey, maybe those dystopian sci-fi brainwashing films were onto something.