Note: While I usually keep my posts around 1,000 words, this one tops out at over 2,000. I’m sorry for the length but it was necessary in order to properly tell this story. If you’re able to make it through, I think you’ll agree it was worth the extra time.
Last night at approximately 6:00pm, a window salesman knocked on the door. Nearly three hours later he left, without selling any windows. If you have a few minutes, would you mind if I described to you what transpired during that time?
“Sure Sportsjim81! Fire away.”
Thanks, and feel free to call me Jim…I think we’re on a first name basis by now.
“Cool, thanks Jimbo!”
Hmm…taking some liberties I see. Fair enough, at least you’re reading. Ok, back to the story. Last week, Jen and the kids made a trip to BJ’s to pick up the essentials, in bulk quantities. Somewhere between the 5 gallon tubs of pickles and the cinderblocks of cheese, a woman with a clipboard approached her with a “special offer”. Normally, I don’t have to worry about Jen getting suckered into things like this. She handles these situations as most of us do…pretending not to hear or see the person and simply walking right past them. I can only assume that she was a bit off her game this day, as the woman corralled her with the possibility of a free trip to some far off land.
She filled out some paperwork and was instantly entered to win! Of course, she would receive a phone call later that day from the sponsor of the contest, a window company, for a free, no-obligation estimate. Sure enough, the phone call came. Jen explained that we absolutely, positively were not going to purchase new windows anytime soon, but they insisted on sending someone out to give us our estimate. This brings us to last night.
The timing of his arrival couldn’t have been worse as we were in the midst of a battle royale with Iz over her weak attempt at eating dinner. The house looked as it typically does after 11 hours of puzzles, magnets, crayons and diaper changes; in other words not ideally suited for company. Alas, company was about to arrive.
He introduced himself as Willy Loman. Ok, that’s not true, but I don’t want to use his real name here in case this somehow gets back to him. I mean he knows where I live, after all. Anyway, I’m choosing to call him Willy Loman because if I was going to re-write the classic novel “Death of a Salesman”, this guy would be the basis for the main character. A large, older man, probably mid to late 60’s, standing a shade over 6 feet and a few cheeseburgers shy of 3 bills; he made his way inside carrying several bags and a suitcase of sorts that looked like what a magician would put his assistant in before sawing her in half.
Jen’s Dad arrived for a visit with the kiddies shortly after Willy, which was perfect since he was able to keep them occupied while we listened to what I assumed would be a short sales pitch. We sat down at the kitchen table and he took out a questionnaire from his briefcase. He began asking us questions about our current windows such as what material the frames were made of and what type of glass was used. I, being such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to home improvement projects, answered most questions with, “Hmm, you know I’m not really sure.”
We told him which windows we would want to replace, if we decided to replace them at all, and took this opportunity to make sure he knew that we were absolutely, positively not going to purchase new windows this night. He shrugged it off like a batter who’d just been brushed back with an inside fastball and asked if he could do a quick test on them. He asked me to stand outside and place my hand on the window while he shined a heat lamp on it from the inside.
“Can you feel any heat?” He called from inside the house.
“Yeah, I can feel it.” I replied.
Seemed like a simple test and I started to head back in when I noticed he had moved the heat lamp about 3 inches to the left and was gesturing for me to touch the window again.
“Can you feel the heat now?” He asked.
“Wow, I can, yeah.” I said sarcastically, as if by moving the lamp the length of a mini-golf pencil was going to change anything.
We repeated this exercise no less than 14 times for each window on the first floor. Thankfully, he had accepted the fact that we were not interested in replacing the upstairs windows at all, so we only had to perform this procedure on 3 different windows. By the way, if you’re keeping track at home, that’s 42 “Can you feel the heat now?” questions. He measured the windows and we headed back to the kitchen. At this point, the quick estimate I assumed we would receive, had already taken about an hour. The real fun, however, was only just beginning.
He reached into his other bag and pulled out two binders; one was his sales presentation and the other, articles from newspapers and magazines about the horrors of choosing the wrong contractor. He began his pitch by flipping over the cover page of his binder and reading, line by line, every word on the page. Sensing this was going to take a while, Jen subtly mentioned that the kids were getting tired and we would have to move this along. Now, I’m not a salesman and have never studied the art of making a sale, but I can tell when someone is interested in something and when they’re not. Again, our inside heat didn’t faze Willy as he replied to Jen’s comment with, “I’m going as fast as I can.”
As he proceeded to go point by point through each of the 37 pages of his presentation, there came a point when Jen and I began to accept the fact that this man was not going anywhere. We made eye contact across the table and acknowledged to each other the humor we found in this production. As if she had willed it to happen, Jake suddenly started to cry in the other room and Jen quickly excused herself to go check on him. I cursed her with my stare, but she felt no guilt leaving me with big Willy. He paused for a moment and offered to wait for Jen to return, but I
begged asked him to go on.
After what seemed like hours, but was at least 45 minutes or so, Willy proudly ended his presentation. Unfortunately, his pitch was not complete. He stood up and walked over to his other bag. His once neatly tucked, button-down shirt, now desperately trying to free itself from the confines of his pants, was halfway out and his bushy, wiry eyebrows could no longer be tamed. I suddenly had a great deal of respect for this man as he had to know he was not going to make a sale, yet he continued on with everything he had. I couldn’t ask him to leave at this point. I had to let him finish.
He returned to his chair with several miniature versions of window panes and frames and proceeded to give me a not-so-brief history of the window.
“You see this here?” He began. “This piece of glass has been around since the middle ages.”
I wanted to ask him if he meant that exact piece, but I held back and simply nodded my head in astonishment. He then turned on his trusty heat lamp and asked me, once again, to feel the opposite side of the glass for heat. Shockingly, I could feel it. He then paraded out 3 other samples of glass that have been used in windows throughout history, each time performing the same heat test. With each version of the window, I could feel less and less heat. I could also feel where he was going with this little dog and pony show and so I anxiously awaited the big finish.
“Now take a look at this,” he said, proudly presenting the sample of his company’s window. “This is the newest and most advanced window pane on the market.”
He held his heat lamp on one side and nervously watched as I placed my hand on the other. His look told me he wasn’t 100% sure that his experiment was going to work, but after holding my hand there for a moment (you know, to build the anticipation), I confirmed that I could not feel any heat.
“So, what do you think of that…pretty cool huh?” He said smugly.
Cool indeed Willy, cool indeed. I agreed and prayed we had made it to end of this charade but my prayers fell on deaf ears as he once again stood up and moved to the last of the cases he had brought with him. This suitcase was actually a display of sorts with a replica version of their window inside. He performed some complex maneuvers with clasps, hinges, and snaps and in moments had assembled the window for our viewing pleasure. Perhaps he thought that seeing the real thing, in person, would sway us into signing a contract on the spot. Unfortunately for Willy, this was not the case.
After indulging him for several more minutes with oohs and aahs over the many features the window possessed, he asked if we had any other questions. Finally, an opening. Jen and I, almost in unison, declared, “How ‘bout the price?”.
“Sure, no problem, I can work that up for you.” He said. “Just give me a few minutes.”
At this point, a few minutes seemed inconsequential considering he had already spent over two and half hours in our home. Jake had long since gone to bed and Izzy was fading fast so Willy kindly offered to wait at the kitchen table for us while we put her to bed. I almost expected to come back downstairs and find he had made us some sort of late night snack. I was shocked when we returned to the table and no ice cream or cookies were there waiting for us.
I suppose after investing all this time and feeling almost sorry for this kind, old man, we could have been susceptible to a great deal. After several more minutes of calculations, he hit us with the damage. $5,450!!! For 3 freakin’ windows! Any pity I may have felt for the guy, quickly went out the still standing window display when I saw the numbers. We didn’t hesitate one second. We explained to him for the umpteenth time that we were absolutely, positively not going to buy any windows right now. It seemed that our steadfast declaration had finally sunk in but as he packed up his presentation, he made one last-ditch effort to make the sale.
He placed a call to his corporate office to “see if there were any other appointments for him” and began explaining to someone on the other end that he was about to leave our home.
“Yes, I’m just getting ready to leave the Chaney’s and they say that they just can’t afford new windows right now. Is there anything else we can do for them?” He asked.
Jen and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes, and waited for the new “no one else is getting this deal” price. I was genuinely surprised however, when he hung up the phone and explained that this was their best price. We confirmed once more that it just wasn’t going to work out right now and he shook our hands and headed out into the night. I closed the door behind him, glanced at the clock that read 8:49pm, and without so much as a single word, Jen and I began hysterically laughing. I explained to her that she was no longer allowed to speak to anyone with a clipboard and that I would be bringing this up as ammunition against her for years to come. She reluctantly accepted this punishment and we attempted to make sense of the 3 hours we just lost.
I admit, I felt bad for Willy as I watched him pack up his things and drive away. I have no doubt though that someday, somewhere; someone will be captivated by his heat lamp and stories of glass in the time of The Crusades. He’s a salesman, that Willy Loman, and a damn good one at that!