The Boring Word About Sales Gimmicks

May 22, 1985

When I answered the telephone recently the voice on the other end said, “remember that $1,000 drawing you registered for at the mall a few weeks ago?” While my adrenaline rose I searched my memory but could only come up with a vague recollection of a free dozen doughnuts, a ten speed bicycle and several cabbage patch dolls.

Noting my silence the caller told me my name and address, which I quickly verified. Then she said, “well, you are still eligible for that $1,000 drawing which will take place in June, but each week we are having a drawing and you have won a free rug shampoo for one room in your home.”

By this time my conversation had taken precedence over the Cosby Show and my daughter proudly owned up to entering my name for the drawing.

I was assured I would be under no obligations, just prepare a room for a shampoo. Thinking of my old carpet in the family room, which hadn’t come in contact with the local hardware store’s shampooer for a couple years, but which had an intimate relationship with a cat, dog, litter of puppies and several dripping ice cream cones, I set a date and time for the free cleaning.

Enthusiastic Sue and her machine arrived right on schedule and together demonstrated a “miraculous” cleaner that did just about everything but sing the kids to sleep.

My children watched in amazement as Sue changed parts in a flash making the machine sand wood, massage backs, clean furniture, drapes, and, of course carpets. Each time she cleaned something she proudly took out the filter to show us how dirty our family room was.

Asking to see my vacuum cleaner (which was sitting nearby since I had just vacuumed the dirty old rug) she demonstrated how inefficient, inadequate and outdated my two-year-old model was.

Then, pouring salt on my carpet, she asked me to vacuum it with my machine. As I carefully cleaned the spot several times my daughters grew more excited in anticipation of seeing their mother proved to be an inefficient, inadequate and outdated housekeeper.

As Sue picked up the salt with her ‘miracle worker’ she said, “don’t you think you should have one of these? For only $900 this can be yours.”

After explaining that amount was not in my budget, nor was the lesser amount she next quoted me, Sue sighed and said, “but I only need one more sale to fill my quota to be in line for a promotion.” The pleading looks on the faces of my girls led me to say “I’m very sorry.”

Sue then asked, “will you just fill out this form with twenty names, addresses and telephone numbers of your friends so I can contact them?” Putting on my most indignant expression I told her I could not possibly give her that information, after all I was just supposed to be getting a free rug shampoo, which still had not been done.

Sue, with a little less enthusiasm, began to prepare to shampoo the rug while I retreated to another part of the house with my children, who were near tears over the plight of sad Sue.

Both girls listened wide eyed to an explanation about gimmicks and sales pitches. When we returned to the family room, which is, according to Sue a hazard to our health because of the dirt our vacuum leaves behind, she was just finishing the carpet and a cigarette.

I wasn’t sure if my first-grader fully understood what was going on until she leaned toward me as Sue was leaving and asked, “can I tell my teacher about this trick?”