Last Thursday evening my door bell rung. Two men from a big UK window company stood there and informed me that they could see I had decent double glazed windows, but had I thought about a conservatory? I said I had (big enthusiastic smiles from them) and that in fact it had been finished just a few months ago (disappointment crossed both their faces). Ahh, but I’d not had my fascias, soffits and gutters done had I? (Big grins from both). I agreed I had not and was told that many of my neighbours had booked just appointments for a quote.
Now, I’m not a pushover and I normally politely say no thank you before shutting the door on these sorts of people – I am perfectly capable of finding reputable people to give me a quote when I decide I want one. But this day I’d not expected to see anyone and was standing in very short shorts (the sort never worn in public), and a very flimsy white vest top. And not a lot else. And there is only so long you can stand with your arms folded and keep your legs behind a door before you’re in danger of falling over. I agreed to an appointment for a quote on the basis that I would not be expected to sign or commit to anything. I was assured that neither would happen and that in fact the quote would be honoured for 12 months should I decide to go ahead.
So last night the salesman turned up. I made that very clear that I would not be buying anything and just wanted a quote. He did absolutely nothing wrong, but from a completely objective view his sales technique was quite clever. This isn’t really a funny post, but I wanted to tell you what he did as, had I been less objective, or a more vulnerable person, I’m pretty sure he’d have made a sale. And if you have a vulnerable relative or friend, maybe you will want to warn them.
- First he asked where he could sit. Nothing wrong with that except I was expecting him to whip out a tape measure and calculator, write down the price and leave. He actually had two cases, a folder of papers and an ipad. I sat him at my table rather than the sofa next to me, but the amount of space he took up was quite imposing.
- He then told me (in a very long winded way) that most appointments took 1.5 to 2 hours. I informed him that this one would not.
- He spent 10 minutes filling in a form with my name and address – something that possibly could have been done in the last 3 days – claiming that despite the fact he’d just driven here and greeted me with my full name, he’d forgotten the lot. He used this time to find out about me and, I think, establish some common ground.
- And then I was taken outside to be shown what would be replaced – fair enough, but all the while he was telling me that this would be a very cost effective house to do, he’d be able to give me a ‘good price’ etc. Subtle, but effective.
- And then the fun started. One of his cases turned out to hold a demonstration of what they actually did – this bit goes here, that bit goes there etc. In this demonstration it was explained to me that in a house the age of mine, the felt that goes under the tiles and protects from damp will have been pecked by birds, eaten by wasps or have rotted away, and that was if it had been done properly in the first place. And that meant that the damp would get in. And damp travels. By the time he’d finished the demo I was wondering if the timbers holding up the roof may actually be on the verge of disintegrating…
- …of course, they could fix it all and supply everything needed to make sure my house was completely protected. Of course they could. Other companies wouldn’t do all that to the same extent. Of course they wouldn’t.
- So I pushed for a price. Now remember, Pog Towers is the smallest house in the world, being a terraced bungalow. I’ve just measured the width and it’s about 4m 65cm (15ft 4) wide. Nothing needed doing at the back because of the conservatory, so I just needed one horizontal drainpipe, one vertical one and the boards around it. (With no measuring done, how can you do an estimate of this sort without knowing the dimensions?), but a lot more talking we finally got to the cost. £1784.
I have no idea if that is a good price or not (I suspect not), but I reminded him that I wasn’t buying anything, that I’d been told the quote was good for 12 months and I’d be in touch if I decided to go ahead. He then informed me that there was a price hike due in September and another around six months after that. They could probably hold the quote but he couldn’t be 100% sure. However, if I paid 10% now, that would guarantee I got the price he had just quoted…. I actually had a bit of a panicked thought that if my roof was on the verge of crumbling maybe I should write a cheque and work out where to find the money later. Even though I never intended to buy anything, a teeny part of me wondered if I was being daft not to just get on with it. Happily, a bigger part of me sat on that teeny part and shut it up.
I’m not a pushover as I said, but I do need to make an effort to be assertive and it took quite a lot stop him from talking about his cat, his long work hours and of course the benefits of his offer to get him to pack up and go. I had to stand up and open the front door and thank him for his time (!) before he got the hint. And that is when I knew I’d been right in not feeling comfortable. Norman cat started walking in the open door, saw the salesman and backed out with a quiet hiss. And Norman is never wrong about people :o)
So not a funny post – I’m sorry. But maybe it’s worth being aware of the subtleties of salesmen, – especially if you have a vulnerable friend or relative.
Or get them a Norman so they’re warned of undesirables. A guard cat, if you like :o)
PS: This man was definitely not as bad as the washing machine delivery man who used my mobile number (which he had as part of the sales information) to text me to ask me out. And no, I didn’t :o)