Sunday, December 10, 2006



Several years ago, a relative just out of college got a sales job with a cookware company. He asked my wife and me if he could come to our house to "practice his sales pitch." We wanted to help him out, so we said, "sure, no problem."

He came over with glossy catalogs and other promotional materials, and proceeded to give a presentation that seemed very scripted and lasted about a half hour. At the end of the presentation, and with some fanfare, he revealed that the price of the starter set — and you had to buy the whole set — was over three thousand dollars!

Then he asked us — for real, not for practice — if we were interested in purchasing a set. No way! He gave some lame, cliche justifications for the price ("with all the health advantages and cost-saving features of this cookware, you actually save money") and applied some pressure ("this deal is only available today").

So the idea was to hoodwink us — his aunt and uncle who had given him gifts or money for his birthday every year, and a nice sum for his graduation. I don't know if it was he or his employer who thought up the deception, but isn't this a microcosm of something that goes on every day? Using questionable tactics (including bombarding children with advertisements in every conceivable venue) to get people to buy as much stuff as possible? Isn't it sort of degrading all around to reduce friends, family, and people in general to sources from which you try to extract maximize revenue?

For the record, I had bought four pieces of cookware by FarberWare (if I may drop the name) — three pots and one pan — about fifteen years before the high-powered sales pitch. I do most of my cooking on them, and they'll probably last me the rest of my life — and after that, they may serve someone else for many years.

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