Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Let Me Demonstrate

The custom here, whenever you buy an item that "goes", is that the shop keeper or employee will demonstrate that it actually works for you before you leave the store. This counts for everything from a battery operated travel alarm to a microwave oven.

It also means that your purchase will never be a "zip in, zip out" sort of affair. We had to buy quite a few things that "go" to set up house, and for each one, we got to hang out in the main part of the store and wait while a power strip, or battery, or whatever was located and then watch while they demonstrated all the speeds of the fan, all the features of the VCR, all the attachments of the little canister vacuum, the alarm, the speakers, the light bulb in the lamp, whatever.

It's a nice bonus, I guess, to know that your purchase will work when you get it home, and it protects the merchant from people returning and claiming it was broken when they bought it (you must give your approval with an emphatic and positive response once the item is demonstrated satisfactorily).

I bought two box fans a couple of weeks ago, and stood on the sales floor of an insanely busy department store called Melcom while a very nice sales woman patiently opened both boxes, plugged the fans in, one at a time, demonstrated three speeds, demonstrated the swivel movement, decided that one of the boxes was unsuitable (crushed, already opened, who knows?), sent it back to the warehouse, demonstrated the third fan, and waited for me to agree that they were certainly swell fans. After 40 minutes (four of which I spent actually choosing the fans), I was on my way home.

Last weekend, in the same store, we bought a small battery operated clock to set on the desk in the office. The guy got it out of the box, put in a battery, set it, let us see the sweep hand moving, set the alarm, waited for it to go off, removed the battery, replaced it in the box, and sold it to us for ¢10,500 (about $1.60). In America, his time alone would have been worth more than we paid for the clock.

The one time we didn't get a demo (the man showed it but didn't plug it in) was the one time we had to return an item. We had bought a small canister vacuum to do the area rugs. Once we got home, we realized that we had the body of one vac and the hose and attachments of another. They were not interchangeable. When we got back to the store, the poor man who had gotten the vacuum for us was upbraided loudly and often by at least three other people in the store, in Twi, so we couldn't understand what they said, but we got the general idea. Then they plugged in our vac, attached everything it had and proceeded to clean a little piece of carpet they had for just such occasions, first with the brush, then the crevice tool, then the smaller crevice tool, then the big cleaning head, then the upholstery tool, then on MAX, then on bare floor, then with the "turbo window" (a little vent that decreases the amount of suck for high pile carpets) opened and closed. Four employees, 50 minutes, and many apologies later, we were on our way!