Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Hidden Underbelly of Home Ownership

Home ownership is awesome. I mean, we have no more apartment number, no shared walls or ceilings, we don't have to have designated parking spots, a patch of grass, or nearly 360 degree views of parking lots and a line of vision into other people's apartments and their mundane lives. We don't have to retrieve our mail with a key, keep the music down, and we rarely use the term 'landlord' any more.
Every other homeowner failed to warn us of an aspect we would have no way of knowing about otherwise, and thus no retort or recourse. I am talking about salesman. I don't know what else to call them.

First it was a couple of months ago when I completed a short telephone survey about our water, and thus received a free water test. The Caller ID said Carolina Water Systems, and based on that and their questions, I naively assumed that it was the City of Charlotte, and it's water service we were discussing. So I scheduled our water test for one evening, prepared for a few minutes, half hour at best with a city serviceman equipped to merely assess the quality of our drinking water. Oh, we got a lot more than I bargained for. Who really came to our door was a charming representative of 'Rain Soft' water treatment company. We all sat down at the table and reviewed a 3-ring binder version of a power point presentation on way more than I care to know about our water, what's in it, and what it's doing to us. Then he carts in his various testing materials and proceeds through various tests designed to accurately portray the veritable poison that we wash our bodies, brush our teeth, and cook our food with. It was a very convincing demonstration. I learned how much soap was still in the laundry I had just done, how much soap I was wasting, how my tap water was stripping the natural oils from my skin and leaving a residue on my hair, shower, and anything else it came in contact with. We took a sip of his treated water and thought 'ok, whatever it tastes like water.' Oh, but then we had a sip of our own, untreated water. This time I could smell the chlorine. Afterwards he told us to run our tongue over our front teeth and tell him what it felt like- sandpaper! My teeth suddenly felt gritty and dirty having had the first taste of truly clean water in my life. I was convinced that I simply could not go on drinking my sandpaper water, wasting my money on soap products, and washing my hair with those contaminants ever again. (After all, he had promised no more bad hair days with the new water.) We had to have this system. So tell us, what's it going to cost us to save ourselves from a slow poisoning from within?
Our charming representative then gives another presentation on various payment options for this fine system. He calculates how much money we will be saving on soap products, and issues us a grocery-coupon program that could save us hundreds every month! Not being able to afford to pay it outright or put it on a credit card, we look at monthly installments over the next 5- 10 years. He actually has us considering this! What could I do? It was an investment in the health of my family. He went back and forth with his supervisor on the phone to work out a deal with us. I was waiting to hear 'So what's it going to take to get you into this fine model today?' 2 hours later he leaves and as soon as the door is safely shut behind him I breathe: 'I'm so glad we didn't buy any water.' before I even realized that I thought that. It was as if once he left and took his apparatus with him, the power or force with which we were bewitched departed also. Suddenly I could breathe easier, I wasn't afraid to say 'No' to the nice gentleman, and I didn't have any 10-year payment plans set up. Whew. That was a close one. (Although we weren't completely withdrawn from the idea, as his business cards is stuck to a remote area of my fridge, just in case anything changes...) Lesson learned.
Then two days ago a nice girl was going door-to-door to advertise various home improvement services and asked if we were interested in any of them. I had vague interest in a gutter guard system, as ours seem to be in pretty bad shape and we haven't had a chance to clean them yet. Next thing I know, Timm is on board and we have an appointment with someone to give us a quote. Or so I thought. This time it's Dan from Gutter Guardian- another very nice and likable fellow. We walk around the exterior of the house and he is equipped with only a flashlight. Then he goes to get something in his car. Nest thing I know we are all seated at the kitchen table, me wrenched from my Tuesday night ironing, having just gotten Bella to bed. Out comes the 3-ring binder power point on the thrilling topic of gutters, the debris that collects in gutters, and the many inventions that have failed to solve this problem in the past. We see 8 different examples of past attempts that he tries to affix to his gutter and reveal the shortcomings. As time goes on- and it was much more time than necessary to assert his rather simple point-I realize that this is again, much more than I bargained for. I thought someone would simply put a galvanized metal mesh thingee over our gutters and call it a day. You don't need presentations and demonstrations for just a metal thingee. Oh no, we learned all about the 'Smart Clip' technology and the many advances and innovations made to the gutter industry. Once again we had to discuss payment options that included a 4-year monthly installment. Timm seemed really excited about it. I was less thrilled than with the Water of Life, but regarded it with some interest as it was an asset to the home. Timm is enthusiastically signing us up for installation pending in early January with the option to change our minds so that we could lock in the discount offered only that night. Once again, 2 hours later, it is 10 o'clock and Timm and I are seeing this wonderful gentleman out the door. Before Timm has even closed the door he says 'I'm definitely saying No.' ?!@#$!
In summary, I wish someone had made us aware of the salesman vultures waiting to descend upon us, picking on our naivete like carrion. I'm not allowing anyone else into our home, I'm not saying yes to anything, and no we don't need the Charlotte Observer/yard care service/dog walker/ house painting/ roofing or any of the other service offers that have been extended to us these last 3 months. No, thank you.


Hannah said...

Heee...I miss these kinds of posts.

I completely agree with your assessment on the salesmen and thankfully never got to the point of seeing a power point on paper for why my water is going to kill me. I figure whatever they are selling, I can't afford anyway, so I am not going to waste my time.

But, I would rather have the salesmen that come with homeownership and have a choice to say no, than the water heater or other various things break where I don't have a choice in the matter and have to pay!

Bridget said...

LOL! I loved this post because I can relate so well. We were in our house just a few months when a traveling vacuum man comes to my door. I wasn't as good as you were and I bought the vacuum...BUT I did get it for $300 less than the 'sale price'! I did learn my lesson and say no to any and all door to door salesmen!

Diana said...

I guess there is one advantage to renting.
Nope I'd rather deal with the salesman and have a backyard .. yep!

michelle said...

Oh man. I have had several of these experiences as well. Like the guy who offered to come clean the high-traffic areas of our carpet. Then he ended up staying for 4 hours (while I was lying sick in bed) and trying to sell us a Kirby vacuum. I've been nearly sucked in by magazine sales, cleaning products, etc. Now you know why so many people have "No Soliciting" signs on their door!

Jill said...

These stories are so funny. I can totally imagine you guys sitting there listening to a long presentation wondering what you've gotten yourselves into. Next time you need to take some photos of the demo and possibly a group self-portrait of you and Timm with the salesman, at least you could have some good blogging fun with it.

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