Wednesday, September 02, 2009


I've been a lifelong sufferer of Treppenwitz, or "L'esprit de l'escalier" (staircase wit). The phrase comes from walking down a staircase to leave a place and suddenly thinking of the perfect thing to say. "Yeah? Well the jerk store called..." That sort of thing. 

I'm always thinking of the perfect thing to say days after the opportunity to use it has passed. But there's no chic-sounding french phrase that roughly translates to, "A week after missing a great chance to say something witty, you come up with a clever retort while watching House Hunters, slightly drunk, in your pajamas."

Anyway, when I asked a salesman the price of something the other day, instead of just telling me, he said, "I can be flexible on the price. What are you looking to spend?"

Note: I hate haggling. I'm terrible at it, I don't enjoy it on any level, and i would prefer things to simply have a set price. 

"Um, well how much does it cost? Then I'll see if that's what I want to spend."

So he goes, "This is the price I can do." And he slid the number over to me.

It was a scene straight out of a bad TV show where negotiations are made by writing down a figure and passing it back and forth to each other to work out a price. Only, I didn't want to do this. And, instead of like in those TV shows where the numbers are written down on paper, folded in half and passed across the table, this number exchange happened on, wait for it, a calculator.  

A calculator! Who has ever heard of a calculator haggle?! There was no one around us, there was no reason to be secretive, and it was totally pointless to not just say the number. Did he expect me to type a number back to him? Fighting an eye-roll with every bit of my being, I thanked him and started to walk away.

"Wait, what number were you thinking?" (This guy would make a terrible magician.) 

I was tempted to play along because I thought it might be fun to say something like, "I'm thinking of something closer to... this." But I wasn't sure how calculator haggling worked so I just said, "It's OK, thanks anyway."

But of course, today, in true staircase fashion, I thought of how funny it would have been to take the calculator, squint like I was thinking of a fair price, clear his number away, and type BOOB, before passing it back to him.  It was probably the only real opportunity I will ever have to type BOOB on a calculator and I missed it. Sorry, third grade version of me. I let you down. 


Criss L. Cox said...

My husband and I were car-shopping a while back, with THE WORST SALESMAN EVER.

I clearly stated, repeatedly, that I DID NOT want a PT Cruiser, but he kept trying to sell us one.

We asked about price, and he told us to name a price/monthly payment. We didn't want to; he insisted that whatever monthly payment we could make, they could work with us, no matter how low it was. So we gave him our desired mothly payment.

He laughed at us.

Jess said...

See that's what i don't get. When asked to name a price, my initial response is always to say, "a dollar."

That's why I never name a price.

But if people are going to insist that you name a price, even after you've said you don't want to, and then get offended by an offer of a dollar, well, then they should have listened to you in the first place.

Also, that's really funny about the PT Cruiser. It speaks to the problems the American auto industry is facing that people use, "I don't want a PT Cruiser" as an opening line with salesmen.

"Well, we basically just sell household appliances here, so that's not even an option."
"OK, but just so we're clear. I don't want one."

Anonymous said...

Do you think your initial offer of one dollar comes from your love of "The Price is Right"? Haggeling is very much like the price is right. You want to get close to the real price without going over. When in doubt, just bet a dollar, OR type BOOBS and run.

Jess said...

OK, well, that's hilarious.

I didn't even think of the PIR, but that's got to be why.

But I literally just laughed out loud at that, so thanks.