I’m about to shop for a new car. Ever since the “good Samaritan” jammed the gearshift in my 2004 Subaru in the process of towing my car, which had a dead battery caused by the body shop that left the back door open too long… Oh, wait. That’s another story. This story involves car salespeople and my futile dream of shopping for a car without ever talking to one.
I hadn’t thought about the car shopping experience until this past weekend, after my husband and I met another kind of salesperson: the photography studio portrait salesman. Here’s how that meeting came about. We had agreed to be photographed for a directory for an organization we belong to. However, when I signed us up, I was picturing the directory as a collection of selfies, not studio portraits.
Weeks ago, I booked our 10-minute appointment for this past Sunday. I was surprised to receive a confirmation a few days before the date advising me that the process would take an hour. This isn’t possible, I thought. We’re not talking about a complete wedding and reception package.
When it came to the taking of photographs the first communication was right: ten minutes was plenty. But then the photographer said, “We’ll move to the next room and I’ll have you look at the shots I took on my computer, so you can pick out the one you want for the directory. This one comes free, though some people like us to airbrush, remove age spots, fill in whatever needs filling in, and these changes do come at an extra cost. As we scroll through the photos, think of it as walking through a department store. You can look at everything, but you don’t have to buy.”
The process began like an eye exam. “Which of these do you like best, A or B? Now, between these, which do you prefer, C or D? It had the same effect on us as an eye exam. “Could you show us C again? D also?” Once we’d agreed on those choices, the sales pitch began. Displayed on a table and against the wall in the room were sample photos framed in heavy wood to make it easy for us to choose a photo or two or three beyond the free one for the directory. They came in billboard size, the size of the ceiling on the Sistine Chapel, and smaller — merely life-size — diptychs and triptychs.
“We don’t need any photos of us,” I said. “The directory photo is fine.” Ignoring me completely, the photographer then made suggestions of all the ways we might use any extra, framed ones we might purchase.
In desperation, my husband asked the cost of one simple, framed photo.
“Everything is cheaper if you buy more than one,” the photographer said, “so let’s look at some combinations first. If you buy these two singles with this threesome, you’ll be shocked at the savings.”
Forty-five minutes later, we were ready to buy every sample and all his equipment to get out of his lair. We settled on one framed photo, and after he made a point of doing a few trillion calculations — calculations which he probably knew by heart — which involved writing down all the amazing discounts we were receiving, we fled.
We almost went car shopping today, but memories of last Sunday caused us to do something fun instead. We needed time to forget the trauma of one salesperson before we faced another.