My choice of therapy has never been of the retail variety. I’m not a shopper. There are many reasons why, some of which include the fact that I’m not good at making decisions (you can read more about that in my book, Changing Lightbulbs), I feel guilty that I have some money available to spend on stuff while so many people are in need, and, less altruistically, I would rather do just about anything else, including clean the toilet and scrub the bathroom grout with a toothbrush. (My husband also claims I’m tight with money, but it’s not my fault I come from a small town in Northern Ireland known for the frugality of its residents).
Is it just me or is every salesperson programmed to tell us that he has recently bought the product we are interested in, or bought it for his Mum, or his sister, or his neighbour’s cousin’s friend? I’d love to test that out. I’d love to set up a few friends to go and ask the same sales person in the same shop on the same day about a different brand of oven, or fridge or microwave and see just how many identical electrical items he or she has in his or her home.
Before I launch into the start of my kitchen saga, the start of what I know will be a very long saga – we are aiming for a completion date in May but that could be overly optimistic – does anyone know anyone who has ever taken Bunnings up on their offer to beat any stocked item by 10% if they find it cheaper somewhere else? Does anyone ever do that? I’ve been hearing that promise for nearly 20 years and I’ve never tried it out. (For non-Australian readers, Bunnings is a chain of ubiquitous hardware stores.)
I hear it a lot at this time of year as I love to watch the tennis, which always heralds a proliferation of Bunnings ads. They haven’t changed for 20 years. Clearly they see no need to employ Todd Sampson or Russell Howcroft or Sammy Hall (a girl I taught who is destined for marketing greatness – also featured in my book Changing Lightbulbs) to boost their brand or revamp their image. They are happy to bore us shitless with salespeople in green and red aprons and their annoying price guarantee that no one ever bothers to check out.
Not that there is anything wrong with the salespeople. I am sure they are very nice, even if they never seem to know which aisle has those special screws you are looking for, and the area they are standing around in always seems to be someone else’s area of responsibility.
Maybe now is the time. Maybe now is the time to scour every hardware store within a 50 mile radius in search of that cheaper stocked item. What a triumph it would be to arrive at Bunnings holding one’s purchase aloft, claiming that extra 10% discount.
Blimey; clearly I have too much time on my hands and need to get out much much more.
So the kitchen renovation is approaching, not fast, but approaching nonetheless and I’m getting a little twitchy. We’ve found some nice kitchen people to design a flowing, contemporary yet timeless space, a classic space with a modern twist in which to chop and cook and create, a 21st century space that maximises storage and bench space, a space with wow factor in spades, a space to impress all who enter with its beauty, style, clever attention to detail and subtle blends of colour and texture.
At our first meeting with the nice kitchen people we talk a little about appliances. They recommend we get a combi steam oven as well as a normal oven. They are all the rage don’t you know, so very on trend. So off we trot to have a look in a well known appliance store owned by a man who I think has something to do with Fremantle football club. Nice man it seems. Does his own ads. Well known around Perth.
So ‘hello friendly salesperson’ we say,’we’d like to look at combi steam ovens.’ ‘Of course nice naïve people’ says the friendly salesperson, ‘come with me. This is the best combi steam oven you can get. European of course.’ Well, it’s Swiss actually and Switzerland is not part of the European Union, I think, so can it really count as truly European? But I Iet that one go, being the well brought up girl I am and not wanting to interrupt our friendly salesperson mid-sentence.
He proceeds to run us through the controls, the functions and the settings, pushing a bewildering array of knobs, twisting numerous dials, and peppering his explanations with seemingly scientific details about moisture and dryness and crispness and softness until my eyes glaze over and I have a sudden urge to flee from the shop in search of a nice fire pit in the ground over which to cook my sausages. One setting only. Fire or no fire. Lit or not.
But I resist the urge to flee and try to engage nice friendly salesman (I’ll call him NFS for short) in conversation. He not so good at the listening part of conversation. Very keen to keep bombarding us with facts. My husband eyes are wandering around the shop. He has that look of desperation in his eyes that I know so well. Not his eyes, of course I know his eyes pretty well, the look of desperation I mean. NFS keeps talking.
‘I have this at home,’ he tells me. ‘Once you’ve had this brand of oven you’ll never want anything else.’ ‘So,’ I ask hesistantly, ‘what kind of price are we looking at?’ thinking that since this is the best oven on the market right now we might need to venture into the four figure kind of amount, but only just.
Well strewth and strike me pink (I’m exploring more creative ways of expressing astonishment, dismay and outrage – my husband tells me I use a certain four letter expletive far too liberally), it’s the price of seven return flights to London at the current Emirates sale price. Economy tickets, but still… It’s the price of a very reliable second hand car with one careful owner. The price tag of this miracle-working steam combi oven I see before me would provide months, if not years, of sustenance to thousands of people in famine blighted parts of the world. Hmmm.
Maybe I could find lots of items cheaper than the stocked items at Bunnings, claim that extra 10% discount and save it up over a period of say, 20 years, and then I might just have gathered a deposit together for the best steam combi oven on the market. I smile and nod. Right, OK. ‘So what else is there so we can compare brands?’ I ask foolishly. Do I never learn?
I discover that his brother has such and such a brand, his sister has last year’s model and is very happy with it and he has just bought another brand for his mother. So we have all bases covered. Whatever I buy, I will be owning something tried and tested by NFS’s entire family.
One hour later, my husband is stabbing himself with a fork he found lying around the demonstration kitchen while pondering the possibilities offered by the gas oven in front of him, and I am so weighed down with brochures and mentally weighed down with facts and figures and functions and settings that nothing short of a 10 day Ayurvedic retreat will unclutter my cluttered mind.
We return home and pour ourselves a stiff G & T, contemplate the meaning of life and fail miserably to find the answer.
What is the moral of this story? Not sure. Be happy with what you’ve got? Never ever go into a virtually empty kitchen appliance showroom? Sell everything, opt out of this first world life and volunteer overseas for the next 5 years? Don’t have a kitchen and eat out all the time? Buy your kitchen at Bunnings? Please send me your answers on a postcard, (anyone remember Blue Peter?) or email email@example.com
In the meantime, we’ve booked ourselves onto a cooking demonstration featuring the best combi steam oven currently on the market. Food provided. Clearly we are gluttons for punishment.
If you enjoyed this tale and would like to read more, you can subscribe to my blog. There is no cost and you can opt out anytime. To get in touch or order my books email firstname.lastname@example.org or use the contact form on my website. I would love to hear from you.