You Can't Beat this Deal!
I'd rather have root canal than shop for a new car. Seriously. With root canal, you have Novocain to blunt the pain; and you don't have to play that ridiculous game of price negotiation. It would be pretty weird if you did.
Picture this: Soft music surrounds you as you repose on a buttery-soft leather recliner. (Remember when you used to sit upright at the dentist's on cold, unyielding Naugahyde?) Enter the endodontist. He extends his hand.
"Hi! I'm Joe Jones. Here's my card. Glad to see you. It's a pleasure to meet a woman with good taste and intelligence."
"Hey! You chose us over the competition. Smart lady!"
"Ha, ha! And a sense of humor, too! That's great. I'm really going to enjoy doing business with you...Now, which one of our procedures are you interested in? Let me guess. I'll bet someone as discriminating as you has her heart set on our new top-of-the-line, four-canal job that we advertised in Sunday's Tribune Gazette--right?
"Well, I'd love it, naturally. But there's no way I can afford it. I don't have dental insurance..."
"Bummer! Well, how much are you planning to spend?"
"As little as possible; I'm on a pretty tight budget."
"Tell me about it. Tough times. But you're really in luck! Just this morning, we slashed the price on our popular two-canal procedure. Between you and me, the four-canal job is really overkill. Sure, it has a certain snob appeal; but that's not you. You're above that sort of thing. I can tell."
"Well, I don't know. Are X-rays and Novocain standard with the two-canal?"
"I knew you had a sense of humor! I like you, so I'm going to bend the rules and throw in the X-rays; but the Novocain is an option."
"$125!? That much?"
"Okay, okay! I'm a sucker for a good negotiator. My associate's not in today--when he finds out, he'll kill me--but I'm going to let you have the Novocain for $119.95. We're losing money at that price, but it's yours. Now, open wide!"
* * *
And suppose the same practices applied to clothing purchases? Scene two:
You're in your favorite department store looking for a new dress. You see one you like. The sticker price is $349. You gasp. A salesperson materializes before you can escape to the "Clearance" rack.
"I can see you're surprised by that price," she says. "I don't blame you! I swear they made a mistake when they were ticketing; but that's what it says, so that's all I'll charge you. It's a gorgeous dress! An original copy of an Origami knock-off. It would be a steal at $500! But I'm sure you know that. Will that be cash or charge?"
"Neither. It's way out of my price range, I'm afraid."
"I just remembered! I got a memo this morning about a sale the store is planning next week. If you can wait a minute while I check with my boss, I may be able to persuade her to let me mark this one down for you today!"
She returns in ten minutes. She's beaming.
"What sign are you? Obviously the stars are on your side today! She said yes! That means I can take 15% off this already unbelievably low price! Will that be cash or charge?"
"I'm afraid I still can't justify it. I mean, the party I need it for isn't really that important..."
"Every party is important! Other people will be there. Their first impression of you will be based on your appearance. You can't afford not to look your best! Look, I really want you to have this dress. Let me see if I can talk my boss out of another 5 percent. I can't promise, but..."
"No, really. It's lovely, but it's just beyond my budget."
She cools perceptibly. "I see. Well, let me show you something from our previously-owned, low-mileage collection..."
* * *
Same premise, different locale. Scene three: The super market check-out line. Action!
Check-out clerk, weighing grapes: "You certainly have an eye for quality! A perfect bunch! Those will be $1.98."
"I don't know. I don't think they're really fresh. See those two brown ones there.
"They probably just got bruised when you stuffed them into the plastic bag. But I'll deduct thirteen cents, if you promise not to tell my supervisor..."
"Well, okay. Now, about this cantaloupe. I'm not sure I want it. I mean, it looks good; but the price is way out of line."
"You know, of course, that cantaloupes are loaded with carotene and that carotene is an effective cancer preventive. Can you put a price on your family's health? Just five minutes ago, I checked your neighbor, Mrs. Jones, through. She bought two cantaloupes at the same price as these. Do the Joneses deserve better health than your family?"
"Okay, okay. But this dog food is a different story. Don't you have something less expensive?"
"The Joneses feed their dog that very same "Friskie Peps."
"The Joneses' dog is four months old. Our Fido has fourteen years on his odometer, and he has no teeth. He couldn't even chew "Friskie Peps." All he needs is some economy-grade mush to get his motor started in the morning..."
And you have twenty-three more items to go. What a nightmare! Imagine how much time you'd have to spend at the grocery store, to say nothing of prior research -- comparative shopping in at least four other super markets, plus trips to the library to check out Consumer Reports' weekly "Veggie Values," the "Blue Book of Beef Bargains," and the Wall Street Journal's latest bottle trade-in quotations.
* * *
Just thinking about it exhausts me. I have to get my mind off it. I think I'll go to a movie. But seven dollars! That's outrageous! I'll offer five bucks, tops. Not a penny more. Unless they throw in a large popcorn.
Editor's Note: Rose Mula's most recent book, The Beautiful People and Other Aggravations, is now available at your favorite bookstore, through Amazon.com and other online bookstores, and through Pelican Publishing (800-843-1724), as is her previous book, If These Are Laugh Lines, I'm Having Way Too Much Fun.