Look, I’m sorry, I really hate to bother you, but your elbow is in my ear

December 9, 2008

There are certain inhabitants of Planet Earth that, for want of a better word, I shall refer to as Martians. They have earned an unfortunate reputation for being pushy and rude and complaining to the authorities of racisim if someone — say, a blogger, for instance — dares to poke a bit of fun at them.

Rotorua, tourist magnet that it is, was crawling with Martians when Sis and I visited a month ago. That’s fine — Lord knows New Zealand needs each and every tourism dollar during these lean times.

The bus arrives, the Martians descend like locusts, overwhelming those of us travelling as singles or doubles, then it’s back on the bus and on to the next attraction. Repeat pretty much ad nauseam.

But sometimes that invasion can get personal, as Sis and I discovered after riding the luge track at the Skyline Skyrides.

There is an overhead camera attached to the luge track to snap action photos, the idea being you can later purchase a permanent record of the exact moment you wet your pants in terror.

Sis and I were at the counter, squinting at the monitor, attempting to pick out the colour of our jackets amidst a screenful of thumbnail-size images, when we were literally elbowed aside by a trio of teenage female Martians. Granted, one of them did mutter a quick apology over her shoulder — something about a bus to catch — but this butting-in maneuver still resulted in Sis and I being displaced from our position at the front of the line.

Good, polite Canadians that we are, we assured the ladies behind the counter we were OK with standing aside, if only to avoid the possibility of further jostling.

This experience was still fresh in my mind when Viking Woman and I visited “Big Box Electronics Store” in Napier. We were looking for an iPod dock so we could finally have some music in the house.

We asked a salesman named “Bob” if the Teac unit we were eyeing might go on sale before Christmas. Bob didn’t think that was going to happen, but did note we could probably save 20 per cent off the sticker price if we returned on Dec. 26 for the annual running of the bulls. Also known as the Boxing Day Sale.

“Of course,” he said, “if you do that, you’ll have to fight your way through the Martians.”

Which led all of us to relate our experiences with this alien race, including my close encounter in Rotorua.

Bob had the better stories, of course, considering his job, by definition, involves dealing with people all day, every day. He related how Martians are always trying to price gouge, based solely on the fact they will pay in cash, meaning  bills in hand, as opposed to a bank card.

The supposed logic behind seeking a cash-based discount is based on the fact stores pay a percentage of any charged purchase back to the credit card company. A cash sale means stores don’t have to share any profits with the likes of Visa or MasterCard.

But cash in hand is not always an incentive to cut a deal, especially if customers are uncouth and demanding. And sometimes, when a sale means the original price has already been drastically slashed, there is just no more leeway for downward movement.

Bob told of us one Martian who wanted to buy a fridge that had been dropped in price by $400.

Martian: Can I get a better price if I pay cash?

Bob: No.

Martian: How about free delivery if I pay cash?

Bob: No.

The Martian returned to the store every day for four straight days, targeting a different salesperson each time. Bob anticipated that move, however, and spread the word about the Martian’s price-gouging mission.

On the fifth day, a salesperson agreed to waive the $60 delivery charge. The Martian was elated, practically gloating. Right up to the point where they noticed the sale had ended and the $400 saving was no longer in effect.

On the other end of the buying scale, Bob explained, were the local gang members.

“They pay in cash as well, but they don’t try to haggle,” he told us. “They come in and pay full price.”

The fact that the cash is all twenties is, I’m nearly positive, merely the result of withdrawing it from an ATM.

And so we stood in the store and listened to Bob’s stories and tsk-tsked and shook our heads in sympathy and nodded in agreement and offered our own anecdotes.

Price gougers, eh? Cheeky buggers, Martians, the lot of them.

And then, at the end of it all, once all the tales of woe had been exhausted, Viking Woman had one final comment:

“So, Bob, what kind of deal can you give us on this iPod dock?”

“How about forty bucks off?”

We paid in cash.

Cheeky buggers, Canadians, the lot of them.

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2 Responses to “Look, I’m sorry, I really hate to bother you, but your elbow is in my ear”

  1. Thanks for posting the article, was certainly a great read!

  2. ‘The fact that the cash is all twenties is, I’m nearly positive, merely the result of withdrawing it from an ATM.’

    -classic. ah, how I miss the Land of the Long White Cloud. It reminds me of when I used to work in a service station in Hamilton, and a certain leather jacketed individual whose eyes were a little redder than usual shall we say, came in and kept his eye on his beat-up Datsun the whole time he was paying for his fuel.

    I asked him if everything was alright. “that piece of shit is really easy to steal”, he scowled. “How’s that?” I asked. “Coz I stole it really easily.” He laughed heartily, but his joke was slightly undercut by him paying from a hefty roll of twenties.

    Ah, good times…

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