This is a true story, except for my slipper (we’ll come to that later).
I’ve got nothing against sales agents, really. I’ve had my share of chasing people in malls and streets, trying to get them to answer questionnaires for my marketing assignments. Since then, I’ve always tried to politely refuse the salespersons, whose livelihood depends on disturbing people’s lazy Sunday afternoons. But some approach you so persistently that you either give in just to escape the drivel or you simply lose it and get labeled as the ‘Un-cool Customer’.
And sometimes the experience is simply scary. I was at my bank recently to pick up a new debit card. Everything went fine at first… “Please have a seat sir. I’ll take a couple of minutes to get it”. I have nothing to do except stare at offers and deals jumping at me from every direction – posters, danglers, life-size cutouts… you name it. Finally Ms. Bank Clerk extends an envelope towards me with a “Here’s your card, sir”. I reach out for the envelope, but something’s not right. You know the familiar phenomenon called ‘giving’ where one person holds an object and then the other lets it go? Well it didn’t quite happen. Did I miss something?
I gave Ms. Clerk a puzzled look but she was just smiling naturally – just the way she does eight hours a day, six days a week. “Sir, have you considered our wide range of options for your investments?” Uh-oh… there it was. I just stood there like a deer startled by headlights. I live a block away from the bank and it was a Saturday; I was wearing a crumpled t-shirt I had slept in, with fading, worn-out shorts and a pair of dirty, unbuckled slippers to complete the effect. Why did she think any self-respecting bank would consider me a potential customer for their ‘wide range of options for my investments’?
In spite of my appearance I couldn’t tell her I wasn’t fit to make any investments at this point in my life. Nor could I publicly announce that I had already pissed away all my money in my shopping fantasies, even before my first paycheck hit my account. I also couldn’t run for my life – she just wasn’t letting the envelope go! So I stopped opening and closing my mouth like a goldfish and came up with the smartest reply I could think of: “Wha…??”
“You’ve got a lot of options to choose from: long-term, short-term, low-risk high-yield… blah blah blah… jargon jargon jargon… crap crap crap…” If you’re one of those people whose brains simply go blank as soon as they’re exposed to financial terminology, you know exactly what I’m going through. Anyway, a few unconscious hours later I tell her to stop and offer a brilliant excuse.
Me: “Well, you see… I’ve already made my plans for investments some place else” (Ha! Got you!)
Ms. Clerk: “Oh, I see. Which bank?”
Me: (Oops!) “Well… er… you see… my friend… works in this particular bank… er… so in that bank only… heh heh…”(I swear I mentally apologized to every single batch-mate of mine who got recruited into a bank.)
Ms. Clerk: “Why not this bank?”
The only time I remember being grilled with dead-end questions like this from a sweetly-smiling woman was when I was taken to my school principal’s office for some mischief which I prefer not to remember right now. I do remember I tried hard even then, to suppress instinctive questions like “Why the hell do YOU care?” Fearing for my new debit card’s safety, I came up with the brainwave of the day. “Hehehe… the thing is, we are a group of friends who collectively decided to invest in the same friend’s bank as a personal favor…”
What a story! They say the brain has two halves. One half of mine was gloriously cheering me on, and the other was screaming to make me stop, unable to bear the torture of belonging to such a numbskull nitwit. Ms. Clerk simply stared back at me with a blank expression. I’m sure she would’ve believed me if I had said I breed dinosaurs for a living, instead of going on and on about my Group Investment Plan crap. And then it all happened in a fraction of a second.
She got distracted by her phone ringing. I snatched the envelope and fled, leaving a slipper behind. Laugh all you want, but I’m sure she must’ve chased me atleast for a short distance.
And today when I tried to upload this post, I discovered my net connection was down. I called up the helpline, went through the complete set of recorded instructions, waited for a decade to get a response (meanwhile listening to an annoying voice excitedly screaming offers and schemes into my ear) and then finally got through to an agent and explained the problem with my internet. He comes up with his well-trained question, “Sir, do you have Net-Expert installed on your computer?” I thought for 10 seconds before feebly muttering a ‘No’.
“Well, sir. You see, we have this great software which is absolutely perfect for your needs…”