December 13, 2001
As the holiday season approaches, this column avoids serious issues and is given over to wit and whimsy. When I've done this in the past, readers have advised me not to quit my day job. Nevertheless, I'll persevere, and the topic today concerns snappy comebacks to sales pitches. Most of the ones occurring to me have, I feel, an element of spontaneous humor. You be the judge.
We'll begin with a guest appearance by my friend Albert, who had a comeback that effectively deflected a pitch being made by an insistent life-insurance salesman. Albert had recently immigrated to the United States from Germany and was unfamiliar with the outrageously expensive American Way of Death. Because he had neither a wife nor children, the insurance salesman based his pitch on the high cost of funerals, pointing out that even a man with no dependents needs life insurance because any funeral is an expensive proposition.
Albert cogitated on this appeal for a moment, puzzled by the concern he was expected to have over the disposition of his mortal remains. He then replied, with his sonorous voice having an especially authoritative tone thanks to his pronounced German accent: "If I were to die, surely the city would have some obligation to remove my body from my apartment." The flabbergasted salesman ended the pitch right there.
In most circumstances, often the best way to handle an aggressive sales pitch is to reduce the discussion to its simplest terms. Once I was subjected to a life-insurance pitch where the salesman, because I was a husband and father, focused on how terrible it would be for me to die and leave a wife and children without financial support.
"Let me get this straight," I replied. "I'm dead. They're alive. It seems to me that I'm the one people should feel sorry for." End of sales pitch.
Enough morbidity. Now we'll turn to something lighter. Recently I received a call from a young lady who congratulated me on my being approved for a credit card that she was pitching. But first, I had to answer a few questions.
Wait a minute," I replied. "If I'm already approved, why do you have to ask me questions?"
We just need some more information," she answered. I countered with, "Well, you said I was approved. If I were approved, you would not need more information. And if you need more information, then I'm obviously not approved. Am I approved or am I not approved?"
She stammered for a moment then put a supervisor on the line. The supervisor explained that I was, indeed, approved, but they needed to know my income to establish my credit limit. "But you couldn't approve me without knowing whether or not I have any income," I persisted. "Evidently I am not approved." I never did give them the information and didn't get the card, but I had the satisfaction of making them try to explain the inexplicable.
Finally, there was one telephone exchange which, from my perspective, was the most satisfying of all. An engaging young man called one day to ask: "Mr. Khol, do you have time to talk to me for a few minutes?"
With the warmest and most friendly tone I could muster, I responded: "Yes, I have time to talk. In fact, I will chat with you for as long as you like. But I will guarantee you one thing. At the conclusion of our conversation, under no circumstances will I give you a credit card number." Click. He didn't even bother to say good-bye.
- Ronald Khol, Editor