Days of Barter & Batter

Recently, on a work & play vacation in a developing country, I was reminded of what the Customer Service experience once was.
Being a headset fan & a Customer Service Fanatic I thought I’d combine a bit of both with a shopping trip “downtown”. There were hundreds of small stores selling literally millions of electronic devices – i-pods, bank note verifiers, fingerprint scanners, robotic vacuum cleaners that clean your floor then automatically park themselves in their recharging base, & your favorite & mine, telephone headsets.
In one store I found a plethora of headsets – plain headsets, brightly colored headsets, corded headsets & wireless headsets, cell phone headsets & computer headsets. Fine – the commodity is there, how about the service?
“How much for the cell phone headsets ?” ….. “Cell phone?” – my first challenge – “mobile phone headsets ?” ….. “Ah, mobile phone headsets – very good headsets – yes?” ….. “Yes” ….. “400″ ….. “too much, too much” ….. “how many you want?” ….. “3″ ….. “How about 5 ?” …..”okay maybe 5″ ….. “How about 10?” ….”no I don’t want 10″ ….. “How about 7 ?” ….. “Okay maybe 7″ – Let The Games Begin!
First it was sit and drink coffee. Sweet coffee scented with cardamon. Then some fantastic pastries. Over 15 minutes was spent just talking about me – Where I was from, What I did, How long I was in this country, Why I wanted 10 headsets? (You’ll note that the Customer Service Rep had by now adopted the positive attitude that I was indeed going to buy 10 headsets!)
Eventually the topic turned to price. Clearly my Customer Service Rep had a vested interest in certain “quality & value” headsets, however he always courteously answered my questions, then of course poured more coffee and offered more pastries. Between cups of coffee and trays of pastries our table became laden with new electronic gadgets “that might interest” me, once my Customer Service Rep found out enough about my personality to tantalize me with exactly the right mix of goodies.
Ultimately I strayed from the telephone headsets and bought a vacuum cleaner – remember, the one that parks itself to recharge? We bartered over it’s price and eventually agreed, after he had battered me with words and seduced me with more pastries and coffee.
As I left the store he ran after me – a value added – he thanked me and handed me a cell phone headset “for being such a good customer”.
While I don’t always have the time to sit & drink & talk, and my waist line definitely couldn’t face this challenge on a daily basis, sometimes it’s pleasant not to rush through the Customer Service experience. It’s nice to feel like a person again and even to go in after a headset and come out with a vacuum cleaner!

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