We set out on a Saturday afternoon to conquer the wilds of the furniture stores, a few days after Misty and I had performed our scouting mission for sectionals. I consider furniture shopping an occasional, horrific necessity, similar in scope and pain threshold to car shopping.

Do not mistake me: like the purchase of my car two years ago, I will celebrate the purchase of this sectional once it is completed. We are both looking forward to the furniture shuffling that will take place once the purchase is made, but the process....Well, the process of getting there, I could really and truly do without. Okay, perhaps not the entire process, but I think I'd be happier if I were at least allowed to superficially wound the furniture salesmen that annoy me.

Luckily, I knew from our previous foray into Rhodes Furniture that we were likely to be pestered by the resident salesdroid upon arrival and, sure enough, the neon "New Prey!" sign over the door lit up as soon as we walked in. A moment later, we had our Official Helper.

We were, of course, a charming and luscious target; a couple, late twenties, obviously shopping together, and whose clothing indicated they were probably capable of surviving a credit check unscathed.

I have a bad habit of trying to sidle past salesmen in the same way that I blank-stare and slip past intrusive panhandlers. If you don't hear them, and keep walking, the laws of physics dictate that you will soon be somewhere else, and if you're lucky, that somewhere else won't include the person you're trying to evade.

Not so.

"May I help you?"

Yes, you may go away and let us look, and when we have questions, we'll find you and ask. "No, just looking."

"What are you interested in shopping for?"

An axe to cleave your neck in twain? "Sectionals." We're walking, we're walking...if we keep walking, maybe he'll magically lose control of all his bodily functions and be unable to follow us.

"Well, we have a lovely selection of sectionals on this side of the showroom, and we have some more in the middle. Would you like me to -"

Why, thank you. I thought those sectionals over there were figments of my imagination. "Thank you. We'll go look at them."

In a misguided attempt to solicit Jeff's opinion without influencing his taste, we tried to walk around the showroom while I asked him what he liked and didn't like about the various sitting options in front of us. By the end of our circuit, we were fully aware that we had a salesdroid tail, and that we would be unable to hover over a sectional (much less touch or sit on one) without him coming over to provide all the information we couldn't possibly need yet.

Every time we turned our heads slightly, he was there. Watching us. If we moved toward a sectional, indicating interest, he moved closer. In return, we would move on, trying to evade him.

I'd point a piece of furniture and say to Jeff, "Why not sit down on this?" and Jeff would grit his teeth and reply, "He's stalking us!" (Can't say that I blame Jeff, really. There's not much fun in furniture-testing as performance art, especially with a rapt, cloying audience.)

We fled, having sat on no couches, and Jeff turned to me as we were getting in the car and said, "What I really wanted to say to the guy was, 'I'm willing to buy a sectional from the first salesguy who will just leave me the hell alone!'"

"You do realize that Marks-Fitzgerald, down the street, is even worse."

"Yeah, I know. Didn't you say that you didn't see anything that was appropriate for us, but that you saw one piece you wanted to show me?"

"Yeah. We'll try to slip in, see that one, and get out."

In return, the spousal look that says, "Delusional, yet strangely amusing."

* * * * *

In Marks-Fitzgerald, we tried to blow past the first salesguy with little luck until he said, "Well, we have this great sale going on - twenty percent off everything, but it ends today."

Jeff said it first: "Thanks, but there's no way we're going to buy anything today." Poof! No salesdroid.

Silence, blessed silence. We wended our way toward the sectional that intrigued me: too small for our room; leather, which I don't like; but possibly the most comfortable sectional I'd spotted so far. We patted it, poked it, lifted its tail to see if it was anatomically correct, and then we were spotted again.

This time, it was the man who had shown Misty and me this same sectional a few days earlier. "Ah, back again, I see? I remember you..."

"Yeah, that was me."

"You were with one of your girlfriends. Didn't you say that this was a little too small for you? I seem to remember your saying that you'd have to eliminate a few of your friends to make it appropriate for you." (Again, the spousal look of "delusional, yet strangely amusing.")

When his back was turned, I lifted up the price tag and stared at the number. Too small, wrong fabric, and cost too much, but the styling was marvelously comfortable. Oh, well. Perhaps in another lifetime.

On our way out of the store, Jeff looked at me and said, "What exactly did you say to him?"

"Oh, that we'd have to do some selective friend culling in order to get everyone to fit on that sectional. I don't think he ever quite managed to look at me the same way again after that."

"Shall we hit the next place?"


* * * * *

So the quest continues, with a potential candidate located at another store in town, but with further scouting operations in the works. We've agreed to disagree on the fabric-versus-leather issue; he loves leather furniture, while I have serious issues with falling asleep on said furniture and having nightmares of my furniture mooing at me.

Chalk it up to the red Naugahyde couch my parents had when I was a child. Too many memories of my bare legs sticking to it in hot summer months. Since then, I've had a definite aversion to any piece of furniture whose texture even remotely resembled it.

We'll manage to find new furniture...someday. I think I'd rather selectively cull some furniture salesmen before culling my friends, though.


What's a sectional?

Do what I do....tell them simply... "When I need you I will come and find you. If you insist on hovering I will turn around and leave immediately." either that or "If you don't leave me alone you are going to be flossing with my shoelaces" or "If I wanted your assistance I would have said Hey...Mr. Too Stupid To Have A Real Job can you tell me how many Nauga's were killed in the making of this geniune imitation faux naugahyde couch" or "How does it feel to know that you are only one step above used car salesmen and personal injury attorneys on the gonna-get-you-sucka karmic scale?" One of those will generally suffice.

You know Oompa, I don't usually mind your scathingly sarcastic comments, but when you start insulting jobs that my husband has applied to or actually works at right now (he sells used and new cars), I take that as a personal insult. All you have to do is be courteous to these people who are trying to make an honest living (and I will also be one of the first ones to admit that there are people out there in the furniture and car business that are slimy and sleasy, but not all of them by any menas) and just tell them that you appreciate their help, but that you are not interested in buying today and that they would be better off helping another potential customer. Next time you get upset because one of these guys is "stalking" you, just remember that they, too, are trying to make an honest living so maybe they can afford to go out and buy something nice for their home.

I've tried the following tactics: "If I need you, I'll smack you upside the head with a brick, droid." Yes, I actually said droid. If they're particularly clingy, I once had success by acting utterly deranged. I'd walk up to a sofa, flop on it, exclaim "Boing!", and move on to the next one. It allowed me to judge texture, fill, and such while observing prices and avoiding having to speak to the salesdroid. I want a picture of Jeff flopping on a couch exclaiming "Boing!"

I'm with Kat. If you're upfront and honest with most salesfolks, they'll back down. If they don't, leave. If it really hacks you, call later and ask to talk to the manager. These folks are trying to make a buck, and the good ones will actually try to help you. I've had too many friends working in sales in this town trying to make an honest living while getting a degree at UAH to get mad at very many of them.

John... A sectional is a very large seating area for a living room. It comes in pieces, so that you can set it up however you want - if you've seen a L-shaped couch, that's a sectional. Ok, let's see if I can say the rest of this without ruffling too many feathers. Jody... You went too far. I know you were trying to be funny, but perhaps try not kicking mutual friends in the head while you're doing so...? Kat... I was quite careful how I said things in this post, because I know Sean does car sales. (I hope that came through. I dunno.) But there's a difference between a truly helpful sales employee and one who makes a customer uncomfortable enough to leave the store. I realize salesfolks are trying to make a living, but could you guys perhaps give us the benefit of the doubt here? Jeff and I are both capable of recognizing a high-pressure sales tactic when we're hit over the head with it. We left. We won't return, and our money will go elsewhere. That's all there is to it.

I prefer the 'tag em and bag em' method of car sales. I sit on the roof with a tranquilizer gun. Well in all respect, there are really bad sales people out there, including some at my dealership. I like being one of the ones that people that ask, "when are you around, because I don't want to talk to anyone but you." I take no offence because lots of folks didn't know i was in car sales now (and that i applied at the Rhodes place in the last 2 months). But i did get the same feeling, that I would not like the other sales droids. If people ask nicely, I will leave them alone, some other folks don't extend that courtesy.