Our dog, Pee Pee* has been finding her way around the gate we set up to keep her confined to the kitchen and out of our family room while we are away from home. She’s 12 years old and on a vet prescribed diet that causes her to drink more than the average dog, and consequently, to urinate more than the average dog. It’s become a problem in that she can’t seem to hold her bladder very long and has been sneaking into the family room and using the carpet as her own personal fire hydrant.
It took a while for us to notice this. I guess the puddles that Pee Pee made were absorbed by the carpet and soaked up like a sponge, long before we ever actually spotted the stains with our eyes. However, the incredible REEK of urine ultimately blew her cover.
When spot cleaners and odor elimators failed to do the trick, I decided the most efficient way to handle this would be to pack our things and move away, leaving the dog with the leaking bladder behind. Unfortunately, the housing market stalled, leaving us rather stuck. And I was too lazy to pack. So the next best solution, it appeard, was for us to replace the carpeting in that room while at the same time, configuring a better kind of gate (electrified, perhaps) to keep Pee Pee from going in there at all.
I called Empire Today because they had a catchy jingle and their television commercial promised an “easy, in-home estimate.” To my delight, they were able to set me up with an in-home appointment for that very same day! The friendly customer service representative informed me that the estimator would come out to our house between 7 and 9 p.m., and that “all decision makers must be present.” “Okay,” I said, “Deal! Send the estimator on out!”
That evening, my husband and I sat watching the clock in anticipation while we savored what we believed would be our final days suffering the rank urine stink wafting through the air in family room. 7:00 p.m. passed… then 7:30. Around quarter ‘til 8:00 my phone rang and Steve, the sales guy, called to say he was on his way. He just left his prior appointment in the city (an hour’s drive from me, by the way) and he anticipated that he would be at my house in ½ an hour. “Wow! He must be driving a race car!” I remarked.
An hour later Steve called back to say that he was on my street, but he needed my house number. I told him my house number. “Oh,” he said, “I was at your neighbor’s house. Are you the house on the corner?” I confirmed that yes, that was indeed my house on the corner. I guess the reflective numbers on the mailbox, and the big brass ones nailed to the front of the house somehow failed to clue him in.
A few moments later, he knocked. I opened the front door to a young man nicely, yet casually dressed, and who also happened to be talking a mile a minute. He introduced himself, shook my hand, shook my husand’s hand, and announced he already knew my husband’s name since he had originally stopped at my next door neighbor’s house. I can only assume she said something like, “No… I didn’t call about carpet… You know, there is a funny odor wafting from the house next door… Oh, you must want so and so, right there, at the house on the corner!”
Steve proudly told us how much money in sales he had made for Empire over the past year ($2,000,000.00 if you’re interested). I immediately thought that this wasn’t exactly the sales pitch I’d anticipated. In fact, it was rather turning me off a bit. I mean, he was selling carpet, and $2 million in carpet is either a REALLY high volume of carpet sold at average sale price, or a lower volume sold at ridiculously high prices, right? Regardless, it seemed an odd way to get started. And although it left me wondering, I couldn’t ponder it too much because he kept talking, talking, talking, talking, talking, talking. Diarrhea of the mouth, I believe the saying goes. I really had to stay focused to follow him.
My husband and I, along with Steve, moved into the kitchen where Steve removed from his messenger bag, not a clipboard or an Empire Today estimate form, but a composition notebook. The kind you used in grade school. He set it on my table, but didn’t bother to open it.
He pulled out a tape measure and set about measuring. He measured the family room, yet he didn’t write anything down. And the whole while, he kept talking, talking, talking, talking, and talking. But not about carpet, and not about the measurements he was taking. Just about himself, his life as a salesman, some property he wanted to buy, his successes (and there were many!), his girlfriend of 12 years…
Since I had inquired about prices for replacing my kitchen floor as well, he measured part of the kitchen, but he failed to measure an entire section of flooring where we were standing. Maybe he eyeballed it? I don’t know if that figured into any of the calculations that he may or may not have done. But once again, he didn’t write anything down. Not the family room measurements, not the partial kitchen measurements.
Eventually Steve made his way out to his car and returned with 3 books of carpet samples. The quality of each was never really explained. One was (his words) “cushy”, the other “soft”, the last, “more plush”. One had a 7-year wear and crush warranty. The other two had 10-year wear warranties, and 5-year crush warranties. But according to Steve, the sales guy, they were all about equal quality.
Actually, he didn’t say they were all equal quality, he said something about “not a big difference between them” or “not enough difference to matter”. He then admitted to having a “super plush” sample he could have shown me… It was, he said, better than what he had with him, but he had, unfortunately taken that sample out of his car just the day before! The company, or someone, I wasn’t sure exactly who, was now doing car inspections, and Steve had to remove it from his car because, as he said “otherwise they think you’re stealing from them.” Sure, I nodded, as if this was a totally reasonable expectation. But what I thought was, “So, you’re unprepared? You have something better but you can’t show it to me? Isn’t that like coming to take a math test without your pencil?” I even contemplated if that was why he wasn’t writing anything down, maybe he forgot his pencil. But he eventually managed a pen from somewhere, so lack of a writing instrument, then, wasn’t the problem.
We examined the carpet samples at my kitchen table. We looked at them in the family room to see how the colors looked in that lighting. We walked on them to see which felt the best. My son, ready for bed and clad in pajamas (that glow in the dark!) joined us and declared a favorite. I even tried to get Pee Pee to try the samples. You know, just to see how quickly the urine would soak in, and how well the fibers could hold the stink. But my husband stopped me.
While we were walking back and forth over the tiny carpet samples, Steve went back to his car to retrieve his laminate tile book to show us options for our kitchen floor. And just let me say here that Wow! That stuff is nice looking. I didn’t know they had fake ceramic tiles like that. I just may pick something like that whenever we get around to replacing the kitchen floor, although I hope they have more than 8 colors to choose from because 8 is all that Steve had with him. Either that’s all they make, or he took the rest out of his car so he couldn’t be accused of stealing the better fake tiles, maybe.
After what seemed like forever, but in reality was probably merely an eternity, we moved back to the kitchen table and settled down to business. Steve ran some numbers through his calculator. I believe he used some special carpet cost equation calculator where X+$2million in sales + whatever you can dupe the customer out of = your commission and last laugh. Or maybe he pulled a figure out of his pie in the sky dreams. Because his price quote (again, not written down) was $2,880.00. Yes folks. For one room. One 40 square yard room. Do the math on a regular calculator and it comes out to some $75.00 a square yard of pure carpet gold. Ca-ching!
The kitchen flooring cost something equally unbelievable, $6000-something. Either I don’t recall exactly, or I didn’t hear him precisely with the ringing disbelief reverberating in my ears. I figured I wasn’t redoing the kitchen floor any time soon, so the price didn’t really matter right now anyway. Come to think of it, I wasn’t redoing the family room floor either, at least not at that cost.
I asked how long the quote was good for. Steve appeared to think about that for a minute and said, “I don’t know, I guess until Empire raises their prices.” I said we’d really have to think about this.
He seemed to understand that we weren’t handing over our wallets to him so he asked, “Did you have a number in mind?”
I replied, “Well, for the kitchen no. But for the family room, for the carpet, I was thinking maybe $1200.00.”
“Let me try to get you a better deal,” he said. He went on to explain that sometimes, the warehouse, as it gets near the end of a roll of carpet, will give you a fantastic deal because they want to get rid of the remaining roll. He called it a “roll back” or an “end roll” or something to that effect. He said he’d call the warehouse and see, but I had to pick 2 colors, my first choice and a back-up, in case they weren’t running low on my first choice.
I chose, just to be clear here, Shaw brand carpet with the 7-year wear warranty, the color “sandcastle” as my first choice and the color “honey” as my second choice.
Steve made the call…
Now have you ever heard someone make a telephone call and for whatever reason, maybe the person answering on the other end is yelling, or maybe the caller’s cell phone speaker is turned up too loud, you can hear the person on the other end? That’s what happened here. I could hear the person who answered on the other side. And to my astonishment, she didn’t answer, “Empire Carpet Warehouse” or anything business-like like that. She said “Hi Babe!”
Steve, to his credit, didn’t hesitate at all and responded with an appropriate sounding, “Yeah, I was wondering if you have any of the end rolls for “sandcastle” or “honey.” And what kind of deals you had on those?” He did not identify himself. He did not specify that it was Shaw carpet as opposed to one of the other brands of carpet he had been showing us, which may or may not have had similar color names. The other end of the phone was silent. I assume this was per prior agreement that must have gone something like this “Yeah, hon, sometimes I’ll call you when I’m working, okay? You answer, and if I’m talking carpet, I’m just trying to fool my potential customers. Play along, don’t say anything. I’ll let you know how it all went down later.” Because before the person on the other end had said another word, he looked at us and said $1700!” “Wow!” I was thinking, as I mentally rolled my eyes, “What a deal. He came down over a thousand dollars in mere minutes!” The person on the other end finally said something, “Love ya, Babe! or “Good luck!” or perhaps “stop for a gallon of milk on your way home, would ya?” (it wasn’t too clear). He agreed to whatever was said, hung up, and said there was a coupon available too, on their internet site, which would lower the price even more, to $1630.00!
I said again that’d we’d really have to think it over. At that point he said “Are you secret shoppers?”
“What?” I asked. It was so out of the blue, I couldn’t have been more stunned by the sudden turn of events if he had asked “Are you vampires?” He repeated the question and John told him no, we weren’t “secret shoppers.” So Steve closed his composition book and said, very discreetly, almost whispering, “I can get you this carpet for $1200!” “In fact,” he said a bit louder “I can probably get you better carpet for that price. My buddy installs carpet. See, Empire, they keep raising and raising their prices making it harder and harder to make a sale. They hired more salespeople, and guys like me, they’ve cut the number of leads I get in a day. They are withholding our sales commission too for over a week! It’s so unfair!!! I said to them, after all I’ve done for you? After all the sales I’ve made for you, THIS is how you treat me? I’m so angry, I’m thinking of starting a union…” Or maybe he said joining the union. Or getting a mob of his other similarly ill-treated co-workers to join him in standing up for their rights, whatever they may be.
On and on and on and on he went. Eventually he came down to offering us better carpet for about $1000 if we went with him and his buddy. He offered to leave us with his cell-phone number and although I had it on my caller-ID, I pretended I was interested and I agreed. He wrote it down on a blank page in his composition book, then closed the book and put it away in his messenger bag. “What?” I thought, “How is writing the number on a page in your book then putting the book away in your bag and not giving us your number, giving us your number?” And then he kept talking. Something about his mom and a real estate deal and some guy he didn’t trust. And he’d told his mom for the past six months that he didn’t trust this guy. And it’s just not working….
Then he decided again to leave us his cell-phone number. So he pulled his book out of his bag and turned back to that same page. Upon seeing he’d already written the number down, he announced, “Oh! It looks like I already wrote the number down.” He pondered that for a full minute then said “I’ll write… I’ll write…. carpet and flooring on here!” And he did. Then he put the book away. Again.
At that point, my husband spoke up. “Did you get his cell phone number?” he asked me. “Oh,” I feigned looking around, “Um, did I? I don’t think so…”
It took one, or perhaps it was two more rounds of pulling out the composition book and putting it away before he figured he ought to tear the page from the book and hand it to me. I thought to file it away right then in my kitchen trash can, but I didn’t want to be rude. So instead, I started gathering up his carpet samples and leaning them against the door. It took a little longer, but he finally finished his story about his mom, and got his coat, and retreated to our front porch. There he proceeded to carry on for another 10 minutes about the upcoming football game.
If all of this wasn’t bad enough, during his rant about Empire’s rising costs, Steve told us that he could guarantee us, that with his friend doing the installation, all the people working on our carpet installation would speak English. With Empire, he said, we’d be lucky if ONE of the installers spoke English. I found this offensive just at the face of it. But it wasn’t until I was rehashing this odd experience in my mind as I was trying to fall asleep, that I thought what was really ironic about that, is that our last name has a decidedly Spanish ring to it. So much so, that half the time telemarketers call us, they are speaking Spanish when I answer the phone. “No hable Espanole! No hable Espanole!” I tell them, before I hang up. And it’s true. Aside from that phrase, the only other Spanish I can manage is counting from 1 to 10. Anyway, I’m not sure, but Steve might have gotten us confused with our neighbors, whose house he went to first, by mistake. Their last name is actually, “English”.
*Note: Not her real name. Names in this story have been changed to protect the guilty.