Yesterday, my wife and I took a short day trip to Oklahoma City, mainly just to browse around, look at laptop computers and see a few couches (ideas for future purchases). Heck, it was cheaper than going to Six Flags, which was another way we considered spending yesterday.
Over on West Reno Avenue, we stopped in at the most well-known furniture store in Oklahoma. Every child grows up learning this address from TV commercials and radio ads. Thirty years ago, I knew that Mathis Brothers Furniture was at 3434 W. Reno, even though I’d never been there.
That’s saying something. It’s something of an institution in the Oklahoma economic climate. We’re talking a huge furniture store, bigger than many Wal-Marts. And they have a lot of nice stuff which is reasonably priced.
The problem started not long after we walked in. “Can I help you guys with anything today?” someone jumped in. “No thanks,” I replied. “We’re just looking.”
We turned a corner and headed toward the sofas. “What are you looking for today?” another “friendly” person asked. “We’re fine,” I said. “Just looking.”
Almost to the sofas now. “Is there anything I can help you with today?” (Notice, all of them said “today.”) Again, I responded that we were just looking around.
We sat on one couch, talked about it for a second, and then got up to try the next one. “Can I help you with something today?”
This time I ignored the query. I turned to Marline and said, “I think I’m going to leave if one more person asks me if I need help.”
“It’s not that bad,” she said.
“Can I help you with something today?” another young woman asked. This time, Marline answered for me. As we kept walking, the lady followed us, trying to explain the merits of some couch we were passing. “No thank you!” Marline responded.
We turned a corner (and keep in mind we’ve now been in the store for about six minutes), and a bearded man in a suit asked us if we were finding everything okay.
I nearly exploded, but Marline got to it first. “Can I just walk through a store without being asked that every two minutes?” she said. “They’re just doing their jobs,” the man replied. His manner said something different. His manner and facial expression said clearly: “If you want to look at things by yourself, then you’re in the wrong store. Also, if you’re not ready to buy a thousand-dollar couch right now, then we’re going to irritate you until you leave.”
I clarified, “It’s just that every two steps, someone else pops up to ask us if we need help. If we need help, we’ll ask for it.”
We left, quickly.
I’ve been irritated by too-”helpful” sales clerks before, and I’ve been ticked off by waiters who can’t stay the heck away from my table, but I think this was my worst experience by far.
I understand they don’t want a customer to be all alone when they come up with a question. But for crying out loud, people! Do I have to wear a T-shirt that says “When I need help, I’ll ask for it”?
I assume those robots were working for commission, and so that’s why they were hounding us. But instead of finding a commission, they drove us away. Neither of us will ever buy furniture from Mathis Brothers, and we won’t recommend them to anyone.
Seriously, it was as bad as car shopping.
(Also, in case any car dealers are reading this… I’ll never buy from a car lot that doesn’t have prices on the cars. In all my trips to a car lot, I don’t know that I’ve ever once had a salesman tell me the truth. They’ve lied so much that I begin to doubt the truth of their name tags. At least put a believable price on the window, so I know something’s believable.)
Lest anyone get the impression that we had a bad time, or that all I do is complain, please allow me to clarify:
Marline and I had a GREAT time yesterday. We always do on our little road trips. We enjoyed the hour’s drive to OKC and the hour’s drive back. We had great service in Best Buy and in Circuit City (from a guy named Marcus), despite the tendency of idiot laptop manufacturers to make the screens so shiny and reflective that you can’t see what’s on the screen. We had a great meal at Panda Express in Midwest City, and good chopped brisket sandwiches at Earl’s BBQ in Bricktrown. We walked around the “river walk,” which is slowly developing into something very nice. We saw “Street Kings” downtown — a very awesome and violent movie (though some crazy parents brought their four-year-old son to see it!)
All in all, a wonderful day, with beautiful weather and excellent conversation.