Sunday, July 16, 2006

An Offer Of Fun And Variety

A few weeks ago, my parents decided to buy cemetery plots. The place they selected was referred to them by a friend of a friend. I tagged along as an interpreter. Our experience with the cemetery salesman was highly entertaining, to say the least.

Since I cannot use the man's real name, I'll just go ahead and call him Morty.

On our first visit, Morty gave us a full tour of the place. What he wanted my parents to buy was a double, top-level mausoleum plot. This sounds a lot more impressive than it actually looks. It turns out that "mausoleum" means a granite wall with caskets stuck inside it, a dozen or so in a row, six rows high. It is dirt cheap, but you have to pay for everything up front, which makes the deal attractive to Morty, as opposed to when we just pay for a piece of land now and for everything else later (much later, I hope!)

The mausoleum thing did not work out. My Mom absolutely refused to be buried at twenty feet above the ground. We told Morty we'd think about the other options and come back in about a week.

Morty kept pressuring us to pay for the marker, the caskets and everything else right away.

"I'm just looking out for you guys. I want to lock you guys in while the rates are good. If you do it later, the prices will be higher and you will end up paying more."

I smiled at Morty and replied,

"Well I hope I will get a few raises by then."

My parents, however, were almost convinced. Morty had inadvertently struck a gold mine that is the parental sense of guilt.

"We want to pay the cheap price now. We don't want you to get stuck with the high prices later."

"Nonono, guys, don't you understand? When the 'later' happens, Morty may not be working here anymore! That's why he wants you to pay for everything now. He works on commission, remember."

That worked; so, a week later, my parents came into Morty's office and announced:

"We only want to buy the land now, and the rest later. And we want the cheapest piece of land that you have."

That's when the show started.

'You see," Morty took out a piece of paper and turned to me, "if they buy a more expensive piece of land, they will actually end up saving money. Here's why. In the area that they want, we only allow a certain type of marker that is more expensive. Here, let me add it all up for you" - and he pulled out his trusty calculator and started adding the numbers.

Out of a mix of boredom and curiosity, I was adding the numbers on my Blackberry as I was sitting opposite Morty. Surprisingly, his totals matched mine.

"So at the end of the day," Morty proudly announced, "you will end up saving... wait a minute." His face acquired a serious expression all of a sudden. "You will save sixty cents??"

We smiled. "Thanks Morty, it is a great deal, but we'll pass."

Morty tried from a different angle. "Listen, this is a very nice spot I'm offering you. You will be next to Friends-Of-A-Friend, someone you know."

I joined in supportively, "You can go visit with them if you want to."

Not appreciating my help, Morty continued. "And this area has trees! And benches! And variety! Whereas the one you want has no trees, no variety, and no fun!"

Gee, I hate it when there's no fun at a cemetery, don't you?

That was a deal-breaker if I ever saw one. My parents rolled with laughter. Morty gave up all his attempts to convince them, and sold them the piece of land they had wanted to begin with.

I learned a lot about sales that day. Basically, that, in the eyes of some salesmen, there is no difference between a used car, a timeshare, and a cemetery plot.

This is sad.

But it is in your power to turn it into a source of fun and, well, variety. Thanks, Morty. You made our day.

The Goldie has spoken at 3:01 PM

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