Monday, November 26, 2012

A Wild Western NY Shopping Experience

One Thanksgiving guest who's still here

It being Cyber Monday, the online equivalent of Black Friday, I offer an earlier musing on some WNY- style retail therapy...

  It’s amazing how, in America, you’re never too far from the old Wild West. We have an annual rodeo and an Indian reservation nearby, but I’m not just talking cowboys and Indians. The Dr Quack salesmen who once travelled around in their wagons, peddling miracle cures, are still out in force. Their methods may be modern but they haven’t forgotten the old PT Barnum line, “There’s a sucker born every minute”. So TV adverts offer wonder gadgets to vacuum your carpet, freshen your air, sweep your floors, send you to sleep, better than anything sold by any rival and no, folks, you can’t get them in the shops but only by calling right now and parting with your credit card details. 
      Even in the equivalent of the High Street, there’s no escape. I was in a certain well-known chain store, when a middle-aged, suntanned chap with tinted glasses and a selection of gold necklaces festooned round his neck drew near. “Ma’am “ he said, “Just letting you know about our raffle at the jewellery section in ten minutes’ time - and here’s a free ticket.” He gabbled on incomprehensibly but I had caught the word “free.” So after ten minutes, I regret that I furtively made my way to the jewellery section.
    A small crowd had gathered: several women, a couple of men, a small boy. None of them looked in the best of financial shape. Western New York is a long way from Manhattan.  Mr Suntan hopped up on his stand, “Thank you for coming folks and we sure need you to help us today with this promotion. Yes, folks, you’ll be helping us and yes, folks, I promise you there’ll be a raffle in just a few minutes but first I need to ask you folks to help us in some market research..”  He picked up a necklace. “Folks, this gold necklace over silver (I think we were meant to miss that last bit) is worth a hundred dollars – now how many people like this necklace?” Hands went up eagerly. “Now, how many of you men” – he fixed them with a glinting eye – “have an anniversary coming up?”  The men looked sheepish. He flourished a sparkling bracelet, “Well, ha ha, of course these aren’t REAL diamonds. If they were, they’d be two thousand dollars, but they’re much brighter - see.”
   Then he got to the best bit. “And now, how many people believe in Guardian Angels?” This being America, several hands shot up. “This”, he cried triumphantly, “is the perfect present for kids too young for cell phones……a GUARDIAN ANGEL WHISTLE!!!!! You just blow,”  – he tooted the whistle  “ and call your Guardian Angel for help!  And - you can have all these for SIXTY-FIVE dollars!!” 
   Then his voice dropped a perceptible note. “I have to do all this myself today. Usually my son helps, but he’s sick.”    It worked a treat. Mothers who’d come in with no intention of buying jewellery scrabbled in their purses.  There was a raffle eventually. The small boy, whose name was Caleb, picked a ticket – his dad’s. “Trained him well,” blushed Dad. The prize was, surprise, surprise, the cheapest thing on the stand.

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