Lee Pitts: Buyer Beware
Recently I called a plumber friend to order a toilet thinking I’d get it cheaper than buying it from a big box store or the local hardware store. The toilet was delivered to my house and in preparing to install it I noticed something was missing: THE SEAT! Now, I think we can all agree that the seat is a fairly important part of the apparatus, just ask any woman who constantly tells her husband to put the seat down after use, otherwise she might sit down and get stuck, and calling the fire department to get removed from your toilet is not something you’d want talked about around town.
When I went to the local hardware store to buy a toilet seat I noticed a banner saying that a popular brand of a battery powered drill was only $79. But then I read the small print and discovered that did not include the battery or the charger. That was $159 extra! I felt like I was ten years old again on Christmas morning when you got a toy you couldn’t play with because ‘batteries were not included!’
We’ve become a nation of salesmen, promoters and hucksters. We sell stuff better than we make it. For example, my wife and I were picking out wood flooring to redo our kitchen floor and after looking at samples for 30 minutes we finally decided on one we both liked. Then the salesman informed us it was out of stock and he didn’t know when it would be available, if ever. It reminded me of buying a can of nuts with a bright label that showed what we could expect once we opened the can. The label showed numerous cashews, (my favorite) but it had one half of one cashew in the entire can! The pizza joint in our town advertises that they are ‘the home of the $8 pizza’ but that’s just for the crust and the sauce. If you want pepperoni, cheese and olives they’re two dollars each so their $8 pizza is really $14!
Sometimes we’re outright lied to. As a child I wanted a coonskin cap because Daniel Boone supposedly wore one only to find out as an adult that he never did. Asthma Cigarettes did not cure cancer, Dr Koch’s Cure All was little more than distilled water, one size does not fit all, wearing sneakers doesn’t make you look skinny and you can’t ‘wash and wear’ clothes without looking like a homeless person. And why is every item in the grocery store ‘New and Improved?’ I don’t want new and improved, I want ‘old and reliable’.
And whatever happened to ‘truth in advertising?’
I am reminded of an incident where telling the truth almost got me sued. I was working ring at the all-breed bull sale at San Francisco’s Cow Palace which always attracted a big crowd. For some reason I’ll never understand the Cow Palace didn’t require their consignors to semen test their bulls ahead of the sale. I’ve never heard of another bull sale that didn’t semen test their bulls.
The Limousin bulls always seemed to have the highest breed average because two good cattlemen always got in a bidding war over them. They were both my friends and always sat in my section where I was taking bids. One of the men told me ahead of time, “You let me know if a bull isn’t semen tested because I don’t want one!” And the other bidder was a dear friend of mine. In fact, I gave the eulogy at his funeral. He’d never speak to me again if I sold him a bull that wasn’t semen tested. So whenever an untested Limousin bull came through the ring I said in a normal voice, “Not semen tested.”
When I got home a week later there was a letter waiting for me from a LImousin breeder who sold his untested bulls at the Cow Palace and said he was going to sue me if I didn’t pay him the difference between what his untested bulls brought and the average of the tested bulls. He also threatened to sue me for defamation of character. And all I had done was tell the truth because I thought that buying a bull that wasn’t semen tested was like buying a toilet without a seat.