Sofa shopping and a little bit about open houses.

Sofa Free Burned...
Creative Commons License photo credit: walknboston

What you will think this is about: Sofa shopping

What it is really about: Open houses

Time it will take me to get to the point unless you read between the lines as you go: 913 words (but they are really good words)

The Habitat for Sanity program is well underway at our house, a program inspired by the departure of our last duckling for the halls of higher learning. It was also inspired by our need to find the blades to the electric knife.

As soon as Daughter #2 was safely deposited in the residence hall, Steve and I looked around our empty nest and realized it was far from empty. Somewhere during our 24 years of marriage we had become hoarders.

We didn’t set out to be this way. It’s just that with a twenty-year distraction, namely two little homespun tornados in designer jeans, we had stopped paying attention to the details. One detail in particular haunts us this week – the hideous living room sofa.

To be fair, the sofa wasn’t born hideous. In fact, it was what you might consider passably attractive when I commandeered it, for a modest fee, from a client’s home back in 2002 after we closed escrow on his Scripps Ranch Willows Plan 3. (Note how I am able to slip Google-icious key words into my post about a sofa with ease; this is what makes me an exceptional blogger.)

Some time during the past decade, however, due to a piecemeal decorating style in the Early Garage Sale theme and the not so gently-used lifestyle of two teenagers and their domestic pets, our once glorious sofa looks as if it was the victim of a major oil spill and an unfortunate run-in with a weed whacker. So, furniture shop we must.

And this is where I am reminded of the weekend open house. Even if you are only shopping for a home and not something that is really a big deal – like, say a sofa – I feel your pain.

Now, Steve and I are rather spontaneous people. We have to be; we are real estate agents. Discretionary time comes in bite-sized pieces and with no warning. So, as we set out on our search and conquer mission yesterday, we looked like a couple of extras who had just wandered off the set of the Grapes of Wrath. But, as all professionals know, you can’t judge people – their motivations or their creditworthiness – by their appearances.

The well-dressed woman in the first store we visited must have been getting her nails done the day they taught this valuable lesson in How to Sell People Stuff school. Try as we might to attract her attention, we started to suspect we had been doused with invisible ink. Undeterred, we devised a coordinated combat strategy that involved me creating a distraction (“Oh my God! The leather recliner with the 25-year protection guarantee is on fire!”) and Steve tailing her in an all-out sprint hoping to trip her up on her Hermes scarf.  When we finally did get a few words with her, her demeanor vacillated between disinterest and utter contempt. We left sofa-less.

At our second stop, the woman who body blocked us at the door was nice enough. She was helpful enough. And she was suffocatingly annoying. As we took two steps forward, so did she. When we moved a little to the right, she followed in lockstep cadence. At some point, I started avoiding making casual eye contact with even an unassuming table lamp lest I be given another dissertation on the history of the American metal artisan and their role in a democratic society.

No closer to the object of our desire, the couch which might allow us to let people other than once-removed blood relatives and the pizza guy into our home, we made a final stop. The salespeople at this store were tenacious, they were driven, they were hungry, and they were in our face. Before I had shut the passenger side door, we were under cross-examination without an attorney present.

“Do you live around here? How are you today? What’s your name? Have you been to our store before? Have you? Have you?”

“Yes,” I lied. I am not disingenuous by nature, but it just seemed easier, and Steve had promised me an In-N-Out burger when we were finished here.

We were “just looking,” we assured the perky gentleman. He gave us his name in case we found anything or had questions because, well, we belonged to him now. And as we boldly ventured into another section of the store, one beyond the line of sight of our assigned professional (who was now cross-examining another couple near the cheap sectionals), we were approached again.

“It sure is a lovely day. We are just looking. Yes, we’ve been here before,” I lied again, finding it easier the second time around. Oh, and as a bit of professional courtesy to our first courter, I added, “We are already being helped.”

“You are?” he challenged. “What’s his name?”

At my age, I admittedly can’t see anything smaller than Kansas, but my peripheral vision is still well intact, and I could clearly see that Steve was having a little trouble, in imminent danger of failing his test.

“His name? What’s his name? I can help you. Have you been to our store bef…”

“Byron!” I blurted, quite proud of myself that I had pulled that one out of the old memory banks and under pressure to boot.

“Ah, OK” he conceded as he slipped silently into the night. I had apparently won the lightening round. And, at that moment, I am fairly sure Steve remembered why he is proud to be my husband.

As for the open house analogy, I suddenly understood why so many of our visitors are a little testy, a little stand-offish, a tad dishonest, or a teensy bit, dare I say, rude. It’s because too many of the agents manning the shop fit the profiles of my three furniture store employees. They are snooty and disinterested, they are clingy, or they are pushy. Some of the really good ones can manage all three in a single visit.

And (big finish, here), this is why you will NEVER see a San Diego Castles Realty agent behaving this way at an open house. We respect you too much, and we are consumers too. But, just in case you remain skeptical, might I suggest that you take precautions and come wearing your favorite Yosemite (“I climbed a rock!) t-shirt and flip flops, with a willingness to feign personal insolvency and armed with the name of a local real estate agent that can be swiftly verified.

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