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Herein lay an Opportunity to Excel

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Apr 13, 2010 8:36 pm

Twenty one plus years of marriage (to the same glorious, gorgeous woman) provide one with a uniquely honed and sensitive ear to the complicated process experts call "marital messaging."  There's a code, a short hand if you will, which develops over time and through trials and testing.  A new topic is brought up, discussion occurs, ideas are exchanged, opinions develop, choices are presented and a decision is reached.  It's perfectly simple, all is in harmony, rainbows shine over the home, children sing in rapturous chorus, and you journey arm-in-arm down that path called Life.

Except when it comes to furniture.

I'm firmly convinced that we, as males, never progress much beyond the third year of college when it comes to furniture needs and appreciation.  A ratty recliner, a round footstool handcrafted in olive virgin vinyl, a sofa which is mostly level and has cushions now a gentle earth tone with a slight aroma of Cheeto, these are a few of my favorite things.  However, The Bride of My Youth had grown weary of said classic items, and expressed as much to me, both directly and indirectly;

Bride of My Youth: Honey, our children cry whenever any of their friends ask to come over.  It's awkward for them to entertain their peers only on the front porch, or when necessary, to walk them in complete darkness to the bathroom.

BOMY: Honey, I'd love to have some friends from church over for lunch on Sunday, but your recliner looks like a pivotal piece of evidence from Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

BOMY: Honey, I appreciate "Role Playing" fun, but I just get creeped out acting like a tarty Florence Henderson to your Barry Williams, knowing this may be the ACTUAL COUCH they used on the Brady set.

And so it went.   Messages sent, received, decoded, stored and a plan of action began to take shape.  It involved Craigslist.  For a while.

Then it involved me coming home from work one afternoon to a mostly empty living room, with a smiling wife and children holding a handful of furniture store sale newspaper inserts, a fast and brief explanation of where our old furniture had gone (I remember words like "needy family," "gasoline," "open flames," "animal testing," "colors not found in nature,"  in the explantion), and the next couple of Saturdays became a blur of retail furniture exposure.

They (the fam) wanted new/new.  I wanted to go to the Scratch & Dent and the consignment stores.  We went new/new.

After deciding on The Set, which I was glad to admit was beautiful and well made, BOMY turns to me, takes the kids in hand, announces that they'll be in Starbucks across the parking lot, and instructs me to "do the money thing."  (I had made the mistake of explaining how we could pay for the whole endeavour with "free money" by selling some covered calls on some stuff which was nicely up).  Now remember, I wanted to update with the set I saw on Craigslist which instructed me to come to the VFW and ask for Gunny Scanelli to see the furniture in person, so the emotional energy I have invested in this process is slight.  What she meant by "do the money thing" is to attempt to negotiate with a retail furniture drone a better than retail price.  Which I proceeded to do by using the phrase "cash green folding money" over and over and over and over until the floor guy went and got the owner of the store, who seemed to respond favorably to the concept I was trying to communicate. 

Fast forward to 3-4 weeks later, once Chui Wong Loo and the rest of her friends across the sea had lovingly  handcrafted our set with pictures of our smiling family pasted to their workbenches for inspiration, and we pull up to the store to pick up our new furniture (I saved $99 by pickup instead of delivery!).  BOMY had opted for the Full Leather Protection and Hand Rubbed Kobe Beefskin Lube and Stainproofing (over my protest that it was a complete ripoff), so the warehouse guys unboxed everything and set to work.

And that's when we saw It.  An abrasion in the back corner of one of the pieces about the size of a quarter, some of the Kobe Beefskin Leather rubbed off from shipping.  We pointed it out to the sales guy, and he fretted and gestured about for a few minutes, wondering aloud what to do, what to do.  After a moment,  I suggested that unless he had the Gift of Healing Kobe Beefskin, he should probably go get his boss and we could discuss resolution.  He agreed that sounded more productive than his standing with his hands on his hips at a jaunty angle, and scurried off.  BOMY says, "What are you going to do?" and before I can answer, my eldest daughter, The Teenangel, (who thinks most like me) answers that question by saying,  "I have the distinct feeling that Dad is going to give someone An Opportunity to Excel."

That's the Family Joke.  Doesn't everyone enjoy my Opportunities to Excel?  I have always seen great value in the whole process, sometimes enjoyed equally by others, sometimes not.  It's up to Them.

The (29 year old) Manager appeared, and evidently he had not attended the same classes, the same seminars, the same Dealing With the Public workshops, which I and most of corporate America have had the opportunity to experience over the past century.  His first statement? "Well, I can barely see that.  It's just the top surface of the leather, so what's all the fuss?"  Not the best way to engage the resolution exchange.  It ended about 20 minutes later with a cash in hand rebate to us, a floor lamp and some accent pillows BOMY went back in the store to pick out, and a great discussion with the kids on the way home.

Here's my point:  When presented with a clearly problematic situation unfolding in which goods, services or  information were promised and expected but not adequately delivered, one of the parties involved in the exchange/resolution will say something along this line, "I'm upset.  This is unacceptable.  I will create and carry out a resolution."  Whoever says it first has control of the process.  Realizing that some of our client's expectations are not always realistic (10% per year, no risk, and a free mani-pedi), we can still act quickly and decisively to take control of situations in which we can gain further trust and commitment from our healthy and productive client relationships.

PS. The rubbed corner is against the wall, so no one sees it.  I like our new floor lamp.

Apr 13, 2010 10:09 pm

You are the man...Love these stories... Reason why I come back to this deserted wasteland.. that and Bond Guy..

Apr 13, 2010 11:28 pm

Great post.  Having been married 19 years to Mr. Wonderful I am on the other side and get a kick out of the difference.  We went and bought a boat this weekend.  I found it online, called and got the directions, did the rapport building, asking the questions, gave the first offer and the seller rejected it.  My SO did not want to call back and make the second offer, but we went round and round, men would rather deal with other men, it will get us a lower price etc.  He made the call, got the good deal and now it is all back in my court to handle here on out.  He is complaining about having to make the five minute call to seal the deal.  As soon as men are willing to give up some of the power in the boardroom, they will not have to take all the heat in the negotiation room.  Until then, that is some nice furniture you bought dude!  Great job on teaching the kids this lesson, it will change at some point.  Never give up control, just like in sales whoever asks the questions controls the appt. 

Apr 16, 2010 2:41 pm

As always, great story and entertaining as well!

Good point on control in client satisfaction issues.

As for furniture, wallpaper, room colors, and landscaping, I gave up on those decisions years ago.

SO: Honey, I want to do the foyer powder room in a seascape, what do you think?

Me: I'm not in love with the idea

Two days later I'm the proud owner of a seascape powder room.

It's a losing battle and why fret the small stuff. OTOH, vehicles and boy toys, that's my domain, I'm the big dog, and the only decider. So, there is a nice balance. I get to buy any , car, truck, motorhome, motorcycle, flying machine, or float toy without objection or board approval, and she gets to paint the rooms in our house whatever color she likes. Life is good!

Apr 16, 2010 9:24 pm

A woman  in a furniture store had her eye on a really nice sofa she thought would look great in her den. She said to the salesman, “I really like this sofa but my husband will probably think it costs too much”.

The salesman replied, “But you only make a small payment down and then don’t make any payments for six months.”

The woman immediately responded, “Who told you about us?”

Apr 17, 2010 4:31 am

True story in my early banking years from a colleague Him:  "Honey, please be frugal, the checking account is tight!"  Her: "What are you talking about, I have plenty of checks?"  He just shook his head....