In need of a dehumidifier, I go to Sears, where there are only two models on display – both Kenmores. I want a Frigidaire Model FAD504DUD because Consumer Reports magazine says it's the best.
I explain this to the sales guy who offers to help me. His name tag says “Eduardo.” Eduardo tells me he can order me the Frigidaire from the Sears website, hastily adding that a) the shipping – right to my door – would be free, b) he could match any price, from any competitor AND, c) he could do the comparison shopping for me right there at his computer.
I like this guy's style – soft–spoken, but determined – so I cross my arms and say, “OK, Eduardo – show me whatcha got.” Eduardo hunkers down in front of his screen and rubs his hands together, like a piano player.
Sears.com has the model I want for $199.
“Where else do you want to look?” Eduardo asks.
“Try Home Depot,” I say. Eduardo hits a couple of keys. Home Depot also has it for $199.
“Check Walmart,” I say. Walmart has it for $187.
I tell Eduardo, “Give me your Frigidaire for $187, delivered free, and we have a deal.”
By now I know that Eduardo – clearly not a native–born American – has been on the job for only three weeks. It's his first retail job. He has learned a lot, he says, but still has a long way to go.
So, Eduardo goes to his boss to find out how to do the price-match thing, and the boss says it can't be done with online orders – only in-store merchandise. The boss tells me the same thing, in a tone that suggests I disturbed his nap. I say, “Fair enough – I'll buy it somewhere else.”
But after the boss walks away, Eduardo quietly convinces me to stick around. He respectfully believes the boss is full of beans on this point, and wants to do some more checking.
At this point I've already invested more than $12 worth of time in this enterprise and would bail, except for the fact that I really want Eduardo to emerge victorious on this. I want to see his persistence pay off. I want him to get the sale. I want him to see him prove that his boss is wrong. I tell him that I'll kill a little time in the tool department while he investigates further.
Meanwhile, Eduardo gets assigned to help a customer shopping for a vacuum cleaner – an elderly woman who wants a complete rundown on pretty much ever vacuum cleaner in stock. And there are lots of them.
Another 15 minutes goes buy. Yet, I wait. I'm all in on this one.
Ultimately Eduardo closes the deal with the vacuum cleaner customer, and places a second call to corporate on my behalf. He speaks to somebody for awhile, then waves me over and hands the phone to me – as though he doesn't quite understand what he's being told, and wants me to hear it firsthand.
“Hello?,” I say, and a woman tells me that Sears will, indeed, match the Walmart price, but in a convoluted sort of way. I'll pay the full price up front, then get a $12 credit on my Sears card, meaning that I'll ultimately pay $188.
“I can live with that,” I tell her. Eduardo flashes me a triumphant smile.
A store manager is summoned to execute the maneuver. She seems upset about something, and I think, at first, it has something to do with with the deal Eduardo and I cooked up. But eventually the manager apologizes for her abruptness, revealing, with tear-filled eyes, that her 8-month-old puppy, the joy of her life, died suddenly the previous night. The puppy suffered a seizure during an obedience class and expired right there on the floor, in front of everybody.
Eduardo clearly feels her pain. He tells the manager he has two dogs that mean the world to him, too, and if anything happened to them, well… and, suddenly, Eduardo, like the manager, is teary eyed. For a moment, it looks like we're headed for a group hug, right there among the washers and driers.
I offer my condolences to the manager, and make a point of telling her that Eduardo is an employee worth keeping. I leave Sears with my paperwork, about 40 minutes after I walked into the store. It was time well-spent.