Sunday I went to my local electronics store to browse for a new computer, and a $500 laptop caught my attention. It lacked the massive amounts of memory and storage space that come with the $1000-and-up models, but I chalked that up as a virtue rather than a fault. I intend to use the laptop for my writing, and anything that prevents me from installing or enjoying City of Heroes is a boon.
But a salesperson approached me and, without preamble, declared the laptop to be steaming mound of uselessness. “That thing …” she said, letting the sentence trail-off and shaking her head ruefully. “If you’re even considering that, you should be looking at that Sony over there.” She gestured toward a model across the aisle that sold for about three times as much. “This thing is so slow, you won’t be able to use it for anything.”
Irritated, I adopted my msot cheerful tone and said “I’ll be the judge of that. Abruptly uninterested, the saleswoman squirted off without another word.
Then as I turned back to reading the system specifications, I was waylaid by seniors.
“What do you know about this here computer?” the old man demanded, in that tone of volume of voice that I’m wont to hear from the row behind me in the movie theater.
“I don’t work here,” I said, “but it looks …”
“I just want to play my games,” the woman interjected.
The man confirmed. “We just want to play our games. But these salespeople, they say this computer is no good for games. They say it won’t work.”
“It says in the ad that this computer is $500,” added the wife. “And now they tell us it doesn’t even work.”
She held up an insert from a newspaper, on which this very laptop was touted as an bargain on par with the Louisiana Purchase. Apparently that was this store’s business model: they advertise some item as being the greatest thing since oral sex, and then station salespeople around it to snort derisively at anyone stupid enough to even glance in the featured item’s direction.
“What kind of games?” I asked, suspecting that weren’t talking World Of Warcraft, here.
“I like to play poker,” said the man. Then he cocked his thumb back to point as the woman behind him and said “She likes to play the slots. And they say we need a thousand dollar computer to do it.”
“That’s ridiculous. We are in our seventies,” said the woman, as if there was a well-established, scientific prinicple correlating the age of a user to his required amount of RAM.
“If you’re just playing casino games, I think this computer will be just fine,” I told them.
“I knew it.” The man said to his wife, vindicated. “What about AOL? Does this thing have AOL?”
“Our son told us not to have a computer with AOL on it,” the woman said. “He says AOL runs a lot of programs on your computer and makes it run slow.”
“Well, it’s not a matter of a computer ‘having’ AOL or not, because AOL is an ISP not a …” I stopped and restarted. “This computer might have, like, a little AOL picture on the desktop? But if you don’t want to use it you can just get delete it.”
“How do we do that?” asked the man.
“Just drag the icon into the Trash,” I said.
The woman looked confused. “Won’t that delete the hard drive?”
This astoundingly stereotypical “technologically clueless old person” statement, combined with the phrase “hard drive”, actually made me wonder if they were having one over on me, like maybe I was being featured on “Geriatric Punk’d!” or something. Or perhaps this was an modern day version of that fairy tale where the King disguises himself as a pauper and goes out amongst his subjects, rewarding those who offer him charity with riches beyond their wildest dreams. Perhaps these people were actually sent out by the store management, and by helping them out I would receive a free CDR/DVD drive.
Alas, our subsequent banter conclusively disproved the latter hypothesis.
“We’re getting this computer,” the man announced at last, and set off to find a salesman. The woman followed, leaving me a little irked that I hadn’t even got thanked.
But there was one bright side: despite brushing off the saleswoman earlier, she had got me wondering if I really wanted this laptop, instead of that $1500 Sony over yonder. In explaining to the elderly couple that they didn’t really need more than this model offered, I had also talked myself into saidsame.
Resolved, I opened my mouth to address the salesman who was approaching me. “Excuse me,” I said.
“Hang on a sec,” he replied. Then he reached around me and put a bright red card on the laptop I was going to buy. It read “This model is sold out.” I looked over at the register and saw the old people handing over their credit card and looking satisfied that they had seen through the store’s bait-and-switch scheme.
“Okay,” the sales guy said. “What can I get you?”