Seven years, tops.
So the washing machine, which had sat like a sorry old man and served our family for at least 25 years, decided to spring more leaks that a litter of puppies last Christmas Day. The house was filled with loved ones of course. A daughter, dealing with pounds of fouled baby clothes, reported the flooding. I sighed and shut off the water. "What am I suppose to do now?" she asked.
A question to which there is no Christmassy answer.
We waited until they all waved goodbye and headed to their respective homes faraway and then we got into the car and drove to the local TV-Audio-Appliance Giant store. We've shopped there many times and the place never ceases to inspire us.
We walked into a blizzard of blaring rock music, the only customers. The salesmen (all men) looked up at us like whiskey-guzzling cowpokes in a bad Western. They turned to each other (Fresh meat. Whose turn?). One, a Son of India, stood and headed our way.
"Hello! Hello!" (with that delightful accent).
"How may I help you?"
"We need a washing machine," The Lovely Marianne says. He's looking at me and not at TLM.
"What sort of washing machine are you looking for?" he asks me, spreading the accent on me like butter. He's still not looking at TLM, even though she's the only one speaking to him.
"Don't talk to me," I say. "I work in the back. I have no money."
"Oh," he says, glancing at my sweet wife, who is more than ready to do battle.
"We need a washing machine. Ours is leaking. We've had it for more than 25 years," she says.
The salesman holds up his right palm, which is a dangerous thing to do when TLM is speaking. "Let me stop you right there," he says. "Right, right there!" This is not a very smart thing to do, but as I said, the place is inspiring.
He gestures wide at the entire store. His eyes go just as wide. He is approaching appliance nirvana. "All that you see here, all of it, all of it, all of it! None of it will last more than seven years. None! None! None!" He smiles and you can tell that he has said these words many times. Try that in the heating business, I'm thinking.
My dangerous wife shakes her head sadly and walks away from him. We follow. "What features do you require?" he asks in that spicy accent. "Cheap," TLM answers, which, considering what he just told about the longevity of the inventory is the correct answer, right? He gave his opinion as to the quality of his wares and he just reaped an early harvest from a woman who now wants to cut out his heart and eat it, metaphorically speaking.
She finds a General Electric machine that looks like the last kid to be picked for the baseball team. It's marked $350, the cheapest one on the floor. "This is a very good machine, a very good machine. Very, very good!" the salesman sing-songs. General Electric!" TLM is reading the label. She glances at the machine next to the wimpy-kid G.E. machine. It's a hundred bucks more. "What does this one have that that one doesn't?" she asks. He starts reading the two labels. I'm thinking that's something he should have done before we arrived, right? Imagine selling boilers that way. "What's the difference between this boiler and that boiler?" the customer asks, "Uh, five hundred bucks?" you ask in return. Nah.
Oh, I should also mention that the other salesmen, having no customers to talk to, are talking to each other. And they're talking loud because they have the music in the Audio section cranked up to 11. One guy is telling another guy about his date the other night. He's gesturing a lot, and not nicely, which is helping the story quite a bit. Another guy, this one massively overweight, is sleeping on a chair, which, under the circumstances, is incredible. I'm wondering if he's dead. Meanwhile, our guy continues to compare the two labels.
"This one," he finally says, has lights that show the progress of the washing. Fill, Wash, Rinse, Spin." He points at each unlit light. " Very, very good! Very good!"
"What the hell would I need that for?" TLM asks. "You think I'm gonna stand there and watch the thing run?" She snorts and turns back to the wimpy-kid General Electric. "We'll take this one," she says. "It's a good machine, right?"
"Oh, very, very good! The best machine in America. General Electric. Buy American! Very good!"
So we're decided. But wait, here comes the best part: We go to the computer so he can write up the order. He has already explained about the $50 delivery charge. "They set it all up for you and take away your old one! Very good!" TLM wants this for free, of course, but gets nowhere with that. Oh, and we also must buy their hoses because no other hoses can be trusted. "We sell only the best rubber hoses! Top quality! Top! Top!" How much? Fifteen bucks.
He's tapping the computer and calling up our sales history because we just can't get enough of this place. He sees we are loyal customers and he wants us to be happy. "Which warranty would you like?" he asks, pointing to our options on the screen.
"None of them," TLM says.
"But why not? Why not!" he sputters.
"Because this is the best machine in America," she says. "You told us that over there." She points at the wimpy kid.
He shakes his head sadly. "Ah, sadly, sadly," he laments, "everything breaks. This is life's calling. And it will break just after the one-year warranty. Perhaps on your Christmas? This has been my experience. A service call will be at least one-hundred dollars. Very expensive! Very, very expensive! And the man will not be able to fix it at all. Not at all!"
"And your guy will be able to fix it if we take the warranty?" TLM asks.
"Oh, yes! Our man is very, very good! Very good!"
"We don't want it," she says.
"But. . . "She gives him a look that consumes the rest of that sentence.
"Now about the hoses," he says, being a man who knows his hoses. "You will want the stainless-steel ones, yes? They are very good!"
"How much are those?" TLM asks.
"Thirty-nine dollars," he says.
"What happened to the fifteen-dollar rubber hoses," she asks. "You said they were the very best."
"Well, these are steel and steel is. . ."
"Gimme the rubber ones," she says.
The next day, the two delivery guys show up with the wimpy kid. I hold the door for them. It doesn't take long to install a new washing machine, especially one with such fine rubber hoses.
"How long have you guys been working together?" I ask.
"Two years," the shorter of the two answers. "I'm with the company for thirty-seven years."
"Boy, you sure don't look it," I say. The taller guy laughs.
"How do you like it there?" I ask. "The salesman told me this machine was going to break down in a year and last seven years tops. He said it was the very best."
"Well, it used to be fun working there," the short guy said.
"Yeah," the tall guy adds, "Not so much fun anymore."
"Why's that?" I ask.
They look at each other, chuckle and don't answer me.
They don't have to. The look says it all. They're working with idiots.