The salesman from Company C introduced himself, did his warm-up with the homeowners, and did his walk-around. The prospects — a doctor and a lawyer in their mid-30s — were eager to hear about windows. They'd done research, they said.

The salesman asked about their budget and their energy bills. “By the way,” he asked, “have you talked to other companies?”

They had.

“May I ask who?” said the rep.

“Company B was here last night, and Company A was here on Saturday,” the prospects replied.

“Company B?” said the salesman.

“Yes,” said the prospects. “Do you know them?”

The salesman solemnly nodded his head, as if they had mentioned the name of, say, a notorious mobster.

“You don't want to buy from Company B,” he said.

The prospects reared back.

“Why do you say that?” they asked.

“Well,” the rep said, “the frames are fiberglass, which is fine for boats, not necessarily for windows.”

“But what we read is that fiberglass frames are actually stronger than wood or vinyl and …”

“Fiberglass is a fad. Company A,” said the rep, plucking lint from his sleeve, “they're crooks. They have more Better Business Bureau complaints than you can count. It's a trail of tears.”

“But we checked the BBB Web site and didn't see the company's name,” said the prospects.

“That's an oversight,” said the salesman. “I know a guy who used to work there. If something goes bad with the installation, they won't return your call.”

“But the people across the street bought from them and really liked the service,” said the prospects.

“A fluke,” said the rep.

By now, conviviality had been replaced by sourness of innuendo.

“Anyway,” he said, raising the sash on a sample, “we guarantee our windows for life. These will be the last windows you ever buy.”

The prospects nodded. One looked at his watch. The other excused herself to take a cell phone call in the kitchen.

Later, driving away, the salesman wondered why what had seemed like such a ripe opportunity had turned rotten so fast. The problem, he considered, was that everybody was an expert these days; they just felt they had the right to question everything.

Jim Cory, Editor
jcory@hanleywood.com