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Daily Speculations The Web Site of Victor Niederhoffer and Laurel Kenner

05-May-2006
The Benefits of Doubting Salesmen, by Dr. Kim Zussman

Ten years with the same eyeglasses, only lenses were updated, correlating with the time series of infirmity. The newer frames were too John Lennon and making statements, and no purveyor had anything close to the ones I liked.

Recently at the local strip mall, wandered in to a dispensing optician (in the spirit of demand, gate-keeping optometrists have been stripped of sole key-ownership). Josh bought the place from a friend who couldn't make a living there; foot traffic was heavy but so was the rent. The new guy showed some frames, and heard me complain that I still liked the ones I had from 10 years ago. He made a photocopy of the specs, and said he would search for similar. Meanwhile, he suggested that if we couldn't find frames I liked, he could refurbish my current ones by changing the temples and nose-pieces, as well as ordering new lenses, and that it would run very little.

His approach stopped me in my tracks. I recalled a different optician who once tried to pressure me into frames I didn't like, which made me resent his self-important self-incentive. Josh, on the other hand, understood the value of listening to what the customer wants.

A few days later the Mrs. and I were shopping nearby, and Josh darted out and called my name (he remembered!). "Have a minute?" he yelled. "Got some frames to show you!". We went in and looked at what he had found, as well as several others in the store. I told him it couldn't change much because the Mrs. might not like it, and that I couldn't afford such risk. She still liked the old me, as it is natural to be fond of the immutable. Josh was ready to schedule the refurbishment, explaining it would only take an hour once the Rx was faxed in. But he paused, and said diplomatically that if he were to be frank, the ones I had were old-fashioned and didn't suit my square head. Josh correctly surmised that his customer was the kind that laughs at it's own head. He showed us a few others, and had me try one that he said made me younger, and the much younger Mrs. agreed with a big smile and the sale was made.

This encounter recalled my late father, a salesman who never finished high school but had an innate understanding of human nature that bought us all higher educations. He sold cars to people who started out distrusting him, but ended up loving him, because that deluxe air-conditioner they demanded was surrendered despite profit reduction from $4500 to $4000. His manager didn't mind, and the customers would always come back for the next car.

All good salesmen, even those who never took algebra, know how to compound and discount the value of sacrifice, no matter how small.