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[ By Alan H. Hess. Originally published in Travel Weekly, October 1998. ]
[ (c) 1998. Reproduced with the permission of the author. ]
** Buying paint from a hardware store **
Customer: Hi, how much is your interior flat latex paint in Bone White?
Clerk: We have a medium quality, which is $16 a gallan, and premium,
which is $22 a gallon. How many gallons would you like?
Customer: I'll take five gallons of the medium quality, please.
Clerk: That will be $80 plus tax.
** Buying paint from an airline **
Customer: Hi, how much is your paint?
Clerk: Well, sir, that all depends.
Customer: Depends on what?
Clerk: Actually a lot of things.
Customer: How about giving me an average price?
Clerk: Wow, that's too hard a question. The lowest price is $9 a
gallon, and we have 150 different prices up to $200 a gallon.
Customer: What's the difference in the paint?
Clerk: Oh, there isn't any difference; it's all the same paint.
Customer: Well, then, I'd like some of that $9 paint.
Clerk: Well, first I need to ask you a few questions. W hen do you
intend to use it?
Customer: I want to paint tomorrow, on my day off.
Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.
Customer: What? When would I have to paint in order to get the $9
Clerk: That would be in three weeks, but you will also have to agree
to start painting before Friday of that week and continue painting
until at least Sunday.
Customer: You've got to be kidding!
Clerk: Sir, we don't kid around here. Of course, I'll have to check
to see if we have any of that paint available before I can sell it to
Customer: What do you mean check to see if you can sell it to me? You
have shelves full of that stuff; I can see it right there.
Clerk: Just because you can see it doesn't mean that we have it. It
may be the same paint, but we sell only a certain number of gallons on
any given week. Oh, and by the way, the price just went to $12.
Customer: You mean the price went up while we were talking?
Clerk: Yes, sir. You see, we change prices and rules thousands of
times a day, and since you haven't actually walked out of the store
with your paint yet, we just decided to change. Unless you want the
same thing to happen again, I would suggest that you get on with your
purchase. How many gallons do you want?
Customer: I don't know exactly. Maybe five gallons. Maybe I should
buy six gallons just to make sure I have enough.
Clerk: Oh, no, sir, you can't do that. If you buy the paint and then
don't use it, you will be liable for penalties and possible
confiscation of the paint you already have.
Clerk: That's right. We can sell you enough paint to do your
kitchen, bathroom, hall, and north bedroom, but if you stop painting
before you do the bedroom, you will violation of our tariffs.
Customer: But what does it mater to your whether I use all the paint?
I already paid for it!
Clerk: Sir, there's no point in getting upset; that's just the way it
is. We make plans upon the idea that you will use all the paint, and
when you don't, it just causes us all kinds of problems.
Customer: This is crazy! I suppose something terrible will happen if
I don't keep painting until after Saturday night!
Clerk: Yes, sir, it will.
Customer: Well, that does it! I'm going somewhere else to buy my
Clerk: That won't do you any good, sir. We all have the same rules.