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Telemarketers and the really soft water

by Lee Adams

Last month my wife got a phone call. We’d ‘“won’” a $500 gift certificate to a national home-supply store, she was told. Of course, the ones giving away the certificate were not affiliated with the home-supply store in any way, but that wasn’t immediately clear.

Now I’m always a skeptic. Anytime some one calls and says ‘“You’ve won a’…,’” I simply say, ‘“Great! Put it in the mail and I’ll take care of it as soon as it arrives.’”

That usually gets them off the phone pretty quickly because, of course, nobody’s out to give you anything for nothing these days.

As I heard my wife giving them directions to our house over the phone I said, ‘“What are you doing? For all you know they could be planning to rob us!’”

‘“No, no. This is legit,’” she whispered with her hand over the mouthpiece. ‘“I remember signing up for this one.’”

So I just retreated to my chair with a satisfied you’ll see look on my face.

When she got off the phone she told me they were bringing the certificate over and just wanted to do a ‘“short water test.’”

Who is this? The home-supply store? The city water department? Of course, she didn’t exactly know and I had a feeling about what was coming.

The next evening a rather jolly, wide-grinned and slightly heavyset man rolled up our driveway in a Lexus and bounced up to the door. I greeted him with enthusiasm and invited him right in.

With a twinge of hope that he might just produce the goods and be on his merry way, I watched him instead make a beeline straight for the kitchen sink and began dismantling the faucet. The he opened up an aluminum case full of testing equipment.

‘“Now, what we have here are some chemicals and some beakers,’” he said.

‘“What a scientist,’” I thought. ‘“We’re now going to have a salesman try to outsmart us with a bunch of fancy colored liquid.’”

And he proceeded to attempt just that. He used the green liquid and the yellow liquid and the pink liquid. He checked the toilet tank for sediment. It was horrible, just horrible. Our glasses have spots, our skin was drying out and he told us our hot water heater probably had the equivalent of several pounds of stone in it due to the lime and sediment that was making its way through the pipes. I had been drinking that water. No wonder I felt so lazy. I probably had a bunch of rocks in my butt.

But there was hope yet! A solution he could provide us. I’ll call it, to protect the name, the Really, Really Soft Water Filter. And there’s no doubt. Believe me, this thing could work miracles. He hooked it up to our faucet and voila!, our water was soft, the colored liquids cleared right up and our glasses rinsed spotless! Then the salesman had me wash my hands: my left in our harsh, contaminated water and the other in the filtered water.

Wow! My right hand felt so soft, so clean. I was a new man. The filtered water had cleaned all the harsh soaps and sediments from my skin. It was impressive. His skin looked like a baby’s; he said he had a filter at home.

About an hour and a half had gone by and I wanted to cut to the chase.

‘“So, how much?’” I asked.

But wait! There was more. It would save us money. We’d never buy bottled water again (Okay, but I already drink it out of the tap). A box of laundry soap and one bar for the bath would last us the rest of our lives! (Okay, I’m exaggerating a little.)

‘“So, how much?’”

‘“Well, just let me show you’…’”

‘“Wait,’” I said. ‘“I don’t need further convincing. There’s no doubt the filter does what you say it does and this is by far the best water I’ve ever had.’”

It’d been almost two and a half hours by this point. I was getting a little antsy and it was past my daughter’s bedtime. She needed to get a bath, so my wife went to start the bathwater. I felt like a horrible father. We’d sat her in front of a video for the past two hours and now we’re preparing to bathe her in this nasty, filthy, contaminated water. Finally, I got the answer I was looking for.

About $5100. But, it would pay for itself. The salesman was ready to finance us for five years on the spot.

‘“I don’t buy anything on impulse,’” I told him. I went on to say that I work for a news publication and that I research everything before I buy, even if it costs me just $5.

And with that he asked to borrow my phone to call the company. I heard him tell the lady I wasn’t interested and then he said she wanted to speak to me. I tried to tell her that I need time to see if this is something we really need and to research the product on my own.

‘“Well, sir,’” she said. ‘“I could really use some advertising right now and if you buy this product and refer me to someone I’ll give you $500 off right now.’”

This sounded desperate and I felt there was some reason they wanted to sell now. I told her, ‘“If I’m interested I’ll call you back, but I will not commit to anything on impulse.’”

And with that the jolly little man scurried away.

The next day I Googled the product only to find link after link about horrible service, pushy salesmen and overpricing. There were even testimonials of salesmen who said they felt as if they were betraying people to sell the product. Consumer Reports’ and Bob Vila’s websites posted numerous warnings.

‘“So you were right,’” my wife confessed. Ahhh! It feels great to have your spouse admit defeat. Half way through the sales pitch I was eyeing her with ‘I told you so’s’ and she was glaring back at me.

As for the certificate? Well, we had to remind the guy about it on his way out the door, and what he gave us was not the certificate for the home-supply store but a $500 shopping spree online. The problem was, that all of the free items were marked up about three times what Wal-Mart sells them for, and we would have to pay nearly $150 for shipping if we used all $500. We just threw it away.

Of course, the water filter company passed the buck on to the local supplier, who said they’d never heard of any such fees with the shopping spree.

About two weeks later our heat pump went out. Total cost: $4195. Boy am I glad we didn’t get a water filter.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at lee@yesweekly.com.

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