Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bookstore Adventures #1

I couldn’t help myself.
I was at Borders Bookstore today just looking at books and sipping coffee.  A young black male approached me.  My first reaction was to say “sorry, I’m not gay,” (where I am from a man has no business starting a random conversation with another man unless he isn’t straight).  Before I could say that though, he said  "Let me tell you about an incredible ground-level business opportunity."  I knew exactly where this bookstore chat was headed once he said that. In my mind I could only think of two words - pyramid scheme.  
At that point, I could have said I was not interested.  Also, I could have possibly ran to rest room (or commited Seppuku). Unfortunately, I could not help myself.  I never can.  During my undergraduate years I had enumerable debates with crazy groups - socialists, communists, fundamentalists, Larouche Cultists, and the professors (of course).  Now, there are not enough of these type of people to argue with.  
So, when this “business man” offered to tell me about an "incredible business opportunity" I really couldn’t resist.  He worked for Amway.  I let him give me the whole outline.  He told me about how much money I could make.  How all I had to do was get 10 people to join. How the money would rack up after that point.  His best pitch, in my opinion, was that “with this career, you don’t have to worry about getting sick for three months,” because “as long as you bring hard workers into the company you will always make money.”  I mean doesn't everyone worry about their health? Especially, men in their late twenties who still believe they are invincible (like myself)? I listened to it all while drinking my coffee.
After all of that talking, he asked me “what do you think?”
I said “it sounds like a pyramid scheme.”
He obviously had heard similar comments before.  He wasn’t really angry with me because of that comment. Instead, he just seemed to think I was an idiot for making that comment.  Maybe he thought I didn’t have a clue about what a “pyramid scheme” was.  Instead of defending the company, he responded with “it isn’t a pyramid scheme.”  No argument.  He stared at me as if he had the necessary wisdom to enlighten me.  I sense he was trying to gauge his chances of still getting me on board with “the incredible ground level business opportunity.”  
I decided to play along.  I responded “well, I’m not sure if it is really a pyramid scheme - it just seems like it is one.”
His response was classic “do you even know what a pyramid scheme is?”
I wanted to laugh.  It took a lot not to laugh.  I looked him dead in the eye and said “yes, I think so.”

He blurted, “What is it then?”  I’m sure he was upset that I hadn’t admitted my ignorance.

“Well, I think,” I said coyly, “it is where you are promised high returns on your sign-up fee if you can enroll other people.  Is that what it is?”
He didn’t say anything for a while, but then he blurted out “that’s not what we do at Amway.”  He looked at his watch. It was cheap. A fake Rolex. The sides were losing color - going from gold to metallic grey. Someone probably told him it was a good idea to wear that watch when talking to possible enrollees. I could tell that he was considering how much more time to waste on a lost cause, “we sell all types of stuff - the company makes billions of dollars selling stuff.”

I am sure there was a twinkle in my eye at this response.  I quickly retorted “how much can I make off selling stuff?”
His response was unexpectedly honest, “I’m not sure exactly, it depends on what you sell.”

“Well, how much does the average person you sign up make off sign-ups?” I responded cordially in order to get the guy excited.
“Some people make three to four grand a month, but others make less than a hundred” he said looking up at me with a hint of relief that I had moved back to something more positive.  He continued “it depends on how hard a worker you are, and how many people you sign up.”
I could have kept going, but I could see the old lady was ready to go.  She was wondering around the bookstore looking for me.  I thought I better end it.  So, I said "well, maybe we can have a meeting later and talk about this in detail.  Can you take my phone number and email and contact me later?”  
He was happy enough just to think I was considering the whole thing.  At that point I gave him the name, number and email address of a good friend of mine named Mike ------ and I said “call me anytime, I’m always up.”
At that point my fiancée came over and said "who is that?"
Still in earshot of the guy I said, "just some man trying to get me in a pyramid scheme."

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