Monday, March 2, 2009

Smile for the camera, sucker

It’s not safe to shop these days because everyone is trying to steal you naked. Just so you know. It started with “Do you want fries with that?” and now it’s not even safe to go to the dentist.

I hate "upselling" because pretty much everyone wants to sell you more stuff than you need. It's one thing to offer some services but it's another to present them like they are needs.

Here’s how it all went down: The other day I went to get my regular 6-month cleaning and checkup at the dentist. I’m new in town, so I just looked in the phonebook for dentists and found Dr. So-and-So, the Best and Most Accredited Dentist in the Southwest and Border Region. That all sounded impressive, so I went in and got my teeth cleaned without incident.

Luckily, I worked at Jiffy Lube for a while to support my college habit. The management was always trying to get us to sell more stuff to the customers and having been a predator I am constantly on my guard so I don't become prey.

After the hygienist cleaned my teeth they put me in a room with walls covered in pictures of people with flawless smiles, all handcrafted by Dr. So-and-So, the Best and Most Accredited Dentist in the Southwest and Border Region. Then a hot dental saleswoman came in wearing a snappy conservative pantsuit and high heels who started to tell me about all the great things Dr. So-and-So, the Best and Most Accredited Dentist in the Southwest and Border Region, could do for my smile, all at the best prices in town.

Her pitch went a lot like this: “You don’t have dental insurance? No problem! We have financing options. We also accept Visa and MasterCard. And firstborn children. Do you have a firstborn? They’re good for one whitening. We also deal in organs. Listen to this: we’ll trade you one veneer for one of your healthy kidneys! How about that? You have to admit, that’s a smokin’ deal!”

I finally got her to stop talking long enough to say, “Look, I’m a college student. Just to afford this cleaning I had to empty my checking account, steal all my roommates laundry quarters and ride my bike here to save money on gas. All I wanted was the cleaning. Do I need all this other stuff?”

“Well… define ‘need,’” she said.

I was annoyed. “Ok. ‘Need: a requirement, a necessity, something that one cannot do without.’”

“Use it in a sentence, please,” she asked politely.

“Ok,” I said. “‘I needs to get all this ridiculously expensive dental work done or his teeth will fall out.’”

“Oh, well when you put it like that, no,” she admitted. “You don’t need it. Your mouth and teeth are perfectly healthy. You brush and floss like a person who doesn’t have dental insurance. But we want you to have a beautiful, Hollywood movie star smile.”

Ouch, my poor smile.

So I gathered all my courage and said, “Look, I would love to get bleached and veneered but I almost got run over by a Hummer riding my bike here and there’s a guy at my apartment who can’t wash his clothes now, and it’s not pretty. So I better just take my busted up grill and go home and eat the last of my ramen noodles.”

Some day I will look back and laugh and smile about all this, but not right now.