About two weeks ago, I was watching TV and the phone rang. I don't have caller identity on my phone, so I answer it every time. At suppertime, 6 p.m. it is common for cold callers to do their thing and I am very adept at hanging up. However on this occasion, for some reason I let the woman talk for a moment or two. She knew my name, but so do most cold callers, but those who call me Barbara get a different level of attention than others. Barbara is my real name, but I only use it for official purposes – hospital visits, voting, etc. And this woman also knew I had solar panels. "She might have guessed," you say, but I would think that would have a rather unlikely success rate for a
guessing game. So she probably got my name from the people I bought my solar panels from – or maybe she herself is from that same company. So I kept on the phone, and let her her do her spiel. She said I would no doubt guess she was from Sussex by her accent. But she was wrong there – I couldn't guess any regional accents except the broad categories of Wales, Scotland, Geordie and maybe Liverpool. She guessed where I was from, and we talked about that for a moment. Then came the inevitable pitch - “We have an enviro specialist in your area at the moment. Could he come and talk to you about our solar products?”
Call me a fool, which I no doubt am, but I agreed – partly because in my visit to the States I came across my cousin's daughter who has the sort of energy that comes from digging a hole in the garden.
Maybe he could tell me about that, and I didn't have anything better to do on a Wednesday afternoon.
He arrived promptly at 1, and left reluctantly at 5. I think the main reluctance was not due to his not having convinced me, but rather that he wanted to avoid rush hour traffic on his trip home to Yorkshire.
Yes, I did it. I listened and questioned and brought up all the arguments I could think of. And I told him it was too expensive, and I couldn't possibly buy something without time to think it through and discuss it with my daughters, and then I signed on the dotted line.
He wasn't the Casanova type at all – tall, young, slim, but rather quiet and unassuming. Nobody would pick him out of a group as being a go getter. He started out by asking about my experiences with the solar panels, and I told him that my friends were doing better financially from theirs. So he asked to see my file on the quarterly dividends that I get paid by selling electricity back to the grid. He spent quite a while looking through all this, and couldn't seem to find anything wrong. I was going to be making my investment back in another 3 1/2 years, as promised. By then, being a hot day, we had moved out into the garden for our chat, and he noticed that the solar panels were made by his company – and they were the first ones to be made in England. “If the company you bought those has gone out of business,” he said, “you can always come to us. We will make it right.” “What a
nice man,” I thought.
I won't go through all our conversation, but as you might have guessed, eventually he got onto the prime reason for his visit – the products that his company are currently promoting. It sounded interesting, and the various reviews on the product were very positive. But they would be. No company would deliberately let you know the pitfalls before you signed. But I was still in the “I have no intention of buying” mode all the time he was saying this. But after he went through the advantages and the science behind this system which enhances your boiler and radiators to do a better job – I was almost convinced that it was a good idea. He said, “How much do you think the system costs?” and although secretly I rather hoped it was within my budget, the price he produced was double what I expected.
He did go to have a look at my boiler, and did a listing of all the radiators, testing each to see how much difference there was between the heat at the top and the bottom. All my radiators had a failure rate of at least 30% and some were twice as bad. He was so keen that I was just the sort of person who could save loads of money and have a really comfortable house as well.
I had to admit that I am often cold in my house – and I do like to be warm. The thermostat on our house when I was a child was turned down to 72º at night and was 76º or so during the day. And our house was always lovely and warm. My biggest complaint on moving to England was how cold I was – inside, any time of the year. Yet how warm I was in the winter, outside compared to the sub zero temps for six months of the year in North Dakota.
But then there came the selling point that got me – if I was lucky, I could get the system cheaper. I love a bargain. He had to fill out a form with points for this and that, and it showed that I might have twenty percent off the selling price. I'm not telling you the actual cost, but it was expensive. Now I eventually came to realise that I would have had this offer no matter what. It was part of their sales pitch. Nobody paid the full price for the system. But there was a problem. This was their last day in this area. Maybe all the special promotions had been taken by other agents. So he called his boss. She said she would phone back after she checked, as their just happened to be one of these special deals available for our area. And wasn't I the lucky one. I signed and sealed my fortune – with hardly a regret. I felt like I had won the lottery. But there was a snag. Because it was the last one available in the area and the whole team were going elsewhere from the next day, I had to agree to having the system installed that very week.
“But I want to consult with my daughters. I want to think this over.” What I didn't say, “I want to look you up on the internet,” but the reply was: “I'm afraid for this price, it is now or never.” So with certain worries about how my daughters would take my extravagance, I gave my final agreement.
Then I spent a sleepless night, worrying about where I could find the necessary money to pay the total bill by the end of the week.