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Journal

Words do this to us. They feed us even before we see. They build expectations. They are things too. And they lead us to see other things in a certain way. Words activated like and paired with the visual are the message.

If Airlines Sold Paint

Danelle Cheney

aeroflot.jpg
Text by Alan H. Hess. Originally published in Travel Weekly, October 1998.

 

Customer: Hi. How much is your paint?

Clerk: Well, sir, that all depends on quite a lot of things.

Customer: Can you give me a guess? Is there an average price?

Clerk: Our lowest price is $12 a gallon, and we have 60 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 $12 paint.

Clerk: When do you intend to use the paint?

Customer: I want to paint tomorrow. It's my day off.

Clerk: Sir, the paint for tomorrow is the $200 paint.

Customer: When would I have to paint to get the $12 paint?

Clerk: You would have to start very late at night in 21 days, or about 3 weeks. But you will 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: I'll check and see if we have any paint available.

Customer: You have shelves FULL of paint! I can see it!

Clerk: But it doesn't mean that we have paint available. We sell only a certain number of gallons on any given weekend. Oh, and by the way, the price per gallon just went to $16. We don't have any more $12 paint.

Customer: The price went up as we were talking?

Clerk: Yes, sir. We change the prices and rules hundreds of times a day, and since you haven't actually walked out of the store with your paint yet, we just decided to change. I suggest you purchase your paint as soon as possible. How many gallons do you want?

Customer: Well, maybe five gallons. Make that six, so I'll have enough.

Clerk: Oh no, sir, you can't do that. If you buy paint and don't use it, there are penalties and possible confiscation of the paint you already have. If you change any colors there is a $50.00 change fee, even if it is the same brand. Also, no refunds.

Customer: WHAT?

Clerk: We can sell enough paint to do your kitchen, bathroom, hall and north bedroom, but if you stop painting before you do the bedroom, you will lose your remaining gallons of paint.

Customer: What does it matter whether I use all the paint? I already paid you for it!

Clerk: We make plans based upon the idea that all our paint is used, every drop. If you don't, it causes us all sorts of problems.

Customer: This is crazy!! I suppose something terrible happens if I don't keep painting until after Saturday night!

Clerk: Oh yes! Every gallon you bought automatically becomes the $200 paint.

Customer: But what are all these, "Paint on sale from $12 a gallon", signs?

Clerk: Well that's for our budget paint. It only comes in half-gallons. One $6 half-gallon will do half a room. The second half-gallon to complete the room is $20. None of the cans have labels, some are empty and there are no refunds, even on the empty cans.

Customer: To hell with this! I'll buy what I need somewhere else!

Clerk: I don't think so, sir. You may be able to buy paint for your bathroom and bedrooms, and your kitchen and dining room from someone else, but you won't be able to paint your connecting hall and stairway from anyone but us. And I should point out, sir, that if you paint in only one direction, it will be $300 a gallon.

Customer: I thought your most expensive paint was $200!

Clerk: That's if you paint around the room to the point at which you started. A hallway is different.

Customer: And if I buy $200 paint for the hall, but only paint in one direction, you'll confiscate the remaining paint.

Clerk: Yes, and we'll charge you an extra use fee plus the difference on your next gallon of paint. But I believe you're getting it now, sir.

Customer: You're insane!

Clerk: Thanks for painting with us!