I’ll have to ask my husband
Reprinted from August 1991
A truck displaying a panel reading “Interior Decorator” pulls up to a suburban home with a selection of carpet samples. The company representative is welcomed into the home by a neat middle-aged woman. For an hour or so he shows her carpet samples, holding up each sample and explaining the different features, fibers, weaves, etc. The lady ponders over several which she has laid aside and finally makes a decision.
“This is the one I’ll want,” she states confidently, as she admires the sample at arm’s length. “Yes, indeed. When can you install it?”
The salesman checks his notebook and says, “I can have it laid first thing Monday morning, Mrs. Peters.”
She nods her approval.
“Now, Mrs. Peters, how did you wish to pay for this?”
She answers him without the slightest trace of hesitation, “I’ll pay cash. How about $500 now and the rest when you complete the job to my satisfaction?”
The salesman nods agreeably, “That will be quite satisfactory.”
Mrs. Peters reaches for her checkbook.
Later this same day, Mrs. Peters stops in a local dress shop and purchases a pantsuit, which she has noticed on a mannequin in the window. For this item, she also writes a personal check for $32.95.
But when it comes to jewelry…
She leaves the dress shop and enters a jewelry store. She stops at the repair department and says, “I’d like for you to take a look at my watch. It just stopped.”
The jeweler carefully examines the watch and then says, “It is full of water, Mrs. Peters. It will have to be cleaned and several new parts put in the winding assembly. It will run $22.50.”
He pauses and looks up for her approval.
“Oh my! I had no idea. I’ll have to ask my husband, he’s very strict about such things. We always discuss everything like this between us,” she comments briskly.
“Well, Mrs. Peters, the watch isn’t running and it needs to be repaired. It is a good watch after all, well worth the money required to repair it,” the jeweler coaxes softly.
“No, No. I may bring it back, but we never do anything without consulting each other, especially something this important,” she says shaking her head with determination.
The jeweler sighs, picks up the watch and deposits it back into her hands, saying, “All right. You let us know if you want it fixed.”
Consider what prompted this lady to balk at the suggestion of paying $22.50 to repair a watch which was well worth the price. Do you really believe this middle aged lady had to ask her husband? Not likely! As is proved in this analogy, she had the authority to buy several hundred dollars in expensive merchandise without her husband’s consent or approval. She very probably hasn’t needed his approval for at least 20 years or more. The last time she consulted him for an affirmative answer was when he said, “I do.”
Why this silly charade?
The answer is simple: she needed an excuse. Mrs. Peters is not sold on the price of the repair job for some reason. Perhaps she doesn’t really believe the watch needs what the jeweler says. Maybe she has an old watch lying in a drawer at home which she plans to dig out and use, or possibly she is considering a cheapy instead of having this one repaired. Perhaps she intends to shop around a bit for a cheaper price.
Whatever her reason for hesitancy, she is not sold on having her work done here or now. So to soften the blow to the jeweler and avoid hurt feelings or embarrassment, she tactfully transfers the blame to an innocent, absent party, her husband! Poor fellow! Had he been present he might have said, “Fix it up, it’s a good watch!”
Whether Mrs. Peters goes to another store or returns home, the chances of her mentioning the incident to her husband are very unlikely. We are living in the 20th century. Women don’t need to ask their husbands about a simple matter such as repairing a watch. Those days went out with the hustle. If the little lady has the funds in the bank, hubby could probably care less. If she did ask him, he’d more than likely say, “For Pete’s sake, Gloria, its your watch. If you want it fixed, go ahead and get it fixed. Don’t bother me with petty trifles.”
There is always the remote possibility, however, that the man does “wear the pants” in his home. So if the jeweler wants to protect himself against this chance, all he has to do is ask a question or two.
“Would you like to leave the watch here and have your husband call me so I can explain the problem to him?” Or, “Would you like to phone your husband now and talk to him so you don’t have to make another trip down here?” Or even, “Would you like to leave the watch here and call me tomorrow about your decision?”
If the lady answers “yes” to any of these questions you can be fairly sure that she is sincere in her objections to okay the charges.
She surely can’t take the watch elsewhere for another estimate if the watch remains in your possession, nor can she return it to the drawer. This proves she seriously must be contemplating the possibility of having you do the repair work, if she can gain her husband’s approval.
If the little woman is convinced the watch needs the work done on it, and sets out to win her husband over to your cause, this is the finest ally you can have in your corner. If she can’t convince her husband of the urgency of repairing her watch – after 20 years of experience in such matters – you might as well forget about the whole deal.
Let’s assume that all your efforts have failed. The little lady still insists on taking her watch home and asking hubby if she can have it fixed. The final and most powerful approach can be made like this:
“All right, Mrs. Jones. You take this watch home and ask your husband if you can have it repaired. Now here’s what I want you to explain to your husband so he’ll understand the problem…”
Mrs. Jones now has her mind open for the first time. She is listening because you aren’t trying to convince her of anything but only trying to help her explain things to her husband.
“Tell him the staff is worn and the stem and crown are bad. Explain that cleaning for this watch is $9.50, but if we do everything that is needed it will be $18.50. If he doesn’t want you to have your watch fixed properly, that’s okay. We’ll just clean it up for $9.50.”
Very often at this point she will say, “Well, go ahead and fix it for $9.50. I guess it will be okay.”
Don’t mention hubby to her again because she won’t be able to save face. Just write up a ticket and hand it to her. At the last moment she just might agree to the entire overhaul. Don’t be surprised, as the act she has been putting on is just a helpless charade anyway. Don’t be afraid to speak up after you’ve written out her and name and address and say, “Mrs. Jones, why don’t we go ahead and fix it right? I’m sure Mr. Jones would want you to.”
By letting your customer save face, you saved a repair job and the profits it represents to the store!