Stupid or Brilliant?Posted: March 7, 2013
I opened an e-mail today from the Food Network and the title of the page was “Crowd Pleasing Cakes.” Duh! I thought. Have you ever heard of a crowd hating cake? It’s a cake; the fact that it is pleasing is not news. Now Crowd Pleasing Crudités, that’s groundbreaking. That web-editor was just plain lazy to come up with that cake headline, but then again it did get me thinking about cake with just the power of suggestion.
Sometimes asking a dumb question can get people to go where you want to lead them without them even knowing that is what you are doing. If that last sentence does not make any sense to you follow this true story.
The summer between my sophomore and junior year in college I stayed in Carlisle, PA and had numerous jobs to try and make ends meet. It was a recession and unskilled liberal arts labor was cheep and abundant. One of my favorite short-lived employers was the Electrolux vacuum company, maker of fine, but very expensive cleaning machines. I was a door-to-door vacuum sales person peddling $500 machines in an area where people’s mortgages might only be $300, yet I still sold some vacuums.
How did I do that, you might ask? I asked a stupid question. See, once I got inside someone’s house I was almost assured of selling him or her a vacuum. The top of the line Electrolux was a canister machine that had a wand so you could not just suck the dirt off the floors, but the furniture, draperies and most importantly, mattresses were all possible cleaning areas. Have you ever vacuumed your mattress? Certainly not, if you had an upright vacuum.
Here is how the pitch went: I showed the sucker; I mean prospect, a clean empty cloth vacuum bag for demonstration purposes. I vacuum about one square yard in their living room and then take the bag out and dump all the stuff it sucked up back on the floor. It is amazing what a new vacuum can find. I never failed to have a noticeably gross amount of dust, dirt and hair, no matter how clean the house looked to start.
Horrified, the homeowner, usually a woman, would make some excuse about the age of her current machine. Gotcha. It was never that she had not cleaned in weeks, but to save face it must be an equipment problem. Then I would ask the really dumb question that guaranteed me the sale, “Has anyone in your house had a cold this year?” At least one person in every house in America has had a cold in the last year.
That was when I would ask to see their mattress, specifically the husband’s side of the bed. I would peel back the sheets and repeat the cloth bag routine but on the mattress. The stuff you get out of a mattress makes the floor look like a clean plate that just came out of the dishwasher. This is when I would infer that not sucking the dead skin out of your mattress is somehow connected to colds. SOLD!
The point of this story is don’t be lead down a path you did not intend to travel because someone pointed out something obvious or asked a stupid question. I had to fight hard not to be drawn to eat some cake just because it was crowd pleasing, but then again I have to work hard not to want cake just because it exists on earth.