Medicine show at Safeway

Just went to Dominicks (Safeway). Little did I know my errand-based, low-key journey would involve some “retailtainment.” (I thought I made that word up until I googled it and found that it has been around since 1999. Also called “entertailment.”)

We were in the paper goods aisle when a peppy voice came over the PA system. “A special offer just for shoppers in the store right now. A free paring knife. Gather at the black stand in the wine department in two minutes.” I don’t know about you, but we can always use a paring knife. I figured it wasn’t going to be the best of paring knives, but at first, when they’re sharp, even the mediocre ones, they are a mighty fine help in getting dinner ready. We have a drawer filled with them.

I walked over to the designated spot with about 15 other shoppers and a chipper blond and gray-haired gentleman got behind the black stand, guaranteed we would get our knives, but first would we give him just 5 minutes of our time while he demonstrated some very amazing items to us.

Were any of us familiar with this Forever Sharp knife from commercials on TV, he asked. One woman raised her hand and shared that her mother had had one for two years. “Was it still sharp?” he asked.

“Yes,” she answered. (She had to be a shill!)

And then the show began, filled with corny humor and deft demonstrations including taking one of the knives and cutting/ sawing into a steel hammer while the knife still maintained its “forever sharp”ness (proven to the crowd by its finely slicing of a tomato). Wow, snakeoil, I thought. The crowd good humoredly laughed and raised hands at the various prompts of the blond and gray-haired retailer.

Then came the bargain pitch. “Yes, these knives retail at $40.00 each, but for today only, in this store, buy one and we’ll give you a second one for $4.” (If they are forever sharp, I wondered, why would you need a second one.) And if you got two, he would throw in a pro fillet knife, which he demonstrated by cutting the thin skin from a tomato. In fact, he would throw in two pro fillet knives. “Is this a pretty good deal?” he asked us shoppers. Yes. “Then let’s make it a great offer.” (It was beginning to feel a bit desperate like Willy Loman. His hands were shaking.)

“If you will purchase these two knives and this pro fillet knife (free), we will throw in a second pro-fillet knife. How many are interested?” A few hands. He said this was a deal for the first eight people and counted eight even though there weren’t eight hands raised. “Alright, how about a special offer, just today, just in this store. I will throw in two paring knives and a third Forever Sharp knife.” Then he counted how much this was all worth. A couple hundred dollars plus. “The third knife is for you to give away. We want everyone to learn about our Forever Sharp knives.” It was a real medicine show.

And indeed there was one more give away. A set of Forever Sharp steak knives. All eleven of these knives for only $44.00. And did I mention the lifetime guarantee? That if for any reason any of these knives get broken, you can send them back to the company and they will replace them for free, even if the damage is your own fault. I think these knives can also shovel the snow and replace your lightbulbs too.

Quite a show. And I thought I was only coming to get toilet paper.

By the way, not a single shopper took him up on any of the knife deals. But, with smiles on our faces, we all took our free paring knives home.

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4 Responses to Medicine show at Safeway

  1. Michael says:

    Jan. I used to enjoy these same entertailments when I was a boy some 50+ years ago. I used your BLOG as a jumping off for my BLOG today.

    Check out: http://mhorvich.blogspot.com/2011/02/snake-oil-continued.html

  2. Wow, I missed a free paring knife! Great story.

  3. An interesting, fascinating, web site. Its sincerity is touching; the photos are generally superior; the Rilke quotation and much of the photography suggests your web site does and (written with hope) will continue to operate at a high, inspiring, serious level. This is refreshing. And important for us living in these serious and sometimes (or would it be better to say “these serious and often”) depressing times.

    Congratulations on the coming opening (May 13) of your Chicago Children’s Museum.
    Lorraine and I look forward to visiting the museum this summer.

    Best wishes,
    Richard (richardalfonse) and Lorraine Valentino

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