As the day grew bright on the morning of my little boy’s birthday, I spent an extra twenty minutes drinking coffee in bed and sampling gluten-free coffee cakes with a serene sense of peace about the party. I had hired Martha Stewart to hand craft custom party favors, banners and table settings. A local farm was well on its way to set up a mini petting zoo in the backyard complete with pony rides and carnival booths.
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber were yachting out of country, so in their stead, we settled on The Fresh Beat Band for entertainment and supplemented with a dance troupe called the Jabbawockeez. I had seen them perform on a recent trip to Vegas and thought it would be an appropriate choice, just to circumvent any teasing that could result from The FBB being such a juvenile indulgence. Ryan Seacrest was on standby, waiting to greet my guests as they came in the door and food would be arriving shortly; it was being flown in freshly prepared from French Laundry.
Psych; I woke up in a panic over things still undone and started blowing up balloons in my garage. In case my sarcasm wasn’t obvious and you’re still wondering, none of the above two paragraphs actually happened (except in my dreams). My first few guests were greeted by my sister, as I was still picking up pizza from Costco. The theme was supposed to be doggies. I spent two hours making “puppy chow” the night before, which was actually a yummy snack mix for the under 6 set, only to forget it in the cupboard until two days later. By the way, it turns out you need something sturdy to hang a piñata from. #PartyFail
Oddly enough, all of this went over splendidly due to my helpful loves/my amazing party guests and their genuine interest in my son, not my décor. The only real embarrassment was the back lawn, which looked just like the jungle. I wondered if I should warn them with something like, “Watch out for the lion’s kids! No, seriously; watch out for those, they could be back there…”
From the front, my house looks status quo. The roses are always trimmed and blooming. The neighbors on either side of me alternate front lawn mowing duties in exchange for an assortment of culinary treats, the courtyard stays swept and the view to the front door is unobstructed. I am the kind of neighbor that without a doubt understands the value of a nice block with great curb appeal, yet I live on the fringes of the silent commitment to maintain it. I can ALWAYS think of needs that supersede the need to mow the lawn.
While suburban areas that have no HOA dues present a certain appeal, they also present a particular set of challenges. There is an unstated understanding that you must keep the length of your lawn and the volume of your car stereo at an absolute minimum when you become a part of the neighborhood. It seems like common courtesy…but like many things in life, if it isn’t in writing it’s not likely to be enforceable.
Much of the interior of my home is orderly. The backyard is just beyond the scope of what I consider a priority. The lawn is somewhat like my legs: (unless it’s Friday or Bikini Day), scratchy to the touch. It’s just life. But enough about me, let’s talk about the day I met T…
A few months ago in response to the doorbell, (just a few days post birthday party); I peered out the peep-hole on my front door. I saw a kid that had stood on my porch, ringing my doorbell the prior three nights in a row as well. I did not want to buy magazines, donate to his food drive, participate in his Eagle Scout project survey or talk about religion.
I just knew whatever his cause was, I was not interested. Reluctant and disgruntled, I opened the door. It’s fair to assume I grimaced when he asked if I was the lady of the house. I am, so he began with, “I’ve been here three other times…you must be very busy.”
I had been busy, but he was obviously die-hard and seeking a personal tidbit to tie together our common ground. He had already decided not to take “no” for an answer the first three times I ignored him, (despite seeing my car in driveway and every light in the house on). Good salespeople don’t hear you the first three times you tell them no if they haven’t yet delivered their pitch.
“It looks like you need someone to mow your lawn. I’d like to take care of that for you. I have my own lawnmower and I will work around your schedule!” The pitch was concise and pointed.
“What’s your price?” I asked with skepticism.
He insinuated value by beginning his quote with the word “only,” meaning its worth was higher and he had already applied some implicit discount. Then he paused, waiting for a nod of acceptance…one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand… and when said nod did not come, we held a staring contest. It was pushing ahead in an awkward attempt to prove dominant and gain control of the conversation. I could have asked him to leave at this point, but I was intrigued by his insistence that he was in fact going to be my lawn boy. He had already positioned himself as both confident and capable.
He knew he’d have to go harder. His pitch continued with a price comparison. He proved himself knowledgeable and aware of the competition as he listed the competitor rates for every yard service available on the street. “Then there’s also Alex, two doors down…” he said, not even neglecting the other 17 year olds peddling their services with push mowers.
At some point during all of this I laughed because he really was a better salesperson than both the woman I purchased my car from and the man whom that very morning was desperately trying to convince me that a $30,000 investment in solar panels would be a sound purchase over the telephone. Whether T sensed a moment of weakness in me at that time or saw the sale slipping away, I’m not sure. Like a beast fearlessly going in for the kill, he made his next breath an assumptive close, “I’ll let you prepay now and set a time for me to come back. Do you have $20 in cash?” The salesperson in me was overjoyed. I was proud of him.
My answer was of course a firm, “…absolutely not.” What do you take me for? I’m not new to this game. I wanted both a better price and the satisfaction of seeing what sort of effort he would make if left with only my business card.
Over the course of the next two weeks, he called me ten times. On occasion he would try to sell me on my voice mail. More often it was, “Hello Ma’am, T here. I’m just walking by your lovely home on my way to school and I can’t help but wonder if you had a chance to watch any TV lately. Since meeting you the other day, I think you’d really enjoy the show, Dancing With The Stars. And, I hope your lawn looks nice.” He clearly understood that he would still have an opportunity to earn my business by merely maintaining contact.
His calls tapered off as the two-week time span ended. It was not until my next social gathering that there was any real urgency to manicure the landscape. The day I called to tell him that I had some work for him to do it was 108 degrees outside. He showed up, he worked hard and he earned my respect. He will continue to have the opportunity to earn my business from this point forward, no matter what field he enters after college.
I wondered what his close ratio was from that day forward. I assume it’s above average. I feel extremely fortunate to have his help and yet I can’t help but wonder why my lawn care boy is more professional than the average sales team. And did I mention he also tap dances?! #TrueStory
Such a sweet kid! 🙂