Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Furniture Shopping With Cindy: Rated R...

...for language that may not be suitable for minors.

This is the big green couch that Cindy sold to us.

My wife and I got married almost four years ago during the early part of summer, and we moved into our first house during the fall of that same year.  We hadn’t planned on buying a house that soon after getting married.  I had just inherited $72,000 worth of student debt after a failed attempt at a master’s degree in Speech Pathology.  The only savings that we had at the time was the $1,000 in available credit that remained on one of my Visa cards.  It’s a good idea to have some sort of a down payment on a home, but using the last remaining thousand in available credit is not the best strategy.

Even though we hadn’t planned on buying just yet, we still enjoyed visiting open-houses now and then, pretending that we could afford to buy.  One Sunday afternoon, we decided on a whim to go to an open-house that was being held just a few streets over from our two-bedroom apartment.  As we pulled into the driveway, the realtor was taking down the ‘Open Today’ sign and packing it into her trunk.

     “Whoops... missed it.”

My wife sighed in disgust.  “Who schedules an open-house to end at one o’clock?  I was looking forward to seeing that place.”

I turned out of the driveway and headed back towards our neighborhood.

     “Look,” she said, pointing to the right.  “There’s another one that just started.”

I pulled into the driveway of the cute little cape cod that sat up on a hill, about ninety feet from the road.  We walked up the hill, followed the driveway around to the back of the house, and entered through the back door.  The realtor greeted us and handed us a brochure.  “Quaint and Charming Cape,” read the headline across the top.  After spending about twenty minutes going through the place, we agreed that it was definitely the warmest, most inviting home that we had set foot in all summer.  We both loved it.

     “Too bad we can’t afford a house right now,” I said, as we descended the driveway towards the car.

Two days later, I was sitting at my cubicle paying some bills, when I remembered that I had just over $20,000 sitting in my IRA.  As any employee of a financial institution knows, you can withdraw up to $10,000 from an IRA for a first-time home purchase, without incurring a penalty.  I called up a high school acquaintance, who was a realtor for a local bank.

     “My wife and I just went to an open house on Sunday, and we really liked the place.  Um… so… if we want to pursue it further... what do we do next?”

     “I’ll take care of everything,” said Jessica.  “What’s the address?”

Ten minutes later, I dialed my wife’s cell phone.  “Honey, wanna buy a house?”

The big green couch is set up in such
a way that I can take pictures of our
Carolina Wrens without leaving my seat.  
With Jessica's help, we closed six weeks later, and our friends and family helped us move in four days after that.  Over the past several years, I had acquired an extensive collection of oddball furniture from various family members...  a rocking chair, a queen-sized bed with frame, and a kitchen table from Dad...  an orange and white, candy-striped couch from my aunt…  a wooden bookshelf that my mom had made in her high school shop class.  These would all accompany us from the apartment to the house, but my wife and I agreed that we needed a new couch and easy chair for the family room, where we’d set up the television.  On the Saturday after moving in, we headed over to our local Raymour and Flanigan.

As we walked through the front doors, we were immediately approached by a pleasant-looking Asian woman with jet-black, shoulder length hair.  She was wearing a charcoal, knee-length skirt and matching sport coat.  She peered at us through slender, stylish glasses.  The name on her tag read, 'Cindy'.

     “Ah, how ah you today?” she belted out cheerfully.  “Such a cute little coupoh. Shopping foh fuhnitah!?  I’m Cindy.”

     “Hi Cindy.  I’m Dave.  Nice to meet you.”  I reached out and shook her hand.  My wife introduced herself and did the same.

     “Ah, such nice...  young...  PEOPOH!,” she barked.  “What can I hep you find today?”

     “Well, we’re looking for family room furniture,” I replied.  “Maybe a couch and chair combination...  or something along those lines.”

     “Very...  very good.  You both young. You both...  JUST BUY HOUSE?”  I glanced over at my wife.  She was smiling and turning red.  “Ah, you DO just buy house.  I can tell from yoh wife.  She know eveything, right?”

     “No, not everything.”

     “Honey,” said my wife, smacking me on the arm.  “Not the right response.”

     “Ah, you bettah watch yohsef, Dave,” said Cindy.  “You no listen to yoh wife, she fix you good.”

She threw her head back and cackled madly, and the two of us couldn’t help but join her.  I had never actually purchased anything in a furniture store.  But I was already starting to suspect that Cindy was the coolest furniture salesperson in Rochester.

This is the big green chair and the big
green ottoman that Cindy sold to us.
Within days, we sold them to the cats.
     “Let me shoh you where auh the comfy couches an chaihs are.  Right this way."

She lead us through the maze of pre-assembled themes, settings, and furniture displays.  Dining room sets with six chairs, for $4,000...  a matching buffet for $2,700...  $3,200 for the matching china cabinet, if you wanted to break the bank.  Seriously, who buys this stuff?  Who can afford this stuff?  Certainly not a couple who collectively sent away almost $700 every month in student loan payments.  At the moment, we weren’t interested in resting our delicate backsides on dining room chairs made from the bone marrow of endangered Turkish alligator.  We just wanted a comfortable couch, and perhaps a matching chair, to furnish the empty family room.

     “Heah,” said Cindy, waving her hand emphatically.  “Couches and chaihs... all... begin... RIGHT HEAH!  You look.  You take yoh TIME!  And when you find couch of yoh dreams... you come FIND ME!  I fix you good!”  She wheeled around abruptly and marched away.

     “Wow,” I said.  “I think I need to take a few minutes just to recover from that.”

     “She’s hysterical,” said my wife.

We started browsing each of pre-set living room arrangements... sitting on all of the different couches... testing out all of the chairs.  We weren’t looking for any couches with exotic floral patterns or elegant scroll work carved into the legs or arms.  We weren't looking for furniture that would bring us any unnecessary drama.  We just wanted furniture that was functional, comfortable, and somewhat resistant to our cats and their claws.

The big green chair and the big
green ottoman belong to the cats.

     “Let’s make sure we get a chair with an auto-mahn.”

     “Auto-what?” I asked.

     “An auto-mahn...  you know, so you can put your feet up.”


     "An AUTO-MAHN!"


     “You’ve never heard of an auto-mahn?”

     “Honey, what are you trying to say?”

     “An AUTO-MAHN!” she exclaimed, pointing to an ottoman that was on display nearby.

     “Are you trying to say, ‘ottoman’?


     “Honey, it’s pronounced ‘auda-mun’... not AUTO-MAHN!”

     “What?  It is?”

     “AUTO-MAHN!  When have you ever heard it pronounced that way?”

     “Nowhere, but I just... thought that’s how you said it.”

I just shook my head and laughed.

     “Shut-up!”  She belted me hard on the shoulder.

This wasn’t the first time that I had corrected her on some of her peculiar pronunciations.  There are many words that we all pronounce differently, and there are multiple pronunciations that are acceptable, in most cases.  But my wife's ever-expanding number of ‘alternate pronunciations’ were rarely subtle, nor correct.  Whenever I’d call her out on one of her blunders, she’d get really embarrassed and turn bright red, before eventually laughing it off.

For the first eight months after we moved into our previous apartment, she kept telling me that she couldn’t wait for fall to arrive so we could start getting ‘egg-horn’ squash at local farmers markets.  It took a few home-cooked autumn meals for me to realize what the hell she was talking about.

One of the problems with taking 'moving pictures' while using the wrong shutter speed on your camera is that you end up with blurry, indiscernible images that are really funky.  Can you spot the crow?

We spent about thirty-five minutes testing out a number of different couch and chair sets.  The year before, we had actually considered buying a new couch, and we had investigated some of the cheaper furniture chains in the area.  After some serious searching, we thought that we had found couches that we were happy with.  But even when repeatedly comparing our first choices, we still harbored serious doubt in our minds.  There was always a minor detail regarding the overall comfort of each couch, that didn’t feel quite right.

Once we started trying out the furniture at Raymour and Flanigan, we knew that we’d made the right decision.  While the couches at Raymour and Flanigan were much more expensive than anything we'd seen at the cheapie stores, they were more solid in appearance, and so much more comfortable.  In some cases, it’s worth paying extra for quality and comfort.

Finally, we narrowed down our selection to a matching couch, lounge chair, and ottoman.  They were greenish and rugged, and they looked like they’d provide a nice contrast to the neutral decor of the family room.  Plus, the microfiber fabric would hold up well to our cats’ claws, if they felt the urge to scratch.

     “Shall we go get Cindy?”

     “Sounds good,” I said, as I put my feet up on the ottoman.  “Wake me up when you find her.”

One of the cool things about taking 'moving pictures' while using the wrong shutter speed on your camera is that you end up with blurry, indiscernible images that are really funky.  Can you spot the crow?

I closed my eyes and put my head back, letting myself sink slowly into the soft chair that would soon be ours.  Yeah, this was really comfortable.  I could easily get used to this.  I had to give my wife credit for suggesting the ottoman, even though she couldn’t say it right.  I was trying my best to doze off into a light slumber, when I heard my wife’s voice approaching.

     “Here, this one right here…  Dave, get your feet off the furniture!” she snapped, as she led Cindy into the fake living room where I was camped out.

     “Honey, I’m testing it out.  This is the store model.  We have to be sure that-- ”

     “Oh, that’s okay,” said Cindy.  “You got to make sho’ that couch is comftaboh right?”

     “That RIGHT, Cindy,” I said emphatically.  “See honey, she gets it.”

     “And a couch that’s uncomftaboh is fucking NO GOOD TO YOU, right?”

     “Um…  yes.  That’s right,” I said, slightly startled.  “It’s no good...  at all.”

I turned and looked at my wife. She had turned red again and had covered her mouth.

     “And if Dave fuck up and take home uncomftaboh couch TO YOU,” said Cindy, wheeling around to glare at my wife, “you be fucking mad, right?”

     “Yes,” my wife said, trying her best to choke down her giggles.  “I’d be very...  upset.”

     “Ah,” said Cindy, beaming from ear-to-ear.  “You think it funny when I say ‘fuck’, DON’T YOU!?”

     “Actually, it’s one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard in my life!” I replied enthusiastically.

     “Fuck fuck fuck,” Cindy barked.  “FUCK FUCK FUCK!  I see right away.  You ah not only nice young coupoh, you are FUN…  young…  COUPOH!”

     “We try to be fun,” said my wife, holding back tears of laughter.

     “I can’t say ‘fuck’ around EVERYBODY, you knoh,” said Cindy.  “But I only say ‘fuck’ around FUN PEOPOH!?”

     “We’re awfully fun,” I added.  “For sure.”

     “Foh exampoh,” she continued.  “I can’t say ‘fuck’ around miseraboh ode peopoh… who come in to buy couch.  Miseraboh ode peopoh get mad when furniture woman say ‘fuck’.”

     “Fuck them!” I heard myself blurt out.

     “Ah, you get hang of it now?  FUCK FUCK FUCK!”  She then leaned in between the two of us and whispered quietly, “See customah ovah there?”  She motioned towards an older, kindly-looking gentleman who was talking with another salesperson in the mattress department, about fifty feet away.  “Fuck him.”

     “And fuck her too,” I whispered thoughtfully, pointing to the elderly woman who was standing next to him.

     “Ah, you are professionoh now,” she said. “Fuck everybody, right?”

     “Yes,” I said.

     “That’s right,” my wife agreed.

     “I’m so… HAPPY… you don’t get mad when I say ‘FUCK’.

     “You can say ‘fuck’ all you want,” I said.  “We think it’s great!”

     “Of course you do,” said Cindy.  “Young American customah OHWAYS think it funny when sweet Asian furniture woman say ‘fuck’.  You come in foh couch.  Instead I say ‘FUCK FUCK FUCK’… I fix you GOOD!  And the best paht is… even though I can’t say ‘fuck’ at home, I say ‘fuck’ at wohk… OWH I WANT!”

     “You can’t say ‘fuck’ at home…,” I remarked.  “Why’s that?”

     “Oh no… NOT AHROWWED!” she said.  “Very inappropriate. I say ‘fuck’ at home… husband get very… MAD!”

     “Oh, that’s no good,” said my wife, sympathetically.

     “No good at oh!” said Cindy.  “I say ‘fuck’ at home… my husband fix me good.  I wohk through front dooh.  My husband ask, ‘Hi Honey. How’s yoh day?’  I say, ‘Fuck that’.  He say, ‘Not ahrowwed!  You say “fuck”, I fix you good’.  I say ‘fuck’, and you watch. He fix me good.”

     “Not good…  not good at all,” I said.

     “And you come to our house…  you say 'FUCK!?'  He fix you good too… You watch.”

     “Oh, well at least you can say ‘fuck’ at work, if you need to.”

     “Oh yes… very much.  FUCK FUCK FUCK!  NOW… I see you pick out couch?  You pick out chair too?”

     “Yes,” said my wife, who had just about composed herself.  “We like the matching chair.”

     “Ah… BEAUTIFOH!”

     “And, we’ll take the matching AUTO-MAHN too,” I added.

     “Of couhse,” Cindy said.  “You can’t have chair for yoh new house without… matching… AUTO-MAHN!”

     “Yes, it compliments the chair very nicely,” said my wife.

     “And if you get tired of putting your feet up, you just use foh coffee taboh, right?”

     “Of course,” I said, turning to motion towards my wife.  “As long as she doesn’t spill any food on--"

     “Not nice, Dave,” Cindy interrupted me. “You bettah watch out or yoh wife fix you good.”

     “I’m sure she will,” I said, and we all shared another laugh.

     “NOW!  You want beautifoh couch… you want comftaboh chaih… and you want… AUTO-MAHN!  Anything else for you today?”

     “No, I think that will do it for today,” I said.  “But we just wanted to know a little bit about financing.”

     “Ah yes.  You evah buy furniture from us befoh?”  I shook my head.  “No?  Okay then.  We have special finance offah.  You open account with us.  You pay… NO INTEREST… FIVE YEARS!  Sound good to you?”

     “That sounds great,” I said.  My wife nodded.  “We’ll just pay it off before then.”

     “Ah…  responsiboh man!  Come with me.”  Cindy motioned towards the front of the store.  “We open up credit account… foh YOU!  Then, I fix you good.  Yoh see.”

My wife and I followed Cindy back through the maze of furniture displays towards the front of the store.  On the way, we passed several couples who were all being helped by other salespeople.  In the living room area, a husband and wife were arguing between two couches.  In the dining section, a woman was talking to a salesman, while her husband stood a few feet away with his hands in his pockets.  He was staring down at the floor, and looked to be very disinterested.  We passed two other couples who appeared to be browsing on their own.  I actually felt sorry for each one of them.  They had no idea what they had been missing.

Look closer.  There it is.
There's the crow.

Cindy led us over to a kiosk near the service desk and began typing furiously at the computer.

     “Now... we open credit account foh you?  One... MOMENT!”  Her fingers were a blur, as she continued demolishing the keyboard in merciless fashion.  “Yoh... FOH NAME!”

I gave her my last name, followed by my first.  For the next few minutes she led me through the online credit application, typing in all of our personal and financial information, as I answered each of her questions.  When she was finished, she smashed the ‘Return’ key and closed out the window on the computer screen.

     “Congraturations, Dave.  You... have... CREDIT!”

She guided the cursor onscreen with the mouse, opening up our itemized invoice in a new window.

     “Now... finoh question.  You want protection agreemuhnt for yoh beautifoh fuhnituh?  Two hundred twenty nine dorrah coveh...  EVERYTHING!  Duht, food, grease, grime.  You have kids?”  We shook our heads.  “No kids?  Of course not.  You are FUN... YOUNG... COUPOH!  Too eary foh kids.”

     “We have two cats,” my wife chimed in.

     “Ah... fun, furry creature get fuh and fuhbaw EVERYWHERE!  You get protection agreemuhnt.  Foh repacement... FIVE YEAHS!”

     “Well... I don’t think we need the service agreement,” I said, looking over at my wife.  “Do we?”

     “Nah,” she said.  “It’s a couch.  It’s going to get dirty sometime.”

     “You shoh?  What about protection agreemuhnt... for AUTO-MAHN!?”

     “Just for the ottoman?” I asked.  “If we’re not getting the couch or chair covered, there’s no point in getting coverage for just the ottoman.”

The couch belongs to us, but my
legs belong to the cats.
     “Ah, but you may use auto-mahn foh food... right?  You say so yohsef.  You don’t want protection foh stain?  Ony seventy-nine dorrah for AUTO-MAHN!”

     “No, I don’t think--”

     “Heah!  Watch THIS!” she said, interrupting me.  “I take away seventy-nine dorrah off price of couch.”  I watched as she lowered the price of the couch by seventy-nine dollars on the invoice.  “And I give you protection on auto-mahn... foh... seventy-nine dorrah!”

     “Well, if it’s the same price... yeah, OK.”

My wife shrugged.  “I don’t see why not.”

     “Ah...  VERY GOOD!” she barked.  “Now...  one moment... ”  She continued typing for another minute.  “OK...  oh done.  NOW...  you oh set.  Just go ovah there to service desk and see Jennifuh to finish...  PURCHASE!  She hep you out...  she fix you good.”

     “Thank you very much, Cindy,”  I said, shaking her hand. “It’s been a pleasure.”

     “Oh...  anytime, Dave,” she said, as she reached out and shook my wife’s hand.  “Remembah...  you evah need moh fuhnituh...  you come see me...  ANYTIME!  I fix you good.”

She reached into her pocket and produced a business card, handing it to me.  Then she walked away and headed towards the front of the store.  We went over to the service desk, where Jennifer was waiting to help us arrange the shipping details.  The furniture would be delivered in three days, and we wouldn’t have to pay any interest for five years.  Not a bad deal.

     “Look,” said my wife, grabbing my arm as we headed towards the front door.  “She’s just about to reel in another catch.”

I glanced over to where she was pointing.  Cindy was talking with another couple, who had just entered the store.  She waved to us as I turned and held the door open for my wife.

     “They’re in for the ride of their lives.”

     “IF…  they’re a fun, young couple,” my wife added.

Three days later, the Raymour and Flanigan delivery truck dropped off our brand new couch, easy chair, and ottoman.  Within an hour, we had experimented with several different layouts, and we settled on one just in time to enjoy dinner at the coffee table, while watching a movie.

How would I rate my experience with Cindy?  As far as customer service is concerned, she passed with flying colors.  Of course, many would scratch their heads and wonder exactly how cursing like a drunken sailor fits into a successful customer service delivery model.  But I’ve worked in customer service long enough to know that the key to a successful exchange is how well you connect with each individual customer.  Once you make that connection, both you and the customer will feel more comfortable.  Then, the lines of communication will open up, and you’ll be in the best position to serve them most effectively, help them out with what they need, and hopefully, plant the seeds for establishing a long-term business or service relationship.

Cindy connected with us almost immediately, and she helped us out with everything we needed.  We had such a good experience with her that we returned to Raymour and Flanigan the following year to buy a new mattress.

As we walked through the door, we immediately looked around to see if Cindy was available.  Instead, we were greeted by Denise, who turned out to be one of the most polite and thoughtful salespeople that we’d ever dealt with.  After about forty-five minutes of trying out different mattresses, my wife and I both glanced over towards the next room.  A sign that read ‘Tempurpedic’ was hanging over the entrance.  We looked at each other.

     “Oh, I wouldn’t go in there if I were you,” said Denise, in a deliberate, ominous voice.

     “Uh…  why not.”

     “Well…  Most people who set foot in the Tempurpedic room are never heard from again.”

     “Well, we can just try laying on one of them,” my wife said.  “Just for comparison’s sake.”

     “I’m warning you,” said Denise, as she crossed her arms and frowned.

We both stood up and headed slowly towards the ‘Tempurpedic’ chamber.  Just as we stepped inside, we noticed Cindy approaching swiftly.  She was being followed by another young couple.  As she passed us by, she gave us a nod.

     “How ah you, TODAY!?”

We watched her lead them up towards the computer kiosk next to the service desk.

My wife turned to me.  “Looks like she fixed them good.”

For those of you who may not be familiar with Yoga, this particular pose is called 'Revolved-Lounging-Reclined-Triangle-While-Bathing-Pubis' Pose.


  1. Hmmm, I still sense I have had an influence here - foreign accents, writing in dialect, mispronunciations..... :-) I love the use of dialogue to tell or move a story along, it puts the reader in the room and gives them a sense of being there as it happens.

    I wanna meet Cindy - she sounds great! :-)

  2. Hey Dop!

    Funny you should mention that. This post originated from an email that I sent to my college friends back in 2007, just after my wife and I had this experience while shopping for the furniture. It was so awesome... how could I not let them know?

    Anyways, the original email just included the section of dialog with all the f-bombs. However, I hadn't written it in dialect or sounded it out with wacky spellings. When I started the post this past weekend, I dressed it up by adding all of the background information. When I went back and read it, I realized that the story just wouldn't be as good if I didn't change the spelling to reflect the accent and dialect.

    I think it did wonders for the finished product.

    Reading while traveling, I see?