As happens just about every August, the hottest time of year in South Florida, our air conditioner is on the fritz. Apparently, with a life expectancy of 8-10 years, ours is dying young. As if it weren't enough I already replaced it once, and I replaced the air handler (the indoors part) only 2 years ago. And guess what? Thanks to government regulation, no new AC unit is compatible with my 2 year old air handler. So now I must buy a whole new system. The good thing is, there are federal and state rebates that go into effect on August 30, and may cut my overall cost by close to 50%. I can wait a week, and am using the time to get some quotes. So I called the folks no longer associated with Roebuck and set up an appointment for 5 PM. At 6:15, they called back.
"I thought you were coming at five," I said.
"Well, I'm fighting traffic," he snarled into the phone. "I'm just the backup, you know. The other guy canceled."
So be it. When he finally arrived, he looked friendly enough, even introducing himself as Henry. Have you ever met a bad Henry? Seriously, the name conjures up images of a kindly gentleman in a fishing hat, sitting in a rocking chair on a wraparound porch, watching his grand kids chase frogs down by the creek.
But this particular Henry reeked of cigarettes. I expect his work truck will always smell. And it's got to be in his clothes. On his skin. In his eyes. How could he ever escape it? The very thought makes me gag. And is Henry married? Does he have grand kids? Would they even want a hug from a man who smells so bad? No wonder they're down at the creek. Probably washing off his scent.
So Henry comes in and I tell him what's what and that I want a quote because I want to take advantage of the rebates that go into effect on August 30.
"Why don't we reschedule then?" Henry said.
"Because you're here now," I said, slowly.
"We're not in the business of putting things off," he said. "We'll give you a 5% discount on the initial visit. Better for you to reschedule."
"You can't give me a quote today? That's the whole reason you're here. I thought that's what your ad meant by 'free estimate'."
"Look, I just came from another home where someone wanted a free quote. That does me no good. We want your business today."
"But if I buy from you today, I can't take advantage of the rebates on the 30th. "
"Then it's best to reschedule."
"So you're not going to give me a price? You're not helping your cause. "
He had icy blue eyes, and stared at me through wire-rimmed glasses, perched at the tip of his nose. I could see he wouldn't budge.
"Sure I will," he said. "I'll even give you 5% for the initial visit."
"But I'd have to pay you now," I said. "And lose out on the rebates."
"You want to wait a week in this heat?" he asked.
"I'm planning on it," I said. "Besides, even if I buy it from you now, you don't have the part."
"It takes a couple days to get the permits. Then a few more for installation."
"There's my week. That's why I want the price now. Under your system I have to wait two weeks."
There was a long pause. Our eyes locked. Who would blink first? Henry had it within him to quote me a price. It was all on paper. He only had to look it up. Give me a price now, the ball starts rolling. By August 30, I'd have my new air conditioner and a nice little rebate check to boot.
"We don't want to waste our time," Henry finally said. "We do business differently."
I nodded, rose from my chair, opened the front door, and said, "Not with me."
With that, Henry was gone. Now I have to call the fumigator.