Store sells customer a display model television after he says he doesn't want it

Tracey Folly

*This is a work of nonfiction based on actual events as told to me by a family member who experienced them firsthand; used with permission.

In the early 1960s, my parents decided to buy their first color television set.

My mother said it was a beautiful floor console television with two carved wooden doors in the front that closed to conceal the screen. When the doors were shut, the television set more closely resembled a decorative wooden chest or fancy piece of furniture than a computer monitor.

Back in those days, not every television show aired in color. Even if you owned a color television set, the vast majority of shows aired in black and white. Nonetheless, when my parents saw this magnificent piece of furniture with a television hidden inside, they were smitten.

My parents approached the appliance salesperson about the television they saw on the showroom floor.

"I don't want the floor model," my father told the salesperson. "Make sure I get one that's brand new."

The salesperson used a nearby phone to call the people who worked in the warehouse. He explained exactly what my parents wanted, and he asked if they had one in stock.

According to my mother, my father could tell by the look on the salesperson's face that the person on the other end of the telephone had just given him unfavorable news. My father had a gut feeling that there wasn't a brand new television in stock and they were about to sell him the display model that he had explicitly said he did not want.

The salesperson told my parents they had a new television in the warehouse and they could deliver it the following day. My parents agreed even though my father had an uneasy feeling about the whole transaction.

When the salesman went into the office to collect the paperwork, my father pulled his jackknife out of his pocket and surreptitiously gouged the wood panel on the back of the television console.

The television was dusty and covered with fingerprints, which could be cleaned off if they tried to deliver it against my father's instructions, but there would be no hiding the hole my father had made with his little blade.

The salesperson returned to where my parents waited. He was beaming. "You're so lucky," he said. "We have exactly one brand new television left in the back, and I put your name on it just to make sure another customer doesn't buy it."

My father paid for the television in cash, and the salesperson shook his hand and then handed my mother the receipt.

"I don't want the floor sample," my father told him sternly before he left. "Just make sure you don't give me the floor sample. If you don't have a brand new television then don't deliver the floor sample."

"You won't get the floor sample," the man replied. "I just told you. There's a brand new television set in the back room with your name on it."

"As long as it's not that one," my father said. He pointed to the display on the showroom floor.

"It's not," the man snapped. He patted my father on the back. "It's not," he repeated more gently.

With the sale complete, my parents left the store. On the drive home, my father told my mother he was positive they were getting the floor model. "That's why I gouged it with my pocketknife," he said.

My mother nodded. She was accustomed to my father's shenanigans. His admission didn't surprise her at all.

Nor was she surprised on the day of the delivery when the deliveryman unwrapped a dusty television covered in fingerprints with a small hole gouged in the back.

My mother didn't notice the hole at first. She was afraid to look for it. Instead, she kept herself busy in the other room until my father got home from work. That way, he could look at the television first.

When my father got home, he made a beeline for the television and inspected it. Sure enough, there was the mark he had made himself one day earlier. He was right all along.

My father called the store and explained in the most colorful language possible that they had delivered the display model television set after promising to send him a new one. The salesperson blamed the delivery people for taking the "wrong" television.

"They must have taken it by mistake," he told my father.

My father didn't believe him.

Although the salesperson offered my father a discount to keep the lightly damaged television, my father declined.

The deliverymen picked up the television the very next day, leaving behind the shiny new set that had been promised and paid for. Finally.

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