Thursday, September 03, 2009

Ad-ing to our Woes !

At last, we’ve managed to sell off all our living room furniture. The latter included a sofa set, a coffee/centre table, a TV with wooden stand, a floor lamp and a small storage unit, popularly known as a microwave table. With the disposal of these items, it feels like a huge load of responsibility has been taken off our minds. Another actual proof, I suppose, of how material issues engage our lives to an idiotic extent. Among the residual and mostly minor items left is a metal strolley, a bucket, a pedestal fan, an iron and ironing board, a toaster and a couple of chairs. The car has verbally been booked, a monetary advance due over the weekend and a deal worked out that’ll keep both parties happy, that is, the buyer pays a certain amount less and we keep the car till the last possible day. Now all we have to bother ourselves with, one would presume, are the cleaning and packing. But well, the amount of trouble I had to go through to sell off the furniture was enough to make me feel like I should purge myself of pent-up stress by penning the whole saga.

First, let’s talk of the ads. Nothing in the ads, be it the tagline (enticing words like ‘great price’ or ‘’real deal’ or really cheap’) or the content (where my favourite pastime, photography came into play) or the actual low prices quoted seemed to be of much help in drawing customers in person. I first advertised on a Thursday afternoon and hardly anyone responded till the weekend except one lady named Virginia, who wished to buy the 5-bulb floor lamp with colourful shades and recently purchased CFL bulbs. She was the only person who was prompt in replying to the ad by mail, following it up with another mail (once we gave her our contact details and fixed up an appointment), then a phone call, and finally her august person on Sunday morning. She didn’t even require any assistance, although K did offer to dismantle the lamp for her, in case that made things easier to handle. Politely turning down the offers to help, she paid the amount quoted in cash without the embarrassment of bargaining and ended up carrying the unwieldy Hydra of a lamp back to her SUV on her back herself. We couldn’t but help be impressed !

But then she was an exception. Even the car ads on the weekend triggered off several phone calls but produced no one actual customer, who was resolved to come over in person to show proof of his interest in the item on sale. I tried refreshing the furniture ads on sulekha and craigslist, which was executed without much of a problem on the former, but met with an unexpected obstacle in the latter. I was warned that if removing the ad only to repost it for the sake of top-posting took place within a specified time and date, my ad was in danger of being considered spam, or worse, deleted. Now that was a setback of sorts. And yet, top-posting was a compulsion, since hundreds of ads were posted in a particular category per day and it was practically impossible to expect potential buyers to spend hours poring over the list for that day with endless energy. Finally, after racking my brains for several mins, I came up with a solution. Of course ! I could re-post it as a fresh ad from K’s a/c in that particular site. No sooner said than done. I made some other changes as well. I converted the keywords’ font to bold and upper case with a bit of lower case thrown in between to provide relief to one’s eyes. Other baits were thrown in, in the form of free bonuses like vases and soft toys (which we’d have given away in any case). I also reduced the asking price of the sofa set by about $20.
I wondered what would happen next.

A lot, it seems. I was flooded with phone queries regarding the availability of the sofa set that afternoon. The queries incorporated some odd questions like whether we had pets and whether the fabric of the sofa was cotton or not. The latter was tough on me, I being so ignorant about fabrics in general. The only thing I was able to confirm with reasonable confidence was that the material was definitely some sort of natural fabric. Another caller wanted to know how long we’d had the sofa or been using it. The next few phone calls were more forthright and mostly from Indians responding to the sulekha ads, The callers were men and asked more relevant questions relating to when they could actually come down and have a look at the articles on sale. One of them, a stammering South Indian, called from his office in Princeton in the evening and wanted to know if he could come over within an hour. I was in a bit of a fix, as I'd already assigned the respective times of 6.30 pm and 8 pm to 2 other parties who’d expressed interest in coming over to inspect the furniture that evening. I didn’t want to put Murali (the aforementioned S Indian with a nervous stammer) in an embarrassing situation, where multiple parties were bidding for the same object of contention. Fortunately, K entered at that moment and told me to go ahead and ask him to come over straightaway as it's a quite common experience to find most of the expected parties not turning up after all. In fact, the 6.30 pm party belonged to that species of traitors. But Murali did keep his word and was impressed enough to buy the coffee table and microwave unit and carry it off straightaway. K helped him with the latter, pleased to finally be able to dispose of these major furniture items, now that we were actually heading home. They took such a while to get the coffee table into the back of the car that I called up K on his cell to ask if there was a problem. He said no, Murali had just been taking his time to adjust the car-seat (for infants) at the back to make way for the microwave table. I was glad to hear that, for the next thing I did was to put a couple of soft toys we had in the inner panel of the microwave table and ask Murali to consider them a gift from us to his little son. He looked really pleased and touched at that and thanked us in his own special stammering manner.

A couple of hours later, the 8.30 pm party, two brothers named Vishal and Vikas arrived to take a look at the sofa. It was sweet the way the two interacted, the former so evidently protective of his younger sibling and eager to see him settled in a reasonably comfortable surroundings, which occasioned their interest in our sofa set. I was discussing the merits and demerits of the sofa but was interrupted midway by Vishal, who announced in a hearty booming voice that the only criteria that the sofa needed to meet for them to approve of it were his brother’s taste and the said furniture’s ability to withstand his own weight without totally giving way under it. That was plausible, considering that Vishal was a 6 foot tall strapping hulk of a fellow, as broad as he was tall, with a considerable paunch and a lot of excess fat at his disposal (besides the extreme patience he sported in answering umpteen phone calls within the short span of time he spent at our place that evening). I laughed, saying I wouldn’t want to comment on that anyhow. Vikas looked quite comfortable, once he'd made himself comfortable on the three-seater. They were, a s a matter of fact, unexpectedly polite, not even venturing to touch the sofa unless I gave them a go-ahead of some sort. That was a novelty in my experience and indeed that of many others, as far as I’m aware of. Well, to cut a long story short, they decided to buy the sofa set and carried it out to their cars with K’s help. Here, we were in for a pleasant surprise. K came back after his second exit (with the loveseat) beaming. On being asked about the source of such glee, he announced that the brothers Sharma had decided that the deal we were offering on our TV and its stand (which I'd casually mentioned to them, wondering if they knew any interested parties) was too good to be passed over and so they were going to take immediate advantage of it. Now that was good news indeed ! It only meant that there was going to be no TV for us for the next week or so, which caused K more sorrow than it did me, since I only watch a couple of cooking and travel shows at lunch and a sitcom in the evening or night. K however looked and indeed confessed to feeling quite unhappy at this sudden turn of events, used as he was to his daily dose of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’, ‘Friends’, ‘Seinfield’ and ‘George Lopez’. But of course, at that particular point of time, selling off all the furniture seemed overwhelmingly more of a priority than getting our usual fare of TV programmes. So we reconciled ourselves to the unhappy truth that ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ was the last film we’d watched on our beloved piece of electronics. So Sharma and Co departed soon after, with a bonus in the form of a couple of glass vases in excellent condition, one of which I was particularly sorry to part with, as it had been a gift from a dear friend on our 1st marriage anniversary, which we’d spent here. But it was impractical to carry back home and I had long since hardened my mind to the anticipated inevitability of its sale.

The house looked strange indeed after the sale of the major items of furniture ; and that is something I find very unnerving, the anguish that attaches to a house that is no longer home. I couldn’t help feeling that there’s nothing half as upsetting as the look and feel of a house that is soon to be vacated and all I could think of was my relief that our days in that apartment, and indeed, this country, are numbered, and that there is a permanent home that we are soon to return to after all.

Happier times :

(more updates later...)


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