The salesperson with the gilded tongue makes the sale.

Even though His Royal Highness, Amanda and I will be in New Zealand this coming school holidays, we’ve done our bit to boost the economy by shopping for thermal-wear locally. Today, after dropping Amanda off at school, I caught a bus bound for Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, home to Chinatown, occasional stabbings and an abundance of ski-shops. There, I resolutely studied prices and the quality of thermal-wear on offer from no less than five stores; namely Macpac, Columbia, Mountain Design, Snowgum and Kathmandu.

While a member of Kathmandu’s Summit Club, I wanted to see if I could get what we needed for our trip for less. There is a belief in Australia that you only get what you pay for and to a large extent, this is true. However, the Asian in me refuses to part with money unless I am very certain I’m getting an absolute bargain for the price.

Straight up, I told the first salesperson I met, a guy who looked like he spends a lot time outdoors, that I was shopping for three people. He must have been mentally totalling up the commission on my sale for his blindingly bright smile dropped when I told him I was going to be very price-conscious. “Cheap-skate,” I said, making his smile disappear altogether. Then I added that I was planning to survey all the ski-shops in the area first.

From his shop, I hopped next door to another ski-surf-outdoors place, where I found the woollen thermals I wanted to be a couple of dollars more. Then I went to a third and a fourth. By the time I reached the fourth, I was so blinded by the sight of seemingly generic outdoorsy wear that I was prepared to sail on to Kathmandu to beat the hordes of shoppers for tomorrow’s Pre-Winter Sale, without seeing anything.

Perhaps, the thermal wear in this shop – Snowgum, I should point out – was way more expensive than in the three preceding shops. How much more? Well, the average price of a piece is $70, discounted. They were asking for $119 in this shop.

So why didn’t I just walk out there and then? I swear, if ever I own a business, I’ll get this person to work for me. He can sell fridges to Eskimos. The unique selling point – a fancy term I still remember from university – of his thermal-wear is that it can be worn for days on end without smelling. That’s right. He quoted some bizarre experiment where the wearer had it on for more than a hundred days and remained smelling as fresh as a daisy.

He also told me that if my garment accidentally caught fire, it would put itself out because unlike synthetics, it is basically fire-retardant. Another plus point if you asked me, just in case I happen upon a fire-breathing dragon in the land of the long white cloud. Plus, it’s warm wet or dry and is completely breathable.

I left with one for each of us, all in black – not much choice there – after which I bought a back-up set at Kathmandu, plus a few other items, just in case this turned out to be slick sales-talk on his part.


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