If you don't taste it, you'll waste it - a lesson in marketing
The true genius is taking someone for a ride, and they have so much fun they thank you for it.
As my fundamental principle in business is underpromise and overdeliver, this is a very alien way of being for me. But I have to admit I took some proper lessons this week. And it was, in the end, very enjoyable school fees that has already made it into the family lexicon.
For Fathers Day, we made an escape to my sister-in-law Suzanne's place in Franschhoek. She is away with her kids so we could spend four days in glorious village tranquility. My mom came to join us for a couple of nights, and therefore could babysit the kids, allowing for Caroline and I to finally do that long-promised hike up to the lookout point at the top Mont Rochelle, Franschhoek Pass.
The hike delivered - a view of the totally untouched valley adjacent to the Franschhoek valley was our glorious reward, and for a moment I was transported back to the high Andes of the Peruvian Cordillera Blanca. It was that good. Only you didn't have to fly halfway round the world for this payoff.
So lesson 1, TIMING IS EVERYTHING.
As we came down of the mountain and drove back home, we debated whether to pop in to Woolies for some food or just cook what we had in the fridge. But being hungry, we elected to avoid the temptation of those damn Whisper crackballs and just head straight home. We were therefore susceptible to an ambush from those chaps with the boxes of fish in the back of the bakkie. We have all had them come knocking at the door, but I was unprepared for them somewhat stranded in the middle of the road. We stopped, thinking it might be a breakdown and we could help.
Immediately, the lead fishmonger (gap tooth and all) closed in on us: No, they were fine, but did we want some fish? He had fresh Kingklip, Calamari...
Now I usually avoid these guys, but we kinda needed food being just before lunch, we were in a great mood having come off the mountain, and he had already gotten us to slow down with a mild deception. So we decided to take a look.
Lesson 2 is REMOVE ALL OBSTACLES
We didn't have any cash, we said. You can pay me on e-wallet off your cellphone, he said.
He rushed to our car door with eight boxes, leading with the Kingklip. Eight boxes later there was not Calamari in sight, and in hindsight we should have gone with the prawns. But he had anchored the Kingklip, so we looked at each other. "How much for the Kingklip?"
"R450, but for you my lady, R350," replied Gaptooth. What a discount! But we were too skilled at negotiating for this poor fellow, he must be new.
"How much for half a box?" we asked, cunningly.
"R200 my lady!" he said, innocently. We had the fool!
This felt like a good deal. We were in the mood for Kingklip. My mom could make some fishcakes! "We'll take it!"
Lesson 3 is ONCE HOOKED, UPSELL
He leaned in conspiratally, and I felt a warm feeling of affinity - I was about to get a great deal, this chap was clearly overwhelmed by my negotiating ability. "Tell you what guys. R300 for the whole box."
Look, this was great deal for 10 beautifully prepared Kingklip fillets, and we had just manoeuvred the poor fellow into a 33% discount. We shook on it, transferred money to his cell number (hey, FNB app is amazing for buying fish off the side of the road) and went home happily anticipating some of Grandma Bennys finest fish cake fodder. I'm pretty every single person who bought a policy from Bernie Madoff or too much Herbalife product can relate to the warm fuzzy feeling we had at that point.
LESSON 4 would be CONFIDENCE AND CALM
Look, again, this is not my way. Which is why it was so hilarious. We actually decided to do the fish for dinner, so we had some salad, a glass of vino and they I went to do some work. Endless Zoom calls tired me out quickstix, so I had a short power nap.
When I went down to the kitchen later that afternoon, I was greeted by a bemused spouse, a frightened toddler and a giggling mother. The Kingklip fillet had been defrosted to be cooked... and no-one... was quite sure... what it was...
It might be a Ridley Scott creation directed by Sigourney Weaver. A mutant Amphibian that inexplicably made it way into the Kingklip box. An Anuric intruder who had come into our happy Lockdown Hideaway to distress my wife, frighten my children and excite my mother (she can work with a challenge).
There was an initial house council meeting to decide what to do. Once we had passed judgement on the rest of the box (send it to the outposts - Bettys Bay - with my mother) we could determine if sanction was needed towards the villain who had sold us this obvious mockery of the ocean's finest.
And we had his number! Caroline, emboldened by a second gin and tonic, called the number we had sent the money too, and our old and dear friend Gaptooth answered promptly.
"What is this you sold us?" Caroline demanded indignantly.
"My lady, I sold you the Kingklip," came the friendly reply.
"It does not look like Kingklip! It looks like... like... frog..." she hesitated, sounding ridiculous even to herself. If it was frog, it was the biggest one we'd ever seen.
"My lady, if you don't taste it, you'll waste it." He was on speaker phone, and we took a moment to process this reply. I could find no fault with the argument, but somehow it didn't feel like he answered our question.
I waded in. "Bud, what is this hair on the ends... this just doesn't look like what you promised us..."
And like Daniel Son in Karate Kid 2, who kicked the shit out of the bully with the little drummer move that is undefeatable and cannot be penetrated, he replied: "Listen, I'm telling you. If you don't taste it, you'll waste it."
"Yes, but.." I said, wavering. "You surely can't..."
But a combination of Stockholm Syndrom and Deep Hypnosis had taken hold, and we all listened paralysed by his charisma: "Sir, I told you. I'm telling you: IF YOU DON'T TASTE IT, YOU'LL WASTE IT."
We thanked him, and rang off. We contemplated the interloper in our kitchen, then with quiet reverence wrapped it in multiple layers of newspaper and plastic to hide the smell, and posted the visitor from the netherworld to the garbage bin.
Later, after we assured Suzanne that these people did not actually know where she lives (she was aware of the spell these shaman cast, and her anonymity was sacrosanct) we had a quiet, respectful moment of appreciation for masters of the craft. Then we laughed till we cried, called it a cheap lesson, and forever brought in the hypnotic pay-off into our family vocabulary.
Wherever you are, Gap Tooth: I salute you, and your craft. It's a story.