I recently met a snake oil salesman, and it wasn’t at all what I expected.
To begin with, the seller was a woman and secondly, it wasn’t her only gig, so clearly one can’t make a living from just selling miracles anymore. Her other products were technology related, so she also didn’t have a problem straddling the “old” and the new.
Unfortunately, she was all out of the stuff so I didn’t have an opportunity to see the actual product for myself. However, upon being questioned, she said that the oil was taken from snakes in Dominica and that “they” said it was good for relieving pain. That didn’t sound like a first-hand account about its benefits, so she clearly wasn’t a consumer of the product.
It got me thinking about how one goes about selling something that others claim is wonderful, but that you haven’t actually tried for yourself. Maybe that’s how snake oil salesmen got such a bad name in the first place.
As I said, the lady had a store full of electronic items and gadgets. She had just what I was looking for except that the apparatus wasn’t made by the same manufacturer of my item. Because of this she insisted that before she took my money, she wanted to ensure that the item would work.
I appreciated her ethics, because it turned out that what she had didn’t work, and it was clear that the saleswoman knew that of which she spoke. In a previous job, people would always ask me whether the item that they were considering buying was “good”, which I thought a strange question since I’m not that fast a runner. Why would I sell you something that wasn’t…?
Anyway, when other customers were presented with different varieties of an item, they preferred to purchase the one that I told them I liked the best. So it’s clear that most people want some measure of assurance when making a purchase. Or someone to blame if things don’t turn out as expected.
In this vendor’s case though, it seemed that whoever was coming already knew about the advantages of the product – so for her, it’s clearly an easy sale. And since the person inquiring about the oil knew exactly where to find her, it informed me that her present location wasn’t different from the one he had visited the last time.
She told the young boy who had come to purchase the elixir – which more than likely wasn’t for himself – that she would have some more for sale in another week or two, so I’m wondering if I should go back then and purchase a vial for myself.
And put those claims about snake oil salesmen completely to rest.
This is one of those cases where two totally unrelated items are being sold in the same space. I’m not too sure if she was simply doing someone a favour or if this is a case of – as the old people would say – “What don’t sell today will sell tomorrow”.