marketing gimmick – my true story

English: Gas cilinder
English: Gas cilinder (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’d read about it in inter-web, and saw it in popular culture based television shows, but had never experienced it first hand. I’d always thought I’d outsmart them, but time did tell me something different today. As I recall it now, five hours later, I am bemused and smiling. They were this close duping me into buying a complete garbage.

I took a break from my study and work today. A week long search through various movie collections led me compile a small list of movies from the late 80s and early 90s. Few were classic hits, few critically acclaimed, and few just didn’t made sense. I was through two good masterpiece and unto the next one, when Birkhe disturbed me. There was someone at the door. (Birkhe being the helper boy who lives with us for the last three months. We play Chess together every night from 9.30 to 10.00pm – time restriction followed strictly).

Birkhe has his exams coming, so I was to answer the door. With all my laziness I peeked out the window curtain and saw two gentlemen standing in our porch, outside. My face shaded by right palm to block the bright sunlight coming in from the crevices of curtains I’d broken apart from my left hand. I realized that my neglect to be covert made me visible to these two new faces. One of them saw me and raised a friendly gesture.

“Could you please open up, you might be interested in something we have” said the guy in blue jacket.

Now at these moment, I usually shy off. Close the curtain, and would be back to whatever I was doing as soon after. But today, was different. I was not agile, and I had been discovered. He was talking to me, and I couldn’t be rude. Not today I thought.

“Why are you here? what do you have?”

My reply was in as plain and polite manner as possible. There were few more sentences exchanged and pretty soon I was letting them inside the house. Apparently they were from the Gas Company, here to check the fuel efficiency and to identify and report of any leakage that might have been happening at present. To tell me of the dangers and or warn me of the potential threat level I was living with my kitchen – in short to explain if my Gas Cylinder was in risk of exploding or not. I knew this to be a kind of scam. However, a small voice inside me told to eventually look into what they had to offer. Plus this was broad day light, and since my neighbor had his house under renovation there were plenty of people around (if in case they turned out to be vampires and ghouls)

Two gentlemen, in their late 20s. The first one I met guy was wearing blue jacket, khaki trousers, in black canvas, with a worn out bulging black satchel in his right shoulder. I’d first inquire about their ID card, upon which he gave me a black file with few documents. First page had his ID paper, weird to think that this was am ID paper and not ID Card. Few pages that followed were some official looking documents in Nepali and English. This could easily have been made by any one. In fact I do know a shop that does this.

Following the first, and a little lost was the second person. I was checking the papers as both stood in front and made themselves known to the environment inside the house. A little stout, and with firm speech he introduces himself. He also had an ID card around his neck. His surname was “Khatiwada” (same as mine). “Wonderful” I thought to myself, as I inspected his attire. Black Jeans, shiny black shoes, peach green shirt, with an English Jacket unchained.

The scorching heat, and exposure of bright light had its toll on them. Firstly, they were sweating, and were smelling too. A strong olfactory sense made me realize about my own hygiene. I too had overdue to my cleaning habits today, and made the resolution to get started as soon after they were gone.

“Your Gas Cylinder looks good for now, but the next time you buy new or exchange this finished one with a new one, please look here and know the expiry date”

“Do not get the one that says expiry date on 2013”

“Your cooking range is okay, but the small pipe that connects this cylinder to the cooking ware, is damaged, and can explode any time. You should prevent the disaster from happening”

I saw a documentary in YouTube about the three marketing gimmicks to sell any product.

1. Create a problem,
2. Convince that this problem is real,
3. Give a solution, your solution, and say its the best out there

These two sales men were pitching this idea with an utmost sincerity and reality. I had a real problem and they were offering me to sell their solution. They were here to sell a small piece of plastic wrapped up in some metal that would connect my fuel cylinder to the cook ware I have. By this time, Birkhe was standing besides me and got exited, with this solution. Birkhe was happy to find a solution to a problem that until five minutes before had not existed, I had few of my own questions before I went ahead to ask the price of this wonderful solution.

“Are you from the Government? Does the government know about this? Is this a research?”
I’d so much hoped that this would be a research or something similar. As a person who is fascinated my Freakonomics.com (regular listener to their podcast) and the statistics, I’d very much hope that one of them would suddenly bring out a questionnaire and ask me fill. Nop, that was not the case.

No, there were not from the government, nor was this a research. They were simply doing a good work of making the citizen aware of the dangers about the wrong connection in LP (Liquid Petroleum) gas. Conveniently there were from “LP Company” (I had never heard about this up until today. Apparently there are some 20 to 25 of them, sweeping around, house after house, doing this good work of giving awareness. There are here (in this locality) today, and tomorrow after which they go to Bhaktapur (some 30 km away).

“So, what is the price of this great invention?” (a lame pipe with gimmicks) I asked

“Only NRS. 1750” was the answer.

This is about 20USD (17 Euro), At present, we get a new LP gas cylinder at NRS.1500 which usually lasts for about 45 days in a small household like me. A normal Nepali cook ware comes in NRS.1000. As I see it, this is a plain rip-off. I was angry, very angry. It dawn upon me, that they were simply doing there work. A smart work of ripping innocent bystanders and this occurs everywhere in the world. The best I could do was to make myself aware, and to the people around me. Calling the police would not work, well not now, not in today’s Nepal.

I lied. Instead of confronting them for their dirty work, I told them that I had no money today. I politely asked them, if this remarkable invention was available at any shop. No it wasn’t. My next question was to ask them, if I could call them up and come to their company headquarters or not. No was the answer again. Apparently, as I think now, they may not have any LP Company. My last resort was to take one of their name and mobile number, and cordially lead them to the door. A gesture to “get out” was promptly understood, and they left with no bad feelings. I explained to Birkhe about what had happened, and within minutes, he was back with this books to study for the exams.

Five minutes later, I went to a neighbor. A housewife who had settled in from the remote Himalayas. I wanted to warn her, of these men. Sadly, I was late, they were with her before they came to visit me. She had sincerely bought this magical invention. This magical marketing gimmick was worth 20 minutes and NRS.1750; with a warranty of three months.

I still have one of their number, and am looking forward to meet them tomorrow.

P.S. Next post will resume/continue mHealth (with my perspective of Nepal’s application on Mobile Health Technology) in four days time.