On Friday I had the pleasure of
being tricked into attending a Cutco
home demonstration at my friends' house. Carolyn and Cassie had
innocuously invited me over for dinner; after I accepted, Cassie
revealed that oh yeah, there was going to be a knife salesman there,
and they wanted me to make it less awkward. (This is something my
friends routinely do. They think a situation will be awkward, so they
invite me in hopes that my natural awkwardness, which they are familiar
with, will take over and cancel out the new, unfamiliar awkwardness of
the situation. It rarely works as planned.)
Cutco, if you didn't know, is sort of like Avon for knives. The sales reps are mostly college-age kids, and they come to your house and try to convince you that you need to spend $1200 on knives. They do this by employing subtle psychological torture. I would not be surprised to find out that Cutco salesmen are trained at Guantanamo.
To be fair, there are people out there who actually need nice knives in their kitchens. The problem is, my friends and I are not those people. We are the kind of people who think we are having a good night, culinary-wise, if we have both milk AND cereal in the house. Knives don't really enter into the equation too often, unless we are dealing with particularly wily packaging on one of our frozen dinners. We are basically the worst people possible to try and sell knives too, and Carolyn told him that multiple times when he called to schedule the visit. The Cutco guy assured her that she would be under no obligation to buy anything, he just wanted credit for the home visit to apply toward some kind of scholarship competition or something.
Well, needless to say, the presentation was painful. For example, at one point, the Cutco guy held up a paring knife. "So, Carolyn," he asked. "What types of tasks do you usually use a paring knife for in your kitchen?"
Carolyn looked at him like he had held up a scalpel and asked where you make the first incision on a routine spleenectomy. This was not a question she knew the answer to.
The silence was getting really awkward, so I chimed in. "You could use a paring knife for scaling asparagus!"
The Cutco guy looked at me, grateful for the lifeline. "Yes! You like to cook?"
"Well, no," I admitted, ashamed. "I just peeked at your binder and saw that it said 'great for scaling asparagus' under the picture of the paring knife."
The Cutco guy looked at me in disgust. I had been busted for cheating at a knife sales pitch.
Things went on like this for over an hour, which was long enough for Carolyn to consume several sweet tea vodka and lemonades. This made her hilariously belligerent; when the Cutco guy asked her to cut through a piece of leather; she feigned amazement, then looked at him and said, "Problem: I do not eat leather." The Cutco guy seemed rattled at this point. When he then suggested that unpredictable, tipsy Carolyn try holding a footlong bread knife to feel the grip, I thought it was a good idea to intercede.
"How about I hold it?" I said. The Cutco guy, clearly still mad at me about the asparagus thing, shook his head. "No. I want Carolyn to try." I decided to back off, because I have a personal policy of not provoking people who are holding sharp knives. It is one of those healthy habits that has kept me around for so long.
As promised, we bought no knives that night, despite a harrowing psychological showdown in which the Cutco guy all but threatened to not leave the house until we bought knives. Cassie and I grew so uncomfortable during the desperate negotiations that we had to get up and leave the table multiple times; however, Carolyn showed impressive resistance as the Cutco guy went through page after page of knife sets in his catalogue. Each time Carolyn declined to buy a particular set, he would turn the page of his catalogue and show her another set that was slightly cheaper and had slightly fewer knives in it than the one on the preceding page. Finally, Carolyn interrupted him.
"I have an idea. How about you just turn to the last page, with the smallest number of knives and the cheapest price, so I can just say no to that and we can be done."
It was at this point that the Cutco guy finally understood that no knives would be sold to us tonight. Instead of leaving immediately, though, he asked us to provide him with the names and numbers of 10 friends who we thought would enjoy hearing his presentation.
You can all be expecting to hear from him very soon.