Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mastec Motors: Scenario A: The Walker

Part 2 of a response to Kevin Parry's A Difference of Paradigms
(Read Part 1)

A customer walks into a Mastec Motors showroom and is approached by a salesman.

Salesman (S): Hello, can I help you?
Customer (C): Hi. Yea, maybe. I've heard a lot of talk about the 320i Turbo and I'd like to know more about it, maybe take a test drive.

S: Well, I'm glad you stopped by. But first let me say that I take my job very seriously and I want to make sure that the 320i is the car for you. If I sell you a car and you're not happy with it, even if it works exactly as advertised, then we've got an unhappy customer and our reputation is damaged. You understand, don't you?
C: That makes sense.

S: Good. So let me ask you a quasi-philosophical question.
C (looking puzzled): Uhhhh...I really rather talk cars.

S: If you want a 320i you've gotta answer the quasi-philosophical question, it's company policy.
C: Alright.

S: What's a car for?
C (puzzled): What's a car for?

S: Right.
C (pauses): Cars are for taking people to places.

S: Very good. But people can go places without a car, can't they? For example they can walk, bike, or take a bus, right?
C: Sure.

S: So, what's a car for?
C: Is there anyone else I can talk to?

S: Sorry, no.
C (sighs): Ok. are for taking people places they can't walk or bike to, and are not near the bus lines.

S: Very good. Cars take people places they can't easily get to any other way. Is that a fair restatement?
C: Yes.

S: Ok. Now for a more personal question. Are there places you want to go that you can't get to any other way than by car?
C: Well...

S: I ask you that because I noticed that you didn't drive up to the showroom, you walked.
C: That's right.

S: Do you currently own a car?
C: No, I don't.

S: Do you have a need to go places you can't walk to?
C: Well, no, not really. Where I live I can walk everywhere I need to go. My job, my friends', restaurants, libraries, the doctor, bars, Whole Foods, the Apple® store; I can get to these places and many more on my own.

S: Sounds like you're pretty well set; self-contained, as it were.
C: I suppose I am.

S: So why are you here?
C: I can't deny that this is a car-centric culture. People without a car are considered oddballs—or worse. Some of my walker friends would never set foot inside a dealership. Some even advocate making cars illegal, but every now and then I like to hear what you guys have to say. After all, I'm an open-minded and reasonable person. Can you prove to me that the Mastec 320i Turbo is my best transportation option?

S: If you don't believe that there are places you need a car to get to, I doubt any amount of performance data, reliability statistics, expert opinions, or even a test drive will convince you to buy. If you consider a concept irrational, the details are irrelevant.
C: But you shouldn't care whether I'd actually use the car. Aren't you supposed to get me to buy one even if I leave it in the garage.

S: No. That wouldn't do either of us any good.
C: So I guess you have to convince me first that there are interesting things happening in distance places that I missing out on.

S: Do you think I can do that?
C: Many car-owners have tried. But, of course they have to believe. If they don't they'll realize how much they've wasted.

S: So they are hopelessly biased.
C: Biased and, with all due respect, weak.

S: Weak?
C: Yes. They can't take the strain of life in the city. They dream of distant, idyllic meadows or white-sand beaches or other such delusions so they can deal with—or ignore—the dirt and violence outside their windows. Instead of accepting their situation, much less trying to improve things, they buy a car and read travel brochures all day long.

S: And that bothers you?
C: It wouldn't, but they think that being car owners makes them better than everyone else. They feel the need to tell everyone how great their car is, or how much better their "far-off country" is to the city. When they hear that I prefer to walk, they react with anger, or worse, pity. The oh-you-poor-thing look—I can't stand that!

S: I understand. But can you blame believers in distant, idyllic meadows and such for telling other people about them? Don't you share exciting news with your friends?
C: Exciting news, sure, but I keep my fantasies to myself. I have no desire to escape from the city. I like it here despite its problems. It's real, it's dangerous, it's unpredictable. It's fun! And anyway, idyllic meadows, if they did exist, would bore me to tears; everyone sitting around watching the grass grow doesn't sound idyllic to me. No, I'm sorry, I'm not interested in idyllic meadows. Regardless, the city is all there is; there are no "far-off places" of any sort.

S: Ok. I have another question for you.
C: Alright.

S: There are many components that go into a car and many other things without which it wouldn't run. Can you name some?
C: Well, there's gasoline, tires, various metal parts, is that what you mean?

S: Exactly. And where do car-owners get gasoline?
C: Gas stations, of course. They're on every street corner, you can't miss them with their big, obnoxious signs. But you know that it's not just car owners that use gas. I have a gas stove and a gas heating system. Almost everybody uses it.

S: True, I can't think of anybody that does not use some form of processed oil.
C: But car owner's think—

S: Wait, my question is not about what car-owners think. It's about gas, and tires, for example.
C: What about them?

S: Where do they come from?
C: Gas comes from gas stations, like I said, and tires can be bought there as well. Or you can get tires at a hundred other places. By the way, like with gas, tires are not just for cars.

S: Sure. Gas stations, however, only distribute gasoline to the public. They don't extract it or refine it. Even though there's a gas station on every corner have you ever seen a oil rig or a refinery in the city?
C: Out on the edge of the city there's vast industrial areas with huge tanks...

S: That's just another level of distribution. I'm talking about manufacture. Does gas come from the within the city? And although tires can be bought at hundreds of places have you ever seen a single rubber tree, much less the many millions it would take to produce all the rubber products sold and used in the city?
C: No, but it's a big city. I haven't been everywhere. The fact is we have gas and tires, so there must be oil rigs and rubber trees in the city somewhere.

S: Why's that?
C: Because, as I said, the city is all there is. Maybe I've never seen them but that's no reason to make up stories about distant lands with vast oil reserves or acres of rubber trees.

S: But that's a reasonable hypothesis, isn't it?
C: Only if you are naive enough to believe in distant lands in the first place. Even if I were that naive, I'd still have no reason to by a Mastec 320i Turbo, which is, if I recall, the reason I came in here.

S: It seems you have no need of any car.
C: Right.

S: (says nothing)
C: Well, it's been interesting; however, once again I leave a dealership without any desire to buy a car.

S: I'm sorry I couldn't be of more help. All I ask is that you think about our conversation. Keep your eyes open as you walk around the city. Don't dismiss ideas that don't fit your theory, but consider them with the same open-mindedness and reasonableness that you do for anything else. Maybe I'll see you back here again. Stop by anytime.
C: I'll do that, thanks. Bye.

S: Goodbye.