The buying game: TV or not TV?

October 24, 1994|By KEVIN COWHERD

Part of the reason I've been so depressed lately is because I just bought a new TV.

The reason I bought a new TV is that when I turned on the old TV a few days ago, nothing happened.

This nothingness, I realized, was a bad sign.

A good sign when you turn on your TV would be the presence of a picture and sound.

Whereas if you turn on the TV and there is no picture and no sound, it generally indicates . . . I'm just thinking out loud here . . . trouble.

Since the old TV was very old, I tried whacking it a few times, which usually works with older appliances.

This was how I used to get the heat working in my old Toyota. The heat wouldn't kick in unless you smacked the dashboard two or three times.

Other motorists would see me smacking the dashboard and think: "Boy, there's a guy who's really losing it in this traffic."

Actually I was just trying to stay warm. But other cars would give me a lot of space after that, apparently on the theory that I was this close to waving a 9mm out the window.

Anyway, whacking the old TV didn't do any good, and after a while I got sick of watching all the nothingness.

One thing you quickly discover is that shopping for a new TV is like shopping for a new car, only even more draining, if that's possible.

You meet the same kind of salesmen, only the TV salesmen have a better cut of loud plaid sport coats.

I'd walk into an electronics store and six guys in loud plaid sport coats would descend on me and chirp: "Can I help you?"

"I'm, uh, just looking," I'd say, which is what everyone says to these sales people.

Of course, when you say this, all these sales guys come back with the same snappy reply: "Fine, fine. Just shout if you have any questions."

Except then they don't go away.

Instead, what they do is hover nearby and stare at you until you feel compelled to ask a question.

One salesman made me so nervous that finally I asked the only question I could think of, which was: "How many square feet in this store?"

He said he didn't know. Then I asked him who he thought was going to the Super Bowl. He didn't know that, either.

At one appliance store, the salesman, Ken, had apparently just come from his weekly consciousness-raising workshop.

He studied me earnestly for several seconds and then asked: "What features are important to you?"

"I'm looking for a TV that has a picture," I said. "Being able to see a picture is very important to me."

"A picture," Ken said, nodding vigorously. "Anything else?"

"I'd like to be able to hear the TV, too," I said. "Sound is very important to me. I find that without sound, you can't really follow a lot of these sitcoms and police dramas. Don't you agree?"

"Oh, absolutely," he said. "Have you thought about how the TV will integrate with your total home entertainment center?"

"We don't have to worry about integration," I said, "because my TV is my total home entertainment center." Then Ken said that TV technology had grown tremendously over the past few years.

Channel labeling, Dolby surround sound, on-screen displays, commercial skip timers, universal remote -- these were just some of the exciting features available to the public now.

RTC I told Ken that those were indeed exciting features, but that unlike TV technology, my paycheck had grown very little over the past few years.

Therefore, I said, we would have to keep the exciting features to a minimum, unless Ken agreed to turn his back for a moment and allow me to walk out with a loaded Sony Trinitron.

Ken looked crushed, as if I'd just called him some horrible name.

Anyway, to make a long story short, I ended up with this one TV that had a picture and sound, and was on sale.

Ken didn't seem too excited about my choice -- he called it "functional, if unimaginative."

"Not even English-Spanish-French on-screen displays," he sniffed, getting in one final shot as I walked out the door.

I could have said something about his ugly sport coat, but I didn't.

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