Sure, a deal's a deal, unless you're unhappy

January 18, 1995|By MIKE ROYKO

I'm thinking of conducting an unusual experiment.

My idea is to go to a new-car showroom, point at a vehicle and say: "How much is that buggy?"

The salesman will probably show me the sticker on the side window, and I'll say, "OK, give me your rock-bottom price and we'll have a deal."

Then I'll sign all the papers, shake hands with the happy fellow and drive away.

I'll drive the car for a few days, then I'll return to the agency and tell the salesman:

"You know, I've been thinking it over. I don't think I like this car after all. How about if you take it back and give me a complete refund?"

If the salesman hesitates, I'll say: "You want your customers to be happy, right? Well, I'm not happy. I have noticed that there are other cars on the road that are prettier than mine. And that makes me unhappy. Now if you don't want an unhappy customer, just give me my money and I will be happy again. Of course, I won't be your customer anymore, but we can't have everything, can we? I'll even throw in the price of a carwash. Is it a deal?"

What will the salesman say?

I suppose he might tell me, no, he won't refund my money because we have a legally binding contract. And that I had an opportunity to read the contract before I signed it, and we agreed on the price, so I now own the car and that's that.

In that case, I will respond: "Then I will call a press conference and tell the world that I am not happy and it is all your fault and that I hate you, I hate you, I really, really, hate you. So there."

If that doesn't sway him, then I will use my ace card.

I'll call the man who is apparently the owner or a partner in that agency.

See, I'm not going to walk in to just any car dealership. The one I have in mind bears the name of Scottie Pippen, the Chicago Bulls basketball star. Maybe you've heard him in the commercials, urging us to buy his product.

I chose Pippen's dealership because he, more than any other car dealer, would empathize with someone who suffers from unhappiness.

For quite some time, Pippen has been one of the most visibly unhappy people in Chicago.

His problem is that he really hates working for the people who own and operate the Bulls.

He didn't always hate them. Or if he did, he didn't say so when they won three straight National Basketball Association championships. He was just as giddy as everyone else.

But times change, and now he is obviously miserable with his working conditions and wants to go somewhere else, even if it means joining a lesser team.

Then why, you might ask, doesn't he just pack up and go somewhere else to work? That's what some people do when they find their jobs intolerable. He surely would if he could, but he can't because of a legal technicality.

The technicality is that in 1991 he signed a five-year contract that requires him to play only for the Bulls until some time in 1996, unless he is traded.

So why, you might ask, would he sign himself into five years of bondage with an outfit he now detests?

I don't know. Maybe they drugged his Gatorade. Or held a pistol to his agent's head. Those management types will stop at nothing. Especially someone like Jerry Krause, the general manager. He's a real short guy, and you know how they are.

Of course, it might have been the paychecks -- about $18 million over the five years. A young man needs food and a roof over his head.

At the time, $18 million might have seemed like a pretty penny, even a tidy sum.

But that was way back in 1991. And as anyone who has been shopping lately knows, $18 million ain't what it used to be. Especially under our harsh laws, which require sports superstars to pay taxes like the rest of us. Newt should do something about that inequity.

And now there are about four dozen other basketball players who earn more than Pippen, even though most of them aren't as good as he is.

That's because they have signed contracts more recently than 1991 and haven't suffered from inflation the way Scottie has.

But the Bulls management is cruelly insensitive and refuses to tear up Pippen's contract and give him a new one with a decent living wage.

Because he is a fully grown adult and signed his name to the contract, they actually expect him to abide by it and keep playing for them.

Boy, you have to wonder what kind of crazy stuff they teach these management types in business or law school.

So Pippen has been telling the world how much he hates his employers and how miserable they make him feel. Even when they win, his hatred and misery runneth over. I sometimes fear that a long losing streak would make him suicidal.

That's why I'm confident that Scottie's auto agency would be enlightened and sensitive and realize that a contract is just a piece of paper.

But happiness is a smile.

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