Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monster Cable

Paul and I left many things behind in our Fire Island house -- now on the market -- because the custom there is for houses to be sold furnished and ready to occupy, right down to the knives and forks. So we're conducting our own personal economic stimulus package by buying what we need for the new house. Tonight we went to a major NY/New Jersey appliance chain and bought a TV. This is an arduous experience, since the salespeople (our guy told us they are referred to as "sales counselors") are very eager and clearly have been trained to offer you many warranties, service plans, and accessories. Picking the television was easy, but then we had to have the lengthy explanation of the potential hazards of not buying the extended service plan; score one for me, I declined that one. (Paul prefers, in these situations, to smile and make the occasional charming remark to put everyone at ease. If there's yes, no, or What do you mean? to be said, it will be said by me.)

Then came the matter of the connecting cable. We had been specifically warned by Joey, the cable installation guy, that this chain would attempt to sell us a special cable which we certainly did not need. Our sales counselor explained the vital necessity of this product, and I told him what Joey had said. He said, Why should you believe this dope? and I said, Why should I believe you? Suddenly things felt combative, and I felt strangely like my father, trying to protect myself from being taken advantage of in a harsh world full of pitfalls for the unwary.

Our counselor led us to a display -- two identical television sets side by side, one hooked up with the ordinary old cable, one with the sixty dollar "monster cable." A sign read, See the monster difference! Once the sets were turned on, we studied the side by side pictures. Could I see a difference? Maybe a little. I asked Paul, who couldn't tell any difference at all. I asked the counselor, who said, Well, I see it every day...

Now that this approach had failed, our counselor began to extol the virtues of having one cable to plug in instead of the five you have to deal with in the unmonstrous type. I pointed out that he had just changed his argument and suddenly the whole thing started to be funny. We both warmed to our task: comic persuasion and comic resistance.Experts were called from around the room and testimony given. It was sworn that I could go home, research the matter on line, and come back to get the necessary cable.Or that I could of course muddle through with the plain cable and never know the singular outlines of the blades of grass on the luminous football fields flashing on the screens around us. (Fields, weirdly, made of liquid crystals that apparently untwist to just the right degree, when electrically stimulated, to make a tiny portion of the image of a blade of grass.)

Reader, I bought it. The sales counselor was surprised. I did it because I had become entertained with an exchange that felt sour and then was converted, as Alan Shapiro puts it in a wonderful poem called "Old Joke," "to a rightness." And because I didn't want to feel like my father, ever-vigilant about being taken for a ride. Better to be taken for a few rides, or that's how I've conducted myself, anyway.

And what do you think, does one actually need a monster cable?


lu said...

Hell yes, you always need monster anything... Monster cable, monster truck, Monster eneryg drink...It's the american way!

(I love that you bought it--so christmasy of you!)

Elizabeth said...

my head hurts -- monstrously.

David@Montreal said...

monstrous is something to be admired
and acquired?


Leslie said...

I'd have to start a little more basic than questions of cables. With a TV larger than my laptop for instance.

Justin Evans said...

I am the only straight man in a 100 milre radius who does not watch sports. When the sales people turn to sports, and they always do, I like to ask, "But how good will Top Chef look? How wonderful will my special edition DVD of Shakespeare In Love perform?"

I get lots of strange looks and then nobody tries to sell me monster cables, even though I may actually want them. When you watch "State Fair" the colors really pop!

Mark Doty said...

Justin, you are making me feel much more enthusiasm about this product! I am hooking up my monster cable this morning.

Bill Matthews said...

There are 2,009,000 hits on "the google" for "monster cable TV."

Here's one with the technical gee-whiz, but none of your gallantry, poetics or keen spirit: http://gizmodo.com/gadgets/field-notes/the-truth-about-monster-cable-266616.php

Binh Around the City said...


Ms Baroque said...

Coming in late... a surprising exchange in a store, and a generosity of spirit. Lovely! I hope the Christmas carols looked extra bright with it.

I'm fascinated by the custom of selling the house "ready to go."

Rich Villar said...

Of all the entries to finally leave a comment on...

Before my life as a poet, I was on the short road to life as a sales manager at this very retail chain you're describing. Monster Cable was the product we pushed with particular relish.

Reason? Accessories and services plans are the highest profit margin products those stores sell. When I was an employee there, I would routinely buy Monster Cable because my at-cost discount was ridiculous. If I had to pay full price, there's no way I would drink the kool-aid.

The only noticeable difference (in the HD/digital age, that is) would be in the TYPE of cable you connect to your HDTV. When I was selling these things, the connection of choice was Component Video, combined with some variety of digital audio cable. But this was back when a plasma-screen HD set cost $25K. That, and nobody wants to mess with 4 separate cables just to watch TV.

Since then, the industry has been searching for a user-friendly, standard hookup that is capable of carrying the necessary bandwidth to deliver a full HD signal and digital audio in ONE cable. (It's similar to the fight over Blu-ray and HD-DVD, or between VHS and Beta.) By far, the most convenient of these hookups is called HDMI. That's literally all you need to connect between an HD cable box, a Blu-Ray play, an HD camcorder, or whatever device delivers an HD signal. As long as the cable says HDMI on it, you're in business.

Whew! Now I want to walk through one of these stores and call forth my Sales Counselor powers once more! muahahahaha!

Talk soon.
Rich V.

Michelle said...

"sales counselors" and "monster cables". Lovely stuff! :)