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Student Work: Now That’s Creative Writing!

Artistic Creative Writing

My students have to write every day in a journal/planner that I’ve developed for them. Most of the time I don’t care what they write about, as long as they do it. I always give them a prompt in case they can’t think of a topic, but rarely do I require them to write on it.

So most of the time it’s just mundane everyday stuff. Sometimes it’s filled with the drama of eighth grade social strife. Sometimes it’s stories. Sometimes it’s poetry.

A few years ago I stopped letting them draw pictures. I hated doing it because I hate limiting creativity, and I love the visual aspect of literacy. But it got to a point where there was more drawing going on than writing or reflecting. And it wasn’t even good or thoughtful drawing. It was just filler.

This year a particularly talented student has discovered a loophole. I only saw these while checking their binders before Christmas break. So I had no prior knowledge of them. After her first entry of the kind, it didn’t take long for her buddies to catch on.

Sometimes teaching sucks. And then sometimes–when you see stuff like this–it totally rocks.Creative Writing Tree

Creative writing Christmas

Because: The New Magic Word

. . .but still not as magical as the “P” word (no not “please”, the other one).

We’re in the middle of a unit on persuasion right now. I love this unit because it’s so rich–it’s a great topic from which to teach so many cool things. Yes, students learn persuasive techniques so that they can better manipulate their parents and teachers, but we also hunt for these techniques when we read sales letters and advertisements (reading standards); we search for them on the radio and TV commercials (listening standards). Writing with these techniques requires discipline, a keen understanding of audience, and attention to details (writing standards). From a Language Arts perspective, it’s good stuff–great stuff.

But it’s also a blast because we get tap into a little psychology, human behavior, and begin to think a bit about thinking.

One of the mind benders I introduce is famously known (in psychological circles anyway) as the “The Copy Machine” study, conducted by Ellen Langer, the first woman to earn tenure as a professor of psychology at Harvard.

The following is an excerpt from an article originally published in the New York Times by Philip Hilts.

In that study, she stationed someone at a copy machine in a busy graduate school office. When someone stepped up and began copying, Dr. Langer’s plant would come up to the person and interrupt, asking to butt in and make copies. The interruption was allowed fairly often, about 60 percent of the time. But the permission was granted almost 95 percent of the time if the person stepping up to interrupt not only asked, ”May I use the copy machine?” but added a reason, ”because I’m in a rush.”

That seems to make sense. People heard the reason and decided they were willing to step aside for a moment. What was odd, Dr. Langer found, was that if the interrupter asked, ”Can I use the machine?” and added a meaningless phrase, ”because I have to make copies,” the people at the machine also stepped aside nearly 95 percent of the time.

The idea, she said, is that the listener at the copy machine heard a two-part statement: a request and something like a reason. That was all their mental script for such a situation required. They never did reflect on the fact that the interrupter’s ”reason” was not meaningful.

As a teacher, I get dozens of requests an hour. Most are fairly pedestrian:

  • “Can I borrow a pencil?”
  • “Can I go to my locker?”
  • “Can I get a drink?”
  • “Can I go to the bathroom?”

Now, after we learn a few persuasive techniques, I tell the students to persuade me. After learning about the power of the word “because,” most of them use that . . .because it’s relatively simple.

And it works even better than “please”. Still, most of them forget.

“Mr. Wondra, I need to go to the bathroom.”

“Persuade me,” I’ll say.

They’ll roll their eyes, sigh heavily, do a little potty dance.

“But Mr. Wondra! I REALLY have to go . . .BAD!”

I nod and smile. Eventually, they realize I’m not budging and so fumble around until they construct coherent request. After awhile they begin to do it automatically–or at least they remember after I look at them and say nothing.

I figure this is good teaching–reinforcing the content using a real world application–right? Plus I get to play the powerful-hoity-toity teacher role.

This was the case the other day. I was in the back of the room spot checking (quickly assessing) an assignment, when a fairly quite but confident a girl walked over.

“Mr. Wondra, can I go the bathroom?”

I looked up.  There was a slight pause, but her expression never changed, and she never broke eye contact.

“. . .because I have my period.”

Talk about a persuasive argument. She knocked that one out of the park.

Visitor Leaves Anonymous Comment. Shares Wisdom, Peace.

You probably wouldn’t know it by reading this blog, but I think I do a lot of reflecting about personal growth and spirituality. I don’t often blog about it because, quite frankly, I really don’t think I have anything new to say about it. In short, I can’t explain stuff like that when I have so much trouble applying it to my own life.

There are entire libraries worth of self-improvement literature. I’m not the guy to add to it.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking deeply about it. I am.

And somewhere along the line, a hint of that must have slipped through here because the other day I received on this blog the most interesting and profound comment. It’s more an essay than a comment, really. And I’m sharing it here as it’s own post because it’s good stuff. Helpful stuff. Smart stuff. And it’s good writing.

What you are about to read has not been edited by me in any way except to bold headings that appeared to me to be obvious headings. Anonymous Commenter, if you’re still out there, I hope I did your writing justice. And thank you so much for sharing.

If this is evidence of the kind of thinking people who are reading this blog, all I have to say is, Damn. I’ve got the coolest readers on the internet.

So, without further ado, I present what I can only call, The Comment.

*******************************************

Chris,

Unfortunately you have no email available to send this to, so I’m just commenting on a somewhat related entry in hopes you will see this relatively soon.

In a nutshell, the following fell together for me last night and I knew two things for sure – I needed to write this down and I needed to share it. You seem to be in your writing a somewhat kindred soul who likes things that make sense. When you come across this please read the essay, try the content if you think it makes sense, and place it in your blog or anywhere else you think it may help someone if you believe it works for you. I personally can’t believe there’s anyone it won’t work for.
Thanks for giving it a chance.

Eliminate Conflict and Find Peace – RIGHT NOW!

I am not a psychologist, a writer, nor am I an active member of any religion. I’m just an individual who has recently come across what I believe to be the absolute easiest and fastest solution to drastically increase one’s well-being through the dissolution of conflict and enjoyment of true Peace. You can begin and start seeing results immediately, and the only requirement is honesty.

The details of how this solution evolved and became apparent to me are unimportant, but suffice to say I have always been one to look for a better (read: shorter, faster easier) way to do things and have a knack for sorting through loads of information in an effort to find those core essentials that truly make sense. Well-researched laziness, if you will…

This solution is far too short and uncomplicated to write a book about, so it is apparent that it is meant to be shared with all for free, and the sooner the better.

I want nothing save your happiness. I am not asking you to purchase anything, nor am I asking you to acknowledge me for sharing this with you. This solution is not about me nor does it belong to me. It simply offers what I believe to be a better way which focuses on essentials and I hope makes as much sense for you as it makes sense for me.

You have absolutely nothing to lose. I sincerely hope that if you continue reading you will have enough “Wow, that really makes sense…” moments to put the solution into practice. Once you start doing so and experience the immediate benefit, you will find it so easy and enjoyable you will employ the solution more and more. At some point if you are honest with yourself and believe that you have made a change for the better, hopefully you will want to share it with someone else.

If you want to experience the happiness of true Peace, have an open mind and are prepared to be completely honest, the time is now.

Unqualified Happiness

Everyone has mental images which are stored as memories of a time, however brief, when none of his/her perceived problems mattered and he/she was free to just enjoy the Unqualified Happiness of the moment.

This memory should have nothing to do with achievement, nor financial/material gain, as these are merely examples of qualified happiness. Being happy just for the opportunity to enjoy the moment is what we’re looking for here. Be honest with yourself and you’ll know which memories I’m referring to strictly by the distinctive way they make you feel when you recall them. Memories of the unconditional love of a smiling partner or the beautiful innocence of a child are prime examples of this, but life is full of them, and you will recognize them easily when you search.

We are going to start paying attention to those memories starting right now. Pick a favourite memory of Unqualified Happiness and the mental image that accompanies it. Commit it to memory to the point where you are instantly able to recall it and invoke that distinctive feeling in yourself. This will not take long at all.

Now that you have committed a benchmark as to what Unqualified Happiness feels like and can recall it for reference and comparison at any time, it will be much easier to recognize, whether specifically looking for it or not. You will recognize this feeling much more frequently than you think you will. Every time you do you must hold on to it, and you must act fast!

As soon as you know you’re experiencing the feeling of Unqualified Happiness, create a mental image for it. In the case of a memory this has been done for you and there is already an image which invokes this feeling. If you are experiencing the feeling real-time, just be aware of the moment. Any sight, sound or smell around you is potentially an easily-recalled mental image. Simply decide what you want to associate with this feeling and commit to memory.

The Happiness File

Every time you have created a new mental image associated with the feeling of Unqualified Happiness, recall your original ‘favourite’ image and mentally attach it to the image you just created. Enjoy the feeling of the Unqualified Happiness, which is now stronger because you not only were experiencing it, but at the same time you invoked more of it by recalling this original mental image you now associate it with. Every time you recall your original image, which I am going to call your ‘Happiness Icon’, the feeling you invoke will be of this new, stronger Unqualified Happiness. By recalling your Happiness Icon you have no choice but to also recall all the mental images you have attached to it and of course the stronger feeling associated with them. The more often you recognize the feeling of Unqualified Happiness and take a moment to commit to memory, the better it will feel every time you do and the more often you will want to do it. The more often you do it the easier it will be. It’s really that simple.

What you are doing is creating a ‘Happiness File’, an ever-growing collection of mental images and most importantly the feeling of Unqualified Happiness which is instantly available just by recalling your Happiness Icon. Continuing to add to this File will be so easy and the resulting feeling every time you access it so enjoyable you will start habitually looking for moments of Unqualified Happiness to add to your file on a day-to-day basis.

All That Matters

Here’s the tough part.

This Happiness File of yours? That collection of memories and (most importantly) the feeling of Unqualified Happiness that it invokes?

This File is ALL THAT MATTERS. Not one other single thing in your life matters a whit except for what you’re storing in your File.

I’m happy to be the one that breaks it to you, because it is so important to your happiness, but I know you’re going to have a hard time with it. You have your hard-won accomplishments and most times you believe you have done or are doing something to make a difference in your life.

You haven’t. You’re not. You think I’m wrong, but it’s the truth. You think what I’m saying is terrible, but it’s wonderful. Please bear with me and I hope to make enough sense to keep your interest.

Let me put it this way. Regardless of who you are, where you come from, the nature of your faith or lack of faith, I am certain we can agree on one point. When you are facing the end of this life, the ONLY thing you will personally have to show for all of those hours spent upon this Earth is a lifetime of memories and the feelings that are associated with them. Nobody wants their final moments to be moments of angst and regret, so having a wealth of memories through which one can invoke and enjoy Unqualified Happiness is undoubtedly of paramount importance. Wouldn’t you agree?

It is for this reason that unless what you are doing will result in a feeling of Unqualified Happiness to add to your file, it’s not going to matter. Period. Be honest with yourself and you will agree that it is true. The good news is that anything you can do to achieve that feeling and add to the file matters A LOT. This being the case, why would anyone not want to spend their time doing something that matters?

By the way….This feeling of Unqualified Happiness that you have learned to store up, increase and invoke at will? I’m going to start calling it by a less-clumsy name. I believe many people refer to it as Peace.

Hard, Fast Rule #1 – PEACE IS ALL THAT MATTERS!!!!!!!!!!

Conflict

Conflict is the opposite of Peace. Since Peace is all that matters conflict naturally represents that which does not matter.

Conflict arises frequently in an attempt to distract you from what matters. Quite often it is so relentless that moments of Peace which should be enjoyed and stored in your file are lost. When you forget what matters by engaging Conflict I guarantee that no good can come of it, as you are futilely embroiling yourself in something which does not matter!

‘Handling’, ‘dealing with’, or even ‘resolving’ Conflict is not the answer. If you are going to spend your time doing what matters (finding and retaining Peace), the conflict must be eliminated. If you eliminate what does not matter, what are you left with?

The first step to eliminating conflict is to recognize it at its onset. Many times Conflict is not recognized for what it is early enough and manages to engage and distract you before you know it. This is because most people only think of Conflict in the context of relationships between people. Although this is a leading symptom of conflict, it is actually far more grass-roots than that.

Conflict is trying to distract you any time you feel anger or judgment of ANY KIND rise inside you. I don’t care about the scenario that led to the rise in Conflict, and you don’t either. It doesn’t matter.

Hard, Fast Rule #2 – CONFLICT IS NEVER JUSTIFIED

Part of Conflict’s distraction technique is to fill your mind with rationalizations of your anger and/or judgment – all kinds of arguments as to why you’re justified in feeling this way. You’re not. People are often easily deceived by these rationalizations and end up running headlong to engage Conflict, feeling justified in their motivation but inevitably spending hours, days, even years hopelessly flailing in a quagmire of that which does not matter.

Thankfully you recognize Conflict for what it is and you want to eliminate it as quickly as possible so you can get back to what matters.

Eliminating Conflict

You’ve recognized Conflict trying to distract you, felt the anger and judgment rise inside you, now how do you eliminate it as soon as possible? As long as you follow these few simple steps, keep the two Hard, Fast rules in mind and are prepared to be completely honest with yourself you can eliminate conflict every time regardless of the circumstances, which of course don’t matter. It will take no time at all to seamlessly and almost instantly eliminate conflict and move on to what matters every time.

As soon as you are faced with Conflict’s distraction, you should immediately access your Happiness Icon and invoke the feeling of peace. Buoyed by the reaffirmation of what really matters, it is easy to see Conflict as truly being of no matter at all. It will do everything it can to keep you distracted, likely with an onslaught of rationalizations hoping to make you forget what matters and engage, even disparaging you for ‘backing down’. You’re too smart, though – You’ve already figured out there’s nothing of consequence to ‘back down’ from.

Once you have de-powered Conflict by remembering what matters, everything will change and the idea of engaging the conflict won’t be attractive at all.

The next step is where the honesty comes in, and it’s harder than you might imagine. You are awash in a feeling of Peace and feeling good about stopping Conflict in its tracks. Now is the perfect time to ask yourself WHY this situation caused Conflict to try and distract you.

Knowing that Conflict is never justified, we can immediately discard any stray rationalizations that present themselves. There is no blame to be assigned here. Ask yourself WHY the conflict arose outside the context of the scenario, think about your feelings at that exact moment, and BE HONEST WITH YOURSELF.

You may come up with the answer “I don’t know”. That is because you’re not prepared to be honest with yourself. Try again. Don’t be afraid to look closely. It really doesn’t take as long as it seems.

I am willing to bet that if you examine those feelings of conflict at the moment they arise, they may follow any number of routes in any number of forms in order to get to you and distract you, but in the end the answer will be along the lines of the following:

The circumstances that initially appear to have brought on the Conflict have actually directly or indirectly reminded you of a moment in the past in which your actions, attitude, or behaviour left you hurt, embarrassed, guilty or self-critical.

So there it is. Much like you have learned to do with feelings of peace, Conflict is very adept at storing up memories and the negative feelings associated with them as well, using them to distract you and lure you into engaging something that doesn’t matter.

Conflict arises because you’re angry with yourself. You may not like hearing it, but I know that you’ve been honest with yourself and you know that it makes sense.

Here is where we get the opportunity to really strike a blow against Conflict by eliminating one of its root causes. Whatever your answer when you were being honest with yourself about why the Conflict arose, you can now easily take that negative memory and remove its power, recognizing it for what it is and acknowledging that IT DOESN’T MATTER.

Just like that you have one less negative memory for Conflict to dredge up and distract you with! Since you’re now concentrating only on what matters, you shouldn’t be building any more, and with enough eradications eventually Conflict will have no place in your life at all.

So that’s about it. I told you it was short and easy. In a nutshell, just remember the two Hard & Fast Rules:

1) PEACE IS ALL THAT MATTERS
2) CONFLICT IS NEVER JUSTIFIED

Simply be completely honest with yourself and apply those two rules to every decision, action or reaction. It’s really that easy.

Thank you for taking the time to read. I wish you nothing but the best.

Football: A Metaphor for Spit Wads

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I’ve mentioned before that, in an effort to keep kids writing and thinking, I’ll often have them request things of me (change of grade for example) in writing. Obviously, logical reasoning and compelling details are more effective. In short, if you’re a kid that’s going to play the percentages–you’re going to come with some good writing and thinking.

Today a student thought spit wads through a hollow pen casing was the way to go. I thought a detention was an appropriate response. But first (especially since we’re in the middle of a unit on persuasion) I told the kid to write me at least one paragraph explaining why he did not deserve a detention.

By the end of the hour.

Which meant he had 5 minutes.

Here’s what he came back with:

Dear Mr. Wondra,

I shouldn’t get a detention because it doesn’t hurt anybody to get shot by a spit wad when they are doing it to you and other people. It’s just like football. If someone tackles your teammate you either try, or you do tackle the person who tackled you. It’s not a big deal because if you do it to someone then you should expect that you will get shot back.

Obviously, there are numerous problems with his logic here–not the least being he doesn’t know how to play football. But as an English teacher, I had to appreciate the attempt at metaphor.

I’ve got a unit on logic coming up next semester. I’ll let you know if we make any progress.

Direct Buy Makes Contact


Sometimes, having a blog seems like a lot of work. Sometimes it’s wicked fun. And every once in awhile something jumps up and bites you in the ass (er, I mean, surprises the heck out of you).

This was the case this fall when out of the blue, I got an email at my school address from Sara Shragal, Sr. Communications Coordinator for DirectBuy, Inc.

Almost a year ago I wrote a post about my experience at a Direct Buy showroom. Over time that post made its way to Google’s front page for the keywords “Direct Buy” as well as “Directbuy.” So now, depending on Direct Buy’s advertising schedule I consistently get between 150 and 200 visits a day to that post.

Direct Buy LobbyBut that’s not to cool part. The cool part is that so far, 59 people have also shared their own Directbuy stories–both positive and negative–in the comments section. So I think, if you want a fairly even handed comprehensive report on the Direct Buy experience–from presentation, to sign up, to customer service–you can get a pretty good idea right at that post. One stop shopping.

And now–Direct Buy itself would like to weigh in.

Instead of telling you the whole story, I think I’ll just share with you the correspondence that Ms. Shragal initiated early this fall, which culminated in the interview at the bottom of this post.

Enjoy:

Act 1: An Email From Direct Buy Corporate


Hi Chris,

I work at DirectBuy’s corporate headquarters in Merrillville, Indiana and wanted to introduce myself. Based on the discussion taking place on your website, I would love to schedule a time to talk so I can provide you with additional information about DirectBuy and answer any questions that you or your readers might have.

Given that you have already taken the time to visit one of our showrooms, I thought it might be useful to provide you with some additional information on our company, and allow you to ask questions of me. With some of the recent posts to your site, we also would like a chance to directly respond and provide clarification on our business and our policies.

In the meantime, I encourage you to visit www.directbuycares.com to see for yourself how some of our members have used DirectBuy to build, remodel or furnish their homes, and also how our franchise owners are giving back to the community.

Let me know what day/time works best for you. I look forward to speaking with you.

Best regards,

Sara Shragal
Sr. Communications Coordinator
DirectBuy, Inc.

act II: I reply. or–What the hell?

Hi Sara,

Your email intrigues me on a number of different levels.

So first I have to ask: How did you find my blog? I’m always interested to learn how people have come to find me. And since I don’t remember leaving this email address on my blog–how did you find that? And finally, why bother with little ol’ me and my blog? I mean, c’mon–it’s not like I’m Barbara Walters.

Mine is not a consumer awareness blog. I don’t really have a niche. So when I wrote that particular post, I never expected it to get the traffic and spark the discussion that it has. And I certainly never imagined it would catch the attention of DirectBuy corporate. Yet despite the traffic the post attracts, I really haven’t given DirectBuy much thought since writing it. I read the comments, but I don’t encourage (or discourage) the discussion. Heck I rarely even take part in it, other than to say something like, “Interesting. Thanks for stopping by.”

But, after getting your email last night, and thinking about it a little more today, a sort of follow up article might be interesting. From what I understand from your email, it sounds like you’d like to directly address some of the ideas, conceptions, or misconceptions about Directbuy that are floating around.

(I then basically brought up the idea of me interviewing her)

Act III: Direct Buy lets down its guard, takes a chance with an independent blogger, and agrees to an interview it has absolutely no control in publishing

Hi Chris,

Thanks for your note! I hope you weren’t too frightened when you got my initial email – we actually found your blog and your email address on Google. Here at DirectBuy’s headquarters, we are always on the lookout for outlets – online, media or otherwise – that are interested in our company. Since you have quite a bit of space devoted to DirectBuy, I thought I could offer some helpful insight into our business.

(She then went on to accept my offer for an interview and explained a few of the things you’ll find below)

Kindest regards,
Sara

The final act: Chris Wondra goes head to head with Direct buy in a no holds barred knock down drag out interview that may, in the end, bring the corporate giant to its knees and award the first ever pulitzer to a blogger.

Not really, of course, but a guy can dream can’t he?

CW: Tell us a little bit about your position with Directbuy. What are your responsibilities and how long have you been with the company.

SS: As senior communications coordinator at DirectBuy, I spend a good portion of my time educating consumers about DirectBuy’s business model, because it’s different than what many people are accustomed to. As such, my focus is primarily public relations, branding, and internal communications. I started working with DirectBuy in May of 2001, and since that time, I’ve seen our company evolve and most importantly, grow! From the day that I’ve started, we’ve more than doubled the number of franchised locations we operate, and our members have increased their purchasing by over 500%!

CW:What are some things that you enjoy about your job?

SS: I’m naturally an outgoing person, so I love that I get to speak with so many people from so many different areas in a given day. Throughout the day, I’ll speak with many of our franchise owners, media representatives from newspapers, television, radio, and the Internet, and prospective and existing members from all over the U.S. and Canada. By far, the best part of my job is hearing from our members! Their experiences are so important to what we do. Just recently, I spoke with a family from Chattanooga that built a home, and purchased most everything they needed, from flooring, lighting, plumbing and cabinetry, to furnishings, appliances, and outdoor furniture, at DirectBuy. They were absolutely thrilled with their savings – in fact, they saved so much on their purchases that they were able to buy a brand new truck with the savings they incurred through DirectBuy!

CW: What are some of your biggest challenges?

SS: As a communications coordinator and spokesperson for DirectBuy, one of my biggest challenges is managing communications issues across our growing network. I’m finding myself traveling more and more to attend new showroom opening events, franchise owners meetings, video shoots. Just last week I was in Palm Springs for one event and then Columbus for another, to highlight some of our new showrooms. It has been difficult to keep up, but a lot of fun as well.

CW What would you say are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about Direct Buy?

SS: Some of the biggest misconceptions I’ve seen and heard about DirectBuy are that:

1.) DirectBuy’s sales process is high-pressure; and
2.) DirectBuy members don’t save on their purchases.

First, to address claims that our sales process is high pressure, it’s important to fully understand our business. Briefly, DirectBuy has a unique business model that requires prospective members to attend an open house and learn about the company, savings and product selection. The information shared during this session is confidential, and therefore we require consumers to make a decision to join during the open house. While this format is non-traditional (and somewhat “foreign” to most consumers), it is required to protect our manufacturer relations and ensure incredible savings.

Next, is the misconception that DirectBuy offers no savings on merchandise. Again, the answer to this question requires a little insight into our business model. DirectBuy requires a membership fee that is paid upon joining. In return, members are able to purchase merchandise at manufacturer’s prices. Since we derive no income from the sale of merchandise, this means that members will receive substantial savings on the majority of products offered through DirectBuy, including furniture, cabinetry, lighting, flooring, plumbing fixtures, etc. One point of clarification is that some products, such as appliances and electronics, tend to be very competitive amongst retailers. In such instances when we are advised by a manufacturer that their products may be similarly priced at retail stores, we notify our members via a label on that catalog that explains that the pricing on the products in the catalog, such as electronics and appliances, may offer only marginal savings.

Chris, I continually receive testimonials from our members all across North America, and I know we have tens of thousands of satisfied members who are saving significantly on a wide array of items for their homes. I’d like to find a way for your readers to understand that. I’d also like them to keep in mind that DirectBuy is not for a person who just wants a good price on a faucet or a television. We’re ideal for homeowners who are planning to make multiple home-related purchases in the near future.

CW: That’s interesting. It sounds like you’re saying that, in some cases, a DirectBuy membership may not be able to save you much if anything.

SS: Our business model enables us to offer savings in every product category we sell. The key is that savings on certain types of merchandise is more significant than others, because retailers tend to mark up certain products more than others. That said, our members still find savings on products with smaller margins because they buy them at manufacturers’ prices. In some cases, savings on merchandise with smaller margins is not as much as the savings they would find on other products. I mentioned how we communicate this to our members by labeling our catalogs. When prospective members visit DirectBuy at an Open House, we also make sure to tell them where they will find the most significant savings.

CW: What sort of person would get the most benefit from a DirectBuy membership? In other words, what sort of items would a person want to buy through DirectBuy to save the most money?

SS: Well, any homeowner planning to make major purchases for his or her home over the next ten years would benefit from a membership. However, the families who benefit the most and in the shortest time frame are homeowners who are redoing a room, building a home, or moving into a new home. For example, members often save tens of thousands of dollars on remodeling their kitchens by purchasing items through DirectBuy. The savings on kitchen cabinets alone is typically thousands of dollars. We do not pretend that we are for every consumer, and our marketing efforts are designed to reach out to people who will benefit from our savings.

CW: Let’s talk a little about that so-called “high pressure” sales tactic of requiring a member to sign up on the spot or be banned from the showroom for 4 years. In my original post, I made a pretty big deal about being able to get and print out an invitation for another showroom appointment even after I’d visited once. What would happen if I had actually shown up for the appointment?

SS: That’s a good question. When you sign up for an Open House appointment online, your information is added to a database and then sent to the appropriate showroom so that they may follow up with you to confirm your appointment. If you had signed up and attended an Open House previously, the database would recognize the duplication, and you would be contacted by a representative from the showroom.

CW: You say,
“The information shared during this session is confidential, and therefore we require consumers to make a decision to join during the open house. While this format is non-traditional (and somewhat “foreign” to most consumers), it is required to protect our manufacturer relations and ensure incredible savings. “

Explain how this arrangement “protects” your relationship with manufacturers.

SS: The relationships we have developed with top manufacturers is one of the elements that provides our members with outstanding value and makes DirectBuy a success. Out of respect for the retail community and our manufacturers, the information shared during the Open House session is confidential to prevent individuals from using our prices as leverage at traditional retail outlets. Without this policy, our pricing could adversely impact our manufacturers’ relationships with their other retailers. For example, if a store has a price match policy, and consumers continually visit the store with lower DirectBuy prices that the store is obligated to match, it would hurt their business. That store could and probably would complain to the manufacturer about DirectBuy advertising and delivering on much lower prices, and that could ultimately hurt our relationship with our manufacturers.

CW: You also say,
“ . . .we derive no income from the sale of merchandise.”

Yet I’ve also read (in comments on my post and elsewhere) that in addition to the manufacture’s cost, you charge an 8% “service fee” above and beyond shipping and sales tax. Can you explain this?

SS: To ensure that our members receive the items they requested in ideal condition, our product service staff receives and inspects each piece of merchandise ordered through DirectBuy. Some items include a 6-8% charge to cover this. As I mentioned, this is not an aspect of our business that we profit from, but a service that we provide for our members.

CW: What would you say to those who call Direct Buy a scam?

SS:We have a 35-year track record of serving tens of thousands of satisfied members, and we are continuing to grow across North America with new showrooms opening each month. DirectBuy continues to have success because we offer our members a unique opportunity to save money on items for their home. With any company, there are going to be isolated incidents where customers or members have issues or difficulties. That said many of the individuals who criticize us are not members and some have not even taken the time to visit a showroom. At the end of the day, I am proud to work for a company that helps so many families enjoy and improve their homes.