As I switch to sales patter autopilot, mind trying to stay focused on the likely conversation combinations several steps ahead, I realise with a start that The Clash, The Sex Pistols and a full set of The Jam albums on vinyl, means he can’t be that much older than me.
Now a canny salesman wants to deflect the obvious reason you are in someone’s house until he can build a rapport, no matter how much of an illusion it might be. So you look for non-threatening discussion areas. I’ve lost count of the number of pug-ugly babies I’ve cooed over and how many furball cats and dogs I’ve stroked, despite my pet hair allergy.
The chat about how Johnny Rotten sold out to dairy product television adverts soon peters out uncomfortably and I sense I’m losing him.
‘So do you buy much music nowadays?’ I probe desperately, nodding towards the anachronistic LP sleeves and his ancient turntable.
‘Not really,’ he replies brightening and nodding towards an open laptop, screen saver scrolling gently. ‘You can get all the music you want for nothing.’
My heart sinks a little. I know I’m here on a free no obligation valuation, but ultimately I want to charge a fee. Want to pay for my mortgage, just as my company needs to cover my salary, car, the premises, rates etc. If nobody is prepared to pay for a service or product any longer, capitalism is in more trouble than it already is. Then I spot his Amazon Kindle nestling alongside the laptop, USB connector attached, power slowly feeding in. I have to ask.
‘How are you getting on with the Kindle?’ It’s an easy in and he starts to eulogise the benefits of the slim, tactile piece of kit I also have. The same one I’ve used to take my first faltering publishing steps on. The one that I hope people might download my writing to, for a modest price. But I’ve forgotten human nature, despite all my years of experience.
‘I’m loading all the free, out of royalty books,’ enthuses the man. ‘Can’t quite believe you can get something for nothing.’ You can’t, I want to scream. The authors are dead, and if you don’t get your hand out of your pocket and cough sooner or later, there’ll be no new music and no new writing – and no more free no obligation, no point in coming, home valuations. Twat.
Of course I can’t tell him. Insulting owners in their own home is something you only do in your own head, then at best you can slander them in the safety of the office, or perhaps libel them in an insider’s Blog. Then he throws me.
‘You downloaded anything other than old classics?’ He asks leadingly. ‘I’d kind of like to have some more up to date reading but I’m not paying silly money.’ And self-destructively I ache to let him know about a modestly priced compilation he could have on his machine in under a minute. Of course I can’t, not whilst remaining anonymous.
There ought to be a secret handshake like those Freemasons keep giving me. Or some other sign you could use that doesn’t involve tattoos or body piercing. Instead I mention a Stephen Fry book I’ve just bought - and lose him.
‘Can’t stand the man.’ He states brutally as I decide not to mention my Twitter addiction. ‘Anyway,’ switches the potential client coldly. ‘This valuation isn’t going to cost me anything is it?’
‘You read much? I ask trainee F, back at the office.
‘Never actually finished a book.’ He states, seemingly without irony as his mobile phone bleeps urgently.
‘What about you?’ I ask assistant manager T.
‘More a music man,’ he answers. ‘Get it all for nothing on Spotify’
Just as well I didn’t buy that guitar.