Italians seem to conduct business (and conversation) differently than Americans. They don't just try to sell you a product, they become your friend first. It's actually rather brilliant (not that I can have an intellectual conversation about business...)
Today Matteo and Luigi came to our door in the morning to ask if they could come back later to show us their vacuum system. Normally we would never say yes to something like this, but from the moment they told us their names they felt too much like friends to say no, so we said yes. And what a good choice it was! It the most fun we've ever had with a salesman who wasn't already an actual friend.
So, they came back later, 30 minutes earlier than they said (defying the often-true Italian stereotype). And then they sat with Jon and had coffee and biscotti for 30 minutes explaining to him their company while I finished a phone call. As soon as I joined the conversation Matteo said "sit on the couch and let us be your cinema!" Luigi who is "in charge" doesn't really speak English and so after I finished my phone call Matteo translated all the details about their system in his very jolly enthusiastic manner. They showed us the regular vacuum, and the smog eliminator system, and the couch cleaner and the mattress-dust-mite killer. I think poor Luigi may have felt left out at times, so he would interject when Matteo would go off on his jolly rants about their system and Matteo would say "my chief wants me to tell you..." The entire time they were here there was not one moment that lacked words or vacuum-related exuberance. They certainly exceeded our expectations in terms of entertainment value.
After showing us the whole system Luigi-via-Matteo wanted to know "what is it that you really think about this system, with honesty? Do you like it? Which part is most your favorite?" As we made comments, they enthusiastically agreed with all of our opinions and emphatically nodded their heads and gesticulated with their hands to ensure that their agreement could not be doubted (Luigi's emphatic agreement was delayed so that Matteo could translate for him, but lacked no enthusiasm).
In reality, I really liked the whole package; it was a highly effective cleaning system that would almost certainly improve the air quality and level of cleanliness of my home. We don't own a vacuum and would like to buy one, but we never really planned to buy it from them because we have never bought something from someone who has knocked on our door. I was, however, considering it until they started talking about price. The package options ranged from €4000 to €7000, and of course included many options for monthly payment plans. Given our (ahem, my) monthly student loan payments, we are not planning to take on any more debt. Matteo and Luigi understood not wanting to be in debt (though, the student loan concept was baffling to them). After making sure we fully understand all of the payment options, our new Italian friends went on their merry way. I felt a bit bad for them (do people in a struggling economy really buy vacuums costing upwards of 4000 euros?), but they seemed to take it just fine. At least if I'm ever in the market for a professional home cleaning system I know who to call.