Seduced by the Dead Sea Guy at the Mall

Most of the time I’m pretty skeptical, resistant to a charming sales pitch. (My husband has an MBA in marketing, so maybe I’m deluding myself, since I fell for whatever he was selling. When we met I thought he would be a slick, cool sales type with a shiny BMW and a cell phone at his ear, which in 1994 was pretty forward, but he isn’t like that. He’s one of the most down-to-earth, unpretentious people I know. But that’s another story).

As I mentioned in my first post, the only money I’ve made from freelance writing since I retired was writing my neighbor’s pre-obituary. I didn’t want him to pay me but he slipped a $100 bill into my pool bag while I was playing with my granddaughter, so I didn’t argue and decided to just enjoy spending it on something fun.

I prefer down pillows, which are expensive and need to be replaced about every 10 years, and I was ready for a new one. I look for sales at Macy’s—I rarely shop at department stores but this is one of my small luxuries—and when a sale was advertised, off I went to the mall with my mad cash. (I rarely go to the mall, being agoraphobic, which is yet a story for another day. I go to Eyemasters for glasses and adjustments, and occasionally walk the mall when the weather is inclement, silently thanking everyone else for buying overpriced retail so I can buy good used clothes at thrift stores.)

The pillows were $80, on sale two for one, so I bought two, and some earrings (to spend the whole $100, you see), but they had one of those deals that if you open an account on the spot you get another discount, which I did, leaving Macy’s with the $100 still in my purse.

I’m bopping through the mall with my big bag of pillows when I’m stopped by a darkly handsome young man with an indefinable accent, who asks to look at my hands. Now, understand, on any other day, especially before I was retired when this would have been a Saturday, I would have smiled and said I was sorry but in a hurry. But, what the hey, he was cute and I wasn’t in a hurry, so I gave him my hand, which he examined. I was blessed with nice nails (and before I go all ego-y, also big feet and small boobs, so you well-endowed ladies with crappy nails don’t need to be jealous) and was perhaps inordinately proud of them. When I was young my mother would complain that they were too long, but, given my lack of other endowments, it was a matter of flaunting what ya got. Although I get frequent pedicures, I do my own fingernails and rarely use polish on them.

The young man pointed out that my nails weren’t very smooth and had ridges, and asked if he could demonstrate his product on my thumbnail. Of course I agreed—he was holding my hand and looking into my eyes; I would have accepted a marriage proposal at that moment.

The product was a foam block with different colored surfaces, which he used to rub the nail in sequence until he came to the white surface. He asked me to promise not to scream when I saw the result, but when I saw the brilliant shine on my thumbnail I did gasp. He pointed out that it was not like nail polish and he swiped it with polish remover to prove it; the sheen remained.

Of course now I wanted this wonderful thing for all my nails and asked how much the buffer cost. And of course got the sales pitch for the whole package, which was a product of Deep Sea Cosmetics, an Israeli company that uses minerals from the Dead Sea (I guess “Deep Sea” sounds better for cosmetics than “Dead Sea”). The pitch was for a package that included a nail file, a cuticle trimmer, cuticle oil, a large tube of hand lotion and that coveted buffer. He quoted a price of $75, and of course I gasped again, but I did have that $100 bill burning a hole (momentarily disregarding the fact that I had charged onto a brand-new Macy’s card about $100 for what I had gone to the mall to buy).

But I was in luck! Today’s special was “buy one, get one free.” Not really half-price, but I figured the extra set would make a nice gift, or I could keep it. While he wrote up the purchase and placed the boxes in a chic Deep Sea Cosmetics bag, we chatted and I asked him about himself. He was from Israel and claimed to have started the company.

Later I Googled it and realized he probably wasn’t the founder, just a really, really good salesman, that these kiosks were in malls all over  the country and that many people felt they had been scammed. I knew I had, but it was fun, and I truly did like the products, especially the buffer. And I knew that I would never have even stopped to be seduced if that mad money hadn’t been in my purse.

I had to decide what to do with the extra kit. I couldn’t give it to one of my daughters and not the other, and needed someone who I knew cared about her nails and would appreciate it: my sister-in-law, who wears her nails long and with whom we still exchange Christmas presents (which we don’t with my kids, only the grandchildren). Perfect! Especially since I hate to shop—it saved me shopping for her that year. (I often give hand-knit gifts for the same reason and last year gave her a knitted scarf.)

The kit without the fancy gift box doesn't look like $75, or even $37.50.

A coda to the story: the Deep See buffer started showing signs of wear pretty quickly and I worried about how I could replace it without buying the whole kit (which I’ve found online for the much more realistic price of $19.95 , while the on the Deep Sea site they’re $44.95.) One day in the grocery store I happened to be in the manicure products section and found a buffer like mine, only this one does business on all four surfaces while the Deep Sea buffer has only three, the fourth containing only a logo. The new one works even better and cost a stunning $2.99!

The grocery store buffer, $2.99

Probably the worst effect of this is that I’m more vain than ever about my nails. My mother would not be happy. 

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4 responses to “Seduced by the Dead Sea Guy at the Mall”

  1. stardate062594 says :

    Oh how funny! I’ve been seduced by the Dead Sea sales folk, too, and bought the same “get one free” set. Like you, I knew it was quite the act they were putting on, but I enjoyed a free manicure as they worked through their “overcoming objections” tactics, and I did use all that I purchased. I didn’t find the products to be so remarkable that I’d go back, but all in all it wasn’t the worst impulse-buy decision I’ve ever made. Now there’s a fun question: what was the worst impulse-buy decision you’ve ever made?

  2. wigginswordsandimages says :

    I’m not sure I’d remember the worst. Somehow my brain has blocked out those terrible decisions. It’s more fun to remember the ones that turned out ok!

  3. notquiteold says :

    The VERY same thing happened to me! They caught me in a VERY good mood, since I had just bought a dress for my class reunion in a size smaller than I thought I would need. I gave the extra set to my mother (who’s 88 and loves presents). We were both delighted. Then I got online and saw how bamboozled I had been.

  4. wigginswordsandimages says :

    I love your blog, especially the item comparing your brain to your husband’s–I can SO relate! Since I’m into Radical Retirement and you are Not Quite Old we probably have a lot in common.

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