Thursday, June 23, 2011


I first encountered what I have now come to dub an 'Israeli scam booth' at Westfield Mall, London last year January. A charming, excellently groomed young man by the name of David stopped me as I strolled past Selfridge's and offered to treat my hair to a fantastic new hair iron hot on the market. Indeed I was quite taken by his sumptuous accent, quick compliments and glistening set of spirit-leveled teeth. I said a jolly no to the life-changing hair iron, because at 20 pounds and the threat of taking up a substantial portion of my bursting suitcase it was just not a sensible buy. I thanked him and went on my way.

The next time I encountered one of these smooth operators was back home in Cape Town, one Saturday when my friend and I were out shopping. He stopped us in our tracks, asking us how many boyfriends we each had. I said I had four. Or maybe five. I wasn't in much of a mood for salespeak. But once Mark, the silky-smooth Israeli salesman, brandished his primary weapon there was no turning back. A small rectangular nail buffer would have us sighing in doe-eyed awe as we watched our dull digits transformed into shining, manicured jewels. After what seemed like hours of coercion, he finally managed to get my friend to produce her debit card. I felt a little ill as he nimbly settled the sale. But I brushed this feeling aside and congratulated her on her purchase.

Turns out the promised two-year guarantee was little more than a sleazy pitch. Our snakeskin salesman had lied to us. There was no warranty for replacement products at all. Just the pathetic little buffer, a bit of nail cream and a lousy tube of oil supposedly made using dead sea salts. For all we know these products could contain more chemicals than drain cleaner

Phantom product: Avoid any salesman trying to sell you one of these nail kits from a mall kiosk.

Beware of these chancing mall predators. They're more than just professionals. They move in syndicates all over the world, using aggressive sales tactics and guilt-trips to reel in unsuspecting shoppers, who only really came to the mall to buy a bath robe or a tube of Johnson's from Dis-Chem.

Needless to say, Public Relations at the mall where these tricksters operated on our confidence have been well-informed. I made sure of that.

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