There must be something that makes guys like me look like a sucker for a beautiful Israeli girl. It seems like whenever I end up in a shopping mall, I'm targeted by these women selling so-called "Dead Sea" products at kiosks.
They must see me coming from a mile away — and it's even happened at malls in different states!
One of the few good things about being single is that I can go to malls on my own terms, as well as avoid them as much as I want. My last girlfriend liked shopping malls, especially shoe stores, even when she didn't need anything.
Like most men, I prefer to wait to go to the mall until I have to make a purchase. But because shopping centers have virtually destroyed downtown shopping districts, as well as mom-and-pop stores, American consumers are largely corralled by the corporate shopping-mall behemoth.
In addition to coast-to-coast conformity, shopping malls now seem to be staging points for legions of young Israeli salespeople, both male and female, eager to nab passers-by. They hawk products billed as panaceas for skin ailments from wrinkles to pimples — and everything in between. The salespeople have been coached in aggressive guerrilla and psychological sales tactics intended to close the deal.
Maybe I've spent too much time at malls to see some of this. Still, I like to observe human behavior. The saleswomen tend to go after the lonely-looking guys, and the salesmen go after the women.
The approach is usually the same. An attractive young woman makes eye contact and invites the prospective customer over to test a "wonderful product for your skin." They speak English perfectly, but with just enough of an accent that it's exotic, even sexy. But once you make eye contact, you're in for the pitch; they lock in like a guided missile.
Recently, a stunning blonde who said her name was "Michal" stopped me at a kiosk in New Jersey.
"Excuse me, have you ever heard of the Dead Sea?" she asked as she grabbed me by the wrist.
"Not only have I heard of it, but I've been in the Dead Sea," I replied.
"Oh, so you know all about the healing minerals from the Dead Sea," she said as she had me hold my hands over a bowl, spooning some sticky, salty goop on my palm. "Rub. Feel the minerals."
Like the other salesgirls I've encountered, Michal used the right amount of nonthreatening body language and contact, holding my hand as she washed off the salts and then dried the patch of skin with a paper towel. She wasn't into small talk, other than telling me she was from Tel Aviv.
Another time at a different mall in upstate New York, another girl was equally disinterested in small talk about Israel.
These women are closers. After all, they can't be encountering so many men in malls who have visited Israel that they're suddenly bored with banal conversation.
"So, what do you think? This is not expensive," said Michal.
"Look, I'm a guy. I don't need all this frilly stuff," I said.
"But what do you use on your face?" she asked.
"This is better for you," she insisted. "It's good for after you shave. It's good for pimples and bumps after you shave."
"I'm a guy, I don't use stuff like this."
"Okay, what about your wife?"
"Don't have one."
"None right now."
"What about your mother? What does she use on her skin?"
"I don't know."
She would have worked her way down the female side of my family tree if I hadn't tried to interrupt her with attempts at conversation. As she made her pitch, she deflected my questions with a single-minded determination usually reserved for telemarketers at dinnertime. Then, I looked at the label and saw that one of her "Dead Sea" products came from Texas.
She deflected that, too, saying: "It would cost too much to ship all these boxes from Israel to here, that's why."
For the record, I like Israeli women. Over the years, I've had dates with some interesting and extremely attractive Israeli women. I'm sure their sales tactics work on many men.
I also have an acquaintance who manages a large shopping mall who told me that these commando tactics tend to irritate shoppers who might not have an affinity for the Holy Land, Dead Sea products or, for that matter, attractive Israeli women.
Earlier this summer, I admit, I purchased a nail buffer for my mom. Maybe it was the pressure. Maybe it was the price. I have no idea whether it was a bargain, but it really worked nicely.
However, that particular day with Michal, I did not buy any of her Dead Sea or Texas products. And when I said no, she said goodbye — and moved on to the next sucker.
Roy S. Gutterman is a Syracuse, N.Y.-based writer. To contact him, visit: www.Lrev.com.