Today at the Valley Mall I was charmed out of a certain amount of money I had not intended to spend by a young Israeli fellow with one hell of a sales pitch. Almost twelve hours later, I’m still in awe of how skillfully he separated this particular mark from his money.
It was that stand in the mall that sells the manicure/pedicure kit, the one with the magic four-sided fingernail file that smoothes and polishes your nails without polish. He caught me on my way back from the men’s room to meet Ashley in front of the Bon-Ton and had buffed the nail of my right thumb to a brilliant gloss before I quite knew what was happening. He spoke with a pronounced accent, and eloquently explained to me while he polished my thumb that all the products he was selling are 100% made in the United States.
“How many products can you say that about today, Steve?” he asked (I had told him my name). “Almost none. You can count them on one hand.”
Someone obviously from another country, appealing to my nationalism as part of his pitch. He had balls.
The nail file worked nicely — my thumbnail still squeaks a little when I run my finger over it. So did the cuticle softener. The lavender scented body lotion smelled great; I knew Ashley would love it. These were fine products, but products which no one under any circumstances would ever need. And yet I found myself unable to say no to the guy. I bought the kit to give to Ashley for an early birthday present.
After I paid for it, it tried to sell me a hand scrub made of salt from the Dead Sea. He even offered me 30% off, but I couldn’t afford it. Before I walked away, I shook his hand and told him he was a hell of a salesman.
“Thank you for the compliment, but credit really goes to the excellent product,” he told me.
I worked for a Kirby distributor back in 1999, going door to door selling the world’s greatest vacuum cleaner. And that’s no horseshit — anyone who has seen a Kirby vacuum demonstrated would have to admit it’s an impressive machine. The G6, the model I was selling, pulled shit up out of your rug you never even knew was there. It was an amazing product. It was also insanely expensive and way more vacuum than most people would need or ever want. I never sold a single one, because I was a horrible salesman. I bet the guy from the manicure stand could make his mortgage payment after one day of selling Kirbys.
Maybe I’m rationalizing here, but . . .
Let me rephrase. I’m rationalizing here, but even so I don’t feel as though I’ve been duped. My pocket wasn’t picked. I gave the guy my money willingly, and got something nice for my girlfriend. I could’ve said no at any point during our transaction. Anyway, shit, the guy’s got to make a living, right? And at least he stays in the mall. People probably found me way more annoying back when I was knocking doors trying to talk my way into strangers’ houses.