December 3rd, 2008Shalom, Christmas Shoppers: Israelis Sell Cosmetics, Toys at the Mall
Ana Guembes made a quick trip to the Westfield Fashion Square mall in Sherman Oaks, Calif., one recent morning to pick up some face powder at Macy’s.
But before she could get to the department store, she was accosted by a salesman at a cosmetics cart in the middle of the mall corridor. “Hello, miss. I want to show you something,” he called out to her, brandishing a tube of lotion with Dead Sea minerals. Soon the salesman was applying eye gel, salts and creams to Ms. Guembes’s skin while chatting away about their cleansing and beautifying properties.
“I didn’t mean to buy anything,” said Ms. Guembes, a 40-ish nanny. But after 45 minutes at the cart, she’d spent $129 on a container of eye gel and two nail-care kits. “They know how to catch you.”
At malls across the country, shoppers are being besieged by a determined crop of salespeople: young Israelis who man mobile carts and have a no-holds-barred selling style.
Amid the grimmest holiday season in years, these workers are approaching passing mall shoppers or calling out from their stations, pitching body lotions, irons, toys and knickknacks. They demonstrate their wares by flying remote-control helicopters, steaming shirts and applying makeup. Instead of charging American-style fixed prices, they harness the culture of the bazaar and often quote numbers based on what they think a customer will be willing to pay.
It’s a far cry from the selling style of many of their fellow cart vendors who tend to be more passive and let customers come to them.
“We’re not selling here — we’re hunting!” said Ms. Guembes’s Israeli vendor, who gave his name only as Yaniv. Working 12- to 14-hour shifts for commissions of 20% to 30%, the Israelis can take home $500 a day during the holidays.
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