Short Story: Bamboozled
The mark was in her sights. I was the mark. As I strolled by her kiosk in the mall, she took two easy steps in my direction, arms spread as if to embrace me, her long lost friend. With one hand she guided me toward the kiosk and with the other hand she slipped a small packet into mine. “This is a free sample of our latest body cleansing system” she said. Her dark eyes and exotic accent caressed my senses as she drew me in. Predator and prey. I was her prey.
An hour and a half later, I would begin to dissect what had just happened to me. As I walked toward the mall exit, arms laden with unintended purchases of miracle creams and cleansers. I frowned. Was I really that easy? I was the mark. And my beautiful new best friend Julie saw me coming a mile away. She recognized my mom dress hidden under a gray hoodie, the tired eyes, the hair haphazardly thrown into an amateurish ponytail. She knew immediately that I would be hers.
Julie (my new best friend, Julie) pulled up a chair and asked me to unload my burdens so she could pamper me. She asked me about my life. Was I married? Did I have any kids? She listened to my story about job hunting and motherhood with a sympathetic ear. She knew exactly what I needed, and with stolen glances around her, she promised me gifts that her manager would kill her for giving me. But Julie liked me. I was special.
As Julie cleansed, exfoliated, and educated me, her hand squeezing my shoulder occasionally as if I was the best thing that had come into her life, I was completely aware that I was being hustled. Julie was a professional. She built rapport, gaining my trust, relating to my problems, pointing out similarities in our lives. She pointed out how important skin care really is, how ironic it is that women spend so much on clothes and shoes but will not invest in products meant to care for their faces, the one thing that could not be replaced. I nodded in agreement as Julie illustrated her point by drawing attention to her flawless skin and her everyday clothes. But as I gave her a once over, I couldn’t help but notice the MK emblazoned on her belt.
“Isn’t your belt Michael Kors?” I asked, sheepishly, realizing that I’d caught her as she shifted nervously from one foot to the other. “It was a gift” she said and quickly moved the topic back to me and my needs.
More than an hour into our blossoming relationship, I started to really understand the masterful way in which Julie employed every sales tactic known to man, both subtle and grotesquely blatant, to lure me in. She made me offers. She had me peak over her shoulder at the product website rather than saying the prices of the products out loud, commiserating with me over the price (and extolling the value) of these magical products. She dodged my questions about her life, bringing the story always back to me and my need to be a woman first, then a mother, then a wife. It all sounded really good and despite my miniscule budget and my complete awareness that I was being worked, I fell for it. Twice.
Even after my first reluctant purchase, Julie kept right after me. She had done a product demonstration on one side of my face but as I started to leave, she pulled me back. She couldn’t possibly let me go without evening out the skin on the other side of my face. That second treatment stayed on my face for more than 30 minutes as Julie expertly explored the bounds of my budget. I was trapped. Only after my second even more reluctant purchase, did she acquiesce and begin wiping the mask off my cheek. In my 90-minute sojourn, Julie had sold me two products and “given” me another seven. She made me promise her that I’d come back in four weeks and give her a big hug, because we were friends.
Twenty-fours later, I’m still scratching my head. Beautiful Julie, with her horribly obvious persuasion tactics, had succeeded in her mission. And despite any misgivings I might have over the experience, the shiny jars of miracle cream occupy a place of honor on my countertop.
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I'm generally pulled in a million different directions and I wouldn't trade it for the world. Here's a glimpse of my life - hope you enjoy it! And if there's a big lapse between posts, well, that's the way life goes in Amy's world.