Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Warning: If You're Anything Like Me, Avoid "Dead Sea Cosmetics"

Before I go into what will stand out as one of the most frustrating experiences of my life, I need to explain a little something about myself. I am beyond non-confrontational. If there's a way to come to a peaceful end I will do everything in my power to make it happen. If you're mean or pushy with me, I will yell and scream at you in my head, but smile at you and apologize for my supposed injustices. Now, on with the story.

We have several birthdays coming up during the next six weeks, two being my dad and my daddy-in-law. Knowing there were some fun things on sale over at Valley Fair Mall, I headed on over with my littlest in the hopes of finding some awesome presents. And I did, hoorah! By the time I was done my littlest was ssssoooooo hhhuuuunnnngryyyy!!!!! So we headed down towards the food court in the hopes of finding an ice cream cone or other such treat to satisfy her growly tummy.

I was stopped just south of the customer service desk by a good-looking young man offering a sample of something. I'm not a huge fan of free samples as they tend to make me obligated to stay and hear what they have to say and odds are buy something. Therefore I declined with every intention of moving on, when the man said, "May I see your hands?"

Well that request stopped me in my tracks (my first mistake). I showed him my hands and he cooed over my nails, taking one of my hands and out of thin air (or a pocket in his apron) produced a buffer. He began to run this across my nail while talking to me about being from Israel and was I married and oh, I was? Too bad. Happily married? Darn. (Uh, yeah, 'cause I'm sure the sight of a chunky redhead with bad skin and a baby in tow was just too much for him to resist.) Of course, in order to see the effect of his buffing just right I needed to follow him over to his kiosk so we could see better. Was my nail buffed to a marvelous shine? Of course! Would I like to buy one of their kits so I might do this at home? Oh no - I really don't have the money, I say as I start backing away. At this point I realize he's still got a hold of my hand.

"Wait, wait," he says in his thick Israeli accent. At this point he begins to rub his fingers lightly over my face, analyzing it. "You have a beautiful skin, but you have the acne and a little bit of rosacea." So my skin is beautifully full of problems, I thought. When he asked his partner-in-crime, uh, I mean co-worker to put something on it I tried backing away again, as my skin is super-sensitive and I don't put anything on it I don't trust.

Telling him this he says, "Give me your arm." I didn't want to but he frankly still had a hold of my hand and simply turned it over so the underside of my arm faced up. At this point his cohort began rubbing some sort of gel on my skin. As the younger guy continued the master of manipulation held the little jar of his magical face gel really quite high up in the air - something he did more than once. I don't get why.

As he's telling me the virtues of this amazing cosmetic the other guy is now rubbing the gel into my skin. Can you say creepy? 'Cause that's what I was thinking. They cleaned the gel off my arm, applied a lotion, and told me to look at the difference between my two arms. Was there a difference? Oh yeah, but at this point I knew that if the tiny bottle was supposed to last me an entire year we were talking huge money.

Sure enough, that one bottle was two hundred dollars. Oh - you read that right! When you included the lotion it upped the price to three hundred dollars. Uh, no way mister!

And thus the haggling began. I tried to tell him over and over I couldn't afford it, my husband would never agree to it, I didn't like spending that sort of money on something I could live without especially when we were talking about birthdays and Christmas to buy for!

I should have just walked away - I know this now - but it's not in my nature to rudely walk away from someone. I was trying my hardest to give them a way out of the situation. "May I give you my card?" he asked. "Sure," I said, relieved we could leave it at that. I realized something was off when he pulled out a receipt book and seemed to write in it. What sort of "card" was this supposed to be?

"Wait," he says, as though inspiration had struck his brain. "What if I..." and the haggling went on. He offered deal after deal, conversing with his partner in English when it was convenient ("But we'll lose this much money if you do that"). I was analyzing their sale tactics even as they were being practiced on me.

It got to the point my littlest was pulling on my arm, begging to be taken for a treat. The haggling was going on and on until they finally came to a deal I could say yes to and not feel bad about until I'd taken at least five steps away from the kiosk. $102 later I held in my hand a bag of things I didn't want.

If only it could have stopped there. I stewed over this the rest of the afternoon. By the time my hubby got home I was pretty frustrated with how I'd been handled. The two of us went back to the mall to try and fix the situation. ONLY THEN did we see there were no returns. Oh no, this hadn't been pointed out to me. Sure it was on their kiosk - over the cash register in rather small letters surrounded by other things. Sure he'd written it on my receipt - but he never told me about it beforehand. So we couldn't return the stuff.

Do you know what the guy said (the co-worker) when we complained? "No one forced her to buy anything." I wanted to yell at the man! "I've never felt so pressured to buy something in my life!" I said, my emotions starting to get the better of me.

My husband and I headed over to the customer service desk to lodge a complaint. Of course it was there I lost it and burst into tears. The woman called over mall security where I signed a witness report, going into all sorts of detail about what happened. As I wrote everything out I began to see even more of their intimidation and manipulation tactics, and I just got angry. By the time we were driving home I was almost hyperventilating when I thought of the way the man kept a hold of me, towered over me, and touched me without permission. MAN it took a while to deal with all those emotions that night.

Today I'm feeling better about things. Just a few minutes ago I received a message from one of the mall managers, who is working to get a refund for me. I'd like to give the products back, as I am honestly not looking to cheat the company out of anything.

The security guy told me something I want to share with anyone on the off-chance you find yourselves accosted by someone like this: if they touch you without your permission, back away and in a loud voice say, "NO!" If they come after you again you have the right to push them away and immediately go to find customer service or security.

My biggest advice (especially as I've learned they're like this in many malls), do everything you can to avoid Dead Sea Cosmetics!


Emily said...

Oh Laurie! How awful of an experience and I can understand what an uncomfortable position you must have been in! Thank you for your warning - though we never go to the mall anymore (I haven't been in over a year!). What a horrible experience and you did the right thing complaining about them. I am just shaking my head. How AWFUL! I hope you get your money back!

As a P.S. I think I remember (and don't count me 100% on it - you'd have to find out) but when I did Mary Kay (a horrible mistake!) we were told not to touch the faces of our customers or any other part of them as that is illegal. Is this true? I don't know - I was just told that, but maybe it is and if it is then what those guys did was illegal.... and horrible morally wrong at that! I feel so bad for you!

Josie and Wayne said...

Wow I have a lot to say about this. When I first started reading your post I was laughing because a very similar thing just happened to me this weekend with the dead sea guys. The guy actually tried to take my baby out of my arms so I could wash my hands and I said no thank you, and he continued to try to pull Rylen out of my hands so I again said no, backed away and left to give Rylen to my sister. I did come back and listen to his spill though because my hands were really dry and I really just wanted a free sample of lotion. He used the same bargaining tactics on me trying to get me to buy, but I am not as nice a person as you and I just thanked him and left (it took a long time though). Anyway, I don't care who you are, you never try to take a baby out of a mother's arms, ESPECIALLY when she says NO!
So that's my story.
My next thing I wanted to tell you is this. You need to check out and read this book called, The Gift of Fear. Oprah talks about it a lot. This book has saved women's lives. It teaches you how you need to listen to your intuition to avoid dangerous manipulative people. It has helped me realize that you are not being mean by telling a stranger no when they ask to hold your baby. A good person will understand perfectly well why that would make you uncomfortable. What happened to you was very wrong and I hope you get your money back. But I hope that you can also learn from this that you can stand up for yourself and walk away. Maybe you can role play situations with Dave or something. Good luck with everything! ((Hugs))

Momma Ellen said...

Laurie, Josie called me to tell me about your post, and after discussing it with her and reading about your experience, I have a few comments.

First of all, I just want to say that I'm so sorry you went through this experience. It just goes to show that children are not the only ones that can be lured by strangers. I mean, we tell our children to not talk to strangers or accept gifts from strangers,yet we ourselves get succored into regrettable and unsafe situations in the name of being polite, or because we feel intimidated by someone's overbearing demeanor. When your sense of personal safety is being threatened, to he** with being nice!

Second, I'm no lawyer, but I think that what these people did was not only morally wrong, but also legally wrong. I don't know if or where it is written, but I have been told that only a registered cosmetologist can legally touch someone's face, and then only with that person's permission. I bet that grabbing someone's hand or arm without their permission, and then not letting go when they try to release themselves from your grip, could be interpreted as assault.

And, finally, I really think you should do something about it. I wonder if one of those lawyers who advertises about personal injury would be interested in your story. Sounds crazy, I know, but I'm serious. Pressing charges may be the only way to get these people to acknowledge the fact that they are overstepping boundaries. I hope you will at least report them to the Better Business Bureau If you can have an influence in putting them out of business, you will have saved other nice ladies, like yourself, from having a similar experience with those same people.

Gold Rush said...

Laurie, my friend, I am so sorry this happened to you. I have tried their stuff before, at a kiosk and all, but I am mean and I tell them no while I walk off. I was wishing curses on them the whole time I was reading this. I do hope you get your refund. Feel better!

Mel said...

You should talk to a lawyer. What happened to you is a serious case of manipulation, intimidation, and entrapment not to mention assault if he wouldn't let go. And you should definitely talk to the BBB or state Attorney General or something. This has got to be a sales tactic for the entire group because I see them in the mall all the time and they are the same way here as well as the ones in Bloomington. I fell for it once but got out for $50. It's so bad that now when I see them I tell them "If you bother me, I will report you". The first time I told them no they started to chase me down the mall and I turned on them and said "This is three times - if you know what's good for you, you'll back off now".

We love you Laurie - you don't need any gels or creams to look beautiful!

Reynolds Family said...

Wow, I'm so sorry you had to go through that. Thanks for the advice. I'll make sure to avoid them and be assertive if they persist. I hope you get your money back.

Debbie D said...

I listened to a discussion about this company on 101.0 The End. The Dj was really exasperated with these people and people were calling in by the hundreds telling their horror stories. Get Gephart I say. No one should have to go through that. I'm pretty sure the State of Utah has a law (I think it's called the right of recidivism?) That states you have 72 (maybe 96) hours wherein you can receive a full refund if you're not satisfied.

LaurieW said...

Wow everybody! I can't believe there are so many stories about these guys across the country (I would even dare say around the world!).

I'm happy to report on Thursday I will be taking back the receipt and product to one of the mall managers, who will then deal with these guys and get me back my money. She's promised I won't have to deal with them at all. In fact, I'm not the first to complain, but too many people just let it go (as I would have, had my husband not insisted we talk with security).

I'll definitely be contacted the BBB tomorrow to lodge a complaint. It's obviously something the company itself trains it's workers to do, and it's beyond wrong. I would never use their products simply because of the way I was handled.

If anyone else out there has a similar story, and if you can remember when it happened, go lodge a complaint! It'll be worth it.

Momma Ellen said...

Yay, Laurie! I'm so glad you'll be getting your money back and will take it to the BBB. And I'm glad that you have a husband who sticks up for you. Thanks for sharing your story so the rest of us can be on the alert in similar situations. One time I spent $80 on some herbal product at a kiosk in a mall--similar situation. I hope all of us who have shared in your story will have the courage in the future to just walk away.