Israelis bring hard sell shuq sales tactics to your local shopping…
The Wall Street Journal reports:
Shalom, Christmas Shoppers: Israelis Sell Cosmetics, Toys at the Mall
Determined Vendors Haggle, Hail Customers From Kiosks; $500 for a Day's Work
By ILAN BRAT and MIRIAM JORDAN
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.
Turkish, Chinese, Indian and other immigrants have long played a big role in the mall-cart business, thanks in part to the relatively low cost of entry -- about $10,000 for setting up a cart or kiosk.
But in the past decade, Israeli vendors have become the dominant players in the cart world. At the annual trade show for the retail cart and kiosk industry, nearly a third of the attendees are now Israeli, say wholesalers and industry trackers. In a first, next year's show in Las Vegas will host a cart-operating workshop entirely in Hebrew.
Most Israeli-run carts are manned by two to four people. Typically, the mall stints are a fast way to amass cash to finance a globe-trotting trip, a rite of passage for many Israelis after they complete their mandatory military service. Some hear about the jobs on Hebrew-language Web sites, such as "The Jackpot," where cart operators advertise. Operators often offer a kind of package deal, where they subsidize housing and transportation for their temporary workers.
For five consecutive seasons, Angelina Kissa sold aromatic pillows, head-massagers and hair-straightening devices at carts in Ohio, Colorado, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.
She lived in apartments in groups of up to eight, with rent deducted by her bosses from her paychecks. She says she made $8,000 her first season at carts near Akron, Ohio.
"Christmas in America, people buy so much," says Ms. Kissa, who is now 28 years old and works in Las Vegas as a distributor for a fruit-juice company. "A good hustler can sell anything, like ice to Eskimos."
Some of these temporary workers are here without work visas. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has conducted occasional raids, including a sweep of several malls in 2004 and 2006 that led to the arrest of more than 40 Israelis who were working illegally, according to ICE. But those crackdowns haven't appeared to temper the number of Israeli cart vendors. Some Israeli-owned companies are lobbying Congress to create a special temporary work visa for the mall-cart workers.
Israeli folk-rock musician Rami Feinstein first worked the carts in 2003, dreaming about making enough money to record an album. He felt awkward in the beginning because of the pushy tactics required to sell fingernail-buffer kits and other products at a cart in a suburban Minneapolis mall.
"You have to be very strong mentally to hear, 'No, no, no,' and to still be smiling...and still wait for the person that would buy," Mr. Feinstein says. But the money was good, so he persisted. He's sold at malls every holiday season since then.
He channeled his frustration into a song called "Something Amazing," about the sales pitch he used to sell cosmetics. Seacret Spa LLC, a Phoenix-based company that sells skin-care products using minerals from the Dead Sea, learned of Mr. Feinstein's song and offered to produce a video as a recruitment tool.
The video became popular among Israeli youth when it first appeared on YouTube in 2007. The 32-year-old's album came out earlier this year. Izhak Ben-Shabat, president of Seacret Spa, says thousands of Israelis have signed up to staff carts that sell his products. He says the products are now in 550 U.S. locations, up from 20 in 2001.
Wholesalers say cart operators have tried hiring Americans to staff carts, but they lacked the art of the hustle -- too polite to move the merchandise, especially for 12 hours straight.
"Israelis are natural-born closers" on the sales floor, says Steven Malkin, marketing director for Vancouver-based Relaxus Products Ltd., which supplies slippers, toy airplanes and other items to cart operators.
Adva Arnon, an Israeli who was saving for a South American trip, pushed remote-control helicopters and Dead Sea skin-care products at carts in upstate New York and on the West Coast two recent holiday seasons.
Having grown up on a communal farm, or kibbutz, in Israel, she didn't think she'd excel at the job. But she learned to grab customers and rub their hands with lotion or Dead Sea mud, telling them of the wonders it would do for their skin. She started high and then lowered the price if the customer agreed to buy two products, or threw in another item free if the customer took two at "full" price. She remembers selling $450 worth of Dead Sea products to a single customer on several occasions.
The secret is to "talk, talk, talk. You can't let the customer think too much," says Ms. Arnon, now 28 and a university student in Jerusalem.
The Israelis' hands-on approach irks some Americans. In recent weeks, Katie Kovacik says she has watched Israelis at several carts in a mall outside Chicago use the same clip-on hair extensions and straightening irons on one shopper after another. "That's gross," said the 26-year-old, who's studying to be a skin-care professional.
After fielding complaints about overly aggressive vendors, some mall operators have taken measures. The Natick Collection, a mall in Natick, Mass., forbids cart salespeople from calling out to customers as they pass.
The Westfield Group, an international owner and operator of malls, has a no-touch policy for cart sellers, unless a "customer shows interest and agrees" to product sampling. The company also stipulates that salespeople must stay within 24 inches of their carts. "There are very specific rules of engagement, and they are enforced," says Katey Dickey, a spokeswoman for the Westfield Group in the U.S.
Some non-Israeli cart operators have mixed feelings about the competition. Israelis "are really hassling people a lot," and people are losing respect for the carts, says Ayhan Yuce, a Turkish immigrant who sells jewelry, sunglasses and toys at carts in about 60 U.S. malls. Still, he's considering studying Hebrew.
"I really would like to hire some of those Israelis," he says. "They are really good salesmen. You have to admire them."
[Hat Tip: Just A Goy.]