Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kiosk attendants: Putting the maul in the mall

There's a kiosk attendant in our local mall who wouldn't leave me alone.

For those of you who aren't stateside or live near a shopping mall, many of them have freestanding kiosks out in the walkways that sell everything from cell phones and sunglasses, to acne creams (get your Proactiv here!)  and hair extensions. Most of the people who work at these kiosks are fine ... maybe a little eager at times if you show an iota of interest in a remote control helicopter or a "Yankees Suck" t-shirt, but generally they seem more interested in sitting on their stools and texting, which makes for a pleasant shopping experience for an introvert like me.

So back to the kiosk attendant who wouldn't leave me alone. He sells hand cream. Or so I think. He circles his kiosk balancing a little silver tray topped with plastic cups, which I believe contain this hand cream. Honestly, I'm not sure what's in the cups because when I used to walk by, I was doing everything I could to avoid making eye contact with him. This dude was relentless pursuing a sale with me. I must fit some demographic -- harried looking middle-aged mom with gnarly hands, a life devoid of any Me Time  -- because he was on me like white on rice.

"Ma'am, would you like to wake up tomorrow morning with softer, younger looking hands?"

This has been going on for years, I swear. Sometimes I kept my eyes averted and pretended to be deep in thought about Abercrombie and Fitch's table display. Or I'd interrupt him as if I hadn't heard him and would say something important to my son or husband: "Are you excited about school tomorrow?" "Maybe we should look at shower curtains down at Target? I noticed some mildew last time I was scrubbing the tub." Other times I couldn't avoid him, so I'd cut him off with a quick "No thank you." I got so that I'd plan my walk around his kiosk so when he was on one side, I could sneak down the other side. Or I'd walk on the upper level, where there are no kiosks and I could just walk over him.

One of my great talents in life is that I can keep an absolutely straight face while saying something utterly ridiculous. I'm also pretty good at taking up dares, especially if they involve saying something utterly ridiculous to someone and said dare involves money or a free ride. I'm not above using my God-given talents to make a buck. After one particularly harrowing pass by this guy, his tray, and his kiosk, I pondered aloud to my son, "What if I answered him with something so crazy it shocked him?" O fixed me with a look and said, "I dare you."

Game on.

I told O I would respond to this guy's eternal question with the most ridiculous answer O could dream up. I would do it with a straight face. I would speak clearly and project my voice so he heard it. My only restrictions were these: 1. No profanity. 2. No threats. 3. Nothing crude/crass. 4. No lying, unless the answer involved superheroes or  mythical creatures. 5. My answer had to begin with, "I'm sorry but ..."

We drafted the script in the food court. O was bouncing and giggling as we got closer to the kiosk. "Calm down," I said. "Keep a straight face."

"Oh no! He's going to the other side."

"Don't worry," I muttered. "He'll spot me."

He was on me in an instant.

"Ma'am, how would you like to wake up tomorrow with softer, younger looking hands?"

"I'm sorry," I said. "But Batman's on my tail."

The guy didn't blink. I don't even think my answer registered with him. He simply disappeared behind us. O held it in for about twenty feet then burst out laughing. "Mom! I can't believe you did that!"

Now we look forward to our mauling. I'm given my assignment in the car. We carefully plan our pass so I am not ignored.

"Ma'am, would you like to wake up tomorrow with softer, younger looking hands?"

"I'm sorry but ...

... I don't believe in the Easter bunny."

... atoms are hard to see."

... I've never seen a Bigfoot."

... I don't eat processed foods."

... we're going to Texas this summer."

... I prefer Coke."

... our car has a dent in it."

What's really funny? Nothing seems to register with him. He doesn't even recognize me as the Crazy Lady, which is kind of insulting in a way. I had visions of being That Woman in the mall who all the kiosk attendants talk about. ("What'd she say to you today?" "She's never been to my kiosk!") O and I wondered why and we finally figured out that the guy is so used to being shot down that all he's hearing is No. He's only going to respond if he senses a possible Yes.

Or maybe he's just staring into the Abercrombie and Fitch window while he has to pitch to me.




  1. Oh no you di'int! How funny.
    I was in the Water Tower mall in Chicago this week and those bloody kiosk people are relentless. They are all postitioned fairly close to the "down" escalators though, and the silly fools wait until you have one foot on the stair (thus trapped on the escalator, thank god). One woman yelled "Ma'am" as soon as I had set foot on the top step, so I was able to smile weakly and put out my hands wide, Seinfeld-style, and mouth "Sorry!".

  2. I loved this post! It made me laugh out loud! As a double introvert I can totally identify with avoiding eye contact. Great choices for responses!

  3. In the cities, the sampling people *are* relentless, verging on obnoxious. A couple years ago, one of them squirted me with perfume as I walked into Bloomingdale's in NYC. I was so mad because perfume makes me sneeze, and for the rest of the day I smelled like a house of ill repute.

  4. Kristie, thanks for your kind words. This whole strategy also makes shopping more fun with my son because he looks forward to the whole exchange. A win/win!

  5. I hardly ever go to the mall, but the next time I'm asked if I want to buy something, I'm going to tell them that Batman is on my tail.


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