The Predator

An inside look into one student’s experience of being hunted by a salesperson

By Alicia Chan

Her blue eyes locked unto me, like a hungry lion’s gaze, fixed on its prey. I saw it a few metres away. “What should I do?” I thought frantically.

My mind churned furiously for an escape plan. I turned up the volume of my mp3 player, whipped out my iPhone and pretended to text message.

“Stay calm and it will be alright,” my brain advised.

As the distance between us shortened, I acted nonchalant, bowed my head and paced quickly. “Please don’t stop me, please don’t stop me,” I prayed incessantly.

Alas, she did not give up.

“Miss, miss, miss!” she called, her voice louder than the music playing in my ears. Still, I walked on, pretending not to have heard her. But her hunger to get me was irrepressible and lady luck was on her side. There was an unusually large crowd of shoppers in the mall that day and traffic was slow. My attempts to squeeze through the crowd and break free were futile.

Like a shark swimming towards fresh blood, she followed me tightly and soon caught up with me.

She waved her hands in front of me. With a sigh, I unplugged my headphones, and surrendered, giving her the attention she sought.

“I would like to you to sample this facial product,” She chirped on enthusiastically, with a smile plastered to her face, trying to assure me that she would not bite. “ Don’t worry. I will only take up a few minutes of your time and it’s free!”

She could not fool me. I knew then I was in the lion’s den, violated.

I was exaggerating.

She wasn’t as scary as depicted. For those few minutes, this sales lady was the friendliest person I have ever met. She pitched about the product on promotion better and more effectively than my lecturer could instill the principles of marketing in my brain. She demonstrated the use of the product slowly and carefully, making sure I understood every detail. She gave me a free facial to convince me about the effectiveness of the product. She chatted with me to make me feel relaxed. She treated me with utmost hospitality.

Why was I so paranoid?

Was it the product? There was a probability that the product was either an imitation good or contained unsafe elements.

Or was it because she highlighted facts that I had been trying to hide from? I always knew I had a pretty bad skin condition and being targeted by her simply affirmed that I have an ugly face covered with pimples.

Or maybe it’s her tendency to cajole me into purchasing?

Could it be because I feared empathising? Retailing has never been an easy job and having worked in this industry, I’ve tasted this long and arduous process for myself. Salespersons have to first grab the attention of shoppers who shun them, as if they are kidnappers. Then, they have to gain the trust of the customers, and then promote and convince them about the product. The process repeats till a customer purchases the product. All these painstaking efforts are made just to earn a living. It seemed only fair to reciprocate after getting a free facial.

“This product costs $150,” she said. “I could give you a 20 percent discount!”

Still, I looked unwilling. She continued persuading and included other products into the package for a better deal – 2 for $200. It was pretty tempting. Furthermore, my face felt cleaner and smoother; the product should be of good quality! However, I thought of the bills I had to pay – gas bills, water bills, rent, and… Oh! There’s a trivia night coming up too!

“No,” I rejected sheepishly. Saying “no” wasn’t in my profession.

“It’s alright.” She replied, with a disappointed look on her face. “But if you change your mind, remember to come back and visit. The discount still stands!”

That was it. I could finally leave the “dangerous den”. After striding victoriously for a safe distance, I looked back. There she was, the discouraged look wiped off her face. She pulled herself together, plastered on her cheerful and interactive mask and started looking for her new prey.

Hunting for food has never been an easy task. I empathised with her and the hard nature of sales, but above all, I empathised with my wallet, even more.