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We need to stop being suckers

I'm sick of people trying to scam other people. I don't mean those poorly punctuated 'Dear Beloved' emails. Nor those irritating Amway-ers who were school friends...
I'm talking about the Dead Sea devils (*definition below) who plague our malls.

They're symptomatic of a society in which the manipulative and good-with-words are out to shamelessly steal money from the less knowledgeable and more easily led.

And I'm tired of it. We need to wise up.

Here's how:

  1. First, be confident

    Have the courage to reject whatever you're being offered. You don't have to listen just to be polite. It's okay to smile, say 'No thanks' and walk away. Being confident also extends to being gently sceptical. If it seems to be too good to be true, it is. No matter what the marketing says. I'm a writer and if I had R1,000 for every time I've created beautiful, believable, blatant, not-one-bit-true lies for a client, I'd retire.

  2. Really listen to what's being said

    Don't just hear what they're telling you. Hear what they're not telling you. Please: Look for missing info. Never assume that just because something comes in a box, is advertised in a brochure or has a bar code, it's genuine. All that stuff is easy to get; it's just marketing. And be aware that the reason so many shysters offer money-back guarantees is because research shows that only 5% of people ever act on these.

  3. Then, ask for more info

    Ask for names and contact info. Ask for benefits, not just features. Ask for details, testimonials, evidence. Get the big promise in writing. (Note: 'Evidence' is not what they pretend to see on your skin or nails after applying the product for you. Evidence is the same result the next day and the next. Get a sample to try at home. Anything that really works comes in free trial sizes.) And if you're not 100% sure...

  4. Then walk away

    Do you know how many times I've bought something I don't need and don't really covet because I feel obliged to a salesperson for spending time with me? Or because I don't want him/her - a total stranger - to think I'm a cheapskate? I couldn't retire with that money, but I could probably buy a new MacBook. Here's the important lesson: You. Don't. Owe. Salespeople. Anything. Except politeness and respect.

  5. Do some research. For retail products, check Amazon

    If the great deal is conditional on a buy-now-or-never, pull out your smartphone and make darn sure you really can't get that thing cheaper or better somewhere else.

    Or, just try this: Say 'No thanks' and start to walk away. They'll yank you back with, 'Just come with me. Have a look at this [outrageously inflated] price on my computer. That's what I usually sell it for. But you're so nice, so I'll throw in this and this and this for free, and you know what else? I wouldn't do this for everyone but I can see you're interested, so I'll give you my personal employee discount. I'm not even making anything on this sale now. But I like you, and you deserve to have this product.'

    This truly is part of the script. I know; I've been suckered. You'd think I'd know better.

  6. Then, and only then, consider parting with your money

    If the deal really is what they say it is, and you can afford it without flinching, buy it. Although, once again, I've been suckered - so I can tell you that the Dead Sea stuff costs a bucket-load, does eff-all and is not returnable. No matter what they say.

Here's an interesting (and understandable) legal explanation of your consumer rights.

In short, a lot of marketing is based on truth. But there's a growing chunk of it that's based on stinky smoke and grimy mirrors. So unless you're rolling in so much dough that you have someone reading this article to you while fanning you with a palm leaf and feeding you Chuckles, you need to start interrogating the marketing.

* The Dead Sea devils: These are the gorgeous-looking young Mediterraneans you see in shopping malls, who take seasonal jobs all over the world selling massively over-priced body lotions, face creams and nail products. Know this: Their bosses teach them what to do and how to sell. They use a script (I've seen it.) They memorise it word for word. Even if they know nothing about the product, if they deliver the pitch verbatim, people will buy. And those products that cost R600-R3,000? You can buy them online. For R100.

About Tiffany Markman

Tiffany Markman is a highly opinionated copywriter, writing trainer and speaker who has worked for over 350 clients worldwide over the last 15 years. She hates misplaced apostrophes, old-fashioned business writing and the word 'revert'. She loves generous paragraphing, art, skulls and black coffee. Connect with her on tiffany at tiffanymarkman dot co dot za, or visit
Penny du Plessis
Dead Sea devils ... The perfect name for them! Only I'm not sure we owe them politeness let alone respect. They certainly don't respect the lone female shopper when she tells them that she doesn't want to sample their products. Apparently it's perfectly okay to harangue her into changing her mind. I now give them a wide berth and make sure that there are people between their stand and me. But the next time they catch me on my own and I'm subjected to their brand of marketing, they may just be subjected to the F-word!
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 11:03
Ian Snelling
Good for you Penny. I'm lucky inasmuch as my wife doesn't appreciate me going to the supermarkets. One month's housekeeping blown in half an hour.But on those very rare occasions I am let loose, why is it that the DSDs don't bother me? Could it be that being over 70, overweight, baldish and bearded makes me an unlikely prospect? Woe is me!
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 14:30
Richard Gee
Love your description of the Dead Sea Devils. Is it just me, or do these 'salesmen' all come across as the cast from Taken (the bad guys). Sales pitches I can handle, but these guys look like they will mug you and/or run a credit card scam on you?
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 15:03
Angelina Michael
Brilliant Tiffany! I agree and could not help smile as I read your article. Gawd and yes these 'salespersons' are drop dead attractive, charming and painful too!
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 15:25
PR Prior
Ever been approached by the guys selling Car Polish at a garage? I must confess that some of them are REALLY good with their enthusiasm and salesmanship. Perhaps we should be hiring the people who train them? None the less, I enjoy the pitch and then leave.
Posted on 3 Feb 2014 16:05

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