Elderly woman falls victim to Dead Sea pressure tactics
Over two weekends, an 82-year-old woman was bullied into buying $5000 worth of cosmetics – mostly wrinkle cream for a range of different skin types.
On the first occasion, Dead Sea Spa staff kept the woman at the booth after the mall had closed, making three separate sales totalling more than $3000, taking partial EFTPOS payments, and then accompanying her to ATMs around the mall to pay the balance in cash.
On the second occasion the elderly woman was sold more cosmetics in two separate $999 sales, emptying her bank account.
Ms T, who doesn't want to reveal her identity, says she is embarrassed.
"I feel as if I'm a silly old chook," says Ms T. "Honestly, at my age spending all that money on that product is ridiculous."
But Ms T has been an unwilling victim of a scam that sits front and centre in shopping malls right across the country.
The Dead Sea Spa range is a small kiosk business staffed by youthful, good-looking Israelis selling product from the homeland.
Everyone loves a free sample - so that's what they offer. But what comes next is a tiresome, never-ending hard-sell for expensive beauty products.
Ms T was at her local Lynnmall shopping centre on Sunday afternoon when she was approached by Dead Sea sellers.
"I had just come from the car park and he just approached me, talking to me, you know, and then it got beyond that," says Ms T. "He had me sitting on the chair, showing me what I could do with my face - a lot of uplift, get rid of my wrinkles."
Yes, you read right - they were selling an 82-year-old anti-wrinkle cream - pots and pots of it.
"Quite a few of the same sort of thing - he would say you know, 'You're such a lovely lady. I'll give you this for free, extra,'" says Ms T.
It only occurred to Ms T after she had left that she had been sitting with the Dead Sea seller for three hours and she had spent $2000.
What's worse is that this was the second big spend-up in just a few weeks, with the grand total of all her Dead Sea Spa products coming to $5000.
"I thought heck, what am I going to do?" says Ms T. "So I just put them in the wardrobe."
She hasn't used a single product.
Ms T went home with no money - not even enough to buy the groceries she went out to buy that afternoon.
Her son, Roger, is absolutely appalled that this has happened to his mother and is sure that she was targeted as a vulnerable old woman.
"I'm sure they can spot people a mile off," he says. "They know if they keep talking and using their sales patter on the right sort of people they can wear them down and keep selling to them until the well is dry."
It wasn't until Roger checked her bank accounts on Monday that he realised they'd been emptied out – and it wasn't the first time.
Two weeks ago Ms T was given the same pitch. Her spend that time was $3000, and not even the mall closing for the night and an EFTPOS machine that wouldn't work could stop the sale going through.
Instead, the salesman took her to ATM after ATM, as she withdrew the last of her cash.
Campbell Live wanted to visit the company that sells Dead Sea Spa products, so we went to their head office. But the staff quickly fled, and the door was locked. They're normally all too happy to talk, and many of you will have heard the pitch, the friendly approach, hugs and cuddles.
Ms T describes the man who served her as a "lovely guy" who hugged her at the end of her purchases.
How much they charge depends on how much they think you've got. There are no prices on anything.
"It's very clever; they are very subtlety taking advantage of her," says Roger. "They know that she doesn't need these products – that would be clear to anybody."
Roger believes that the amount of money that they charged his mother was a lot for anybody to spend, especially for someone who is living on a pension.
Ms T never wanted any of it, but Dead Sea Spa's manager, Aviva Raisun, says "people buy what they want".
"An 82-year-old can have wrinkle cream."
Ms Raisun says she isn't going to change the way Dead Sea Spa sells their products.
Late this afternoon the Kiwi Income Property Trust, which owns the Lynnmall shopping centre, evicted Dead Sea Spa.
The kiosk was wheeled away by security staff just before the mall closed at 5:30pm
They will no longer be allowed to trade in that shopping centre, and the trust told Campbell Live that it had been assured all monies had been refunded, and it had apologised to Roger and his mother for the experience.