Jeddah: Complaints Galore About Salesmen’s Lewd Behavior

Arab News
JEDDAH, Feb 16: Women are complaining about salesmen making inappropriate remarks and comments while dealing with customers in cosmetics shops.

According to women customers, salesmen harass them with indecent gestures, flirtatious comments and attempts of physical contact. “A salesman asked whether we were married or not while at a cosmetic shop with a friend,” said shopper Hanan Z. “In a sly tone he told us that a particular body lotion is for married women and it enhances sexual desires. We left the shop immediately.”

Salesmen take advantage of customer contact details obtained for marketing purposes. Instead of using the contacts for sending product updates, the salesmen call the women customers at inappropriate hours and with inappropriate communication.

“A salesman once asked me for my phone number so as to inform me when the new collection arrives”, said Alaa O. “He then started flirting with me, asking whether I lived nearby, suggesting that I have to frequent the shop more often. I believe that they hire well spoken men in order to flirt with customers.”

At times when customers readily give their contacts for updates, it is read as an invitation for such inappropriate gestures. “I got a call from a salesman that was totally indecent,” said Yusra M. “When I rebutted him, he asked me why I gave him my contact information? He said to me: ‘You gave the green light’.”

Some women prefer to be accompanied by a man when shopping for cosmetics just to avoid awkward situations. In fact, most women said that they prefer saleswomen rather than salesmen.

“If the sales personnel at cosmetic shops were women, we would feel more comfortable trying out the products, especially lipsticks and lotions,” said Hanan Z.

On the other hand, cosmetic salesmen argue that they adhere to company regulations, and that harassing the customers is not tolerated. “Regardless if the salesmen is conservative or not, many women customers, when trying on new makeup, give us their hands and some give their cheeks to try the makeup,” said Wisam Hassan, a cosmetic salesman. “Many of them even ask us to tell them things such as ‘I love you’, ‘you are beautiful’ or ‘this looks nice on you’.”

Sometimes, some cosmetics products need demonstration on the skin. The salesman has to touch the customer to try the product on her hand. However, some salesmen avoid the physical contact and try the product on their own hands.

Furthermore, some non-Saudi salesmen are trained on certain sales tactics back in their countries. They are trained to compliment the customer or to comment on the customer’s looks as a strategy to attract her to buying a product. “I believe as a salesman in a cosmetic shop it is normal to tell the customer about what looks good on her and what does not. In order to sell, the salesman is trained to be neat and well spoken,” said Hassan. “Unfortunately, the cultural gap between us as non-Saudi salesmen and customers in the Kingdom might sometimes be misunderstood. We are used to these manners with our customers in our countries.”

However, under the pretence of wanting products, some women customers ask the salesmen for their personal contact details. “Some customers ask for our cell phone numbers and call us to give them free cosmetics. As salesmen, we would never make any passes on our customers. If the administration received any complains, the salesman would lose his job immediately,” said Iyad T., another salesman at a well-known cosmetic shop.

Furthermore, one salesman complained that women customers harass him and always ask for his personal cell phone number. “Some customers ask me for my personal contact number even when I give them the shop’s number. Some of them become rude when I refuse to give them my mobile number,” he said.

In defense of the conduct of salesmen, Moutasim Jamjoom, the marketing manager for a cosmetic store said that they have strict polices. “We had never received any complaints about harassments from our staff. We have strong policies regarding recruiting. Our salesmen are picked upon their neatness, being well presentable and confident,” he said. “However, if we received any complaints, the salesman, a Saudi or non-Saudi, is immediately investigated and terminated if need be.”

When asked about replacing the salesmen with saleswomen, he said that of course he prefers saleswomen because they are better in dealing with their own gender.


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