By Claire Rubinstein
There is a certain part of the Kings Road where my phone always rings: every time I’m engrossed in the call, eyes down staring intently at the pavement as I power through the next few metres, dodging other pedestrians and sometimes, if an ambush seems inevitable, even darting into the road narrowly missing the on-coming traffic. Emerging from the danger-zone, I look around, check my surroundings, abort my ‘phonecall’ and resume my leisurely stroll.
To the uninitiated (and frankly, where have you been?!) you’ve just witnessed the Orogold Evasion Technique – and this scenario could play out in the West End, High Street Kensington or Chelsea, and who knows how many other venues in the capital are planned for the future…
So aggressive is their sales technique, forget casual window shopping, passersby are simply snatched from the pavement. Young or old, as long as the prey has a pulse and is packing plastic, it’s all systems go.
I experienced this about a year ago on South Molton Street. A moment of hesitation was all it took as I was lured into the shop. Within seconds I was surrounded. A stocky George Michael lookalike and his henchman (skinny with piercings) had me targeted missile-lock on. Smearing his sticky residue on my forehead, he asked if I could feel the difference? This was “better than Botox” he claimed and developed in Beverly Hills no less. Buy this one for £90 and this one for £300. Special price. Then he changed tack. Was I married? No? Did I get a good divorce settlement? My husband had left me with lines on my face apparently he told me! I was then invited to touch and hold the product in its luxurious presentation box – gold on the outside with the potion resting on a champagne coloured silk cushion. But wait… There’s more. If I bought this gold-infused product, I would receive a 24-carat gold authentication certificate from Italy. “Would this fit in a Cash4Gold envelope?” I wondered. I’m proud to say I walked out empty-handed, but it takes an iron will and many others crack under pressure.
A few months later, whilst walking my dog on Kings Road I was hit on by a similar crew at their newly opened store. Half way through their spiel, the poodle decided to vote with his bowels and I made my escape – and so in that moment I decided an avoidance strategy was necessary – and it’s now a well-practiced routine!
I have no comment to make on the actual product. It could be fabulous for all I know, but my point is, surely London has evolved beyond the quick and dirty hard-sell. I’m sure even the man with a suitcase full of knock-off perfume down Romford market has a more charming sales patter than these ‘Skuggers’ (Skin Care Muggers – Chuggers seem so terribly last season). Frivolous impulse purchases are the domain of Poundland and late-night drunken eBay marathons, but to part with serious amounts of hard-earned cash whilst stepping out for a Prêt pretzel during lunch hour is quite different altogether…
Buyers beware. The streets of London are paved with Orogold salesmen!