Scent of an ambush in UAE malls

Scent of an ambush in UAE malls

Why Paul A. Freeman finds navigating the world of perfume sales less than fascinating.

Published: Sat 20 Jun 2015, 10:25 PM

Last updated: Wed 8 Jul 2015, 3:05 PM

When I first came to the UAE, it was possible to have a relaxing stroll around a mall, taking in a bit of window shopping and buying nothing. Okay, so you were often frozen half to death by the mall’s overzealous air-conditioning system, but that was par for the course.

Alas, those days of wandering about the malls unmolested are a thing of the past. Now, unless you’re vigilant, you run the risk of being bushwhacked by perfume stall employees hawking the latest thing in olfactory torture. Those scent-sellers, operating from kiosks along the mall walkways, openly lie in ambush of potential customers. Well dressed and well groomed, they lay claim to any passing pedestrian rash enough to make eye contact. Brandishing perfume sticks, they indulge in a stop-and-smear campaign, foisting on you the latest trend in overpowering aromas. And heaven help you if, for the sake of politeness, you say, “That’s nice.” In the event of such a catastrophic admission, out comes the concealed weapon – the perfume spray bottle!

Other scent salesmen and women lurk around the entrances of cosmetics or accessories shops. Like lions and lionesses preying on unfortunate wildebeests, they pounce on the unwary - though without fatal consequences, I hasten to add.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve got nothing against posh perfumes, or ‘smellies’ as we call perfumes and other overpowering toiletries in London. It’s just that as a middle-aged bloke who dresses down, it’s a bit incongruous for me to be walking around smelling like Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. I’m strictly a cheap-cologne-and-lashings-of-deodorant kind of guy when it boils down to it.

My wife berates me for evading these goodwill ambassadors of odour. She willingly, and regularly, falls victim to perfume combos, in spite of my constant warnings that one day she’ll spontaneously combust. My teenage daughter however, takes after me. That said, she does take evasion tactics to the extreme. She’ll zigzag, serpentine, duck-and-weave - anything to keep the smellies’ brigade at arm’s length.

Sometimes I do feel sorry for these aroma vendors. Perhaps, instead of evasion, I should plump for capitulation and allow myself to become a perfumed peacock in spite of myself. Then again, I’m from the country where rugby was invented, and evasion is far more entertaining.

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