Copyright is held by the author.
I HAD a three hour wait for my connecting flight at Calgary, so when I was accosted by a woman holding out the lure of a skinny bar of scented soap, I stopped to investigate. By the time I had discovered that I only sort of liked one of them I felt I should accept it. Then she offered me her name, Sophia, and a free a facial massage. It crossed my mind that what I really wanted was a cappuccino, but I am a sucker for anything free. Besides I knew my skin needed some help. It was dried out after two weeks in the Mountains, where the land was as dry as an empty walnut shell, the sky darkened by smoke from the fires. I said yes.
I was enjoying the massage, the lecture about collagen, not so much. It turns out that, at my advanced age, according to this aesthetician, I had lost the ability to make collagen and needed to prevent wrinkles. The product she was using, specially made, and worth $330 an ounce, was pure collagen and would restore my skin.
Stepping back Sophia said, “Oh my gosh, you are one of the people for whom it really works well.” She called out: “Come and see, Ruby She’s got the ‘wow look.’”
There was much ooing and ahing from the two ladies. Then I was presented with a mirror. “See the difference.”
I had to admit there was a difference. A significant one. Especially when I compared it to the dried up prune effect on the untreated side.
“And it is cumulative,” Sophia prophesied, “if you use this product you will look 10 years, no, 20 years younger. Not only that, it will save you hundreds of dollars. No need to buy all the other creams you currently use. Now that would be a miracle. I buy my moisturizer at the dollar store or occasionally from the sale price bin at the drug store.
Sophia was now ready to move in with the clincher. “You are in luck. Just for today there is this amazingly good promotion — 60% off. This 170 ml tube of collagen cream is being sold for just $350. You should be paying six times that. Plus I will throw in this night time cream for free. Now that’s a real bargain.”
Possibly, although I couldn’t untangle her process in getting to that number, especially with the mix of the two different measuring systems. I was too busy listening to the part of me that wanted the effect Sophia had achieved, but I wasn’t caught, yet. I let myself be wound in a little more, while she offered deep discounts on the miracle cream, plus, as I hesitated, on a whole host of other products. All those that she had told me I would no longer need. By the time she had thrown in her own personal discount, the pile of stuff that I could buy for a mere $350 was five deep. This should have been another spoiler alert for me, but I was still caught in desire.
OK, I needed a reality check. I called Martin. I do not usually ask my husband to vet my spending but I was hoping that his would be the sensible voice. Apparently, because it was so out of character, he thought that this was all a joke. By the time we hung up both Ruby and Sophia had assured him that he would love the new me.
The new me was still under the witches’ spell so out came my charge card. As I signed on the dotted line I was again reassured about the money back guarantee, while Sophia sweetened the deal with one more magical cream.
“What’s that?” I asked, as I noticed some white residue on my wrinkle free cheek.
Sophia quickly grabbed some Kleenex and wiped it off. “Sorry I must have used too much collagen cream,” she said.
Pretty silly if it is that expensive I thought, but coffee was calling. Sophia caught up with me at Tim’s. I had left my glasses behind. Not only did she give me the glasses, she added another little pot for the overflowing bag with the store logo. A special cream for Martin.
Having ordered my cappuccino I offered a card for a free coffee. My local Tim’s had given it to me after inexperienced baristas had made mistakes with my cappuccino. I hoped to capitalize on this because Airport prices were so high. Always after the best deal I was now trying to save an extra dollar! The card was accepted, and off I went, balancing coffee, cosmetics and carry-on with some difficulty.
I sat down at my gate and took a sip. Oh no, it was not a real cappuccino but one of those chemical abortions made from a mix. I had failed to specify. It is time Tim’s got rid of them. I had lost on the transaction. Still, it was hot and sweet so I managed to drink it, pretending it was chocolate. Now, time to do some research. I typed in collagen and began reading. The article gave me information that I already knew, but had managed to ignore, in my desire for a miracle. Collagen molecules are too large to pass through the skin. There was more, but that was the kicker. I switched to the camera on my iPad and took a cheeky selfie. My first selfie ever. It was now more than an hour since my massage, and I could no longer detect the difference. I had fallen for a trick.
Collecting up all my things, I marched back to the kiosk. Ruby was there and I demanded my money back. “Why?” she asked. I explained my research. Calling Sophia over, both women began telling me, again, how good their product was, in several different ways, none of which mentioned collagen. I stood my ground. “Money back, guarantee you said.”
“Well, OK,” they finally gave in, “but you cannot do it here, you will have to take it too a regular store to do that, this machine can’t not do refunds.”
“Rubbish,” I said firmly, or was that angrily, “you used that machine to take my money, sonyou can do a refund just as easily.”
Their next gambit was to invoke the power of their almighty: “Our manager won’t let us.”
“Really? Let me speak to him,” I demanded.
He arrived swiftly; had he been following the whole thing? I stated my case, and he folded immediately. Perhaps it was not his commission on the line. And lo and behold the machine was quite capable of making a refund.
“So how did you create the wow effect?” I asked, but the saleslady was suddenly struck dumb.
I left to catch my flight, glad that the skinny soap bar was also in with the returned cosmetics.