I'm always interested in anything involving Israel or Judaism in Palamerston North. Maybe because it's so backward, and seemingly isolated from cultures like that (in my opinion). Last summer, when I was there (for 5 weeks!), I couldn't find any Israeli products at all.
It seems now that a Dead Sea skincare stall has opened in the Plaza, and been pushing products in the same way as shopping centers in rest of the world.
Now the dead sea sales people are pushy, but the reports that people are giving seem a bit over the top - being grabbed, and forced upon. This seems more that what I experienced in Melbourne, Sydney or even LA. It could also be that NZers are just not used to pushy sales people. Typically New Zealanders talk with their feet, and do not like having to say no.
To their credit, the store did refund the products, albeit that the father had to get angry first, which is very disappointing.
There have been some complaints though - like this post on the Plaza's facebook wall, with over 500+ likes and 140+ comments:
Thankfully, there are none of the usual "BDS" comments, and very few racist type comments.
These complaints are nothing compared to what I experienced in Israel, either at a Tel Aviv Shopping Mall or at the Arab Souk (market) in the old city of Jerulsalem. In the Shopping mall, I walked out a CD store, where I was getting (obviously fake) CDs pushed on me. The salesman ran out, grabbed my arm and physically was pulling me back to the store. I was pretty firm, but he only stopped when another shopkeeper saw and came up and broke me away (and started yelling at the 'puller'). This kind of thing is common (I hear), but it was nice that someone knew that it was giving them a bad name.
The souk was worse though - I was looking at some T-shirts, when a kid came up and said I should check out his shop. I followed him for what I thought would be a little way, but a few turns and I was removed from my friends and a bit lost (it's a bit of a rabbit warren). The shopkeeper (apparently the kids father) told me a sob story about how they hadn't eaten for 3 days and urged me to buy something. When I asked the price of the simplest thing he told me hundreds of shekels for a belt. I tried to leave and was effectively threatened (in a subtle way), and that he knew 'people'. I was pretty scared, and to cut the story short, I ended up with a very expensive belt, but got out. The man even rummaged through my bag for "presents for the boy" - there is some Arab kid in Jerusalem with a Mutton Birds tape nicked from my bag!
When I'm next in Palmerston North, I'm very keen to search out the Dead Se scrolls store. I won't buy anything (for a start, you can get it much cheaper online - Try StrawberryNet for starters). If the salespeople are Israeli, I might accost them back and try to get them to come to a Shabbat dinner! In general, I don't push religion on anyone, but for them I might make an exception :-)