The Sales Person is Always Right

We all know that in America, the customer is always right. But in Israel, the sales person is always an expert.

An example: while my sister spent a year in Israel, her laptop computer mysteriously stopped charging. My father, visiting from the US, decided to buy her a better power adapter. Laptops have a converter in that power brick, so mostly you just need to buy a converter for the American plug, but my father decided to buy something more heavy duty.

When he went into an Israeli electronics store, on the other hand, the sales guy (being an expert) knew what my father should buy better than my father did. He insisted that my father didn't need a massive power adapter and was fine with the little plug adapter. In fact, he refused to sell my father the massive adapter-- despite the fact that it was more expensive!

In Israeli stores, I've often seen sales people push less expensive products because they're the "right ones to buy." Maybe it's some kind of reverse-psychology sales ploy, but more often it's because the sales people pride themselves on giving good advice-- and aren't pleased when customers don't take this advice.

Another reason why the Sales Person is Always Right in Israel is that more often than not, the sales guy in a little shop actually is the shop owner. They build relationships with their customers, like the guy in the Tambour hardware store across the street from us who actually came to help dredge out our bathroom when the sewer overflowed. Or the guy from the kitchen supply store down the street who sells homemade fig brandy underneath his counter. Or the manager of our local grocery store, who my husband's aunt pulled aside before Passover to ask when would be the best day to do her shopping. And actually, I think one reason American tourists often think Israelis are rude lies in the fact that, to the Israelis, the Americans are rude-- the Americans don't say "shalom" when they exit or enter a store, they don't appeal to the Sales Person for good advice, and they act as if they're entitled to good service rather than honored when the Sales Person decides to bestow it.

I got very good advice from an Israeli before I came to Israel: when you're dealing with a sales person or some other kind of Israeli professional, you must balance a little bit of kissing up (solicit good advice) with enough toughness to convey that you aren't a sucker (point out flaws, question prices). When you do it right, the sales person often cuts you a good price.

Have any of you had adventures in Israeli shopping?


  1. Well, there's a more fundamental truth at work here, too: An Israeli is ALWAYS an expert. Regardless of topic, question asked, or actual level of knowledge. So when it comes to sales people, you get this sort of "exponential expertize" that can get an Israeli sales person to through you out of their store if you don't take their advice.

  2. In Israel, you get recipes and medical advice, all for free along with the products.

  3. I once asked somebody for directions in Petach Tikva, and the person gave me an answer, and then said, "Come, I'll give you a lift." I was surprised and said that I was ok, but since he insisted, I followed after him. He walked over to a large empty bus!, and I went in with him and he gave me a lift. During the ride he asked me where I was from, I said "Canada", he said, "Canada Shmanada, Israel's the best!" I agreed. He started giving me a lecture about how great Israel is. What a trip!

    I find that in Israel barbers, shop-owners, and bus drivers are a lot more conversive and personal, and I think that this comes from a sense of all of Am Yisrael being brothers. Like we say "Acheinu Kol Beit Yisrael," even though that is from a different context.

  4. We have also lost a couple of laptop batteries this way. for future reference, go to a computer store and but an Israeli power cord/plug. works better than a plug adapter and should cost less than 40 NIS.


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