The Tampon Hard-Sell: Inadequate Korean Vocabulary #1

Sometimes I wind up in situations where I really wish I had the Korean vocabulary to make myself understood. I’m getting much better with food, shopping, and other day-to-day sort of situations, and it’s unusual for me to have a communication problem that I can’t sort out using my limited Korean, a few borrowed words, and charades.

Sometimes, though, mime just doesn’t (or shouldn’t) cut it.

In every large grocery store I’ve been to in Korea, there are a gaggle of brand ambassadors, typically women, whose job is to give out samples and try to coerce or cajole you into buying their product. I would assume that these ladies work on commission, because they are motivated to sell their soap. Most of the time, the products in question are coffee, tea, or some other sort of food or confection of varying nutritional value.

I had the misfortune of running into one in the feminine hygiene department.

There is a very limited list of items I want to listen to a sales pitch for, and a slightly less limited list of things I can tolerate listening to the sales pitch for. I assure you that nowhere on either of these lists do feminine hygiene products appear. I’m just not a lady that wants to be hard-sold a box of tampons.

Unfortunately, I lack the Korean vocabulary to adequately communicate this to the too-chipper woman in the blue suit who seemed hell-bent on selling me flowery-scented globs of cotton.

I know there are a lot of women who use flowery-scented lots of things, but if there is one product I use that I do not want to smell like any sort of flower or fruit, it’s a tampon.

More unfortunately, I lack the Korean vocabulary to explain that if she’s going to pester me while I make my selection, she ought to at least point me in the direction of an unscented box.

Eventually, after a lot of mime, a lot of poking my nose and saying “no” in both English and Korean (and more than one disgusted look on my face when she tried to give me a presumably nicer smelling one) I walked away, triumphant, with a package of unscented tampons. Based on the fuss she made, possibly the only package of unscented tampons in the store. Possibly the only package of unscented tampons in the city.

But I did eventually win. Hard-sell or no hard-sell, I got what I wanted. Though I may have to take the box back if I ever want the same ones again.


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