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“Washing off the fellowship” was one pastor’s expression for a thorough hand washing after a friendly Sunday morning. One church was even asked by their local health department to stop the meet-and-greet portion of their service—“Shake hands and say hello to someone sitting around you!”—during the recent swine flu epidemic.

A round of handshakes and hugs at church is one way to spread joy and germs. Turns out you’re also at risk in the local mall, but not from germs. Touching merchandise puts you at risk for buying it, according to a recent article in Woman’s Day. “Research shows that if you touch something, you’re more likely to buy it. That’s why products like stuffed animals and candy are placed within easy reach of children at the grocery checkout, and soft blankets or cozy sweaters are positioned strategically on low tables at a store’s entrance.” The article advised shoppers to avoid touching merchandise, even to look at the price tag, unless they planned to buy it.

As a regular Ms. Jones who’s done my fair share of shopping, I get the point. I touched dozens of items during a recent trip to an antique mall, from soft and faded linens to shiny glassware (I somehow managed to restrain my buying impulses). But as a Ms. Jones who spends a lot of time figuring out how to make other Ms. Jones buy more stuff, I also see how retailers can use this tactile tactic to our advantage.

How can you encourage Ms. Jones to get up close and personal with your merchandise? Watch as she fondles the fabric, strokes the grain, grasps the handle, sinks into a sofa, or caresses a chair. Watch her eyebrows. Do they go up in surprise, or do they scrunch in disgust? Pay attention to her reaction as she touches your product and experiences it with all her senses.

With any luck, Ms. Jones will make a public display of affection by handing over her wallet.

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