10 Things a Makeup Counter Salesperson Doesn’t Want You to Know | From TotalBeauty.com

Source: TotalBeauty.com (April 12, 2011)
A Commentary on the TotalBeauty.com Article


TotalBeauty.com released this interesting, if not slightly humorous online article back in April (2011) and I’ve lacked the courage up till now to comment. On the client side of the cosmetic counter for over 3 years, I’ve become disconnected enough to be impartial but armed with vivid memories of what goes on from both sides of those enticing glass cases to give you my straight opinion.

While the article was primarily negative, its important to know that there are some lovely people behind those counters – and there are what we call “sharks”. Hopefully you find an environment to shop in that isn’t infested.

1. Germs are EVERYWHERE.

Sorry. This one is totally true. As is the fact that not all people wash their hands (with soap) after they use the bathroom. Yuck. Being witness to customers use spit to wipe their makeup off their face and hands also fueled my obsession with hand sanitizer. Thank you Sephora for having alcohol and hand sanitizer scattered throughout your black and white walls – even if your testers are some of the worst I’ve ever seen (which is what happens when customers and their kids are let loose).

Always remember that nothing is sacred. Every product that touches a person, whether directly or indirectly is susceptible to bacteria. For example, once a customer uses a mascara – its contaminated. It doesn’t matter if the next 30 people use wands. Possibly the most contaminated and used tester is lip gloss. Never, ever put a tester on your lips – even with a lip brush.

Still, the cosmetic counter isn’t a reenactment of  Outbreak. You can still enjoy your makeover with these tips:

1. Be the early bird. Schedule your appointments early, preferably the first appointment of the day. Most times, brushes will be thoroughly clean. By rush time (normally around lunch time) artists get lazy or rushed and don’t have time to clean their brushes thoroughly.

2. Bring your own products. If its a brand you love, bring your own products (from the line you’re trying) and brushes. Personally, I would encourage customers to bring their existing makeup and I would do “Standing Makeovers” – quick tips and a few product suggestions to update their look. This is perfect if you just need a refresher or want to add a few seasonal items. You can even ask the artist to create a colored chart for you in place of applying the makeup directly to your face.

Exception to this rule is foundation. However, most salespeople should be gracious enough to allow you to bring a small sample home to try and wear for a day. This would eliminate improper color matching (lighting is department stores are the worst for foundation matching).

3. Speak up. If the artist knows your wary about germs, they will naturally make a few more concessions to make sure you’re comfortable. And if you aren’t – you are not obligated to sit through the entire makeover. Just be polite and don’t make a scene.

4. Use your hands. If you want to see how the colors would look on your skin tone, apply swatches to your fingertips and hold them up to your face. This will give you a rough idea without anything touching your face.

2. You can get a refund on almost anything.

Okay – but that doesn’t mean you should. Now that I pay full price for cosmetics (sigh) if an item flat out doesn’t work or gives me a rash, it goes back. If it works but I’m bored with it – it stays and maybe gets passed on. Just because department stores are liberal with their return policy, doesn’t mean you should feel free to take advantage and return EVERYTHING.

I’ve had customers return items that are scraped clean. I’m not exaggerating. I just took it back because I knew if management was called, they would authorize the return. You should know that stores and employees keep track of your transactions – especially in higher end stores. If you “abuse” or overuse the return policy, they will put you on restriction. Not too many stores will give you cash back without proof of purchase these days either. Finally.

3. They play on your insecurities.

Beware. In every profession, there are all kinds of people.  In the cosmetic world, there are those who are too quiet, too aggressive and just right. As a rule, a good product specialist will help you focus on the positive and allow you to point out your challenges. I had two experiences in the same Sephora. One day I was just doing research, checking out what was new when an associate hands me a sample of leave in conditioner. Yes, I was having a bad hair day, but I wasn’t looking at hair products or inquiring about them. I was simultaneously thankful and insulted. More recently, I was looking at Carol’s Daughter products and another associate greeted me, asked if I needed help finding products and effectively segued into her experiences and recommendations. I bought what I came for (Tui Oil) and one product she recommended (Monoi Shampoo).

4. They make things up.

They do. I’ve heard fellow associates say things that made me want to laugh and scold them at the same time. What’s even scarier to me is that customers believe them. I’ve heard stories about ancient mushroom cures, deep sea water (although that one is true) and more. Be smart. If its too good to be true – it is. Its makeup, not magic. Except for maybe La Mer Moisturizing Cream…

5. They pretend to be something they’re not.

They are targeting Clinique. Yes, they wear this clinical white jackets and give off a clinical appearance, but it’s a smart way to brand themselves.Would you rather they come to work in their regular clothes? In every business, appearances matter and you can’t fault a cosmetic company for wanting to put forth a certain image. Honestly, I’m more afraid of some of the MAC looks that they force their artists to wear than a couple of white coats.

For the record – there are lots of estheticians who work in cosmetics. The money is better.

6. The free makeover is not free.

It is – for the customer. So keeping in mind that if you were to go outside the department store for a makeup application, it would cost you around $50 minimum, associates are expected to reach daily sales goals and someone is paying them to sell – be courteous. Don’t B.S. the artist and pretend like you need a “new look” when you’re looking for a “new look right now”. Most specialists/artists who don’t work on commission don’t mind a free makeover now and then, especially if you’re a regular customer. At the Shu Uemura counter, a lot of regular clients would pop in for a quick lash application (Shu lashes of course) or touch up before heading up to the bar. More than happy to oblige.

Proms: Don’t be surprised if there is a small charge for applications or if there is a cut off to how many appointments are accepted.  During prom season, counters get slammed with appointments and it has often become necessary to set limits to how many are booked.

Weddings: If its just you – fine. If you have bridesmaids, flower girls, mothers, etc. – hire a makeup artist.

Like every other courtesy, don’t take advantage. Be gracious and appreciative. Because, no, its not the salespersons job to “do your makeup” – they were hired to “sell you makeup”. Bottom line.

7. They judge you based on the products you use.

Now that I’m just a civilian in the cosmetic world, I’m astounded by how condescending cosmetics salespeople can be. To judge a person period, is probably the worst way to get a good sale. Yes, they are there to sell you cosmetics and a conscientious associate will sell you the right products for you and your budget. Still, they are out there, so be warned.

I suppose working in Hawaii, a lot of people walk around in casual clothes and don’t put too much emphasis on looking “rich”. Plus, a lot of times, customers get “stuck” in a routine their comfortable with that might not be optimal for their skin type. They are looking to the sales people to sell them the right products. In fact, if a person is using an inexpensive cleanser (what’s wrong with that?) then they can drop a little more on a fantastic serum. Plus, people who are using less active products will see better results than someone who regularly uses the latest potions.

8. They keep an eye out for sample grifters.

Again, poor salesmanship. Its not like they are buying the samples themselves. And the percentage of clients who abuse this privilege are far less than the salespeople who use excessive sampling to keep their customers. I recently went to the Macy’s Shiseido counter (in Pearlridge Center) and wanted to try a small sample of their Perfect Refining Foundation because if I can help it, I don’t like to return, and foundations and skin care are the products that often don’t agree with me. I can tweak a lipstick or eye shadow to work for me – not a foundation. I even specifically asked for “just enough for one application” and was flat out denied. The older associate even went to ask the other associate if it was okay. I was told the tester was small and would run out. (Insert flabbergasted and annoyed look here.)

So I went to Nordstrom to buy it.

9. They keep their mouths shut.

I don’t think any salesperson is going to accentuate the negatives about their products. If you have a specific concern about ingredients, I don’t think they would knowingly lie (some will) to you. Plus, just ask for the box and look at the ingredients. Have a question? Take out your smart phone and Google it, check out Cosmetic Monster(!) or write it down, go home and do some research. Be a smart consumer. Not just with cosmetics, but with everything.

10. They talk about you behind your back.

Totally.  Believe it or not, just like there are some bad salespeople, there is such a thing as a difficult and sometimes infuriating customer (or worst yet, the know-it-all customer’s friend). Its normal to vent about an event that frustrated or entertained you at work. Its fueled by after hours cocktails or lunch room conversation. It should never be done in front of other clients. Ever.

Be careful what you do and say at the counter…it may not be the most professional conduct, but its not like they’re bound by client privilege.

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