Beauty Rant: Cosmetic Counters

July 17, 2008 at 9:29 pm 20 comments

One of the reasons I became a beauty blogger is because I hate the feeling of being intimidated and overwhelmed at the cosmetic counter.  My hope was to get familiar with how the industry works to overcome this fear.  And generally speaking, my experiences blogging have really helped.

I don’t go to the mall often.  I have a learned aversion to shopping malls, and as much as I want to see the pretty packages and tubes of cosmetics, mall shopping is torture to me.  Another problem I have is with confrontation.  With my own children and husband, confrontation comes naturally.  But, with someone who I perceive as having authority, confrontation is another thing.  I have a very difficult time expressing a strong opinion.  This is particularly true when I desire to communicate my discontent or negative feedback.  Generally, if I don’t like something, I will choose to avoid talking face-to-face with a real person about it.  I have “changing the subject when the tension gets high” down to an art. 

Recently, this trend has changed for me.  Now, when I meet people at the cosmetics counter, they have become my new allies in the quest for good beauty stuff.  Instant soul mates.  I usually ask them tons of questions and have a great time talking with them.  What product really stands out?  What is your favorite product?  Have you heard of this line?  Which line carries your favorite foundation?

And then there is today.  Today, I needed to shop at the mall.  I left my entire lot of children with my oldest and slipped out of the house!  Sweet childless freedom.  I casually strolled into the shopping mall. No stroller. No crowds. Just me in a big air conditioned space.  First I went shopping for some bare necessities, and casually stopped by the cosmetic counter at Dillards.  My Dillards experience proved to be so disappointing in comparison to the Sephora I visited last weekend in Vegas. 

I noticed a new line I hadn’t seen before.  I walk over and dabbed some of their serum on the back of my hand.  I thought to myself, “Interesting consistency. Do I smell citrus?  Must have some alcohol in it too. Kind of reminds me of…”


A cosmetic saleswoman with a bright white lab coat asked me if I needed assistance.  Another customer simultaneously asked the saleswoman about the Clarisonic Face Brush on display.  “As Mentioned on Oprah” the signs say around it.  The saleswoman gave the sales pitch for the Clarisonic Brush, quickly announcing, “This is the most amazing skincare item!”

When I responded, my troubles began.  I said, “Actually, I like it okay; I don’t think it is all they claim it to be.”

The saleswoman shot me a look of surprise, and then beamed daggers at me.  “Everyone here loves the Clarisonic; it helps our serums really sink in, instead of just staying on the surface.”

“Oh really.  Well, I am sure it does help exfoliate your skin.”

“If you tried this, you would really see how it makes a difference.”

“I have one of these, I used it for a while, and it is very nice.”

“What kind of brush did you use?”

“One for sensitive skin and the other for regular skin.”

“I meant to say, what kind of setting did you use on your Clarisonic brush? Low or high?”

“Gosh, I didn’t realize there were two different settings.”

“You must have had your brush on high!”

“Okay, thanks…” 

I wanted to stay and browse, but I didn’t want to keep this conversation going, and I felt about 3 feet tall.  Why on earth do I let a salesperson or any person make me feel this way!?   I made some kind of excuse and got out of there.

Does this ever happen to you?  I guess I need more beauty blogging therapy.

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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. tracy m  |  July 17, 2008 at 10:11 pm

    You just need Mo with you! She doesn’t let anyone intimidate her, and she would totally have had your back!

  • 2. Marilyn  |  July 17, 2008 at 10:32 pm

    Jen, we REALLY need to spend some one-on-one time together. I could teach you so much about confronting those kinds of people. I love to bring them down to their knees. And I’m good at it, too. Ask Evan. We women take enough crap in our daily lives – we don’t need any more of it from morons who are customer-service-challenged.

  • 3. Xina, Nature's Parlour  |  July 18, 2008 at 4:25 am

    Don’t beat yourself up about this, Jen – we all have Phd’s in hindsight, don’t we? It’s different when you’re put on the spot and someone is spontaneously rude though – you’re just not prepared.

    I was listening to a podcast the other day and a woman said that if someone is rude to her she says simply “I’m sorry, you’re obviously having a bad day”. It’s a very subtle trick to keep in your pocket when you’re caught off guard.

    One thing I always do if someone is VERY rude to me, is complain to their line manager. Sometimes the values of the company isn’t carried through to the very last staff member. The owners of the company would be mortified to know that their customers are being mistreated by one of their own.

    Last week my sister had her gym membership reduced because the manager of her gym was really rude to her in front of other members. She put a complaint in writing and was compensated with a monthly reduction. I say; don’t put up with rude people – often they only do it because they feel they’ll get away with it.

  • 4. Allie  |  July 18, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Oh I SO had this the last time I hit a cosmetics counter. My friend wanted a makeover so we decided to stop on Nordstrom.

    Friend with green eyes, blonde hair and fair skin and the woman at the counter begins putting a reddish-purple shadow and lilac lipgloss on my friend. This is after putting a mattifying lotion on my friend who already said she has severely dry and sensitive skin. Make a slight suggestion and next thing I know she is ignoring my friend and grilling me about my experience, my training, etc.

    I used to sell cosmetics and I loved when people came in with feedback and suggestions. I used them as free education and training on how to deal with future clients who have feedback and aren’t as polite with it.

    It’s her, not you 🙂 She’ll feel it at the end of the month with her comission. But then some people just don’t learn or realize…

  • 5. hairyshoefairy  |  July 18, 2008 at 7:48 am

    Rude! She really shouldn’t have treated you that way. My new favorite line to combat rude comments is “I’ll give that all the consideration it deserves,” and walk away without another word leaving them wondering if you were being facetious. I hate confrontation, too.

  • 6. jen38  |  July 18, 2008 at 8:20 am

    I think that is why I love this group so much!

    I like the comebacks HSF and Xina, very direct and not dropping to their level. That is always my biggest fear; loosing my temper and looking like an idiot, or even worse, crying. When I was pregnant, holy cow, I could not keep from tearing up with any confrontation.

    I admire Mo and Marilyn so much, because they are able to stand up for themselves. It is an art to be able to stand your ground without getting too emotional. Many thanks all of you!

    (I got this rant idea from you Marilyn) 😉

  • 7. Mo  |  July 18, 2008 at 11:02 am

    are you referring to the time I told the lady doing your makeup that the foundation color was way off? I mean, I wasn’t even there, I don’t know what you’re talking about……..
    The thing to keep in mind is that many of these associates are given the pitch from their companies and believe every single word of it, so questioning anything they say makes THEM feel like the balance of power has shifted. When you are beholden to one company for your income, it can be hard to be subjective. I sometimes feel like it’s a personal affront when someone doesn’t like something that I love, nobody likes to be “wrong”. I don’t usually say anything, I just have a “look” I hand out and then I walk away. It’s hard not to get the hint.

  • 8. Jami  |  July 18, 2008 at 11:37 am

    I saw a shirt that would be perfect for this encounter. It said “Don’t piss me off, or I’ll blog about it.”

    Sorry you had a bad experience, those sales people can certainly be frustrating. Especially when they believe they are the end-all of beauty knowledge.

    Here’s my comeback, personalized for you 😉
    “Honey, I’m a Beauty Booger, and your’re just a salesperson. So shut it, sister.” and walk away.


  • 9. jen38  |  July 18, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    I am SOOO going to use that line someday Jami! You got me chuckling just thinking about it. I should order that tee as well, blogging is sweet revenge. Maybe that poor salesperson is blogging about a contemptuous customer who questioned her authority.

    I would love to see your “look” Mo. I bet it is furious! I need to practice some looks in my mirror. One of “you silly girl, I cannot waste my time on such drivel.”

  • 10. jen38  |  July 18, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Another confrontation was while looking at the Dermablend line; I mentioned that the company is owned by a larger group, like L’Oreal. She unequivocally stated that Dermablend is its own independent company.

    Check this out:

  • 11. tracy m  |  July 18, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    I didn’t know L’Oreal owned Keihls. Wowza.

  • 12. jen38  |  July 18, 2008 at 1:57 pm

    Yeah, and just about everything else is owned by Estee Lauder.

  • 13. tracy m  |  July 18, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Now, L’oreal owns Lancome, too, right? Or does Lancome own everyone else?

  • 14. jen38  |  July 18, 2008 at 9:47 pm

    I think that is right. You know, realizing that they are all are owned by a big conglomerate cosmetic company is bizarre. I guess there is nothing wrong with it as long as those brands stay true to their original philosophy. Kind of like when you think of all the different food products that are made by Campbell’s or Kraft. It is weird though, makes you think. Whoa dude, I am trippin’ on this! It’s like barf me out…
    Gag me with a spoon!

    I like totally admire the young start up companies that are out there. It’s like so bitchen!

    I’m off to listen to some Frank Zappa.

  • 15. Mo  |  July 19, 2008 at 1:33 am

    Yes, that was a serious Valley Girl moment Jen, I love it!
    I often recommend to friends that if they love something fun from Lancome but can’t cough up the dough they should look for a knock off version from L’Oreal. Lancome’s Juicy Tubes? Remarkably similar to L’Oreal’s Color Juice lipgloss. I’m just sayin’….
    It would be interesting to know how many of their brands were independents that got bought out and swallowed up, and how many were products of real brainstorming.

    And my look is more like a mix of “Are you REALLY wasting my time with this, seriously?” and “I’m sorry, were you speaking?”

  • 16. Mo  |  July 19, 2008 at 1:35 am

    And you’re not just A beauty booger, you’re THE Beauty Booger!!

  • 17. IFW  |  July 19, 2008 at 5:15 am

    Awww Jen – there you go questioning the effectiveness of a relatively expensive product in front of a potential buyer. And that is exactly why I do not hit any of the cosmetics counters any more – it’s an experience similar to buying a car. You should not feel bad in any way, shape or form. – Unless you have a much bigger heart than I and can feel compassion for those who’s feeling of self-importance escalates when donning a lab coat. LOVE Xina & HSF’s comebacks! I will be plagiarizing. Much more effective than my typical laugh / smile / “Reaaally?” – I just can’t help myself when such ignorance surfaces. It’s kind of Pavlov-ian and really not very nice on my part.

  • 18. jen38  |  July 19, 2008 at 8:23 am

    I am meeting with an old friend from HS today, and I think that brought out my nostalgic valley talk. It’s like tubular, yknow?!

    No doubt, being THE beauty booger should carry some serious clout.

    So great to hear from you IFW! I have been so curious about how farmers are doing this year with all the flooding damage. I really admire you. Your comparison of cosmetic buying to car buying is completely true. Lots of lemons out there to choose from. That Lab Coat crap really is hysterical. I have seen several salespeople donning them at the mall kiosks as well.

    That would make a great post! How salespeople use lab coats to be perceived as medical professionals. I remember one guy even carrying around a stethoscope! “Yeah, I need to check your heart and lungs before I sell you this skincare cream. You know, just to be safe.”

  • 19. dailygrooming  |  July 22, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Too many skin care ‘professionals’ are victims of their conditioning. I’ve been lurking on a lot of these blogs for a while now and reading about some of the experiences is enough to make you toes curl.

    I much prefer a one to one consultation. Here in the UK, with skin care brand such as Dr.Hauschka and Dermalogica, this is possible. The good thing about visiting a smaller salon is they are much more reliant on repeat business, and are therefore less likely to be intimidating.

    Some of these big department stores are staffed by those wearing too much make up and with very large chips on their shoulders. You know who you are… 😛

  • 20. kate2004rock  |  July 23, 2008 at 8:54 am

    Jen, I can’t believe you felt bad about that! You probably know volumes more than that salesgirl – and she’d probably never acutally even USED the Clarisonic!

    Don’t feel bad…Dillard’s is known for treating their employees badly. If she was at work, she probably really was having a bad day. Plus she probably works on commission – which adds a pressure you’ll never find in a boutique or a Sephora where none of us work on commission. Our concern is pleasing you, not padding our paycheck.


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