Wednesday 18 March 2015

Chronicles of a Cosmetician

Okay, so we've all seen, met, and talked to those pretty ladies who work in the beauty store, they sell you your usuals, they give you advice and you trust them to tell you which new products are worth it and which aren't. But there are some things that, to my amazement, a lot of people don't know about beauty departments and the lovely ladies who work in them.

As a slight disclaimer: I haven't worked in every beauty department. Obviously. Every type of store is different and has different rules and regulations, and some of these may not apply to you, or may not apply to those you know who work in these departments. That being said, I did work in a beauty department whose main store was part of a large nationwide chain, and I can tell you that things are relatively the same in all of those stores. Read with a grain of salt, as you always should, and keep in mind this is written from my own perspective.

1. We don't use unopened products on you when you come in for a makeup consult
This one... I have no words. Someone had posted a comment on a YouTube video a short while back asking the poster about her makeup consultation experiences, saying she had a makeover appointment the next day and was mortified to hear that cosmetic departments/stores use testers to do these consultations.

*Sigh*. If this comes as a shock to you, reading this, take a seat. Yes, we use testers on your face. That might sound a lot more mortifying to you germaphobes and clean freaks than it really is. We can't exactly open a brand new product to use every single time a customer comes in to get her makeup done. We realize that these testers are out all the time, and we realize other people touch these products throughout the day. Makeup artists have alcohol disinfectant and spray each and every product, then proceed to wipe it down before use, and then again after use. The brushes we use are washed after each use. Every single shift I did when I worked in cosmetics, before I closed up I would spend five or ten minutes cleaning all of the day's brushes before going home.

The mascaras, we have disposable mascara wands. If you're wary about the brushes, we have sponges, we have applicators. For the lip pencils and brow pencils, we have sharpeners. Things are clean before we put them on your face, don't you worry your delicate little soul. If you have questions about a specific location/store, call the beauty advisor who's there and ask her. Tell her about your concerns and she will do her best to make sure they are met.

2. You'd be surprised what being nice gets you
This one is store-specific. I can't speak for any other type of store, but where I worked we sold a variety of different makeup brands, as well as fragrances and nearly each brand (mostly makeup) had their own set of drawers wherein we would store gifts with purchase, or GWP. So, reps for a specific brand will come in and give us a bunch of products in cute little packaging and we will advertise it as per regulation. Those types of things get snatched up pretty quickly.

Now that's not what I'm talking about. A lot of the time, we would get really nice, and I mean really nice stuff for our fragrances. So if someone bought, let's say, a 100ml bottle of Dolce & Gabbana's new scent, they're supposed to get a gratis makeup bag to go with it. Or a gratis sun towel, or a purse. These are just examples, but they're actual things that we would get in our store to give away to people who bought these specific perfumes.

Here's where the 'being nice' part comes in. These items come in so much, and on top of that they aren't advertised very clearly. They build up, and more often than not the beauty advisor forgets it's even there to give you when you buy the fragrance. Not that you'll mind, you didn't even know it existed. Where I worked, we had a set of about 10 drawers filled with bags, swag, keychains...even a set of nice headphones... really nice stuff, with little stickers on them that said "yours free with the purchase of a 100ml bottle of whatever". It builds up, it gets forgotten. I used to always try to make a point to remember what sorts of things were in there, so that I could give my customers a gratis item if they're eligible. But if I ever had a customer who was just so sweet to me, who really made my day, I would just give them something nice. It benefits me, it means they'll come back because they remember my kindness, and it benefits them, obviously, because they left my store with a gift they didn't think they were getting when they came in to buy face wash.

Be nice to your beauty advisers. They have the power.

3. If a certain person helped you with your product choices, purchase from them
This one might seem obvious, we've all been to a store and while in the checkout, you'll get the question "did anyone help you today?" I always feel guilty when I say no; was there someone who was supposed to help me? That usually happens in a clothing store, and damned if I know the courtesies for that, but with cosmetics, at least where I worked, it's an every woman for herself sort of deal. We worked off of commission, and even though a little extra pocket money is always nice, when you work such a job where your livelihood is all about your clientèle, you do your best to make every customer and every guest happy.

Where I worked, we would often have certain discounts on certain days of the week. I can't even tell you how many times I would work on any given day, and I would spend maybe an hour of my time helping someone who's really very lovely pick out the products that would work best for her skin and her lifestyle, then be ready to get her to checkout, and hearing "can you put those on hold for discount day tomorrow?" *cue sigh of 'not again'* Giving these women the benefit of the doubt, it's not their job to single-handedly support my commission cheque, and it makes perfectly good sense to spend the hour or so in the store picking out what you want ahead of time so that on the discount day, when the store is busier, you can just swoop in and claim your on-hold purchases, and be done with it.

For the love of all things beautiful, though, ladies... If you take up a somewhat significant amount of time with a certain beauty advisor, check out with that person. She made the sale, she worked with your skin, she knows you and she can help you again the next time you come in. (Yes, I meant to make that rhyme. I have many talents.)

4. Stingy with Samples
Asking for a ton of samples when you aren't planning on buying anything (we know. We always know) is like taking a bite out of every apple at the supermarket with no intention of actually picking one kind to buy. In other words: I'd prefer to save my samples for the people who make purchases and not stuff the hands of those who have no plan to do so.

To clarify: I'm not talking about coming in and trying to decide between two different shades of a foundation you've been thinking about purchasing so asking the beauty advisor to take home a little sample of each to test them out. There's nothing wrong with that. I encourage that. But when I say samples, I mean perfume samples, skincare samples, the kind of things that draw you in at the line up in Sephora. I'm happy to give out any samples at all to people who genuinely intend to appreciate them, use them, and potentially come back to buy a full sized version if you like it.

Alright, that's all I have today. I'd like to make a part two at some point, but I hope you enjoyed my tales and tips of working in a beauty department.

Have you ever worked in a beauty department or a beauty store? Do you agree with any of my tips and thoughts? Let me know.

Disclaimer: Header image from, edited by me.

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