It has been a long time since I've felt so cross about something that it's compelled me to write about it. How times have changed from when this was Little Miss B 10 years ago and basically built from rants. But I keep hearing from people who have had horrible experiences getting in-store make overs so here's my guide to make-up shopping. I'm also setting up a whole page on Where to Shop which you can find here - it's a work in progress so bear with me.
Before I start I would like to state that I do not work in retail (I have done) and have a great respect for those that do. It is a demanding job where you are on your feet all day and dealing with members of the public who can be difficult. That being said, as with any job, you will get people who are terrible and for something as personal as make-up this can have repercussions. One of my friends had an awful experience recently* - badly done make-up, terrible, rude service and being forced to purchase
products she now hates the sight of (and is returning next week -
Probably my favourite bit from Pretty Honest
by Sali Hughes is the 'Managing Counter Staff' chapter. If you have this book read this section every time before you go make-up shopping. Every time. Despite the existence of this comprehensive guide I'm writing my own - partly spurred on by my rage at my friend R having such a horrible experience on her birthday.I'm hearing about it to often and it really is unnecessary. Shopping for make-up should be fun. Always
It's 2017. The make-up and beauty industry has been never been bigger and that growth is set to continue. With the competition in make-up artistry, the advent of YouTube tutorials and Instagram make-up there really is no excuse for brands to have inadequately trained staff, often required to be over-made-up. Lots of people want to work for brands now so picking staff based on retail experience is not good enough. Good hygiene practices and empathy with the customer are things that are severely lacking from a lot of counter-staff I've come into contact with.
Having your make-up done 'on counter' especially in a big department store is terrifying for the majority of people. I am a trained make-up artist and having to sit in the middle of Selfridges or John Lewis with no make-up on while a stranger puts things on my face is an anxious experience for me. You are there, often with minimal to no make-up, someone you have never met, touching your face, offering up opinions on what they would 'fix' or 'cover', often less than tactfully, and then applying products which often you won't see until they are finished. Making customers feel insecure and uncomfortable makes me particularly cross when its normally those who don't wear a lot of make-up or know a lot about it who go to a counter for a make over.
Their main aim should be to make you feel as relaxed and comfortable as possible. A relaxing, happy experience with well done make-up will guarantee sales and a returning customer. A salesperson with inadequate make-up skills making someone feel vulnerable and uncomfortable will only ensure that person will never return to that brand and that they also tell their friends to steer clear. Of course a make-up artist may not get it right every time, often its hard to convey to someone the exact look you have in mind, but if it's well done and you feel you look good then that's fine. So here are some pointers that can help you in any make-up buying situation. Even if the staff in a particular place are really nice and professional, being prepared will help you have an enjoyable and successful shop.
Be Brave - you probably will feel like you should buy something and that you should say how much you love your make-up but if you are not happy with something say so.
Be Prepared - if I'm going to a counter to try things out and know I will feel the need to make a purchase (it doesn't take much to force my hand into make-up purchases), I do a quick inventory of my make-up stash and see if there's anything I genuinely need. I'm always up for a new mascara or eye shadow for example, but will be more choosy about foundations. It also helps to know what you are going to say if you are unhappy with the service and don't want to make a purchase. I always want to be powerful but end up with the wishy-washy - 'I'm going to have a think about it and come back' - we both know what that means, but it works.
Choose Wisely - there will probably be brands that you like the look or sound of or have had recommended (I've had good experiences with Bobbi Brown, Laura Mercier and always indifferent but thorough service at Charlotte Tilbury). Always go to someone who's make-up you like the look of. Even if it's more than you would wear but done well then that's the person you want to do yours. An orange person with a foundation line on their jawline and badly done flick liner is not going to do it better on you. Most brands encourage staff to wear a certain amount of make-up - worth noting.
Payment - I have never been asked to pay or make minimum purchases for a make over. And when working on counter I would do make overs in the hopes that they would be happy enough to make a purchase but with no assumption that they would. If you are happy with your experience then the purchase of an item of your choice - a lipstick, or eyeshadow - is fine. Getting a pencil sharpener is just annoying and cheap. On a personal note my favourite bit of working in retail is doing makeovers so you shouldn't feel like you are being a massive pain in the arse. If they like make-up they'll like doing your make-up.
Purchases - most counter staff work on commission so if you are unhappy with the service from one, move on to another. If you are not happy with something some brands will accept returns via the head office though not usually through the store unless completely unopened. If you are unsure on whether to get something or not, then ask for a sample - especially of creams, foundations etc which can change with more use, different lighting etc. But don't go bonkers.
If you are unhappy then leave the products in the bag and take them back in a couple of days and speak to a manager and just tell them your experience and return the items. If you are really unhappy with your experience then write a letter to head office to complain. They ultimately want happy customers who will return and spend. Unhappy customers will talk to their friends and never return. I also find it cathartic.
In the same way that it's good to complain it's also very nice to give good feedback when you've had a good experience - not necessarily a letter to head office but a mention to the manager of the desk or a mention on social media. I am still telling everyone who will listen how great Hayley at Laura Mercier, Selfridges is (nearly two years after first meeting her) and that started with a tweet to both Laura Mercier and Selfridges. And don't go in expecting the worst. People are more likely to talk about their bad experiences than the good - make-up is supposed to be enjoyable so go and enjoy it.
* I'm naming and shaming - it was the Laura Mercier counter at John Lewis is Kingston. I should mention I
recommended she try Laura Mercier as I'd always had a great experience
with them - Hayley at Selfridges, Oxford Street is particularly