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76 Comments

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Profile photo of Rikki

Like you said, depends on location. I’ve gone to three different MAC counters in one mall (Dillard’s, Belk, and Nordstrom) and have had bad luck with some, good luck with some. It really just depends on the person working there.
Rikki Recently Posted: top five lipsticks for spring.

Profile photo of Lotus

It depends on where I go and who’s working. Some truly have the needs of the consumers at heart and will help them find what’s best for them even if it is not what they represent, however, others lie to push “their” products regardless of the sincere journey the person took to get there and locate something. They want sales. Period. To me, that’s not helpful. At counters where they are proficient in their products and can adequately recommend, I find them helpful as well as those who lend a hand either way except just for their benefit. I rejected a job when Benefit was just starting because of what the department store head of cosmetics expected of me yet that was not of Benefit’s owners’ knowledge. When I know I want, I just want quickly in and out without any interjections. Again it depends on place and people working. <3

Profile photo of Alexandra

Yeah, that’s pretty much the whole of it. It really depends, and I will go back to a counter a few times so I can ask questions of different SAs and gauge just how much of a damn they give. Unfortunately, where I live, I’ve only met three counter people that aren’t willing to smile, nod, and do whatever it takes to make a sale. Of the three, two actually knew their product, and the third might’ve been new or covering a shift at that particular counter. 🙁 Makes me sad.

Profile photo of Ryou

I find it depends on:

– Brand: Different brands may not have the exact same hiring requirements, and training would most certainly vary between brands.

– Location: Apart from internal regulations enforced by, say, the department store the counter is located at, I find that cultural differences between sales assistants in different countries can be very drastic. For example, Indonesian sales assistants usually have rather unrealistic sales goals that they have to meet if they don’t want to get a pay cut, and this results in them pushing products to potential customers like crazy.

– The person themselves: This one boils down to personality and the ability to empathize with your customer. You can’t exactly help if you don’t care about your customer and just want them to pay and get out of the door!

That being said, Chanel sales assistants are generally the worst in their snobbiness, and I find this to be the case worldwide. Even equally luxe brands like YSL, Armani, Dior, and Guerlain are better, although it may have something to do with the fact that those four belong to a parent company, unlike Chanel.

I actually have to mention I had a terrible experience at a Chanel counter. The SA told me and my mother she went with the lighter foundation on my mom because she’s been doing this 12 years and she knows people from my region prefer to look lighter. I was so appalled I put down the 90 dollar moisturizer my mom loved, and spent my money at the Lancome counter.

Profile photo of Ryou

I came from Southeast Asia, and I’m veeeery familiar with that issue. It was actually so bad that despite most people in my country having tanned skin, no foundation existed for the longest time that caters to people darker than NC 25-30. (It’s a long history of bias caused by colonization and overall classism)

I can imagine how frustrating it would be to receive that kind of service, though. There is no excuse for that kind of behavior and I’m sorry you had to go through that.

Don’t assume, people, asking and clarifying is easier. Remember that if you work retail, your job is to help your customers, not to decide for them.

Profile photo of Shayni

Same here…just posted about this. I have a “Mediterranean” skin color (as considered by makeup SAs, so I’ve learned), but I’m often told that lighter shades will “brighten” my look, etc. I remember asking a Bare Minerals SA to LOOK at my neck, and my arms, then LOOK at the foundation she was recommending. So she dropped the foundation and decided to try selling bronzer to me. It’s still hard for me to find color matches, but it’s much much better than it used to be. For the most part, though, I can’t imagine I’d be able to find a foundation in a nearby drugstore, or Target, or places like that. Actually, I order my foundation from professional makeup supply places, or brand websites, to avoid the frustration in stores.

Profile photo of Ryou

I actually took classes on beauty retail, and they emphasized so much on asking questions. Some people might prefer lighter-shade foundation (me included, since they tend to oxidize on me), but not everyone does and that’s completely fine! There is no one size fits all approach when it comes to beauty, I find. That’s why I always find it rude when a sales assistant tries to push products on customers without making any effort to find out what they REALLY want.

I’m very lucky that Christine’s coloring is quite close to mine, so it’s easy to figure out what foundation shades would work on me from her amazingly high-quality photos and reviews. However, I can certainly imagine the frustration of trying to find a foundation that matches well. I tend to stick to sheer to medium coverage so it’s more forgiving (also eliminates the need to switch foundations between summer and winter), but I’m also lucky that I don’t need much coverage and my skintone doesn’t vary much throughout the year, so I can’t say my approach would work on everyone. :/

What!!! What an ignorant assumption for her to make. I hope she doesn’t also do the reverse to very pale skinned ladies (like myself)–“I used the darker foundation because I know people with your skin like to be tan.” Umm no, many of us are happy with our skin tone just the way it is and want makeup that matches. Wow!

Profile photo of Ryou

I find that many sales assistants are just lazy when it comes to color-matching. I’m an NC/NW 25-30 at best, and I’ve had someone at MAC look at me for half a second and matched me to NC45.

The few times I was matched perfectly, the sales assistants would sit me down, ask me a few questions (if I tend to go light or dark, if I prefer my undertones neutralized, etc), and then test a few shades on my jawline for me to see — Not for them to decide for me. It does take more time, but ugh, it IS part of their job, so laziness isn’t tolerable.

Profile photo of Shayni

That is truly crazy. Beyond lazy. What? It was the first bottle she managed to pick up? You must have been so confused…the “expert” giving you such a strange “match”! I’m NC35/37 and I’m pretty sure NC45 would make me look like I went swimming in 1980s-style “orange” self-tanners.

Profile photo of Ryou

If it was the first bottle she picked up then I get it, but she just gestured to the foundation display without picking anything up! In her defense, I do have a weird coloring that sometimes makes people think I’m darker than I really am (didn’t help that I used to be peroxide blond, I suppose), and my mixed ethnicity might make it difficult to place me within a range of ethnic-specific skintone. But despite being NC 25, I’d say I look NC 35, at most, so it wasn’t exactly within the acceptable margin or error. :/

Profile photo of Maddie

I can’t say I’ve had a bad experience at Chanel (mostly because I never shop Chanel products), but the two WORST sales experiences I’ve ever had have both been at a Guerlain counter (one at Saks, one at Neiman). SO snobby and unwilling to assist. Sorry I don’t wear designer from head to toe, sales lady, but was willing to spend hundreds on your cosmetics. Their loss.

Profile photo of Ryou

So sorry to hear about your experience, Maddie. 🙁 Whenever I hear something like that happens, I’d always quote Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous in my head: “You only work in a shop, you know, you can drop the attitude”. Some snobby SA’s forget that they don’t OWN the brand, sadly, and working in a designer store doesn’t automatically make them better than someone working in a fast food place — Both are retail jobs, for a start.

Profile photo of Sylirael

It depends. Most of them are generally very helpful about their particular product line, but not all of them are very friendly. It’s a bit puzzling to me, since here they’re trying to convince people to shell out three digits worth of money to buy one item from some brands, which I would think would be facilitated by honey rather than vinegar…
Sylirael Recently Posted: The Ultimate Arsenal: Bloom Lipsticks in Ragtime, Charleston, Tint, Petal and Tangerine – Reviews and Swatch Hoard

It really depends on the person at the counter. Some people really do know what they are talking about, others don’t. I once met a great sales person at a MAC counter when I was shopping for my first red lipstick, and she really took her time, talked me through the best options for my coloring and we tried a bunch of stuff. I bought not one, but two and still love them today, years later. For some reason, I unfurtunately only had bad experiences at Chanel counters,

I hope this doesn’t sound bad but not really! As a makeup lover I do a ton of research on products before I buy them so I tend to know all about a product before I go and look at it. That and I read reviews for new stuff (like your amazing blog) all the time so I kinda have an extensive knowledge on all products and brands. That and I find a lot of people at makeup counters just try and sell you things and only know about the products because it’s their job. The store gave them the info and they kinda left it at that, it rare to see some one passionate about their makeup sales job these days!
At my school I’m known as the product queen, you can basically ask me about any product and I can list 2-3 reviews just off the top of my head! Hahah (:

Yes, I typically do find that them helpful–and am impressed by the lengths some have gone to help me. I’ve had SA’s spend nearly an hour trying to find dupes for products I can no longer wear due to allergies or put in time to call corporate for a question, etc. I actually am surprised how little some SA’s are paid.

To be fair, I only like to go shopping during non-busy hours–bc I dislike crowds and SA’s are probably in better moods and are more available to give better service.

Also, it helps that I know and understand myself, my coloring and my product preferences–and communicate this well. I help people help me.

Profile photo of Alison

Depends on the brand. I find some of them quite intimidating and the volume of make-up they wear really off-putting! Do they make them wear everything you can fit at once on your face?

Clinique are really friendly and not pushy at all.
Benefit are really really pushy to the point where I find myself avoiding them even though I love the brand.
MAC just completely ignore me, which has really put me off them.

Note, I live in Scotland. When I vistited the US I found salespeople everywhere just generally nicer – it isn’t just a stereotype, customer service there is just excellent! Either that or they saw my tourist excitement and knew they could rinse me of all my money with just a smile, haha!

Most of the time they are, although the girls from the Mac counter are rude, unless a guy is there, they’re the nicest. Sephora’s people are always nice!

There are some that are definetly knowledgeable and very helpful. But then, there are some that are clearly working their commision and suggesting products left and right, just to make a sale, or increase it.

And then, there are some that you know more than them (I’m looking at you guy from friday at the MAC store), and you have to basically give them a lesson on the brand they are selling. (I have been buying MAC since 1997)

Very well said, Christine! I find the salespeople most passionate and most knowledgeable at the higher-priced brands. Worth mentioning too that these more expensive brands invest (training, education, motivation) in their people much more than the others, so it shows through quite easily.

Generally yes, though I’m mostly basing this on the two stores I usually shop at. The only thing that can be annoying is when they try and suggest too many options or stuff that’s not really in my budget.

My experience isn’t precisely what I call bad but some are just so over-eager to sell and I’m a quiet, contemplative shopper (I can stare at something for hours before deciding to buy it) so I usually feel too harassed and other times they’re too busy goofing off that they never respond to my questions. I am 100% more happy to buy online because I never get what I want at the counters and end up with things I don’t want.

There is this one place where one girl who flat out told me a product wouldn’t work for my skin type and I wanted to shake her hand for being truthful and responding when she was prompted to.

The absolutely nicest, most helpful people I’ve ever met at a make-up counter were the MAC girls at selfridges in London. They took out colors for me that were not in the display, talked to me about the formulas, applied lipstick to me (and offered it too, i didn’t ask!) and at no point pressured me to buy especially after she found out that the exchange rate would kill me! (they are 15 dollars in the us and 15 pounds in the uk so that like 25 dollars)

Profile photo of Wwendy

I have found a few supremely talented and enthusiastic jewels out there, but the majority of the time, no! Biggest peeve: pushing more and more products from their line. I recognize this is their job, but the smart ones show you how to use the product with the one you just bought and introduce you gently without pressure knowing this is what will keep you coming back to them; the trust that they will only promote products which will truly work for you. I’ve also met a couple of people who opened my eyes to colour possibilities and had a real eye for knowing what would work well on various skin tones. I typically get slotted in the ‘warm’ category, but too warm colours wash me out. My dude at the NARS counter was just the best for picking out products I thought I could never wear and knowing they would be fantastic.

For me, people at MAC are extremely helpful, but there is a good bit of longevity at the store and counter I go to, so I have known some of them 7+ years. Needless to say, the know the products and my likes/dislikes very well.

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