How do you handle aggressive salespeople?

I try to give them a firm, “I’m just looking,” or “I’ll let you know if I need help, but for now, I just want to look on my own!” If they really push, then I’ll leave.

— Christine
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Aggressive and negative salespeople seem to have become less prevalent here, and it’s one of the reasons I got into makeup: I wasn’t intimidated or depressed by it anymore.
Earlier this year I went into a store looking for a specific type of lipstick, and the artist insisted on making up my whole face. I let him because I had time to kill (waiting for an off peak train) and clearly so did he. That doesn’t happen very often. But as he was going he made all sorts of negative comments about my face, put on almost as much concealer as foundation (for my masculine eyebrows and redness), completely transformed my face (which I’m not a fan of. I still like to look like me). Then tried to sell me nearly £1000 worth of product. I got what I was after and they’re among my favourite lipsticks, and just held firm. Sometimes that stuff gets into your head though, and I actually ran the comments by a counter I go to a fair amount. They were horrified (my brows are normal and my colouring is normal). I laugh about it as an abberation now… although might find dupes when these lipsticks run out.

Exactly what you said, Christine! And then, as I leave the store, I think what I really wanted to say (but never, ever would): “If you weren’t such a pushy @#$%, I might actually have bought something!!!” Lol 😉

On the other hand, there are many times when I bought a makeup product that I might not have, because the salesperson was so wonderful. What a difference a good personality and sales technique make!

I learned from the workplace advice blog Ask a Manager to act completely surprised when someone is pushy. So I’ll open my eyes real wide and say, “Oh- I said I’m just looking.” Like I think maybe they’re confused.
The response has always been that the person acts like they forgot, or they go, “no, you’re right, I’ll let you shop!”
The only time a person pushed back, it was a man who said, “I’m just ~trying~ to ~help~ you,” so I kept looking confused, “but I told you I don’t want help. What’s going on here?” And then he backed off.

SAME! My online vs. in-store shopping ratio is probably like 99:1. If it’s not a pushy “sales” person, it’s a helplessly bored floor employee whose manager is on top of him or her to “engage the customers”. Lush has a bad reputation for this, which is why I’ve never stepped foot inside of one. Sephora can be annoying, Ulta less so, Small boutiques are the absolute worst, yet the only actual necessary evil due to the inability to get a lot of their stuff online. (The Cosmetics Company Store, Luxury Beauty Store, etc.)

Like you, I politely, but firmly, state that I’m just looking and that I’ll let them know if I need any help. If they continue to hover, I’ll turn the tables on them. I’ll smile, look them in the eye, and ask them if I can help them. That usually flusters them enough that they say no and wander off. In the very rare cases that they’re really persistent, I just flat out tell them that their aggressiveness is making me uncomfortable and that they need to back off and let me look or I’ll have to call the manager. There is absolutely no reason why a good customer should flee a counter just because a sales associate is being intrusive.

Although I would actually avoid the term `aggressive` with sales representatives since it’s so harsh (I think most are just pushy), I do think they should acknowledge that some people feel very uncomfortable when approached. Some people are social butterflies that know how to handle interactions, some are very introvert or quite anxious when approached (especially in a pushy matter). There’s a fine line between being helpful and making someone uncomfortable; and that’s why sales people MUST have social skills/high communication intelligence.

Oh geesh I really had this issue for the longest time in Ulta. Those sales people who are sales reps for certain companies–this one was working for Lancome. She sought me out every single time I was in Ulta. It didn’t matter what I was doing or even where I was in the prestige-brand section (if I stayed on the drugstore-brand side she stayed away). The very first time (before I got wise to her just basically working to sell Lancome) I had her help me find a certain color of a different brand and she tried selling me a Lancome thing totally unrelated to what I was looking for–as if to imply I had a problem with that area of beauty. Then I got wise so the next time I was in there and she asked if I needed help I said no. The times after that she got increasingly aggressive so by this time I was pretty rude in rejecting her “help.” She wouldn’t accept this and the last time I saw her, she ignored a younger woman in the same aisle as I was and made a straight beeline for me. That was it for me. It was so blatantly obvious that she was targeting me for being an older woman (in her brand’s selling market, obviously) and so I complained to the cashier and manager. I don’t believe she works there any longer. I feel badly if she did indeed lose her job (I even told the manager that I didn’t want her to lose her job but just accept that I personally don’t want her to bother me) but perhaps other older women complained too. Sorry to be so lengthy but this was really driving me away from Ulta for a couple years.

I had one of those types of women at Ulta a few years ago. I went there for a new ABH Brow Wiz pencil, but she kept trying to sell me a pencil by IT Cosmetics. She told me that Brow Wiz is a terrible product (note: I’ve been happily using it for years). At the time, I was open to trying a new brow product, so I gave in and bought the IT pencil. I returned it the next day because it was just so wrong for me. The next couple times I went to that store, she relentlessly hounded me about products I didn’t want and ruined my makeup shopping experience. I wound up going to a different Ulta for a long time after that. She’s gone now, thank goodness.

It seems like one of two things happen every time I go to Sephora/Ulta: (1) I get a pushy salesperson who won’t leave me alone, or (2) I get ignored completely, and when I finally get someone to help me, they act like I’m bothering them, like they’d rather be helping anyone else but me (a Rouge/Platinum member). This is why I prefer to shop at department store makeup counters. Sales associates are usually a lot nicer.

Personally, I’m just great at ignoring people and living in my own bubble. 😆 I’m quite an introvert in want to be left alone most time. I just say `I’m looking, I’ll let you know if I need something` and continue in my own head space. If they are pushy, I’m simply ignoring them hoping they’ll take the hint.

If they don’t get the message after I tell them I’m just browsing, I will generally just leave. Once I really wanted a specific product but the saleswoman was so pushy with me, I actually left, drove to another location and purchased the product. I refuse to reward that kind of aggressive sales behaviour with a commission from my purchase. I like that in general, Sephora is not too bad, although you run into an odd pushy employee from time to time. Perhaps they don’t work on commission, but you’d better believe they have sales goals!

I feel better-equipped to handle “pushers” now that I work as a beauty associate myself (and on the job, I tend to be more like, “Let me know if you need help,” to the chagrin of management lol). I’ll often steer the conversation to relating our work experiences instead of talking about whatever I’m shopping for.

It’s great to hear the other side also speak out and share their perspectives. 🙂 I think that the management might be the issue sometimes, `forcing` the employees to be pushy and keeping their eyes on sales people to make sure they engage more than they should (and critiquing them if not).

One thing that I’ve found works is when I demonstrate that I know more about the products than they do (asking about when a new launch will arrive, mentioning reviews I’ve read or products I’ve tried, etc.) . I mean generally I do like discussing products with salespeople if they aren’t treating me like a clueless customer waiting to be fooled by the next life changing expensive products. (One time in Barneys the SA tried to get me excited about the “new” lip colors from Rodin, but it was clearly just a marketing ploy or misinformation because they had been in stores for months already.) .

I did have a mediocre experience in Sephora the other day when I was trying to get matched to the Ilia foundation (she acted like the information I told her about what I wear in other ranges was irrelevant and was stupid for having mentioned it, and then told me in a judgy way that my face is lighter than my hands which is… hilariously not even true.) I’m willing to put up with people like that if I’m getting something like a foundation sample in return, but I won’t ever ask that particular woman for help in the future. Brands should definitely realize that pushy salespeople=more customers buying online.

The Sephora that my daughter and I most often frequent, which is 3 hours away, has several really pushy SA’s. The problem is that there are so many of them and when they have down time they don’t really notice that several other SA’s have already approached you. So, I allow them all a one time, “Can I help you” and then I am out of there. My daughter has a technique that she always uses and that is to put her earbuds in and listen to music so even if they speak to her she doesn’t hear them and they usually get the picture. She did it all over Europe when street hawkers were aggressive. The SA’s that follow me around like they think I might be going to steal something are the ones that really get me. I am completely non confrontational so never really say anything too aggressive. The only time I did so was when an SA at a JC Penny’s store kept trying to sell me a product other than the one I wanted and which they were sold out of and I finally had to tell her that I didn’t want a substitute product. She left in a huff and since she was the only associate in the store at that time, she wouldn’t help me with anything else. I was okay with that.
My daughter is a very difficult colour match and SA’s are always colour matching her wrong. She has finally gotten to the point where she tells them that if she bought their recommendation she would look like an oompa lumpa when she wore it.

It’s taken me a long time to get to the point where I feel comfortable saying this, but now my go-to is:

“I was interested in buying something, but now I’m not. Have a nice day.” I say this very politely/gently, but clearly.

Then I leave.

I guess I see this as constructive criticism: if I’m feeling so pressured or uncomfortable that my desire to shop has been quashed, I’m probably not the only one of their potential customers who feels this way and is losing their business. Letting the salesperson know that I am leaving, and why, will hopefully help them reassess their aggressive approach.

Then there are other places that are so bad at taking “no” for an answer that I won’t even go there anymore. Lush, for example — even after I firmly state “no thank you, I am not interested in trying or smelling anything” or “no thank you, I am only here to pick up a replacement [x],” I’ve had them literally push products into my hands, grab my hands and apply a product without my consent, shove a product directly under my nose, or literally trail me through the store trying to get me to look at other products.

The first few are major violations of my personal space and wellness, as far as I’m concerned. Their products aren’t packaged, so even placing something in my hands (much less APPLYING IT TO MY SKIN) could set off a contact allergy — and many scents are migraine triggers for me, so placing something right under my nose is a huge problem.

It’s a pity, since I really used to like their shampoo bar.

That’s a good method to have. Politely but firmly excusing yourself is a difficult skill to learn, but so valuable. I only go to stores like Lush if I’m actively interested in having something new and under $25 sold to me that day.

I almost always can handle them with the: “I’m just looking/checking out the new launches” or, if I sense that I’m being “shadowed” or negatively profiled; my comeback can go one of two ways. Either to begin a conversation that I know will bore them to tears, just make them think I’m a bit too strange (these first 2 can also happen unintentionally, too!), or turn around and put it back on THEM! Basically make them feel a bit put off, instead!
Once in awhile I do get myself into a situation where I can get so overwhelmed that I do get talked into buying something I wasn’t fully committed to. But, that’s getting to be more and more of a rare occurrence, thank goodness.

My worst experience actually wasn’t with makeup. I was ring shopping with my now ex and he suggested I look at Tiffany’s (he was very insecure about how people perceived him so he was big on labels). I went in and asked if they carried cushion or radiant cut diamonds and by the way, anything other than a solitaire because I hated solitaire, and she very snootily was like, “This is *Tiffany’s*. We only do princess cut solitaires and we’re very famous.” Then here’s the worse part: she physically grabbed my hand and shoved a ring on my finger and proceeded to launch into her 10 minute sales pitch and then ended it with a smug look on her face and was all like, “Isn’t it fabulous? I’m sure you love it.” And I took it off, set it on the counter and stated firmly, “No, I hate it. As I explained when I walked in, I am looking for radiant or cushion cut non solitaires, which you’re obviously not going to be able to provide me.” And stormed out so fast that I left my flex in in the store stumbling after me. I was sooo angry but more so because of the physical contact and having something forced on me.

The second time someone attempted to touch me was I walked into a 100% Pure store and the sales lady came at me with one of those powder inside the brush contraptions and was like, “Try this highlighter!” and tried to reach over to dust my face with it—I jumped back and flat out was like, “Yuck! Not on my face, ugh!!” Gross…how many other people had she been touching that with?!? And what’s up with the near physical assaults in stores!!!

In the past 2 years, since I have become allergic to so many ingredients, I put my hand up, and say, ‘Thanks, but I have so many allergies that I try nothing without reading the ingredients first.’ The worst was the scent woman in Bloomie’s. With her, I always asked if the scent contained Benzyl Salicylate, a fragrance modifier. (And they never know.). Then I give them some info on BS, and say, ‘Well, you don’t want my temp dropping to 93 right here in the store?’ Once I said that, even probably not believing me, they never assaulted me with a sprayer again. And the 93 is totally true.

Il say I’m just looking if it’s in a store, sometimes I let them show me a product and il say thanks and leave if they really want to. To be fair, no ones too aggressive in actual shops, it’s more the beauty stalls in shopping centres (malls) that try make you let them buff your nails or try a hand cream. I literally had to run away from a woman trying to curl my hair when I refused and she didn’t listen. With those salespeople I don’t even acknowledge them anymore, walk fast, and keep my distance. Best done with earphones.

Yes, the people at those stalls can be so pushy!! I once had a sales person ask me, very loudly, as I was walking by, “hey, can I ask you a question??” To which I loudly replied, “you just did!!” and kept walking. Hearing the laughter from the other stalls was awesome.

Having worked in retail, I know how demanding managers can be (“Did you greet that customer?, Did you tell her about the new promotion? Be sure to show her the new products. We didn’t meet our goal yesterday so let’s step it up today, etc”). So I always cut the sales associates some slack even when they are aggressive because I’m sure there’s a manager watching them from around the corner. My standard reply is, “No thanks. I’m just browsing.”

One of the many reasons I love online shopping. I don’t have to interact with others (I work 2 jobs and get enough of that at work).

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