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Rant & Rave: Makeup Counters

This Week’s Topic: Makeup Counters

Share: Tell us what you love, hate, or are otherwise indifferent to about makeup counters. Fun to go to? Only if you really need something?

my answer: The experience always depends on the sales associate working. Generally, I’ve come to prefer shopping online, only because then I don’t feel compelled to buy anything because someone is nearby, hovering over my shoulder. I like being able to play with the products in-person, though.

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Ugh, I hate that. I went into Aveda in downtown Vancouver a few years ago and I asked them what their best volumizing products were. I knew of a few, but I was surprised when the only one she mentioned was the most expensive one in the store. It was a powder and the one I wanted was the liquid — I even asked if they had a good liquid version. She lied to my face, so I picked it up in front of her and then she rolled her eyes and made me feel like a cheapskate. The one I wanted was about $25. The one she wanted to sell me was like $30.

I don’t really care for “traditional” counters, but I don’t like online shopping, either. I much prefer to go to a store such as Sephora, ULTA, etc., so I can see & swatch the item I want, and just grab it and go to the counter to pay. Also, I can see immediately that it’s actually in stock, instead of *finally* getting someone to help me only to tell me it’s out, but would I like to try something else (usually *completely* different) instead? Another advantage to going into a store is that I can better control my spending; if I add up what’s in my basket, I can easily decide what needs to be put back until next time (which does happen frequently, LOL), and I don’t have to justify it to anyone; I can also weigh the “need” factor in more easily when I have everything in front of me. I’ve never had the experience of “hovering” or feeling pressured in these stores, but if I need something, there has always been someone to help.

I’m with you, Christine. Plus, I frequently feel like they have poor taste and think I’m tanner than I am or at least want to make me tanner.

I only go as a last resort. If I need to repurchase and don’t want to wait for an item to be mailed or if the dept store is the only place I can check out new products and purchase if I like the product…but with any store …. when I say “I am just looking, I will find you if I have any questions” please don’t follow me around and continue to hound and push me to buy.

There is only one department store with makeup counters where I live, and they have a very limited selection and are severely understaffed. I spent 10 minutes standing around waiting for someone to notice I was there before just leaving to go place an order online. These days I pretty much stick to online shopping for anything I can’t get at Target/CVS.

I’ve never had a good experience at a department store makeup counter. I rarely go to them. I don’t care for the high pressure sales tactics, being obviously up sold on stuff I haven’t asked for and rude treatment from sales associates who’ve deemed me unworthy of their time for some reason. Guess what; it’s a self fulfilling prophecy, if you treat me poorly because you don’t think I’m going to buy enough, I won’t.

The sales associates at my local MAC store are terrible! It takes forever to get one’s attention because they’re too busy socializing, usually with each other. Now I only go there to see the products in person, then I go home and order online.

It depends on the person helping me, but also the company culture as well. I worked for Lush a few years ago, and while the associates are very hands-on, I know they aren’t working commission and are encouraged to be fun and up-beat and friendly. At a lot of the department store counters I feel like money is the only motivation — they aren’t really interested in providing an “experience.”

MAC can be hit-or-miss with that. I find I get ignored a lot when I walk in, but occasionally an associate will use that to her advantage to give me a really great one-on-one experience when she sees me drifting from display to display.

The best department store brand I’ve found for up-beat sales agents has been Bobbi Brown — not sure why, but they’re always very warm and helpful.

The worst was probably Benefit or Estee Lauder. The former surprised me, given that their products are all so vintage-y and cute.

I was going to comment that although Lush is a freestanding store and not even selling makeup products primarily, I wish more traditional makeup counters would adopt their business model. Every Lush associate I have ever encountered (multiple stores, multiple different cities) has always known the brand and its products up and down. When I ask for suggestions, they always manage to find the perfect item for me. Sometimes I’m not in the mood to talk and they can seem overly chipper, but overall they’re always courteous, knowledgeable, and helpful.

I don’t know if this is still the case, but when I joined we had a full two-day, 16-hour training session in a hotel room (which was so much fun), where we’d learn about the products and play and work with nearly all of them. Then you’d get re-upped every three months or so and there was an entirely separate training program for Christmas, which was a one-day retreat at a local hotel ballroom. Again, so much fun.

The best thing about Lush training was that they made you love the products, but they encouraged you to be honest if there were ones you didn’t like, or ones that didn’t work for you. In other words, they encouraged us to be honest — which is key when you’re telling people to use products. If someone recommends that I use something and it does nothing for me or actively makes things worse, not only do I not trust that rep, but I don’t trust the brand as a whole.

It’s a catch 22 for me. They always on my ass when I just want to test the products, but when i actually want to buy they are GONE! What is that?

It depends in where. In counters like sephora and Ulta where I can try and play with the makeup without someone bothering me, yes, I like. In department stores like Macy’s where they have their own little counters and the sales associate don’t want you to touch their products and act like you are gonna steal them, no, I don’t like it. I go and buy online when I know exactly what I want to get, like my repurchases. When it comes to foundation shades, I have to go to the counters. Then, I buy online so I can get samples and freebies. I use them for my travel because of the 3-1-1 airplane rules. I can toss my larger makeup in the checked in luggage (I tape my lids and covers and put in large ziplock bags separating makeup with skincare and gifts, I don’t have any spillage or breakage. Eyeshadows and powders go into carry on though). I don’t know why but online seems to have better deals than buying in person. And with stores like Nordstrom, the shipping is free, so I don’t have the hassle of being pressured. I can also compare prices online so I know I’m getting a better deal elsewhere. Whereas at the counters, I’ve made purchases based on recommendations of sales associates that I later regret. And some counters are very stingy with their samples, or give none at all. If I am going to spend more than $50 on a product, I want to make sure that it works great on me!

Generally I like having products immediately and seeing them in person, but it drives me nuts when I know more about a product or launch than the reps working at a counter, especially the higher-end brands.

Although the last time this happened and I showed them the product from one of your reviews on my phone, the rep was like “what is this website, you are the second girl to show me this page today.” You’re so famous!

lol! I’ve had to show MAC employees this website several times when asking for certain collections. Christine is more up to date with product launches than half of their staff..

I dislike them, and haven’t gone to one in years. Since I’m younger, the sales associates never take me seriously, even when I show genuine interest in a product. I also hate being pressured to buy something.

Online shopping’s the easiest, but I do like being able to see products and colors in person. At least stores like Sephora and Ulta are big enough so that I can hide from the salespeople. (Ironically, the salespeople at my local Ulta are nowhere to be found when you actually need help.)

I don’t like makeup counters at all, I think they are misleading many people just to sell what they need to sell. I’d love to shop online but in my country online options are limited so I’m sticking to Douglas & Sephora to get what I want:)

My sentiments exactly-I love to experiment at the counters but buy online.It gives me a chance to think about the product and not be pressured.

“Counters” never seem to have enough staff. While at the one in Macy’s this past weekend (the mall didn’t have a freestanding)because my friend INSISTED on getting her foundation right then.. we stood and WAITED and WAITED for almost 20 minutes for help. I also noticed there are more people that “try on” the colors right on their lips, eyes etc (GROSS).. Right from the display pots/tubes, maybe its because of the lack of staff or guidance. I don’t see that as much in the freestanding stores and when I have, the staff was RIGHT ON IT.

I’ve noticed that too! I cringe especially when I see people put on mascara directly from the tester applicator… That’s why I always swatch on my hand and bring my own wipes!

My issue with makeup counters is that I keep finding that a lot of the sales associates aren’t very qualified and have no idea about the products. I have to wind up looking stuff up on my phone a lot of the time. Also, I hate when the sales associate is older and tries to keep me from buying good skincare items because I’m in my 20s. There seems to be a consensus among certain brands that they are only for mature women, not younger people as well.

It’s more of a love/hate feelings for me, because I really need to see the product and swatch it before purchasing it, but most salespersons where I live look at clients like walking money bags! They sometimes can be rude and say awful things about your skin or lashes to make you feel bad and push you into buying a certain product they’re promoting! But whenever I hit the counters I’m always aware of exactly what I want to buy and I do my research first on potential shades when it comes to makeup, and I learned to have a thick skin when dealing with pushy salespersons and become a ill stubborn sometimes.

I let the pressure get to me far too much. And I awkwardly got short changed once whilst at a Benefit counter. They had to count up the til before giving me my change back, and it sorta put me off!

I agree that it depends on who is working. Sometimes they can be nice but even then I don’t really like to be bothered, I just like to play around a little bit and then ask for what I want. If I had to choose any setup I’d want one like Sephora but in places like department stores where they have counters. I can play with the stuff, grab my own goodies and there will be people walking around if I need help.

If I wasn’t so impatient and didn’t have to test things in person I would prefer online shopping too.

I love make up counters because I often find, from a little chit chat with the staff, one can find out interesting stuff that is coming out soon or interesting information about the brand. I’m currently applying to be on a make up stand in Debenhams and have vowed not to be one of those assistants who hovers around, making customers feel rushed!

I live in Orange County. The only MAC flagship store that is close in my area, is located in one, of the most, expensive malls in Ca. I wanted to get a palette and you can’t get them in Macy’s etc.. If you go in there and are not 16-25, sporting a high end bag and outfit, they don’t really give you the time of day. I would rather just get MAC from dept stores.

I get really good service at the SCP store usually, but I can see where you’re coming from with the way you feel! The only time I didn’t get service was when everyone decided to go off to lunch at the same time, leaving only one person on the floor and one person at the register. My suggestion is to go when they open or in the afternoon. Other than that, there’s 2 other MAC stores in OC as well, Brea or Mission Viejo, that have pretty decent service as well. 🙂

This is a tough one. I’ve had some seriously bad experiences, but there have been some good ones too. I had someone a few days ago try very hard to convince me to buy lipliner when I had said a few times that I really don’t use one and just wanted to get a lipstick. I’ve run away not getting the one thing I came for from sales reps that were really aggressive. Not every sales person is pushy, but I find more often then not that they are. I blame the store for pressuring them for higher sales figures. It trickles over and before you know it they’re scaring off customers with desperate attempts to up-sell just to keep their jobs.

I couldn’t agree more with the sales pressure from management creating aggressive tactics and scaring employees into acting in such a way. This is the one reason I will never return to retail (clothing/cosmetics stores) for a job.

I prefer a counter. I don’t like stores where customers can touch the stock. I always feel like someone has opened it and tried it on before I purchased it. I like the neatness and cleaniness of a counter.

I look very young without make-up so when I go shopping no one pays attention to me. I like to be comfortable on the weekends so I usually go in jeans and a zip-up hoodie. I like to play with the make-up as well, but no one ever pays attention and when they do they think I can’t afford it. I have noticed that if I carry my Louis Vuitton handbag and wear my jeans and hoodie, I get immediate attention. It’s really sad that now it comes natural to me to brush off all the workers. I’d rather take the product, have it be a miss, and return/exchange it than deal with all the BS. It’s so sad :/

Yes, i agree 100% with you Christine. I try to hide out as much as possible while I play with the products hoping no one starts to hover over me.

I totally agree – I have both a rant and a rave! First, the rant…

I was at the Saks Burberry counter in NYC before the holidays, and I had come in to browse. I had been repeatedly told that they will do your makeup without you needing to buy anything – so nice, right? – and I wanted to see how the products would wear on my skin (I sometimes have trouble with oxidizing, creasing, etc.) The saleslady I worked with, however, told me I HAD to buy two things. I told her that I had been informed that purchase wasn’t mandatory, but she wouldn’t take no for an answer. I bought two things just to get out of there, and returned them a week later. What a waste. I was so disappointed – and it’s changed how I think of the brand and the store too!

And now for my rave! I have had nothing but fantastic experiences at the Bergdorf Goodman Guerlain counter. An aside – if you’re ever in NYC, ask for Marilyn – she’s amazing! The staff there really know what they’re doing, they’re not at all pushy, and they’re incredibly helpful and nice. Not to mention they do a really great job of cleaning all of the brushes and makeup every day – always reassuring!

So I’ve had both – I find going to counters can be very useful, but being pushed into something is NOT okay. I think it just depends.

PS I got my makeup done one time by someone with nice, simple makeup (usually a sign they’re going to do a more toned-down look), but this woman brought blue eyeshadow up to my eyebrows – my husband said I looked like I had my makeup done by a drunken pirate. Yikes!

Next time just ask to try on a specific product. They can’t bully you into buying anything just because you want to test out a color. But when you say the words “do my makeup” it usually refers to a full makeover and that’s something most makeup counters require a minimum purchase for.

You don’t really have to buy something just because the saleslady said you had after she did your makeup. That’s not legal. If that had happened to me, I would have walked away without buying anything.

I wish I had just walked out! It’s just that the burberry ladies make a special point of saying that you DON’T have to buy anything to get all of your makeup done!

I hate to be the person to bring it up, but I always have issues at my MAC store and counter. The makeup artists never listen to what I want — once I asked for a concealer for blemishes and the MA took Studio Finish and put it under my eyes ? I swear I was speaking English.

I want to look myself first when I get to a makeup counter and if I need help I will ask. It is ok when they say: -Please tell me if you need some help and I’ll assist you.
And then they do their own stuff and leave me alone for a while to look at the beauty stuff.

I’m always happy to go to the makeup counter, so that I can try on and actually get something that suits me – especially lipstick that cannot be returned if it’s the wrong colour. I enjoy going to Chanel and speaking with the MUAs. However, if I want something from MAC I look at it in store first and then buy it online if I like it, because the customer service at my local MAC is appalling.

In my opinion, Sephora is the best possible makeup-buying experience. As others have said, you can see immediately if an item is in stock, and I have found the SA’s to be helpful but not annoyingly pushy. They seem to wait until you look confused to swoop in, not immediately.

One recent amazing experience: it was New Years Eve and I stopped by Sephora to grab the MUFE Holodiam powder to put over my dark eye makeup (I decided I wanted it because of the review here!!). I swatched on a bit from the store sample over some black eyeliner on my hand in-store and got all excited. Then I noticed it was out of stock! After a couple minutes of checking all around to see if one had gotten placed somewhere else, an SA noticed me and came over to help… she ended up making me up a really generous sized sample pot from the store sample 🙂 It was perfect because I only needed a little for that night anyway!

Have to agree with others about MAC counters being not great though… I went in recently to get some plain eyeshadow (Brule) and this SA was just not hearing me and trying to sell me on this super sparkly pressed pigment eyeshadow thing… no no no… lol

I’ve had both great and terrible experiences. I remember a few fantastic sales associates (and I usually tell them) at Sephora, but it really varies here. I remember one who plainly showed how little she cared about me when I asked about a black eyeliner. She was so incredibly snobby- I suspect she might have acted differently, had I worn makeup this day, because she kept trying to shove down my throat rather expensive eyeliners- which were all rather mediocre for the price. I ended up with the first I had picked up, the cheapest in the store, much to her dismay- and guess what, it works fine for the job.
The worse I had was at the Galeries Lafayettes (a posh French department store, I guess it’s equivalent to Nordstrom): I wanted to buy one of the new Chanel Rouge Allures, and ask the sale associate. She frowned, asked me where I had got my information about the said lipsticks and laughed it off when I said I checked on the internet, telling me they would not receive it before weeeeeks. But, herrrm, they were right behind her back. And when I said the name and number of the shade I was after, she barely looked and claimed they had not got it. I pulled ONE lipstick to be sure and again, she turned out to be wrong. At least, she gave me a ton of samples of my choice, but you’d thought she didn’t want my money at all! If I had been without a coupon I wanted to use, I’d have told them my opinion about their customer service and walked off to another store. Incidentally, my sister got a similar experience (though at Sephora): she asked for Chanel Rouge Coco Mademoiselle and she was told it did not exist at all! This kind of experience is not limited to makeup counters at all- I am young and I look even younger, so sale associates don’t always bother. Which is stupid, but I don’t buy from the Internet if I can help it, and nearly never if I haven’t seen and tried the product before. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on, but I like expensive things, so I’m usually very, very careful with my spending. So I definitly could not do without makeup counters!

I really depends on the person at the counter. Generally I really enjoy them. If the sales person knows their stuff I love chatting with them, getting recommendations, telling them what did not work for me and what did. More than once I left a counter with a product I didn’t go there for, but ultimately loved more than what I had in mind. Unfortunately more and more counters in my area are obviously tended by people trained in sales, not in cosmetics. They can tell you what they have, but cannot give you any knowledgeable reccomendations. Even worse are those counters tended by women, who think way too highly of themselves. The fact that I usually go shopping in flats and jeans (I loke my comforts) does not that I can’t afford Chanel and MAC products, yet I have been ignored and looked down on at counters of both brands in the past. It’s really too bad for them since I and my friends/relations don’t buy there any more and go the online shopping route.

when i’m at makeup counters i like to be left alone to make my own decisions and play with the makeup but it never happens. there’s always a sales associate pressuring me to buy things i’m not interested in. They don’t give you a chance to look at what you really want because they’re so into making a sale.

nowadays i just shop online and return what i don’t like or I ask my mother to go to the counters for me and have her try the products for me.

I only go to makeup counters to look at products in person. I don’t like to use testers. Sales associates are a hassle but not by their own fault. I know they have a commission and sales goal to meet so it’s their job to be kind of aggressive.

In my experience the Nordstrom counters at Costa Mesa mall are really great. The MAs are really nice and don’t bug you if you are just looking and wanting to test stuff. They just ask once if they can help and that’s it. I feel comfortable buying makeup and also returning makeup there. They don’t make me feel inferior or anything. I really love that Nordstrom and the MAs know me now because I’ve been going there so much! LOL! Sephora at Costa Mesa mall also has great MAs! 🙂

As for the MAC counters, the MAC counter at Nordstrom and the MAC Pro Store in Costa Mesa are also great! The MAs are all really nice, even though they are SUPER busy all the time. I guess it’s just a matter of being patient and waiting your turn to get the attention you want. I always try to go at a time that I know won’t be too crowded. Of course this isn’t always possible with my schedule, but it helps when the MAs don’t have too many customers so they can answer your questions. 🙂

Ok I’m babbling away, but one of the best experiences I’ve had is at the Macys in Costa Mesa. I was just passing by (and in a crummy mood at that) when the MA at the Clarins counter offered me a free makeover. I told her honestly I had absolutely no money to buy anything. She said it was no problem. She was great and afterwards I fell in love with the Clarins products and purchased some later when I had some money.

As much as I love seeing the actual product and being able to play with it, I DESPISE the associates that hover and watch and make me feel like I shouldn’t be there. I look about 10 years younger than I am and am very self conscious about it and knowing the age sales people assume I am. I find I am treated VERY poorly because of it.

I think I’ve purchased from a counter maybe two or three times – exlcuding MAC – in my lifetime, thus far.

One thing I hate is when you really want to check out a new collection (especially a limited edition one), and if some of the items are sold out, the SA will put an item from the permanent line in the “hole” in the display. This is misleading because you end up trying something that is not representative of the new collection – they should just be honest with you that it’s sold out. Dior counter people in major department stores are the worst at doing this in my opinion. I now store the names and numbers of the colors I’m interested in on my phone so that when I get to the store I can verify that I’m looking at the correct thing.

As much as I adore MAC Cosmetics, I am not a fan of their local freestanding store. It sounds silly but I find it intimidating. There seems to always be one associate to every three shoppers. When you do get an associate’s attention, they either know very little or have a condescending attitudes. This makes me a prime candidate for online shopping — love it! Even if it means sending items back, I continue to browse and read Temptalia and order, order, order!

I completely agree with you! I went to a MAC store just a couple of days ago, and it was the same thing (and all other times I went there, it was just a bad experience). There aren’t enough sales assistants, and they are always SO condescending it drives me crazy. I’ve had more luck at counters (they are less condescending, although they will ignore you for a little while unless they think you are ready to spend hundreds), but, like someone else commented here, MAC counters in Canada lack many products.

I go out of my way to avoid shopping at counters and only buy online or from Sephora. I am 25 but am frequently mistaken for a teenager, so the sales associates either completely ignore me or hover over my shoulder like they think that I’m going to steal something. I have gone to counters intending to buy merchandise and walked away empty handed because the sales associates were so busy ignoring me that they couldn’t see that I wanted to check out and pay. My worst experience so far has been at MAC, the sales associate was so condescending and sighed huffily every time I tried to ask a question. I won’t ever shop at a MAC counter again. The sales associates at Sephora, however, are usually pretty friendly.

I like being able to play with the products in person before I buy it. But I hate pushy sales assistants/MUAs!

The woman who works at the Guerlain counter in one of my local department stores is horrible. She was really pushy and was trying to sell me stuff that clearly didn’t match my skintone at all. I actually bought something that I didn’t like just to get away from her. It really put me off the brand. But then when I went into a different department store the woman at that Guerlain counter was so lovely and helpful. Even tho here in the UK we arent allowed to return used makeup she took back the item I’d bought from the other Guerlain counter and exchanged it for something that suited me better.

I think it all depends on the person serving you at the makeup counter, if they’re nice and don’t hassle you you’re going to enjoy the wxperience more and are more likely to go back again. But if you hve a rubbish experience you’re more likely to switch brands or shop online instead.

Counters are definitely hit or miss for me. The best experience I’ve ever had was at Barney’s NY in Beverly Hills, with one of the store associates bringing me to each of the counters I wanted to go to and getting personal help from each counter. The counters all have their own representatives at the counters so they are more knowledgeable in their brands, even though it seems the store associate was very knowledgeable in all of the brands herself! I had fun getting to know brands that I wanted to know more about like Kevyn Aucoin and Beauty is Life. They were all really nice and most of them didn’t push me to buy anything, and when I told the store associate about one of the brands being pushy she got irritated at her and seemed very protective of me. Sure I had the money to drop on all of the makeup I bought, but it was still a pleasant experience.

A miss that happened recently was at Sephora in Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. They have a Giorgio Armani counter inside this Sephora (being one of the only stores to have it), so I pretty much freaked out and got all excited! As I was looking at stuff, I put the items I wanted on the ground and rummaged through my purse to look for my makeup wipes to clean off my hand. One of the associates I guess was suspicious and came up to me and asked me if I was doing okay, and seemed to give off the vibe that I was trying to steal something. 🙁
Also when I inquired about the Armani counter to another associate, she got what I said completely wrong to the manager! I asked if they were testing the Armani counter specifically at this store and if they were going to roll it out to other stores, but she told the manager that I asked if “Armani was going to cease being at the store and be discontinued”. THAT IS NOT WHAT I SAID!! Of course the store manager said what I originally asked, and said that Armani counters would roll out in Sephora stores nationwide in the future.

I obviously like being able to buy makeup in person but I also feel that makeup counters are the kind of place where i have to wear a full face of makeup or else I won’t be taken seriously.

Yes! And I don’t usually wear a full face unless I’m going out for the night. When shopping I’m bare faced (maybe gloss and mascara, but that’s it).

That’s never made any sense to me! If I want to try on lipstick, blush, or eyeshadow, I’m not going to wear lipstick, blush, or eyeshadow to the store.

I’ve been doing a lot more shopping online lately but I usually have luck when I shop locally, my Nordstrom’s has some great people. I went to Guerlain once because I’d broken the powder in my Meteorites compact, and asked if I could either exchange it or get a new powder for it. Well, I ended up having to buy a new compact (which I’d kind of expected and was okay with) but the SA felt so badly for me that she gave me Guerlain’s GWP from the weekend’s event – and it was a really nice set, too! Another time I went to Shiseido and had a question about my Nordstrom debit that hadn’t arrived yet, and the SA literally went with me up to customer service to ask what happened and get me a temp number I could use. I’m very loyal to that store now and Nordstrom’s in general.

My rant would be about the MAC counter in department stores here in Canada. The women who work at the counter are fabulous – don’t get me wrong – but for some reason (the excuse given is “space” but I don’t entirely buy it), these counters are not allowed to carry the full line of MAC products. No empty palettes, no pro-pan type refills, a very limited selection of brushes and tools and they don’t even get all the products in the MAC launches. They “are” a MAC counter; they shouldn’t be treated a “the poor relations” but that is how it seems. I’ve never had problems with intimidating staff in MAC stores but then I’m a pretty intimidating dame myself when I want to be so it’s not likely that a sales assistant with an inflated sense of their own importance is going to intimidate me. But I am so into seeing products and trying them, looking at them in real light, swatching on my skin that I could never trade “in the flesh” shopping for ordering online.

I don’t like going to department store counters for all the reasons that others have mentioned – the sales associates tend to be both pushy and uninformed. However, if I buy an untried product online, I’m not really sure what I’m getting. My solution has been to learn as much as I can about new products by reading various blogs, and then going to the counter to test them myself to see if I like it as much as I thought I would. I find SA’s are a lot less pushy if you show up with a specific product in mind, rather than if you’re just browsing.

Online Shopping! I’m 17, but I love and wear makeup! One time, I was just browsing through some Shisdedo products, when the SA came up to me and said, “Honey, I really don’t think this makeup is right for your age.” and then walked away. I was in shock. Here I was, with two gift cards to this department store, ready to buy cosmetics, and she literally told me to get away from her counter. The sad thing is, I probably knew more about cosmetics than she did (considering the amount of time I spend on this blog!), and yet she treated me like I was 9 years old. I was really offended, and almost “scarred” because I have truly hated going to makeup counters since!
I also find that when ever I go to a MAC bar with my friends, they pay zero attention to me. Literally, there will be no one in the store, and they still won’t even look at us, never mind ask us if we need help!

For those of us who are younger makeup addicts, it’s quite impossible to be taken seriously when it comes to shopping for makeup whether it be at Sephora or any type of cosmetic counter. I’m 14, and due to the fact that I pretty much eat, sleep, and breath fashion and beauty (no shame , I love it!), I can pretty much guarantee I know almost, if not as much, as anyone at a cosmetics counter and it really irritates me when I feel so judged just for being in the Urban Decay section or the Nars counter which is why I tend to purchase most of my makeup while I’m shopping with an adult so I can avoid the snide looks from the attendants.

Totally agree! Im 14 and NO ONE will ever take me serious at the counters! I have to go with someone older if I ever want to buy something from say a chanel counter..They would pay no attention to me if I didn’t. That’s why I always buy MAC online cause they just treat everyone poorly! Love Sephora though, never had an issue there!

Online didnt exist when I was 14. Just go to the counter and test what you like. Ignore them and their snide remarks if they watch you test. After awhile, they will go away. When and if you are ready to purchase, tell them what you want. Hover around them if they are busy with someone else…they will get the point. I dont wear full makeup. I look 10 years younger than my age…They all want your business and not for you to go elsewhere.

I hate going to department store counters because I have to wait for someone to help me if I want to purchase – and I’m usually dressed down and makeup free if I want to go shopping/do swatches so I feel like they’re judging me for being ignorant about makeup, haha! The sales associates can be pushy, too. I know they want to make sales goals but it can definitely turn me off the store because they often suggest things I need to improve my appearance, when I haven’t asked…

I recently went to New York and there at Sephoras all across Times Square and beyond I inquired about the brand OCC. No one had any idea what I was talking about or they said yes the other Sephora across the road stocks them (they didn’t…). Even one assistant I spoke to didn’t even speak English! I think she was there to really cater for (correct me if I’m wrong!) Hispanic tourists who didn’t know a lot of English. But still…Anyway I managed to find SOME OCC Lip Tars in Sephora (they were so well hidden in those little tubs near the registers) and asked for me. They only had 3 colours and not the range I was quite expecting. I then went to the OCC website later that night and saw they had a store much more downtown.

Hoping that this store wasn’t just for wholesale, I took the subway down and walked to the store. OMG. Those girls were so lovely! I wouldn’t even bother with Sephora for OCC products, just go to the OCC store! They were so helpful and I had the best experience there (and bought heaps!!). To those girls at OCC: you made my day!

Yeh I know! I just thought, I’m not even a makeup artist or am doing any makeup related study – I just know my brands and that you stock them! Yeh the OCC girls said they are trying to educate the Sephora assistants about their brand but I meant…it wasn’t even displayed in a good spot and OCC is HUGE in the makeup world. ::sigh:: I’m just glad I got what I wanted in the end!

Oh my goodness right! In South Dakota all we have is a Sephora inside JCP. I feel as if half of the staff is not very knowledgable when I am asking questions. It makes me so mad when they try to tell me a product is something else! But I usually ignore them do my own thing and don’t have a problem.

Just had to say Hi Maggie…I’m in SD too…Black Hills…and v few choices of makeup lines…luckily I travel for my job and can shop on the road.

Edited to add that even though we don’t have many choices in the Department store here, I have never had a bad experience at any of them…just friendly helpful ladies.

Times square is a terrible place to shop!!! I’m sorry you had a bad experience. Next time, try going downtown. Also, the Sephora at Columbus Circle has just been re-done and is very nice.

I don’t work for Sephora, but I do work in large scale retail cosmetics. As an SA and a consumer, i’ve learned this: it’s unfair to assume that just because something is a cult item online that it’s a big deal in the mainstream. Since Sephora doesn’t stock the full OCC range and not all Sephoras carry the Lip Tars I feel that it’s unfair to knock SAs that aren’t familiar on it. People come into my store all the time inquiring about brands we don’t carry, such as Ben Nye and Nars. I’m familiar with the brands because of the online cosmetics culture, but the majority of my coworkers aren’t, and why should they be? They aren’t paid to cruise the Internet and read about makeup on their own time and honestly most of them don’t actually care about makeup.

Additionally, many stores like ours carry THOUSANDS of products. So it’s possible that whole the SA isn’t versed what’s hyped up online, he/she may school you on a multitude of brands and products than the internet is sleeping on.

Additionally, don’t place the blame solely on SAs, it’s the corporations (and the brands themselves) that don’t help us help you. To be frank, often times more information and products are provided via PR to bloggers and YouTubers than to retail employees. I get more info on upcoming products from blogs than I’ve ever received from my employers.

My intention with this comment is not to rude or mean, just to provide another perspective.

I definitely know what you mean, I just don’t understand why someone would work in such a niche area like makeup if they don’t at least even care about it…aren’t they meant to hire people with makeup artistry skills? I would assume a makeup artist would know about lip tars, at least the MAC ones and then by that reasoning the OCC ones. I guess I was just really frustrated because I was told it was definitely stocked in another Sephora close by and that information was wrong. Even the info on the net is really sketchy about which Sephoras stock it. Anyway, I’m from Australia and we don’t have OCC so I didn’t know how ‘big’ or popular it was in the USA. And clearly not a lot of people know about it as much as I thought. Even the OCC girls said that they try to get Sephora to educate the staff about the brand so I know what you mean. It’s more political. I’m just glad that I trekked down to the OCC store itself, I’m so happy that I did end up buying their products! OCC lip tars were the ONE thing I didn’t want to leave NY without!

I get you, I do. But to answer your question, no. It’s like saying everyone that works in clothing stores are interested in fashion design, when in reality what most people are interested in is a paycheck. Neither Sephora, ULTA, Shopper’s Drug, etc. require you to be a makeup artist. We’re not MUAs, we’re SAs, that goes for counters as well. What the companies look for is sales experience. Also, unless the employee frequents another location on their own time, it’s near impossible for them to know exactly what they carry, but they may think/assume that a bigger location than theirs has a larger selection. Or they may receive false information, for example my store doesn’t carry MUFE in any location, period, however I once had a customer swear to me that a location in a bigger city did. If I didn’t already know she was incorrect I may have believed her and then unwittingly passed on bad information to another customer.

As for OCC, it’s super niche, nowhere near mainstream. Sephora isn’t going to spend the payroll yo educate their employess on OCC when they only carry one part of the line in select locations. And while I do have a few customers (regulars that I adore) that are blog readers and “speak makeup”, my average customer wants Bare Minerals foundation and thinks MAC is the end all be all and has no idea what BB Cream REALLY is.

That sounds accurate and fair, albeit a tad harsh. I know you don’t intend to sound harsh, either. This is a frustrating topic for those in this industry, and for the shoppers who have had bad experiences per what they expect. Consumers feel dejected, while Sales Associates and MUAs feel demeaned. I’ve worked retail (not in cosmetics), and I don’t know if I can ever go back, although I am considering it due to money issues in my family. Who isn’t having money problems in the family these days? You’re right–it’s about the money for the company and the SA, and there is nothing wrong with that at all. We all have to live, don’t we?

But alas, I can understand the plight of the consumer who oftentimes (not speaking per se of the OP) truly is clueless on products. If I hear “Beauty Balm” one more time in a commercial, I may put my forehead through the screen. BLEMISH Balm, for the love of all that’s holy, just get that right, please, marketing industry?

I also agree that OCC is so very niche that only the biggest of makeup nerds and Pro MUAs have any awareness of the company’s existence. That said, what a shame, since they are rather fabulous. For Pros, they have the best air compressors on the market; I wish I could afford one! And yes, everyone loves MAC.

OK, with that said, I will confess that the vast majority of my kit is MAC, and my air brush is Dinair. Why? Well, Dinair is the least expensive and most portable, and MAC is in the highest demand…. and also the most affordable. It’s such a life savor for me to go to a MAC store and be able to replace all my lip colors and any e/s or blush that is hitting pan all for the cost of drugstore prices, and all my shopping in one place. Then I get most of my business via word of mouth, and to have one call after another ask, “Do you really use MAC products???” is enough for me to fill my bag with these products. If I were busier, charging more, etc., then I’d love to have a kit filled with much, much more, but I digress. We do what we must to get by, and it is unfortunate that the professionals AND the consumers are often this unhappy since it doesn’t have to be this way. Perhaps a little education on the part of the consumer (re: business structure and SA’s backgrounds and purposes), and even a little empathy on the part of the professionals that we really are there to make people happy while making money, and sometimes that may mean helping someone who doesn’t know what the heck a BB cream is.

MAC’s pro products are extremely awesome, if you know what to do with them, btw. That’s another draw for me to MAC–the CCBs and Chromo-everything; I almost freaked when Pro products when public because some items sold out fast, and it was just before Halloween! I needed to replace my Deep Damson and my White Paint Stick, and they were gone! In hindsight, I made it through with backup products I don’t like as much, and they didn’t release the full Pro line anyway. I guess it’s tough trying to make everyone happy, even for us.

Best wishes to Mietta and all other respondents. I suspect those ahead of me cleared a lot up for anyone confused.

I’ve had a couple bad experiences when I was in Selfridges in London, I went to the Estee Lauder Counter asking them about their kajal crayons, the SA was very short with me, stating that I must be thinking of gel eyeliner clearly I knew more about their stock than she did, left me with a very bad taste in my mouth. Also, a new Mac counter just opened in Dublin and a few weeks after the opening near Christmas, a security guard was posed at the door refusing entry to customers. He told me to come back later since the shop was full, was super annoyed but I’ve found Mac SAs to be rude on numerous occasions. I’ve had lovely experiences too but they haven’t stayed with me in the same way x

I don’t like how they stand and kind of watch you when there is no one else there. I feel extra pressure to find something to buy. At Sephora you can basically browse for half an hour and feel free to test everything out. You can’t do that at makeup counters.

Agree with others that I’m not a huge fan of SA’s at counters, but I’ve gotten over pressure to buy when I’m there. I just don’t like buying products untested (nail polish is my major exception) so I put up with them.

I go to makeup counters only when I know exactly what product I want to try; otherwise, I shop online or stick to larger stores like Sephora where browsing is encouraged. On the rare occasions when I do visit a makeup counter, a firm but polite “just looking, thanks” is usually effective. I also find that the SAs stay away if I look like I know exactly what I want (whether or not I actually do!). But I feel rude browsing for a long time without buying, and I HATE being pressured to spend money when I only want to look around, though I know the SAs are just doing their job. Online shopping is a godsend for introverts like me.

At my Mall we have a MAC store and a MAC counter at the BAie. I personally like the MAC counter at the Baie. The staff is really friendly, so helpful and when they’re busy with another client they always apologize and let me know that theyll get to me as soon as theyre finished. They’re so down to earth that I’ve even befriended some the employees. However, when I go to the MAC store the employees are snobby and don’t seem to care about helping anyone, even when theres nobody in the store. So I prefer going to the MAC at the BAie and only go to the other MAC store when there’s something that I can’t get at the other place.

My experience too with MAC at The Bay. The women who work there are so friendly and if you ask for a sample of something, they don’t look at you like you’re some sort of cheap creature who is trying to mooch stuff (maybe because I shop there often, they know I’ll purchase items I’ve liked). The only problem, of course, is that they don’t carry the full product line of MAC. Mind you, I’ve been to some MAC stores (one on Montreal and one on Bloor St. in Toronto) where the staff has been friendly and helpful and yet my best friend wasn’t treated very well at the same MAC store on Bloor.

My latest experience was at Chanel, I asked about a brush, and the SA gave me a derisive look, as if a were a clueless, ignorant little thing, and said no such brush existed (I was asking about the #5 contour face brush, Made in France). It is just so annoying really, and SA´s are so silly, I am sure we would buy loads if they were nicer to us costumers.

Really no idea what is up with Chanel counters. i have had nothing but bad experiences with them in Canada anyway. A few months ago I wanted to give Vitalumiere Aqua a try so went to a counter and asked for a tester. The woman looked at me as if I was an idiot and told me blunt that no such thing exists o.O after I told her the tester is right next to her she rolled her eyes and just trew the bottle on the counter….. Ws soshocked didn’t even say anything and just walked away.

I much prefer Sephora or Ulta to higher-end makeup counters. The associates are much more genuine about products and can recommend different products from many brands – they’re not just pushing one. At a makeup counter with only one or two customers browsing, it can be a little more awkward.

Until about 2 years ago, my self esteem was in the toilet and I was fearful of anything feminine, and of being judged by salespeople. Makeup counter people most of all. Due to some changes in my life, I was able to look at them more objectively, and I realized that I have better skin than most of them, and better taste for the most part. I was more likely to be coerced into spending money when I was younger. But at one point I was being harassed too much by a salesperson and I realized that I could walk away if they bothered me. That being said, I have had good and bad experiences with salespeople. One lady at the Bobbi Brown counter at Nordstrom remembered me a good 8 months since I had seen her last, and was very friendly. Another lady from a Lancome counter (diff store chain, not Nordstrom) told me (back when I was obese) not to eat the makeup (why would she come up with something like that?). I was very hurt and came back and complained to the manager but I received no apology from them other than “I can escort you back over there if you still want to buy the item”. It felt like he was saying “I’m sorry our rude salesperson kept you from giving us your money. Here’s a second chance!” Nowadays I go in prepared for anything when I go to a counter. I have had good experiences in Sephora, except that I find the loud club music off-putting and cannot stay in there for long.

Dear Cara,

I find it very sad and certainly dismaying that the associate wasn’t immediately made to apologize and I do not think that sending them home would have been too severe of a punishment. Sensitivity training also might have been appropriate. Glad to hear you’ve embraced your beauty and live for your own opinions and not those of the superficial and ignorant. I do not mean this is a self-glorification kind of way but I wanted to share this with you because I wish more people were like this… I recently had a makeup counter MUA tell me, after I told her how her work made me feel beautiful, that I was beautiful inside as well as out. I was surprised I suppose since usually those places are literally about enhancing physical beauty and aren’t focused so much on “inner beauty”. I hope that everyone finds someone like this who can help them on their beauty journey (or adventure!) and that you especially are able to find people of substance behind those counters. And I applaud you for not being pressured. As I’ve gotten older I find I’m less passive and instead, where i might have at one point walked away or ignored any transgressions, I am way more likely to tell someone what I think when they’re rude. Boy did I feel old when I yelled at some teenagers at the movie theater who literally talked during the entire 2+ hour movie. Lol but I thought they deserved to know that the rest of us actually came to watch the movie and we did NOT pay to listen to them talk 😉 I may be prematurely turning into curmudgeon! Anyway, I digress, but hopefully you might have found this amusing.

Warmest Regards,

The only time I felt belittled at a counter was at MAC when I first started getting into makeup. First off, I had to ask her (the only SA that was free) if she could help me find a good black eye liner. She looked at me, didn’t say a word, and handed me the Technakohl liner in “Graphblack.” She didn’t describe it or how to apply it. Then I asked her, “Can you recommend a blending brush?” She again looked at me, kind of annoyed, and grabbed the 217. Also, didn’t tell me how to use it or describe it. I was so intimadated at the time that I took both products to the cashier (which was not her; usually the SA that helps you rings you up 99% of the time) and bought them. The only good thing about it, was that I discovered how wonderful the 217 is but now just say, “I’m just looking” when I go to counters now. With all the latest blogs and youtube channels, you guys have become my swatches, reviews, and testers that I can just judge if I like it before I buy it, online.

Well that question just opened a can of worms! lol I was hassled today by an SA at Clarins. I was in a hurry and no I didn’t have a minute to spare. Also once the Chantecaille SA at Bloomingdales was rude or was just feeling lazy. Strangely enough it seemed she didn’t want to sell her products and evidently I was troubling her by asking her to see a product or two. No, I’m not always dressed up to the nines but it shouldn’t matter. It was the first and only time I’ve been to a Chantecaille counter and that’s a good part of the reason why.

I’m nice, I don’t like to harass SA’s so I expect them to be polite and helpful to me too. Even when I turn them down I’m nice. No reason to be disrespectful and I expect the same.

i do know that some of the companys mentioned would be appauled if you write to their headoffices. complaints are always taken seriously. i know the girls on some of these places get comission but that have to sell a stupid amount of product before they are even in the comission bracket and in general thier pay is appauling. what the companies teach them is to b (pushy isnt the write word but its the closeist i can think of right now) they also gve them product to customer ratios which is 1person 3products. in first 6 months employment hey have to hit this or they loose thier job.

So i do understand ur frustration but thoe that are asking for ur time are trying, just like u do in ur job and its becoming increasingly harder for.them with people buying on line or at the airport. but i do feel if a sales assistent was rude too pushy or in your face make a complaint you should not be made to feel uncomfortable or hassled when shopping its stressful enough. ive had two bad expierances first is mac greated it was xmas time several years ago but just coz im dressed casually im not gonna steal all the assosatrs stood around me all took in turn with no less than a two minute gap each asking me if i need help.. i turned and stated wben im ready to steal something i will let you no now back off befour i call the store management for harrassment. please bare in mind they all have head pieces and droped all their customers.to croud me. ive never stolen a thing in my life and was a regular to the department store but wasnt in my usual attire should i say. the last was burberry and i was actually on a mistery shop. went to ask the assistant a question and she turned to her calague so after you do my eyeliner i want winged linner ill get u to do me lippy. noticing the brush off i gave it a few minutes i proceded to ask my question to which i got looked up and down and got cant you see im busy go to one of the other countiers i said but the question is about ur products and this is ur callague i did say i was sorry to disturbe you and its a quick question her reply was and i said im busy…. so i turned and ent to qurlain (cant spell) asked my questions said thank u walked away came bk in my uniform the girl who helped me and my manager where there and i thanked them for their help explained what happened and actually because of how they were i droped £300 with then just like that. they were amazing.x

Hi Evelyn,

I agree with Emma Lynn that letting corporate know how your experience was can be very helpful. I am the first person to tell a manager how great service was and to fill out a survey praising service. I’ve found that the minute it takes to tell a supervisor how great an employee is can mean far more to them than we know. Conversely, as someone who is always very nice to sales personnel (I’m one of those weirdos that just likes making someone’s day nicer), if you manage to have me leave feeling like it was a crummy experience (which you’d really have to work at, trust me) I will notify someone to let them know of any issues. Of course, I don’t really complain about situations where someone had good intentions but it was still subpar, in that case I might make a general comment not necessarily naming the individual so that the situation can be remedied in a constructive criticism sort of way. But, I would definitely encourage everyone to report excellent experiences as well as crummy experiences.

Best Wishes!

I’ll try not to be biased because I work at a large makeup company, but I find going to counters or stores really gives you the experience and you really can have fun and learn, if you give the associates a chance. I think a lot of times now, when clients walk in to our store, they don’t think we have any idea of what were talking about, and although sometimes that may be the case, many of us are licensed estheticians , have gone to cosmetology schools, and we are constantly being taught about products and ingredients and why what works. And it’s true we have sales goals that we have to make, and have our bosses down our necks about engaging with clients, but we try and be as respectful of your space. We try our best to find the right products for you, but please be open and clear about what you looking for, we have thousands of products to choose from, so us asking questions is not to annoy you but to narrow down our choices. We talk to dozens of clients a day, and sometimes one bad experience can really ruin our moods ( well I guess this can also be switched around a mean associate to client), I know it’s happened to me, where you just kind of shut down after that, so I know almost all of us greatly apologize when we come off rude or unapproachable, but in reality we really do want to help. It can be a lot more fun when you don’t but up a wall, we love talking about products, even you don’t buy them. So I hope next time you go to a store or a counter you let the mua’s help you out and are kind, we mirror what you give us.

I once went to the Estee Lauder counter inside a Bloomingdale’s to buy a BB cream for my friend. They were out of the color my friend asked for, and the SA called all the nearby Bloomingdale’s but with no luck. I thought the SA was nice enough already to do so and decided to leave. But then she initiatively offered me the whole GWP they were carrying (a huge bag filled with skin care samples, blush trio, mascara and lip gloss), saying that I came all the way to bloomingdale’s and should not leave with disappointment. That was so unexpectedly nice! IMO Bloomingdale’s is a really friendly mall in general and I will definitely purchase from them again 🙂

Must also because you were also nice. I find that if you are not difficult to deal with and have an attitude, they will help you more. I am have a low maintainance attitude and they always gave me stuff, more so then in the 80’s than now….way beyond what is norm….I dont have to go buy at Sephora and “pick three free samples” like Sephora is doing me a favor. Those Sephora samples are like tester you get playing at the store.

It’s a shame more stores don’t seem to realize that a good will gesture like this will benefit them hugely in the future (and generate great word of mouth).

The only counter I actually enjoy shopping at is Illamasqua at my local department store. They do everything right– pick colours that actually suit me, suggest new things without being pushy, discuss and compare different formulas, and let me try as much as I need to to find the product I’m after. I’ll happily wander through when I have time and just browse and chat to the girls, and I never feel like they want me to leave because I don’t plan on purchasing that day.

Every other counter in the same store (I’ve probably looked at at least a dozen different brands at various points) has sales assistants that either ignore me, glare at me while I try different testers, or insist they know what will work for me. A woman at Estee Lauder once spent five minutes trying to talk me into Double Wear foundation when I had already clearly stated I had no need for something so heavy.

I don’t even bother buying those sorts of brands online, because I know either Illamasqua or a local drugstore will have what I want. I’d rather use the great service and/or choose something in store myself.

I am really put off by sales associates who refuse to leave me alone to swatch colors when I tell them that I am just looking at colors and don’t need any help. Recently I was at a Giorgio Armani counter, looking at shadows (not very impressed, really) and the SA kept hovering, suggesting colors, and asking if I wanted her to do my eye makeup. I just lost it, told her I was definitely not interested in having any colors applied, and then walked away. I just wish that they would focus on customers who actually need help picking colors!

Hate it. I prefer to be left alone to browse and such. If I really need help I will ask for it. More often than not I find them to be rather pushy at makeup counters so I prefer going to places like Sephora, and Shoppers Drug Mart or London Drugs (in Canada), at these places they just let me browse until I ask or leave me alone when I say “i’m just looking”.

I am so happy that a lot of the new Shoppers’ being build now have Beauty Boutiques in them! They carry high end brands and if you live in a larger city you can locate most of the brands, albeit you have to go to a few locations. we DO have such wonderful people that work in them and leave you be when you want!!

There is a fantastic location 10 min from me and one day I went in just to look. The lovely lady asked if I needed help and I (always I am very polite to sales people) kindly said no, thank you. This is just my zen place, I like to come and look” She smiled and said “well you just go ahead and here!” She went to her drawer and gave me a wipe and sent me off to play!!

THAT is what the department store counters need to learn from a Canadian drug store 🙂

Second that. Love shoppers. Love I can go there and swatch everything my heart desires without having someone following me around. The only thing they don’t give samples which sometimes I need as i like to test a foundation before I commit to it. 2 mins away from my work there is one that carries Urban Decay, Guerlain and Stilla as some of the brands. If it had Dior too would be in heaven. But then again the one 5 mins from my home carries it lol.

And you can accumulate points…loads of points for free stuff. There a SDM near to me that carries Guerlain (albeit a somewhat limited collection of their products). Because I make a point of shopping during the 20X the points events and redeeming when they have their bonus redemption days (100 dollars worth of stuff for 75 dollars of points, etc.), I’ve “purchased” 2 Guerlain lipsticks and their Cruel Gardenia highlighter “for free”. I just wish there were a store nearer to me that carried Dior!

Like Christine, it depends on my SA. I’m only 17 though I look about 15 and several times at the counter, the SA always treats me like I’m a little girl and like I’m not going to buy anything and like I’m just going to mess around or waste their time though I always looking to buy something. At a couple other counters though, I’ve had a great time talking with the SA about their products and they were very nice and helpful, making my experience positive and delightful.

I hate counters but can’t really say I’ve ever had a horrible experience. The worst, though, has been while shopping for perfume. I asked the SA what the main notes were in the Lady Gaga Fame perfume because I liked it and wanted to test out similar scents and she looked at me and said rudely “If you like it then why do you care” and then flung a sample at me. I took the sample, walked away and will continue to shop at Sephora from now on, where the employees are helpful and don’t roll their eyes when you say you’re just browsing.

I hate them. Every time I walk into my Macy’s to check the counters the SA immediately follow me around thinking that I will steal something because I am Mexican. If I ask something, they are rude. If they ask if I need help, I just tell them “no thank you” and roll their eyes and walk away but they still are watching me. The only counters that I like are Clinique and Shisiedo, they give me my space and actually help me when I ask for help. Other than that, I prefer Sephora, but I actually love Ulta because it has the friendliest SA and it has drugstore products as well!

I tried to go to a MAC counter in Nordstroms the other day, and the SAs kept looking at me like I was going to steal something. (I’m only 17, and look even younger) I prefer Ulta, there’s this one salesgirl there that’s super nice, very knowledgable, and very helpful. I like Sephora, but I get SAs hovering around me there too like I’m going to steal something. -.-

Love Love Love makeup counters. I grown up with the existence of makeup counters since the 80’s. Hate Sephora with a passion….never go there because they watch me like I am going to steal. I know how to avoid the SA at the counters when I dont need their help…I just tell them that I am only looking and they will walk away. If I need help, I flag them. I go to all places…Neiman Marcus (great service), Macys…not bad, Nordstrom….depends on the SA, Bloomingdales….not too much help, Saks…hovers over you and are too friendly…Maybe because I dont wear alot of makeup so I dont like like I spend or they feel sorry for me…, but no one at these counters ever make me feel bad. But I am not high maintainance either, except for making sure all my items are in pristine shape before I purchase. I tell them…I want them in good order even when I am going to wear it, because I dont want the item used or damaged. They never complain because I am paying for it. Tom Ford counter is the best. Urban Decay is also nice.

I always have a terrible time at the MAC store in my city. I know I don’t wear much makeup on a daily basis (eyeliner, that’s pretty much it), but I know my stuff and hate getting ignored. Don’t hover over me, but don’t ignore me, either!

The best SA I’ve encountered in my town is at the Chanel counter at Belk. I think he’s the manager for the counter. Seriously does not pressure. Just treats it like it’s so much fun. Honestly, it just feels like I’m looking at makeup with a friend, and as a result, I walk away buying something, even if I went there without the intent to purchase. He’s just so awesome. Whether or not he’s really that friendly in real life, he does a damn good job of selling me products without actually pushing them on me. It’s kind of impressive, haha.

I recently ends up at the Trish McEvoy makeup counter in Saks Fifth Ave in Huntington, NY and I have never been treated so well by any sales associate and makeup artist. I’ve been there twice now and the second time Roseanne, the MUA, gave me a warm hug and treated me like I’d been a client for years. I really felt appreciated (as a customer) and she made me feel beautiful through her excellent product choices with my needs and my complexion in mine. Best part? I never once felt pressured to buy anything, which is something I might have expected in the past. I’ve had only great experiences in that Saks store but the same can not always be said for other makeup counters. I’ve had other SA/MUA’s who just didn’t care and you knew it. Often, I am just browsing at counters for new colors or I have a look in mind and do not need help. When I do ask for help its generally because I am either not familiar with the brand or I am asking for the MUA to show me something new (perhaps just new to me) because I often look to step out of my confort zone. I think sometimes that we have preconceived notions about what looks good on us or doesn’t and it keeps us from trying things that we’ve labeled as not working with our complexion. I believe that MUA’s at counters can be a great resource for stepping out of the comfort zone because they’re not in our heads (haha obviously!) and aren’t held back by our own biases.

I have had good experiences at other Sephoras, but the one where I live is HORRIBLE. The SAs do not leave you alone and let you look, they follow you around like you are going to shoplift and ask you if you need help every five seconds. I have worked in the cosmetics industry for 7 years now, and my policy is to ask someone if they need help when I first see them, and if they are still browsing for a few minutes I might ask them if they need help again, but I do my best not to be pushy or annoy them, because I hate when that happens to me!

i have a love and hate relationship.

i love the fact that i know when i buy the product, its perfectly untouched and untainted, which is what i find happens alot at drugstores. i also love how neat and tidy it is, i can find the product i want with a tester without having to rummage through the shelves. ive made sure to have a few mua’s that im familliar with to ensure i get good service.

i hate the fact that some of the mua come across as snobby. there are some days where i wont be made up, be dressed prim and proper, just with a pair of old faded jeans, and my hair in a messy plait, but they just give me a look as if to say, eurgh what are YOU doing in a place like this?? also when im dressed like this aswell, i get all eyes on me, as if im going to steal a bunch of products from them. i like to spend my time, take my time evaluating whether i need the product, is it worth the money, but no, this is seen as me looking to loot the place, with them constantly asking me over and over again, am i okay, do i need help?

my latest let down was visiting the pro store in london, after being ignored for a good ten minutes by the snobby mua’s. i just walked out and when to the make up store down the road.

I enjoy browsing them since I can do it in silence without being bothered, but if I have a product I need which is only available at the counter or online, and I don’t have the time to order online, then my frustration boils. I use Estee Lauder’s eye makeup remover and cream “Take it Away!” MU remover on myself since it’s the best for me and my skin, but there is never anyone at the counter, and when one shows up, she’ll stalk me if I opt to windowshop.

Also, being an MUA whose kit is primarily MAC (frequent client request, and other reasons), I hate that I cannot use my pro card in department stores, and that they are sorely lacking in products.

Counters are a thorn in my side, but they draw me in like a baited trap.

They’re unavoidable. No amount of photography makes me comfortable buying color without seeing it in person. The experience varies. Generally, it depends on the SAs. I’ve sworn off Chanel for the last couple of years because of their SAs. Chanel at Lord & Taylor is extremely rude, but fine at Macy’s. Dior is the opposite. Shiseido requires several minutes of begging to get assistance. MAC counters with their skull-crushing music volume are annoying.

I don’t think that they’re better than beauty stores. If they didn’t have products not available elsewhere, I might never go. Especially Macy’s. My closest one is Herald Square, which is a 3-ring circus nightmare. Some Sephoras are okay, though some have over enthusiastic inventory controlling. My first experience with Ulta was unhelpful associates and a hyper-vigilant security guard, but maybe they’ll improve.

I have mixed feelings on makeup counters. Sometimes I feel like the sales associate assumes I am clueless about makeup, and will start explaining what a “primer” is. Sometimes I’ll have to stop them & explain I know what I’m doing and am not really looking for pointers or advice, I just want to browse! But other times when I DO have specific questions or I’m looking for a product recommendation, the sales associates have been very helpful. I recently had a great experience with a girl at the MAC counter who recommended a few bright lipsticks for me without being too overbearing about her suggestions!

Where I live I found that the Sephora SA’s are really annoying. They look at you as if you know nothing! But there are a few Sephora SA’s who are exceptions. I had the best experience at Sephora at Venetian. The SA was so friendly! IMO, Macy’s has good service.

I have had two bad experiences at Chanel before. Once, I swatched the rouge coco shines for 20 mins before someone came over to help me. The second time I wanted to buy an eyeshadow and was told that that particular color (Complice, single eyeshadow) was too shimmery and would look bad on my eyes as my lids had tiny lines. Arghhh I’m 18 and I can assure you that I was really offended. I also have had bad experiences at MAC, sadly.

OMG!!! That’s the rudest thing I’ve ever heard! I bet that SA was brainwashed by dealing with too many rich old ladies and it was just her catchall phrase to sell up products for commissions. What a shame when one bad apple ruins everything. 🙁

BTW, you are about a year older than my daughter, and I wear shimmery shadows all the time. NEVER has anyone said it looked bad due to “fine lines.” That’s just absurd! Your lids are probably perfect.

I like going to look at products, but can be very turned off by a pushy salesperson.

Also… OMG SO DIRTY. I live in fear of the bacteria in makeup testers.

I don’t like makeup counters. I’m a solo shopper and prefer to test and try on products myself. I also think that most of the sales associates are just that – sales people. Not makeup artists. I have quite a bit of experience and have done a lot of research in makeup and skincare and I don’t really feel that the majority of SAs can answer any questions I might have in an acceptable way (wow, that sounds snobby lol). I do like Sephora because the SAs typically leave me alone, but if I do have a question about something, they seem to be better informed. I also like that they’re not tied to a particular product line, so I feel like I get more honest answers.

Sephora is owned by Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), who also owns Dior, BeneFit, Geurlain, Givenchy, Make Up For Ever, Fresh, and a few others. Pretty much all of the high-end lines carried in Sephora are products of Sephora’s parent company, LVMH.

Mine is being accosted by the sales associate at Nordstroms. A typical example is my last experience there. I needed a Georgia Armani product I was running out of. Quick easy sale. The sale associate for GA wanted to know what else I wanted. I told her I was there to buy a Dior lip balm/stain. She was more than forceful that I should buy some GA lipstick instead. I thanked her, but told her they were too bold & lipstick-ish. She FOLLOWED me to Dior to make sure she got the sale over there. I picked out a very red in the tube (not on the lip) balm. She then reprimanded me for picking out a bold red. So *I* had to explain to her that it was sheer etc…. She continued on to follow me to Chanel, stole the sale there and of course when I got in the car I saw she gave me the wrong product. This is a typical day at my Nordy’s. They are too aggressive and do not let me test and shop.

I once interviewed for an SA job at Nordstrom, and after they explained the minimum quota requirements I would have to meet or else I’d be fired,I didn’t want the job. That was 1997! I’m sure it’s more cut throat now. I hate shopping when someone is pressuring me to buy things I neither want nor need because she’s afraid of losing her job.

I wish you would have told that SA to leave you alone, and demanded a different Associate at the next counter! You always have the right to ask for someone else to help you if you are dissatisfied. The new SA rarely treats you poorly since you just did her a favor, and she knows you could dismiss her, too. LOL

I hope you never have such a bad experience again! (And no, I do not represent any retailers; I just understand since I’ve had similar experiences. Commission is a terrible way to compensate SAs when they have those stupid quotas!)

I’ve had bad experiences and neutral experiences while shopping HE brands on department stores. Sadly I’ve never had a great experience. When I was 25 and I was able to afford HE brands I was mostly ignored by SA, or they tried to sell me things I didn’t need. I have very oily skin and once I was told that I would make their products look bad (I think it was at Elizabeth Arden). I was so naive that I thought it was my fault and that I shouldn’t upset the SA again. I think that’s the worst experience I ever had. Other experiences have been as those described by others: pushy SA, SA looking over your shoulders as if you are going to steal something or SA trying to sell you things you don’t need or don’t suit you.

Now with this blog I can go and as for what I want to try and I even ask for samples to take away with me and I’m very clear that I will purchase if I like the product and I think it suits me.

I love Saks counters but rarely venture in because the women who work them are so clingy,I feel as though I can’t even browse to find something because they won’t shut up or give me space. When they do I will purchase a few things, most of the time I just don’t even want the hassle because they are so overbearing.

Have had good times at mostly, except the other day one employee asked me three times if I wanted a bag!
I know where they are if I want one. Also asking more than once is clearly annoying.

Fed up with MAC my local store has a rude employee who got very snotty when I purchased products with another employee.

Makeup counters can be really hit or miss for me. If I need assistance and have asked for it, I usually get really good, thorough advice from the SAs, particularly from Clarins and Dior at my local department store. Counters can be nice if you’re looking to talk to someone who really knows the brand and the products well. However, I have run into some SAs who are absolutely clueless, unhelpful or just plain rude. I asked about a product once at a Chanel counter, and the girl there had no idea what I was talking about. Oh, and I cannot even begin to describe how little the Estee Lauder SAs have helped me in the past. Whenever I go to that counter, the girls don’t even seem to care that I’m there. They just stare at me, watching me like a hawk to make sure I don’t steal anything (as if!) There is no assistance offered, and I’ve even heard some of them make snide comments about customers! It’s funny how condescending they are when selling products, considering their makeup always looks like colorblind grade-schoolers did it. I absolutely refuse to shop at that counter, which is why online shopping is perfect. I also had an annoying encounter with a Bobbi Brown SA. I was there to pick up some of the BB Correctors for my kit. I was swatching them for fun when she comes up to me and asks, “Do you even know what those are for?” as if she was talking to an eight year old! Her tone was so rude and condescending, and I immediately proceeded to give her the exact definition of a corrector. I then left and took my business elsewhere. The nerve! So I guess I had some more rants then I originally thought.

I was an MUA for 8 years with various lines and freelance, and I’ve seen it all both working events with SAs at counters and shopping with them as a customer. Generally, I think MAC attracts some of the worst SAs in terms of customer service. A lot of the girls who worked at the various MAC counters I worked were pretty open about the fact that they just wanted the discount and didn’t care about building relationships with customers because they can churn and burn sales on all the LE products with no effort. They don’t really invest the time/energy into their customers. Of course, MAC has some good SAs too, but I’ve found that they usually get fed up and migrate to another line. One time I was in a MAC pro store waiting in line by the register to pick up a presale, and there were 3 SAs at the registers, the first finished and I approached her and she said “oh one of them will be right with you” and wandered off to talk with another SA. Then the next one finished and started walking away too, so I asked her if she could just grab my presale, and she said “I don’t know where they are, the other girl will help you.” Really?

Of course, I’ve had both good and bad experiences with people at almost every line and every store (though by far the fewest bad experiences and the most awesome experiences with SAs at Saks and Nordstrom, and every single Le Metier SA I have encountered). But MAC really stands out in my mind as being consistently bad. They never offer to order something from another store for you if they’re out, and they never seem to know anything about their release dates and presales either.

I’d say that a lot of makeup counters have lost my business just because the SAs who work there are incredibly annoying.I can never swatch anything without someone disturbing me and trying to sell me something. They should realize that aggressive behavior like that isn’t good for in-store sales!

I have to say, I can’t recall a bad experience at a Mac counter or Sephora at all. But I did have a rather snobby employee at the Estee Lauder counter recently, hardly said more than two words to me the whole time, didn’t seem to want my questions and once she rang me up just walked away. I walked away feeling like maybe she didn’t take me seriously because I’m young or was just looking for one item. I don’t know :/

Great topic! I love Sephora and Ulta and I don’t mind Mac stores but I hate makeup counters in department stores. They are not the kind of place where you can just browse peacefully. They are good if you research specific products in advance and then go in to check them out in person. Otherwise, you will likely end up walking away with a product you didn’t want in the first place – and an emptier wallet.

Ugh, this is kind of a double edged sword for me, as I just stopped working as SA at a small-ish makeup store. I love makeup and it was a great experience to get in touch with the customers and answer their questions and I learned so much about different skintones/types.. but I also learned that the company wasn’t looking for a person interested in makeup, they are looking for people to sell sell sell!
Literally none of the people I worked with were very interested in makeup or skincare. All the knowledge they had came from sales reps of the different brands that came over once in a blue moon for maybe 20 min to half-ass a presentation about a product – and if there was a rep wanting to do a full presentation, they would schedule us to have it before/after our shift. They would also never tell us when new collections would arrive or explain the new products.
I had to tell a lot of costumers that I had no idea when xyz collection would arrive and they’d look at me like I’m stupid, when I really had no way to obtain that information.
I was trying really hard to sell the things I tried/read about and thought were good, but one thing I would not do was selling a person something that I was blatantly wrong for them, just to make a sales goal. I had one client come to me after an SA sold her a very aggressive skincare line while she has made clear that she has sensitive skin. Her skin started peeling! She had red patches all over, just so that SA could fullfill the quota. Bless her, she had the guts to come in and I gave her samples of masks/skincare that suited her skintype and helped calm down her irritated skin. She came back to me with great skin and great confidence. The woman that fullfilled the quota is still working there while I have to look for a new job 🙁
I think from now on I’ll be more understanding when SAs get pushy, but definitely wouldn’t buy anything if I wouldn’t have bought it by myself either. I’ll always do my homework before buying beauty products! Yesterday I had a great experience at the MAC counter, the girl was super friendly and helpful, as knowledgable as possible (didn’t know when the concealer palette would come in, but took down my number to call me when it did) and gave me the number for the pro store in our country so I could buy a product better suited for my needs instead of tricking me into buying something that wasn’t right for me. Her manager wasn’t there but the next time I’ll make sure to tell them how awesome she is. Likewise, when an SA is acting condescending, aggressive etc., I’ll let someone higher up know about it.

I moved from a very small town in Mississippi to Chicago a couple of years ago and prior to that I had no idea just how horrible make-up SAs could be.

I used to frequent my local MAC counter, granted MAC isn’t very popular in MS as most of the women shopping for higher end make up are much older and looking for your basic colors, but I could usually go in pretty problem free and browse without being hassled. I’ve been in various MAC and Pro stores in Chicago and have yet to have a good experience. Maybe it’s just them pushing for sales, but there are always so many associates around and I feel like they’re either too pushy or not attentive, there’s no in between. One thing that’s really intense here too are the LE releases and I’ve been in several times where I’ve been pushed to sign up for the opening release, even after saying no several times.

And even though it’s not completely make up related, some of the absolute WORST SA stories I have are from Lush associates. Some of the best come from there too though. I know enough about the Lush products that I could work their myself, honestly, but I’ve dealt with some really horrific SA’s that continued to badger me to try things even after I politely told them that I was just browsing. I also find their employees are often uneducated on their products as well and more often than not, after quizzing me with a hundred questions pertaining to my hair and skin type, still match me with incorrect products.

I just really wish there was some kind of system based on customer satisfaction rather than meeting a sales goal so that some of these SAs would calm down and educate themselves on their products so to properly help shoppers.

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