Slightly awkward exchange in a department store yesterday trying to get a sample of new foundation from a counter. I’d already been sent a full bottle from the press office but it was the wrong colour so rather than waste more product by trying to guess again, I’d thought I’d get an exact match and sample pot.
So, I asked the MUA for a sample, explaining that I’d already got a sample that was the wrong colour from the press office. I thought I’d made it really clear in a non-offensive and non-pushy way that I was press (which never goes down well at make-up counters anyway but I just needed her to know that I’d had a shade and it was wrong). However, something went missing in the conversation and it all got really embarrassing as she colour matched me. I wasn’t an exact match to any shade. I suggested taking away the nearest shade and the one slightly darker as samples to blend together.
MUA: No, you cannot. They are worth £5 each and you can only have one.”
ME: “But if I don’t have an exact match then surely if I end up buying two that’s better.”
MUA: “No. Anyway, we don’t have any of that shade left.”
ME: “Okay, well if you can write down the code for the nearest match, I will ring the press office and ask them to send it to me.”
MUA: “You can’t just ring our head office and ask for samples. They won’t give them to you.”
ME: “It’s okay, I’m a beauty journalist, as I explained at the beginning.”
MUA: “You should just go to John Lewis.”
As the words ‘beauty journalist’ fell from my mouth they just sounded like a total lie, and I went bright red only making it look even more like the BS the MUA was certain I was talking. Excruciating. I ran to Fenwicks and picked up a sample there, but oh.
All products are sent to me as samples from brands and agencies unless otherwise stated. Affiliate links may be used. Posts are not affiliate driven.
When will MUA on counters learn that samples = future sales? the UK are so tight with samples same company in USA would dish them out freely. I am 90% more likely to purchase a product which cost more than £15 if I have had a sample first. I’m not paying out £30+ without any idea of if I like it!
I know there are sample vultures but if you have a good counter with consistent staff they will soon learn the regular purchasers from the rest.
I wonder when boots will get like sephora and put a few little samples in your bag with every purchase. I was talking to a sales assistant this weekend and she said there were hundreds of samples in the staff room – give them to customers they might equal sales!
End rant 😀
Absolutely agree with what you said
Oh Lord 🙁
God, some MUA’s still tick me off like this, I don’t go round every counter asking for samples only go to those that I am really interested in. I’m lucky that I still have MUA friends on counter from when I worked on counter, so I mail them first before going in. You explained yourself clearly and where polite with them, there was no reason for that attitude. I was would passed off they’re name to HO, she won’t of do that again.
This is why I’m always scared to ask for a sample…
She should get a slap. Also I would have complained about her. Regardless of whether she thought you were lying or not there should be a standard of customer service at least?? Pah. And shops wonder why everyone buys online!
Thats is totally shocking!! :O
NAME AND SHAME!! 😉
That’s pretty bad, I really don’t understand the samples issue in the EU anymore. They used to dole them out gleefully but now they’ve all but completely stopped. Paradoxically, when I was working for a high end beauty brand, their counters were full to bursting with excess samples and stock that they never even bothered to add to the inventory. The mind boggles.
That is dreadful. Shame on that MUA for being so rude and unprofessional!!
I live close to a John Lewis and I was told by one of the perfume ladies that it is their policy to practically throw samples at you; and to be honest every time I do go in to the beauty “hall” and purchase something samples are given; and most importantly they will give them to you without a prior purchase as they seem to be sympathetic that we all can’t go throwing £30+ quid at a new foundation, skincare product etc without a second thought. They are also very good at offering make-overs without purchasing 1st. On the other hand most staff in Boots and Debenhams have been so tight in their uppity attitude, it makes you feel like you’ve asked if you could touch their bum and they’ve quite rightly refused :/
Oh wow >_<
She sounds awful though, you should go back with your card next time you pass that way just so she knows to get off her high horse.
Oh dear- I had a similar experience but they understood perfectly. It was a great product so I ended up purchasing it for personal use! x
Oh bless you! I went to get a sample today (wondering if might be same brand) & the MUA asked if I’d been there a few days ago to get a sample. She wouldn’t really believe that I hadn’t – was a bit mortified! x
I tried to get a sample of the new YSL foundation in House of Fraser the other day. It was a Sunday, so not many staff about, I asked a Chanel counter lady for a sample whilst buying another product and she told me she wasn’t allowed to give out other counter samples in case I had a reaction and tried to sue the company. Um, what? Then another counter assistant butted in saying I’d need to be colour matched. I explained I knew what shade I wanted to try, but no such luck.
It’s like trying to get blood out of a stone.
I get so scared asking for samples but there were a couple I wanted to try and I went to Selfridges and they were happy to give me them, even at Estee Lauder where I wanted to try two different types! I would have complained for the pure aspect of customer service!
I find in Debenhams they can be very rude, even when I explain i have sensitive skin and won’t purchase expernsive products without trying them firs.
In response to Stacie, as a brand – its a difficult one. When I lived in the USA, I’d often buy products from Kiehls and they would depending on my spend would reward accordingly. Quite often if I spent $200 they’d give me a number of full priced products and it felt great for me to increase brand loyalty and also more often than not I’d buy full priced versions of the items they had sampled to me.
We often enhance our customers internet orders with samples and full priced products depending on the sale. We believe in rewarding and we are very generous.
Its a different scenario when someone says that they want samples without ever having investing in the brand, it gets tricky as we have been conned so many times previously.
If a customer is genuinely interested in a product but nervous to invest in it, we can support them with genuine detailed information about the product and its attributes and performance and offer an option to choose something different if it doesn’t live up to its properties.
But “Try before you buy” rarely works and there are more serial samplers than there are genuine folks that will come back.
Totally agree with you there!
how awkward 😐
but who do u mean by MUA? the cheap superdrug brand? :S x
So the YSL counter at Selfridges, then? Some of their staff are quite dreadful.
Jonathan Ward, the problem is that even when you buy product, SAs don’t give out samples. As a regular beauty customer I do buy many different brands. Let’s say i went to dior and i bought a lipstick. wouldn’t it be great if the SA gave me a sample of the new BB cream to try, which is tailored to my needs? wOULDn’t that generate sales? even if you don’t intend to buy, engaging with a potential customer and giving them smt that suits their needs, certainly will generate customers at some point.
As a journalist I do encounter similar problems with people who work in the beauty industry and are super rude or clueless as to what the company they work for stands for. The other thing is that SAs are also clueless. I went to House of Fraser a month ago and there is a new american SA who is completely clueless. I wanted a bronzing powder,she gave me something else, I returned it and she was so disrespectul saying that it was my fault, I had the chosen the wrong product. Yup, ok. I remember she persuaded me to have a makeover on the spot and at the end I asked about the prices. Her answer: first of all, let me know which ones you are interested in. I will tell you their prices!!!! (Nice attitude)
I have also been at the Guerlain counter at House of Fraser: price-y product with clueless SAs. I asked for a concealer last year and the assistant told me that she didn’t know which one it was, she was new and she was just giving me other stupid stuff to try. I have decided to avoid House of Fraser at this point.
Then SAs need to be educated on how to colour match clients. It is unacceptable that you go for a foundation and you are given a darker or a lighter product. I wish beauty companies would give more importance to which people they give the liberty to sell their product. Bceause they dont sell it well at all.
The other thing: in mags there are some ads which say ‘come and get your free sample at so and so’. YSL is one example. It is unacceptable then that you reach the counter to get it and they are not giving it to you. It’s false advertising.
I’m a freelance MUA and I find those girls on the counters really scary and mostly unhelpful x
That is just rude and unprofessional. Whatever your company’s policy is on samples, you shouldn’t say that.
To be fair, she wasn’t really rude, just more erm, sympathetic.. she just didn’t believe me..it might have gone better if she’d heard me properly at the begining..or maybe she did and she just thought I was mad from the get-go! It’s certainly not the worst experience I’ve ever had at a counter..
And she would have given me a sample (worth £5 – cough, cough) if there had been any left. What she wouldn’t give me was two. I think that if a brand produces X number of new shades and there is no match for fairly average skin tone such as mine, it’s not very good and there should be some leeway made for people like me to have two and experiment at home. After all, that could translate to two bottles of foundation bought every time I ran out.. double the profit at least two or three times a year.
I got two samples of the YSL foundation as they matched me with the rose shade and I wasn’t convinced. I tried the beige shade at home and much prefered it, so I am buying it when it comes out at Harvey Nics Manchester. So there you go- if I didn’t have the sample I wouldn’t have gone back. Two shades matched just one looked much better. Think in the UK they are kidding themselves if they think we are going to carry on pouring out money on every more expensive products, totally untried.
I can sympathise. I really don’t understand the attitude to samples in the UK and Europe. It seems we have it the worst of all.
In the US, it’s generaly samples galore yet they still get to return beauty products, even if they are opened!
In Asia (I’m thinking East here) there are strict no return policies on cosmetics (same as here), but they get loads of samples anyway, so it wouldn’t be such a big problem – at least they get to try first.
In the UK (Europe too, from what I’ve heard), we get no returns, yet they are stingy with samples, nearly impossible to get it out of them.
Now I completely understand the makeup artists’ reluctance to hand out samples to customers without purchase (even though ideally they should) because sadly, there are those who take advantage and stalk counters for samples without ever having the intention to buy (totally tacky, those people should be ashamed of themselves). However, the problem is when you buy something, you’re clearly a paying customer and yet they still won’t hand out samples.
Makeup artists who give me samples will get my business in future; I even wait in the queue for them, even if someone else is free because I know they appreciate my business and try their best to help me. Now I don’t want samples for the sake of it – they can be annoying and take up space, but there are many things I would never have dreamed of buying had I not received a sample first. I’ve bought mascaras, foundations and even lipsticks this way. Surely this is the aim of giving out samples? This is a case of the intention of samples actually working.
Even if a customer only buys one product, they should still get a small sample if they want, after all, they just paid money to your brand (and possibly you just received a commission). However, there have been occassions when I’ve bought three, four or more products and still don’t receive an offer of samples. I think asking you if you want them may be the best way, that way you can politely refuse. Some SAs look positively offended if I ask for samples (I only ask when I’m purchasing too).
This clearly isn’t right and isn’t a good example of good customer service. Why does the cosmetic industry seem to get away with it the most?
The service in the British beauty indstry is truly dismal.
Do you think the beauty community could start something, calling for better treatment for customers?
I’m from the US and moved to London about two years ago. The US SA’s are way too pushy. The UK ones don’t give samples eagerly. With foundation i think sampling is really important as I have made a mistake a few times by thinking i’ve found the right shade in the department store, but when i get home it’s too yellow. I found an online store called Zuneta that I ordered some foundation samples from and they sent them free! Now I’m very happy with my Becca foundation. Plus i fell loyal to the store and loyal to the brand. They will get their moneys worth from me!
I work on a counter and I hate when people ask for samples because I’m in he mind set that people should be alllowed to try the product so I give them a sample. The counter manager or another girl just stands and watches. The second the customer leaves I get in SOOOOOOO much trouble for it. But I know that if I say I cant give a sample the customer will hate me, and also why shouldn’t I give a sample.
Hate having to feel like a dick and hate how much trouble I get in for giving away a sample.
I worked a counter once that had a foundation promotion on (no names). Evene though the promotion said you could have a large sample the manager was being really strict and kept turning people down. So I had to sneak people samples to not be an arsehole or just get totally shouted at by everyone else I worked with.
If this is the same product I’m thinking of I went to try and get a sample today and yesterday. Yesterday the counter was empty with no-one serving and today the woman totally ignored me.
Needless to say I swatched it myself, decided I didn’t like it and went and got some other samples from different (more helpful) brands. I know it’s easy to moan about OTT sales assistants but I at least want some form of service :-/
So, I live in India and we get NO samples ever! I repeat NO samples. We pay 40% duties on cosmetics and the SAs treat you like you are trying to get free stuff that you should be paying for. Recently I had the opportunity to meet the business head of a really large cosmetics and skincare giant and I asked her why i get so many more samples when i buy in the US. Her simple answer was – Oh, the US customers are a pampered lot!
She’s right about John Lewis at least. I’ve been pleasantly surprised the last few times I’ve been there as both times I was approached & given a perfume sample, one from Miller Harris & the other Thierry Mugler.
The Benefit staff in Boots OXford Circus were fab when I went in to colour match Oxygen Wow! Just went to test them & the lovely MUA potted two small tubs for me to try at home 🙂
I think the main issue is that in general sales people don’t necessarily understand the relationship between brands and press. I had a similar feeling at the Vitality show this year, where I wanted to talk to brands to gather detailed information for possible blog write ups and all I was faced with was pushy sales people trying to sell me something, no one understood that I just wanted information.
OMG, as a fellow beauty journalist, I had to laugh at your description of the “excruciating” moment you mentioned your job… Happens to me ALL THE TIME when I actually go to beauty counters. And I’m also continually frightened by bad service there. Honestly, I’ve started to give the press ladies feedback if I feel that their counter staff isn’t up to speed. Might make me sound a bit bitchy, but I really believe it helps the company, in the long run! Smiles and keep up the good work, I love reading your blog!
Steffi from Switzerland
Oh god, I can’t believe how awful that women was! I sometimes feel offended in department stores when getting matched (they pretend like they know so much more, but they don’t), but this is ridiculous! And here was I, thinking that MUA’s elsewhere in the world were nicer haha – not! x