Thursday, July 15, 2010

Field Trip; Saks 5th Avenue Cosmetics Counter



Today was another scorcher! And as an added bonus, the heat came with relentless humidity; reminiscent of that first step into a high school locker room. Not the kind of weather you'd like to spend the day in. So it was easy for me to take refuge in an air conditioned climate surrounded by good lighting and decadent items to browse through.

Cosmetic counters are a bustle with fragrances, makeup, skincare and other intrigues designed to stimulate your inner consumer complete with sales people to coax that consumer into emptying their wallet. But you're "just looking" you say? Not likely once they've gotten their hands on you.

Being male, I tend not to fear the grasp of a makeup artist pushing the newest foundation or the perfume sniper poised for fire! Dudes in a department store usually don't purchase such wares and aren't really worth the effort. Although I will always get the odd looks from time to time, for the most part, sales people think I'm just waiting for my girlfriend who's trying on something at the next counter. But, being that I am a makeup artist, I tend to use this prejudice to my advantage.

Now, don't get me wrong, I've got questions and needs as a consumer as well, but being in the industry, I'd prefer to be left to my own and prompt service when necessary. Ideally, a simple "do you need help with anything" is more than satisfactory when doing a little product testing. If followed with, "let me know if you have any questions" or "my name is ___, let me know when you're ready" would be sufficient as well.

Hell, if I get a "HOLLA!", that'd be fine too.

At the Tom Ford Beauty counter, I was the only person looking at the lipstick schematic, taking each tube and swatching it on the back of my hand to see how the color reads. A gentleman behind the counter asked me if I needed any help to which I lifted my head, made eye contact and replied nonchalantly, "no, thank you". I continued to examine the product; looking at the consistency, the color, how it wears when smudged, when he continued to make comments about how lovely they are, how nice they look, etc..., to which I lifted my head, made eye contact and replied, "they really are".

So here we are engaging in friendly conversation when a second employee comes up and asks "do you need some help?". Well, I imagine this person didn't quite see that I was already being helped but, trying to keep from being rude, I replied, "no, thank you" and continued on my business. With both sales people directly before me with no need to engage me, they began engaging each other. And along comes our THIRD salesperson with the familiar "do you need some help?".

By this point, I was becoming a bit irritated but I actually had developed a question in my head; "can I see the ingredients listing?". Salesperson #2 broodingly agreed and fetched the lipstick box and handed it over ingredients side up. The 3 of them watched as I read the box... as an audience would. Feeling now on display, I handed the box back but realized that, although hovering before me, no one was actually paying attention to me. So, not a terribly attentive audience.

I placed the box in front of the group and went back to examining the colors when I was asked, "are you looking to avoid an allergy?". An incisive observation that suited my concern. But when I began to answer I realized that, once again, no one was really paying attention.

I wanted to remember the order that I swiped the colors onto my hand so I took out my camera phone to take a picture of the lipstick schematic when I was told "THERE ARE NO PICTURES ALLOWED IN THE BUILDING" by salesperson #3.

Having committed a faux-pas, I apologized and asked if I might borrow a pen and paper. To which I was given, very begrudgingly, by #2 when #1 excused himself and #3 looked on agitated.

As I was writing down the color order I realized I DID actually want to buy one or two colors to have in my kit but, the experience left me feeling very uneasy, and I decided NOT to make the purchase.




Trying to recover from my first sales attack, I wandered about Saks when I came upon the Dolce & Gabana Beauty counter. I walked up to the products and took a scan of the color selection, noticing a few items that caught my attention.

A sales lady came up to me and said something to the effect of "hello, did you need help finding anything?" to which I replied, "no, thank you, I'm just looking". She was very kind and offered her assistance should I need it to which I thanked her. After a few moments of playing with products, I realized that I, again, wanted to see ingredients for a particular item. She was keeping busy with a task but gladly interrupted herself to hand over the packaging with ingredients side up. I opted not to get the product and handed it back to her. She asked me if I was interested in the purchase and I said, "I'm sorry, no" but she replied thankfully and offered me a "good day".

Even though I wasn't really interested in the product, I gotta say, her demeanor left me feeling like I should have bought it anyway.




When I left the building into the wet heat of NYC, I thought about my experience and how the service affected my purchasing decisions. Even though I preferred the Tom Ford products I'd rather not give my money over to pushy sales people. Maybe they should have the Dolce & Gabana sales lady take over that counter.

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