A Ramble on Makeup, MAC, Laura Mercier, & Sephora

I love shopping, but hate shopping for anything in particular. Shopping for something in particular is worthy of the 9th ring of hell in my opinion, the pressure to find the right thing at the right price at the right time is more than I can bear. Shopping in a pressured situation like this takes the la de da fun out of shopping, so I avoid it at all costs. Of course there are times when you are just forced into shopping for a particular something, and in those moments I find myself wondering “whatever happened to customer service?” Bad customer service is a constant pet peeve of mine. I WILL write to the company if I get bad service, but I also write when I get great customer service, yes, I have issues…;)

The funny thing is I never knew there was a difference in levels of customer service until I traveled to the third world. Yeah, yeah I know it isn’t PC to call the third world the third world, but the third world is a different world…not a Cosby Show spin-off. In the third world when you visit with tourist dollars that might seem like nothing to you, all of a sudden you are treated like a rock star. Shopping means sales assistants fawning over you, store owners and managers running to get you bottled water, and stores extending their hours to make sure you don’t feel rushed in your decision to buy a traditional outfit which you will never wear once you get home. I don’t envy celebrities much, but I sure envy that! By comparison shopping in a cookie cutter mall in Southern California that is slowly being overtaken by cheapo stripper shoe stores and Footlocker type knock-off stores, you don’t feel like a rock star at all, you find yourself asking again and again “whatever happened to customer service?!” This was exactly what I felt when I was again in search of the perfect concealer when the new one I purchased a few days earlier broke.

Starting at Nordstrom, the supposed bastion of good customer service before you leave the stores us mere mortals can afford, I knew what I wanted and I was going to get the right color matched to my skin and get out of there. Walking up to the Laura Mercier, which I hereby dub the Laura Bitchier counter, I told the associate which concealer I wanted and asked for a color match. This elicited a rundown of the concealer and an explanation that it wasn’t made for under the eyes even though the company website said it was great “for getting rid of dark circles”. Insisting I wanted the product the sales associate soon shucked me off to another associate so she could go help someone else. I was starting to lose it, the little imaginary thermometer over my head was heating up fast, I just got ditched and had to explain everything again to another associate and listen to her explanation of why this concealer wasn’t right for under my eyes. Finally, after again insisting I wanted to get color matched she started trying something on under my eyes the whole while saying despite what I read on the website or was told by a representative of the company on the phone this concealer was not meant for under the eyes. A couple of mind numbing minutes later I was handed the mirror, and was shocked. Why would any sighted person have applied makeup to someone’s under eyes like this?! I mean really?! The first color she tried on me was so light it was almost blinding, the second color was so awkwardly pink completely ignoring the yellow undertones in my skin, I really had to wonder if she was color blind. Clearly she hadn’t been parted of the sighted world for long. Saying thank you after wiping off the horrendous clown makeup I took the associates advice and headed over to MAC.

Foregoing the MAC area of Nordstrom is usually part of my silent non-violent protest against MAC’s attempts to be more than they are. They are a makeup brand, nothing more, nothing less. Yet they routinely have some of the bitchiest men and women employed to work that counter. The air of superiority with which their associates swan around their counter combined with the annoyingly loud music makes them seem like the are trying so hard to be cool, they have somehow overshot the mark in a big way.  Back in the old days wealthy patrons would support artists and put up with their crap so they could in someway be part of the history this artist was creating. Well the wealthy patrons of the MAC makeup artists is Estee Lauder, and their patroness is pimping out her artists, making them work their corner and hawk her products. So why MAC makeup artists act like they are doing you a favor when you need help finding a product I have no clue. But after having my concealer done by a guy with perfect makeup I again found myself wondering if he too had just joined the sighted world, and if his patroness would be mad that he just botched a sale. When I expressed my doubt over the splotchy mismatched concealer and asked if he thought it was a good match he said “yes, let me know if you need any more help” before walking off. Now you, gentle reader, know that is some CRAP. Here I am asking if this horrible effort he made on behalf of my under eye circles was correct and his stuck up self just walked away, WHAT IN THE WORLD?! I was getting really irritated, and before I did something stupid, ala Aldo Shoes screaming match with a sales associate I was walking off I needed to cool down, I just shouldn’t have tried to do it in another makeup store.

Heading to MAC, the store, it was more of the same. Wait around to be helped and then when you finally get some help, the information is so bad, so inaccurate you almost wonder if they are for real. According to the MAC store associate what seems like a variety of different concealers perched on their display was simply one single type of concealer with different delivery methods…WTF?! So essentially what this makeup artists was telling me was that MAC/Estee Lauder in their infinite wisdom and wish to waste money packaged the same concealer in different pots, pencils, tubes, etc. just for the fun of wasting money?! Aside from the disbelief over this obviously wrong information, my under eyes were aching. They literally hurt for all the “stippling” and “smoothing” and “tapping on” of product. Worse I found myself wanting to salute those sneaky bastards at the makeup companies. Not only have they created products that cost $22 for a quarter of an ounce, they have now split the concealer category into eye and face. Not one of the people I asked from the time I stepped into Nordstrom to that moment in MAC agreed or even understood my request for a single product for my under eyes and face. Every single time I requested an eye and face concealer in one I was met with blank looks and explanations about color canceling, etc. etc. I never remember hearing this eye/face concealer distinction until just recently…sneaky, sneaky!

Under eyes weary, I left the MAC store without a product in hand and went to Sephora. Hopefully the color I needed for the next day was in stock even though I had called earlier and knew that wasn’t the case. Walking into the store I was immediately asked if I needed help! It was amazing things were going my way, finally! Taking me over to the the CoverFX display after I told her my concealer was out of stock from Makeup Forever, Sephora is Makeup Forever’s pimp, the associate moved towards me with the concealer, and I could hear my under eye skin screaming “OH THE HUMANITY”…lol. Well, maybe it wasn’t that dramatic, I just asked her if I could apply the concealer instead of her because my eyes were getting irritated from all the trying on, but I wasn’t to worry she was going to try the concealer on my neck. I thought this was a good idea so try she did, and a fail it was, I could see a patch of concealer on my neck, it was darker than my skin tone, how was I supposed to cover dark circles with a concealer darker than my skin?! This definitely wasn’t going to work. Expressing my doubt again, the sales associate said “concealer doesn’t always have to be lighter than your skin.” What?! How the hell am I going to conceal dark circles with concealer darker than the circles?! What in hell?! I had walked into Sephora and apparently stepped into an alternate reality, I was in opposite world. With excuses of just wanting to browse some more I separated from the sales associate and left the store no concealer in hand.

Leaving the mall I reflected on all my bad makeup advice and makeup trying on experience of late and tried to come up with a reason for it. There had to be a reason. Maybe I was giving off a bitch vibe, that definitely could be it, but I wasn’t in a bad mood at the first counter I was at and still got shoddy service. It could be that I was only looking for one product not a regimen, but they never really tried to sell me anything more or asked me if I wanted anything more, so how would they know?  Then finally it came to me, I wasn’t wearing any makeup. I walked up to these makeup counters in nothing but my good old trusty Oil of Olay moisturizer. My hair was pulled back into a not cute ponytail and I looked comfortable in my jeans and washed too many times hoodie. There were times I had received great customer service from MAC and as I reflected back on those moments it was when I walked up to the counter with makeup on. For some strange reason I really think that I got worse customer service at the makeup stores and counters when I didn’t have makeup on.  Instead of taking one look at my face that was was clearly devoid of products and seeing a huge commission on sales, they thought it wasn’t worth their time to try to convince me to buy what they were selling. It made me think back to an article I read about gender differences in the workplace and how women who didn’t wear makeup were perceived as not caring and that they weren’t as “good” at what they did as their female colleagues that wore makeup. Adding insult to injury they were also paid less. I only wish the article talked about men who wore makeup, now that would have been an interesting article.

Sometime soon I am going to have to get all dolled up and go back to those same stores and the same makeup counters and see if I can get help from the same people. I bet you a MAC eye shadow that I suddenly get treated much better, not as well as you get treated when shopping in the third world, but definitely better!

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  1. #1 by K on April 24, 2011 - 6:04 am

    Hi,
    I came across with your article because I am trying to do some research before heading Mac/ sephora/cosmetic (looking for a good foundation). I need to leave you a reply because I totally agree with you. People usually don’t take me seriously when I don’t dress up- at work or weekend. There are always perception about men are superior than women or women must be a waste of time if they are not dress up. I went on a meeting a client with my junior guy. The client didnt event bother talking to myself (the woman) on the meeting and kept addressing the junior guy as the superior boss, even I was the one who is handling the project. The junior clearly had no idea/ experience of the project, so the client had to talk to me. At the time I was so pissed off that I ignored him. The client had to call in (after the meeting) and apologize for his rude behavior. I was dressed up for the meeting, but I had no respect because of my gender. The same thing goes in the office too. 😦

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