You know, I was always under the impression (as most people are), that cosmetics counter people are pushy because they make commission on the products they sell.
Okay, I’m here to set the record straight. Yes, we are pushy. However, my personal commission (working at a big department store) is…drum roll…3%. Yes, that means that in order to make $3, I have to sell you $100 worth of cosmetics! Furthermore, that number never changes. If you’ve worked there 10 days or 10 years, it is always 3% (for your own cosmetics line, 2% for a competitor’s line). The real reason we are pushy is that we get yelled at and threatened if we don’t meet certain minimum sales requirements every day. These goals are set by the parent company, not the department store (though the store will come down on you too- they don’t want to get scolded if you don’t meet your goal). Nobody in your store at 10pm on a Friday? Too bad, your sales goal is still down. It must be your fault. The other interesting thing is that the current year’s goal must ALWAYS be greater than last year’s goal. This is not really too surprising. After all, your business has to grow. However, growth cannot continue forever and the economy is not quite as…happy…as it once was. Basically, the pressure to sell cosmetics is similar to the pressure for selling cars, without the big payoff commissions.
I got a letter from Estee Lauder. I was thrilled- I thought it was my $50 gratis (I sold 20 fragrances (more quick math- that’s probably about $1000 in sales) and filled up a punch card, “winning” $50 in product). Nope. It was a letter from EL headquarters reminding me that the Holiday season was coming up and I should work harder (just in case I was stupid and didn’t notice, while working at a MALL, that the holiday decorations are going up WAY too early). The rewards just aren’t there.
Also, there are the few people out there who are just super enthusiastic about the product they are selling and REALLY want you to buy it so that you are a healthier, happier, more complete human being. Fortunately, I am not one of those people (though I have worked with enough of them to know how to identify them in a store).
But we still spend millions on them. The people who claim that there are magical creams out there are usually the companies selling them. As far as I have ever been able to determine, the only real “anti-wrinkle” cream is sunblock!
Let’s take a look at some of this hype-
Direct from the Estee Lauder web site:
“Perfectionist [CP+] with poly-collagen peptides.
Day 1: Instantly, the length, depth and number of lines and wrinkles look reduced up to 36%”
What the hell does this mean? How do you reduce the look of something by 36%? What measure is a “look?” How can appearance be measured in percentages? Can you say that Joe is 50% more attractive than Jim? To whom?
And lets remember that “up to” is not an “average.” It means that 36% was the best. If there’s a physics class with 200 students and one student gets a 92 on a test, while most others get a 46, it would be misleading to use the 92 as a standard for how well the class did.
The rest of the site is pretty much the same. In “school” they tell us to memorize these percentages (it’s called “clinical proof”). Of course, they don’t emphasize the “up to” part. Nor do they explain the measuring stick of appearance. But the beauty advisors have to buy it even more than you do. It we don’t believe it, we won’t try to sell it to you. I don’t and I won’t.
I’ve told this to many women, and anyone out there reading this should know: There’s nothing wrong with wrinkles. Honestly, you want to look better? Just relax and smile. Stop fighting it so much! We did an exercise in “school” where we had to write down how many cosmetics products we used that morning before coming. We were told to include shampoo, soap, everything. I came up with seven. The average was 22. The highest was 46! If each of those products was from a counter, where the average price of a product is $20 (above wrinkle cream is $55/ounce), we’re talkin’ an average of $440 per person! Use it if you want to, but don’t use it because you feel you have to. I mean, you could spend your money on cigarettes instead (totally kidding).
Okay, so I finally gave notice to my cosmetics counter job. I thought it would be interesting to do makeup for people and work in a fun environment for a while. It’s certainly not what I usually focus on, so why not give something new a chance? Well, “fun” is not how I would describe it. I have some behind-the-scenes moments for the blogosphere:
You know that “gift-with-purchase” thing that so many people go nuts over? It’s not so great on the other side of the counter. The goals that the parent company sets for its employees are unrealistic at best. I don’t want to call you at home and tell you about the fantabulous special we are offering, but it’s hard with the corporate representation right there at the register with me, breathing down my neck and tracking my every penny.
Additionally, we have two goals: “presale” and “gift.” My presale goal for three weeks was $4,000 (yes, that’s a lot for a part-timer). Enter a couple of hurricanes and rising gas prices… Needless to say, I did not reach my presale goal. Additionally, I am not meeting current gift goals (nor, as I found out, is any store right now). This, of course, is not the fault of rising gas prices, a crumbling economy, or a human desire to maybe not spend money on “anti-aging” cream and give it to people who no longer have homes or food. No, this is my fault. I didn’t call enough of you. I didn’t go out into the store with jars of creams and makeup and pull you into my chair to tell you how hideous your skin will be (or is) without our products. I didn’t let you know just what a great deal you are getting.
Enough about me, let’s talk about you.
How about that great deal? You get the standard bag to hold your new goodies. You probably wouldn’t want to use this bag in public, but it’s cute enough to be attractive. You get a FULL-SIZE lipstick, a blush or an eyeshadow sample, a fragrance sample, a cream sample, and some kind of tool (a brush, an eyelash curler, etc.)
I just described EVERY company’s gift this season!
First of all, the bag is cheap. That about sums up that piece. Secondly, the company will have you believe that your “full-size” lipstick is a $22 value, but don’t be fooled (let’s not even talk about the hideous colors)! It is the full amount of product, but the packaging is cheap. I don’t particularly care, but packaging is what you usually pay for, so the lipstick is NOT worth $22! The rest of the cheap/non-existent goodies (0.01 oz of moisturizer? Is that just for my nose?) are not really worth the $24.50 or whatever minimum price they are asking. And, surprise, most of the “basics” are not enough to cover that cost (mascara is $21, cleanser is $22, toner is $19, lipstick is $22, etc.)! So, you end up buying more to get the free stuff! It really makes me sad when a woman comes to the counter looking for a mascara, doesn’t qualify for the gift and ends up circling the counter in search of something that is either $4-$5 (ha!) or worth another $21! And, yes, they do track them, so it’s not up to us to just give them to you.
Basically, I don’t like tricking people anymore. My last weekend at the counter, I had a panic attack when the counter manager cornered me between the cash register and the company sign for 30 minutes, lecturing me about sales goals and client lists. And this is because I’ve been doing a good job!? I’m just not sales material!