A Few Confessions From Behind the Beauty Counter

They may look glamorous, unapproachable at times, but beauty counter girls are glorified sales assistants, with perks and extra training on their products and services. Here are some myths debunked—no one will ever admit to them, but most are unspoken rules. I worked for several companies (skincare, make-up and fragrance) in different stores, and this is what it’s really like.

  • Staff are hired on appearance and looks. I’m afraid it’s true—people are hired on how attractive they look, and if they suit the image of the brand. This is less so for fragrance, but more for cosmetics and skincare houses. Certain skincare companies like Clarins or Decléor will prefer therapists so that they can do treatments, but most don’t require any specific qualifications. Make-up house like glamorous looks, and skincare houses like people with clear skin. Nearly always you will be required to wear your hair back from your face, as you are a walking advert for the products.
  • Do they use the make-up and skincare? Yes, and no. All consultants are given an allocation to use as make-up is part of their uniform. The reality is most girls use other products and pass them off as their own when they run out. This is sales after all, and my line was “I’ve mixed a couple of lipsticks together,” or others would say, “Colors look different on people, as they can change,” and these lines worked. Most Area Managers would turn a blind eye, as long as you were wearing a similar color or product and were selling, that’s all that matters.
  • The free makover. On a counter with several staff, most people won’t mind doing it on the spot (or will charge a booking fee these days), but when a counter is short staffed and is not on target, free makeovers are frowned upon. Sometimes people will buy, but unless it’s a quiet day and they want to pass the time, most try to avoid them. The worst thing is to do a makeover and lose a potential sale. Younger girls will be eager as they like to practice, and no, most aren’t trained make-up artists. They are trained how to use their own products, and are told the benefits as sales techniques. My advice is book (return to the counter later), or state what items you are interested in if you want a makeover. This will ensure you get better service, and allows the consultant to set things up.
  • “I don’t have any samples!” These days it’s true, because companies would rather the consultant give a mini-makeover or facial for people to try the products instead. Samples or special sizes are allocated for promotions or the launch of a new product now, and are used as a selling tool. Some more expensive products may have samples, but the consultant has to have these ordered and authorized. I used to sell a face cream that was over $500 (£375) and was only allowed samples if it was stocked. I did win the argument that I couldn’t sell it without samples, and proved that. Samples come off an Area Managers budget, so a consultant with a good relationship with their manager maybe able to acquire more samples, but they are not as common as they used to be.
  • They are brand loyal. This is another myth; staff will move from one company to another, either for a promotion or money. Some stores do not allow staff to move to another counter, as they think it confuses the consumer. The premise is how can they say one day that this is the best cleanser to use, and next week say something else. People will move due to money, or they want to become a Counter Manager. In general fragrance houses are seen as less prestigious, but they pay more. I moved from a skincare and make-up house to a fragrance house and my salary was more than a third higher.

Don’t get me wrong, it can be a great job, but sales and targets and figures matter. I’ve seen people who don’t achieve targets who get let go. It’s a myth that they are only there to advise, (most are only trained in their own products) if they don’t sell, they lose their job. There is pressure to sell, despite the outward appearance of making the customer comfortable, so yes, there maybe a few fibs to make a sale. I wasn’t one of those, so some months I did struggle. My premise is that people will bring things back, and then you lose the sale anyhow (returns are deducted from sales figures). That’s one of the reasons I left, because people buy online, or from duty free shops, and you can’t rely on repeat customers all of the time. When you don’t hit target, there is no commission, and you only get a basic wage, which is minimum wage. It’s not that glamorous at all.

©2016. BeautySuperSpy. Image is in the public domain.

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