My Top 5 Makeup Counter Pet Peeves

cosmetic counter pet peeves

I love buying cosmetics online. Sure, I can’t try the products in person, which can make online purchases quite risky at times (although thanks to blogs, I can have a good idea of what a shade looks like or how a product works), but at least I don’t have to deal with rude, pushy or ignorant SAs. Going to a cosmetic counter should be a pleasant and fun experience, but when you don’t get good customers service, you’ll start to dread even approaching one. Here are 5 things that will make sure I’ll never visit a shop again:

1. Pushy sale assistants

I can’t stand it when a SA tries to sell me something I neither need nor want and refuses to take no for an answer. The SAs at my local Kiko shop are the worst. It doesn’t matter if you go to the shop to browse or buy, the moment you step inside, they’ll jump on you raving about the new releases you absolutely have to try. If you tell them you’re looking for something specific, they will help you and then proceed to try and sell you the entire store. And going there when the shop’s so full the SAs won’t have the time to harass you doesn’t work either because as soon as you approach the till to pay for your purchase, they’ll try to sell you something else. For instance, if you buy a mascara, they’ll try to sell you an eye makeup remover, and if you’re purchasing a lipstick then you need a gloss to give it some shine! Argh! Why can’t they just let you browse in peace?! If we want something, we’ll tell you. Otherwise, leave us alone!

2. Being ignored

Being paid too much unwanted attention by a SA is very annoying, but being ignored is just as bad. Once, I had to wait for about 15 minutes before a SA finally stopped gossiping with her colleagues and bothered to help me. And when she did, she acted like she was doing me a favour! It’s their job to take good care of customers, and if they can’t be bothered to do it, then I’ll just take my money elsewhere, where they treat me with respect.

3. Being treated like a thief

If I enter a shop when I’m more dressed down and say I just want to browse, the SAs very often keep staring at me and watch my every move, like they’re afraid I’m gonna let a lipstick slip in my pocket or something. I understand that they need to keep an eye on customers in case they misuse testers or even open and use products for sale (which is another thing I can’t stand), but surely they can do so in a discreet way. Besides, it’s not so much the fact that they look at what I’m doing that bothers me, it’s that they do it only when I’m not wearing expensive clothes. On days when I make an effort to dress up, they’re more likely to ask me if I need help and, if I say I just want to browse, they let me do so in peace. And it’s also annoying when they assume you can’t pay for an expensive item just because you’re not carrying a designer bag. I was at a YSL counter once to look for a foundation and the first thing the SA said to me was that the price was high. Like I didn’t know that already! YSL is not a cheap brand and if I want to purchase something from it, it means I can, so don’t treat me like I’m making you waste time!

4. Rudeness

Some SAs seem to believe that making rude remarks like, “you have awful skin, try this miracle cream”, or “you’re really bad at applying makeup, you need lessons” will help them sell more. Actually, it’s not just SAs that think that. A lot of adverts and magazine articles keep pointing out how inadequate we are at pretty much everything so that they can sell us a product or give some advice that will improve our life in some way. And it really irritates me. Instead than pointing out what you think is wrong me with me, why don’t you tell me what is so great about your product? If you can’t do that and keep resorting to such low tactics, then you will not only offend me, making me never want to deal with you again, but you will also convince me that your product isn’t all that good after all…

5. Lack of product knowledge

I’m not one of those people that expects a SA to know every product, including old, discontinued ones, of the lines they are selling. But I do expect them to have some knowledge of makeup and skincare, and be able to apply their makeup properly, especially if they insist on giving me advice on how to do mine. Instead, most of the time, they just repeat the claims on the packaging, like “this cream will make you look 10 years younger”, or “our products are formulated to work synergically together so if you use them with products from other brands, they won’t work”, that are blatantly false. Some SAs also have such poor knowledge of their products that they don’t even know they exist. I once heard someone complain about a MAC SAs not knowing what the Vanilla pigment, which is one of their most popular, was, let alone if they had it in stock! I, instead, left a SA speechless when I asked if they had a brush cleanser. After giving me a weird look, she simply said “use soap and water”. I had to explain to her that there are products especially designed to clean brushes, and she briskly replied she didn’t sell them. Somehow, I had already figured that out…

Of course, not all SAs are bad. There are lots of professional, knowledgeable and lovely SAs out there who are very good at their job, always treat their customers with respect and help them get exactly what they need. And they deserve praise, especially when you consider what they have to put up with every day. After all, customers can be rude, annoying and demanding at times too.

What are your makeup counter pet peeves? Have you any bad (or good) stories to share?

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    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Ana, a good SA is a real treasure, isn’t it? And they certainly deserve praise for all their hard work. :)

  1. Julia says

    I think you hit all of mine! Another related one is when they lie & try to make excuses… I went concealer hunting & I was recommended one (I think it was Benefit) that included a known comedogenic ingredient that I have broken out from before. I tried to politely decline but the SA kept pushing it, saying it’s the best concealer in the world, that it was noncomedogenic, and followed me around, generally acting like once I tried & bought it, I would finally realize what an amazing product it was. She just wouldn’t take a hint! Another time, a SA put some random cream product on the back of my friend’s hand. She broke out in a red rash in the shape of the swatch within a few minutes … I dragged her back to the SA to see exactly WHAT she put on my friends hand. The SA didn’t even remember, and kept asking if we were sure it was an allergic reaction (as opposed to .. a birthmark??) Were we sure my friend didn’t have the rash before we came to the store? because all of their products are “completely safe”. She even seemed offended that we would dare blame the rash on their products. =_=
    Now I always think twice or thrice before stepping into the store, and then always have to make sure to mentally armor myself… just in case….
    I’ve met a lot of good SA’s too though, they are the complete opposite of this list & restore my faith in mankind. I’m glad for the good SA’s, they are so lovely and always make my day!

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Julia, oh dear, that is so bad! I’m sorry your friend had an allergic reaction and am appalled at the SA’s behaviour. It’s not like someone doesn’t know whether they have birthmarks or rashes or not! And besides, if the SA applied it on her hand, she should have seen that it was perfectly fine! She should just have apologized, not thrown the blame on you! And it’s awful when they don’t listen to what you say either. If you tell them something doesn’t work for you, they should listen instead than trying to force it on you anyway. This behaviour really makes me mad.

      And I agree about good SAs. They make shopping such a pleasant experience!

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Ana, I believe that a lot of SAs simply aren’t properly trained. In which case, either you’re lucky to be served by a SA with a genuine love for what she’s selling and who keeps up-to-date with the latest news in her industry, or you’ll have to put with misinformation and lies, although sometimes told in good faith. And even though it may not always be their fault they’re not well-trained, it is still very irritating for the customers who need help but can’t get it.

  2. Janessa says

    I absolutely despise those kind of SAs you’ve listed above. I was at the makeup counter last week and just walking by, I was asked to try this and that. When I went to study the skincare products and note packaging and design, this SA was standing inches away from me the whole two minutes I was there. She was also talking to me, telling me false information (I’ve already researched the products prior.) I am so often ignored or have been because I’m still a teenager and I look like a little kid. But when I dress up nicely, I’m constantly asked if I need help when I am just walking down the counter isles! It maddens me.
    I’ve also had SAs roll their eyes when i went to return an item and gossip to another SA about it!
    Sometimes, SAs treat me as though I can’t afford the products they’re being paid to sell. I also get horrible recommendations from many SAs regarding color choice. I never let them pick out the final color for me. I occasionally ask them to recommend me a product or color. It does rarely introduce me to new products, but I also kind of test the SA’s knowledge of the brand and if I should listen to his or her advice.

    If there is a promotion or a new collection coming out, I wish SA’s would let me know that but I keep up to date just fine through blogs. But I can’t possibly keep track of third party promotions (not sure if that’s the right term) in department stores since they all vary.

    As you probably tell, I love this post.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, it’s appalling how poorly informed about the products they are selling a lot of SAs are, isn’t it? How can they help customers when they don’t know which colours suit them best or just repeat the product claims (like those are telling us the truth…).

      And it’s so annoying how the assume you can’t pay if you’re not wearing expensive clothes. If we didn’t have the money, we wouldn’t be shopping, would we?

      And I’m glad you do. :)

  3. Janessa says

    I also dislike tricky promotions with fine print and a lot of exceptions but that goes for any store. It’s definitely just a minor problem. This often applies to individual drugstores.

    I have another pet peeve! When I ask for help and the SA is reluctant to help me and is just depressing to be with. I’m spending money on one of my favorite products ever! (Cosmetics). At least be happy around your customers.

    Another one: when I really don’t need help and they’re just eyeing me because I’m taking forever to decide. when I test out colors myself, they get all leery like I am going to damage their display products.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, that is very annoying too. It’s their job to help customers, and if they can’t be bothered to do it, then why should we bother to pay their wages by shopping at their stores?

      I understand that some people mistreat testers and they want to keep an eye on them, but surely they can do so without making it too obvious as that only makes customers feel uncomfortable and want to leave!

  4. Janessa says

    Last one! I am ignored and not greeted when I walk up to the counter. I only dislike this when the SA has nothing to do but won’t even greet me.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Janessa, that’s really bad. You should always greet someone, it’s just good manners. If you don’t, you’re rude.

  5. says

    I’ve had both experiences .. at a Channel counter they are over helpful as I don’t think they’re allowed to let you leave without a purchase .. lol.

    Mac SA’s are helpful, if they are not busy, but if they’re busy – forget it.

    Monica P´s last blog post ..Vintage inspired shoesMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Monica, some SAs can be so pushy or over-helpful it can really give you the impression something horrible will happen to them if they don’t sell you something lol.

  6. says

    I think it’s real hit and miss with SAs no matter what brand you are at. I’ve had Chanel assistants happily let me swatch anything and everything knowing that I probably wouldn’t buy that day and other ones follow me around ready to paint my face with gawd only knows what! I have found that MAC can be consistently bad, I don’t know much about their product ranges – just from other bloggers. But when I go in the shop looking for something I seem to know more than them! And I’m not a hardcore MAC fan so it does make me wonder what training they get????
    Annabella Freeman´s last blog post ..Ooh la la – Esteny Hot Massage Body Scrub reviewMy Profile

    • Janessa says

      Yes! I’ve had some of the worst service from the several MAC stores I’ve visited. That’s when online shopping comes in handy :).

      I agree with you about hit and miss and that brand and price range don’t necessarily factor into their attitude towards customers

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Janessa, thank goodness for online shopping! That way, we can get what we want without having to deal with bad SAs. :)

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Annabella, it’s a shame that a lot of SAs aren’t properly trained. How can they help customers if they have no idea of what they are selling?!

  7. says

    One of the reasons so many SAs are rude or pushy is because some studies have shown that the higher-end the label is (MAC, Yves, etc.) the more rude they can be… because it makes people *want* to impress them by showing “I’m cool, too! I’m wealthy, too!” or some crap. Basically, the more BS people put you through to get this *exclusive* thing, the more you want it.

    Tell them to go to hell and choke on the sulfur. Walk right out. Vote with your dollars, and tell their corporate exactly why you won’t shop someplace.

    This was a success (more or less) with pizza seller Papa Johns here in the states. I closed my account and stopped buying from them after their CEO/founder threw a fit over a fraction of employees potentially getting required health care coverage (America is the only industrialized country without healthcare)… for roughly 5 cents each pizza. Then he tried to pass it off to consumers, and started firing people. Me and hundreds of others closed our accounts and send corporate scathing letters about how inhuman they were, how base and sick they’d have to be, to force workers who get as low as $5/hr to work without sick days, without health care, without money for even a basic antibiotic when they get sick… and on top of that, for corporate greed to be a reason to potentially spread those sicknesses on to their patrons by way of contaminated food. Over five freaking cents. Meanwhile, they gave away 2 million FREE pizzas, to the tune of about $15 each. And* dear ol Papa has a giant mansion with a 16 CAR GARAGE, two pools, a tennis court, etc… just for one dudebro and his family. REALLY?! It was a huge PR debacle. I had been spending something like $50 a month with them. But to hell with them! Now, after all of this, they ‘changed their minds’ and are going to comply with the incredibly weak new healthcare law. Gee, I wonder why. Could it be the loss of millions in revenue per quarter? Now that we have a new Cuban place that’s family owned at 24hrs on Saturday, that’s where my money is going.

    Find a place that treats you well, and spend your money there. Tell the companies you don’t like in clear language why you don’t like their service so that they can improve. Money talks!
    BebeTaian´s last blog post ..Patchwork ProgressMy Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      BebeTaian, is that so? I don’t understand that mentality. You should want something because you like/need it, not because someone has decided it will make you look cool, or made it very exclusive or whatever. That only suits companies who can charge exorbitant prices for something that cost them very little to produce.

      And oh my God, that behaviour is just disgusting! How can someone skimp on people’s health like that!? How can they just not care!? Everyone should have the right to be cured when they are sick and I hope America will get a better healthcare policy soon. That’s something every country should have.

      Companies like that definitely don’t deserve the money. Much better to give it to places where they treat both their employees and customers with respect.

      • beautifulwithbrains says

        Ana, we have the same problem here and it really disgusts me. But at least in our countries such abuses are illegal and punishable by law. Of course suing your employer isn’t easy and the punishment they get are sometimes way too lenient, but it’s always better than not being protected by the law at all.

  8. says

    So agree with this post! One of my top makeup counter pet peeves is when there are no decent testers – already dried up, some even empty, like what’s the point? How are we supposed to ‘test’ the makeup before buying. Haha.
    Aya´s last blog post ..Christmas in February?My Profile

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Aya, I agree. Testing the products really helps a lot in making the right choice, especially when they’re expensive. The Superdrug stores in the UK are particularly bad. I have never been able to use their testers, they are always so messy and dirty. Eww!

  9. amberbitter says

    Ok ladies, I am a Cosmetics counter manager and I agree 100% That service and product knowledge are the keys to a successful counter. So let me give you MY pet peeves: Ok, while I understand that beauty consults are typically free, I find it extremely rude when I spend a good part of my shift applying products to people who have no intention to ever purchase anything, or even express any interest whatsoever in the products. I am completely fine with my client leaving empty handed, if she at least asks me about what I used on her ( price, color availability, etc), but I have had people show zero interest and on top of that, not even thank me for the free service! I also get pretty annoyed when clients badmouth the products of another beauty line, whose counter is 2 feet away from me and they can hear everything. It puts me in a very tough position, as these ladies are my coworkers. And lastly, please do not compare me to the past manager whom you just LOVED, I promise to provide you with excellent products and service, as ME.

    • beautifulwithbrains says

      Amberbitter, I’m so sorry you have to put up with so much rudeness. We’re usually so busy at pointing out the flaws of the sales assistants that we forget that customers can be very rude and annoying too.

      I understand that not everyone may have the money to buy something, but they should at least show some interest if they want a makeover done or just try on a few products. It may be the SA’s job to help, but that doesn’t mean that they can be taken advantage of. And thanking them is just common courtesy. There is no excuse not to.

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