And two weeks ago I was one. Feeling sassy after just having my brows tinted and shaped (free because it was my birthday week!) at the Benefit Cosmetics store on Sutter Street in San Francisco, I rounded the corner on Grant Avenue and a nice-looking guy stepped towards me and offered a sample packet of hand lotion. He smiled, I smiled back and accepted the sample. Before I knew it, I was sitting on a stool looking at a mirror as he applied eye cream to my face.
Had this happened at the San Francisco Centre mall, I would’ve had my radar up for those aggressive kiosk sales-type people. When I see them, I make a wide berth and no eye contact. This downtown encounter caught me off guard. Grant Avenue has high-end luxury shops like Anne Fontaine, Prada and Hermès and I was not prepared for huckster tactics.
He talked quickly, interspersing descriptions of the wondrous qualities of Adore Cosmetics with too many personal questions; Did I just get off work? Where did I work? What did I do for a living? Was I married? My first internal alarm went off, I was not comfortable with all the questions. And as he dished the compliments, alarm number two rang -- my eyes were beautiful, my skin looked great. He wanted to guess my age. I would be celebrating my 57th in two days and I looked at him with trepidation holding my breath as he guessed 40. In a split second my voice of reason said that must mean he thought I looked 50 and said 10 years younger to be flattering. But my voice of vanity said Yes, bring it on! He said I needed just a little something more and began to apply layers of lotions to my face and neck. Alarm number three, he was getting a little too familiar with my neck. Holding up a mirror he said "See! Look at the instant change!" My skin did look more glowy and hydrated, but I could’ve put on Jergens and in that quick moment I would’ve had the same results.
I think it was the fast talking and the pumping house music that scrambled my clarity. Then the wheeling and dealing with the prices. The eye cream is normally $589.95 for a small jar. But for me, it was only $99! And then I must try the eye serum, then the neck cream, then the neck serum! Each one around $600, but for me (as he got out the calculator, alarm number four!) I could get all four for only $400! And he would give me for free the “Golden Touch 24K Techno-dermis facial mask”. It’s the same mask George Clooney uses before big events! At the name dropping, alarm number five sounded, but it was a whisper compared to his sales patter. He assured me the product was completely organic. And to seal the deal, he said that if the products were unopened, I could bring it all back.
Amazing how easy it was to ignore all my inner alarms. I handed him my credit card, signed the slip for $435 and before I could catch my breath I was back on the sidewalk carrying a shopping bag full of new products. I didn’t make it a half block before dread and regret engulfed me. I stopped to do a quick mobile check about Adore Cosmetics and found a long string of bad reviews. I read comments such as "SCAM! Stay away." "DON'T EVER BUY ADORE PRODUCTS! FRAUDULENT SALES PRACTICES! FRAUDULENT PRODUCT CLAIMS!" I read this as I was on the subway going home, my heart sinking deeper every minute. And then I saw on the bottom of the receipt "No refunds, exchanges only."
Oh! How could I be such a dope? I kicked myself and barely slept that night, distressed that I allowed myself to say yes when my instinct was saying NO! The next day I called Visa to see what recourse I had. The Visa guy could not have been nicer or more empathetic having had a similar experience with the mall kiosk sales people. He said "I'm a guy, I don't even use cosmetics and they talked me into buying stuff." He did give me several options where Visa could help. I now had hope, but my first step was to go back and ask for a refund.
After I made three polite but insistent calls and two visits to the store, I got results. The store manager agreed to refund my money. He offered me a free large tube of hand and body lotion "for my trouble" and I shook my head no, afraid to say yes to anything in that store.
Products that needs that hard of a sell and where the price of one jar of goo can fluctuate between $600 and $99, I'm beyond skeptical. And I don't believe the organic claim, I could find nothing on the website with specifics about the products being organic.
Vanity sucked me in, and perseverance got me out. Note to self!