Wednesday, June 3, 2015

There's a sucker born every minute

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 Herm├Ęs 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!


  1. Nice of you to share this. I think few people would admit to falling for this. Reminds me of when I fell for a gold ring scam on the streets of Paris. I felt so stupid when I realized what had gone down.

  2. Good reminder, Lesa! Thanks for sharing about your experience.

  3. Oh Lesa, I got pulled into that very store and given that same treatment. She only would do half of my face with all the creams and potions, so my right side looked 30, and my left side looked every bit my age (58)! I got out without purchasing…but only because I was just reading that no product can make you look younger, it can only help preserve where you are. Still am astounded that they were able to get me in that chair! Glad things worked out for you. I cross the street whenever I pass that place now!!

  4. So nice to hear from you Jill. Smart girl to get yourself out of there before any transactions. I walk on the other side of the street now too!