What makes a source a favorite for me? There are three key factors: price, samples, and service. I don't mind paying full price for my items if I get some nice samples to try at the same time. To me, that's the equivalent of a discount. Otherwise, when I have a choice, price becomes the differentiator. When I'm looking for my MEG 21 skin care, for example, I'll go with the lowest price, which has been at a Web store called DrSkinSpa.com. I've always purchased my Prevage MD at Amazon from an affiliate. I often purchase from SkinStore.com. They have many 20% store-wide discount specials, and I love their products and service. My purchases always arrive quickly and well-packed. They are one of my favorites.
Department stores are a case study of what's right in retail - and what's wrong. Many department store staff members are fabulous. They know their lines, and they are responsive and helpful. Many are clueless. I know more than they do. When I have to tell a sales associate about the products she will receive the following week, something's wrong. I'm reminded of a spring trip to a Lancôme counter. I asked about the spring Ô My Rose Collection. The SA insisted that her Lancôme display was the one I was seeking. I politely explained that there was a new Ô My Rose Collection and asked when she might have it in the store. She has absolutely no idea what I was talking about, and she is a Lancôme counter regular. Pitiful!
Then there are the dedicated professionals in department stores, men and women who know their lines and have taught me so much. I am grateful to them; they keep me going back. Once you find one of these fabulous folks, make sure to go when they will be there. Not only are they helpful and fun, they can always teach you something new. Here is a VERY short list of some of my favorites. I know I will leave someone off, and I'll apologize now. I just want to give you some examples of beauty professionals who are at the top of their game.
- Loyd Cassler, Armani Manager at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Maryland, along with his team
- Diron Carr, Bobbi Brown Manager at Nordstrom Tysons Corner
- Chris Coles, currently Assistant Beauty Department Manager at Nordstrom Montgomery Mall
- Donna Muzio, Estee Lauder counter at Bergdorf Goodman
- All of my Sisley friends (Simone Noorestani, Loula Ayoub, and Janette Glynn at Neiman Marcus Tysons and Gail Sezer at Saks Chevy Chase)
- Kathy Shoreman, formerly CVS Beauty Manager and headed for Neiman Marcus Tysons
- Susan Babakhanovaat the Edward Bess counter at Bergdorf Goodman
Web sites are, in general, great sources for beauty products. You can armchair shop any time of day (nice for those of us who are often pressed for time), the products show up at your door, and the price is often right. The beauty companies offer great samples on their own Web sites. One very important factor for me is free shipping. Now that most Web sites are charging sales tax, a purchase can add up if the site wants me to pay for shipping too. I don't mind minimum purchases to get free shipping. What I hate are sites like QVC that charge shipping for each and every item you order. Take a look at the total. If you are paying 10% (or more) of the purchase price for your order, no matter how small and light, you are probably paying too much. I've had a UPS account for years, and I ship your giveaway prizes via USPS. I know what shipping costs. The "handling" charges are bunk. The site is charging you their cost of being in business. They just need to raise their prices rather than change handling fees.
Here are just a few of my all-time favorite Web sites. I'd be rich if I didn't shop at these sites so often.
- Yes, even Sephora.com
About eBay...the seller has to have a sparkling reputation for me to bid. Having sold for years on eBay (antique silver), I know how to bid and win, so I want to ensure I'm winning what's represented. I bought way too much misrepresented silver over the years, and beauty products are no different. "Buyer beware" cannot be overemphasized on eBay. Also, don't pay handling charges - same reason as other Web sources. Find out how shipping will be priced before you bid. I never charged my winning bidders a handling charge. I charged them exactly what it cost me to send their parcel. Handling, the cost of the seller's time and materials, should be wrapped into the price.
This is a long blog post. If you got this far, thanks for reading! Where do you like to shop for beauty products? Want to recommend someone or a great source? No commercial comments, please.
Photos courtesy of beyonddc.com and imegonline.com