How I Saved $250 At The Clinique Counter

CLINIQUE COUNTER, originally uploaded by xolar99.

Yes, I really did save $250 at the Clinique counter and you can, too. Here’s how:

I didn’t intend to purchase makeup that day. I’d gone into the local department store in search of business attire (can’t wear my ropers and blue jeans to go to meetings at Large Defense Company). As I’m wandering through the racks, a young woman in a feather boa comes up and hands me a promo card for Free Makeovers! By Makeup Artists! At the Clinique Counter! Today Only!

Having found a couple of outfits that are only borderline acceptable, I decide to put them on hold at the checkstand and spend some time thinking about them. As I near the exit, I see that there are several unoccupied Makeup Artists! at the Clinique display. In a rare “what the hell” moment, I put myself into their hands.

It was a clever setup: large racks of colorful lubes, ointments, and cremes alongside a cover photo from Maire Claire, which was the sponsor for this event. One hour in that chair, sang the display, and you’ll walk away looking like her. Several other women were in progress and I like the results. Sign me up!

The makeup artist! is very friendly and we have a nice chat as we went through the skin analysis and a discussion of what I wanted in my new look. I tell her I’m looking for something a little more polished, something that bespoke more “professional business woman” than “wife and mother with 29 goats, 2 horses, a dog, and a perpetually full ironing basket who does most of her consulting work in her pajamas.”

The makeup artist! set to work and finally pronounces herself delighted with the results. Excitedly, she turns the mirror around for me to see my new look. I take one glance and shriek:

‘COON IN THE BARN!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Racoon, originally uploaded by iandavid.

Oops. I hurt the poor woman’s feelings. I suppose this really is the trendy look…..

Dream eyes, originally uploaded by Lan Bui.

But honestly, the effect is so startling that it is many minutes before I can evaluate whether I like any of the rest of it. It didn’t help that the mirror they used is a 10X, designed to show off every laugh line like it’s the Aleutian Trench.

I decide that I do like the rest of the makeup and start to mentally calculate just how much of this I can afford. To achieve this look, the list of Clinique products required includes: makeup remover, facial cleanser, facial toner, some lipid-thing to hide lines around the eyes, concealer, moisturizer….
(yes — five steps before the moisturizer)
….sunscreen, foundation, eye base foundation, some kind of spackling compound, blusher, eyeshadow, eyeliner, mascara, lip liner, and lipstick.

I should explain to you know that my husband and I, as a general policy, do not make purchases over $100 that the other spouse does not know about in advance. I know that some of our friends think I’m ridiculously tight with a buck (Steph) and I’ve seen the eye-rolling when I back away from a high-dollar purchase in order to consult with the Studmuffin first. It doesn’t matter how much or how little money we have at the time, $100 is a break point for us and in twenty years of marriage we have never had a serious disagreement about money.

Anyway, I tell the makeup artist! that I like the rest of it but that I want to know the individual cost of items so that I can decide what to get that day. This is where things start to go downhill. She keeps saying that she’ll get everything out and ring it up for a total and I keep telling her not to bother, just to give me a price list so I can pick and choose.

The counter manager shows up and distracts me with a discussion about two of the items. They’re out of stock because of all the fabulous sales that day, but that I can pay for the items today and get 20% off because of a promotion that will be in effect in two weeks when the items arrive. I ask if I can just purchase the items then and she responds that she can’t guarantee stock unless I buy today.

The makeup artist! returns with an armload of cosmetics (less the eyeliner) and proceeds to ring them up. It turns out that this is the only way to find out what the prices are because the boxes are not marked. Of course, having the items rung up on the register is also a great way to apply some subtle pressure. All the while, the counter manager is explaining why everything is such a great deal, that it’s a “system”, and it only seems like a lot because I’ll be getting everything all at once. The tally is completed: $250.

“There is no way I can go home with that much worth of cosmetics, ” I say. Now the makeup artist! and the counter manager switch tactics. “You deserve this. You’re a wife and mother and you always make sacrifices so that everyone else gets what they want. You deserve to have something for yourself.” This is a bad approach on their part, though I can see how it might often work. However, it pushes no buttons with me. The Studmuffin begrudges me nothing and we don’t play tit-for-tat in this household.

“You know,” says the sales manager encouragingly, “if you sign up for a store charge account today, you’ll get 20% off everything you buy! That would save you $50!” That’s when I say the magic words:
“We don’t use credit cards.”

The counter manager literally flinches. Who doesn’t use credit cards? Her thoughts march across her face like the billboard in Times Square: W E I R D O. C H E A P S K A T E. ‘COON IN THE BARN.’

Now I’m recognizing the warning signs of a bad purchase: I’m hungry. I’m confused by two sets of voices who are giving me lots of sales information but no way to look at prices and do some contemplation. I ask for a price for just the facial care (which requires canceling the sale and ringing everything back up). Still the far side of ridiculous.

I put a hand up and tell them to put the cosmetics aside. I tell the duo that I want to live with this face for a few hours before I decide what to do. I know, and they do too, that I won’t be back that evening.

I head across the mall to the Dress Barn and in the first five minutes find a great jacket for $80. I stare at myself in the dressing room mirror. Coon in the barn! The Studmuffin calls to remind me that I need to pick up the Little Admiral and I tell him that I was delayed by a makeover (no details) but would be on time. I buy the jacket and leave the mall.

I head to the grocery store, self-conscious about the new look. Am I prettier? More professional looking? Are people responding to me more positively? Reaching for their shotguns? As I round the produce section, I run into my daughter’s Spanish teacher. I greet her and she greets me back automatically, then does a subtle double take. ‘Coon in the barn!

I head home and pick up the Little Admiral at trap shooting practice. As she gets in the car, I take off my sunglasses and give her a brilliant smile. She looks up at me and jumps. “What did you DO to yourself?!?” I laugh and tell her the story. Unfortunately, we have to go straight to church for choir practice. Friend Steph is also in the choir — she slips me a few sideways looks, and says nothing, but I know what she’s thinking: ‘Coon in the barn!

Practice over, we head for home where the Studmuffin is relaxing in front of the TV. I enter the room and smile at him, saying nothing. He looks at me and visibly controls his expression. Hah. He’s terrified, knowing what comes next.

“What do you think?” I ask brightly. He grunts, struggling to come up with a safe response. He gambles on the truth: “Don’t you think it’s a bit….heavy around the eyes?”

Coon in the barn!” shouts the Little Admiral.

And that’s how I saved $250 at the Clinique counter. You can’t turn a goat’s ear into a silk purse.


  1. What a great story!I used to work at a photography studio in a mall and would send people that wanted trendy makeup jobs to the makeup people in the department stores for their makeup. It was fun.I think they should have done a better job matching your style to their makeup if they wanted to sell to you.Thanks for using my photograph, it means a lot to me when people do.

  2. aiyeeeee. scary. If they’d toned it way done (one sixth of the product?) and dealt with you straightforwardly they would have had a sales that day and in the future. scary – I knew it was the Halloween season.

  3. Hey now! I’m getting a bad rap here! I’ve never rolled my eyes at your tight purse strings…although I have teased occasionally. I actually thought you looked very nice at choir and told you so. It took me a couple glances just to figure out why you looked different. I never do those makeovers…I feel very self concious for the rest of the day and if there’s anything I don’t like it’s going home early from shopping! :-)Steph

  4. I just found your blog today from a link on Brenda’s blog. That is a great story! How obnoxious. My favorite are the people in the stores ready to drench you in perfume – I’m horribly allergic to perfume so I usually give them a terrified look!

  5. I’ve been at the makeup counter once. I think it is an experience everyone should do at least once in their lifetime. After all those steps before the makeup even begins, my face already felt caked on, like I was wearing this mask that was made to fit my face. It was a strange feeling all day – since I did it on my lunch hour at work.

  6. That’s to bad something like that happened to you. I use Clinique all the time every day and every night.I receive nothing but complements.My skin feels and looks great! Of course you’re going to feel weird at first because you always do the same thing day in and day out. Why get it done, if you aren’t looking for a change? You may not like everything, but you may love something else. The whole point of getting a make over is to get someone else’s thoughts on enhancing your natural features. I have one cosmetic girl I’ve gone to for years and she’s great. I learned you need to find how long they have been working, it can make a difference. Also I know the eyes may not have been comfortable to you and yes, you may have been pressured to buy, but buying nothing at all, not even one thing? That’s kind of rude. She spent over an hour with you and lost sales to spend time with you, you would pay to have your hair or nails done. She didn’t force you to get a make over, you made a choice, you sat in the chair. All you needed to do is explain what you didn’t like they would have fixed it, that’s what they do. I’ve been there before.

  7. Dear Anonymous,When you go to a dress shop, do you buy something even if you don’t like anything you try on? Do you have any idea what the mark-up is on makeup? It’s not rude to elect not to buy what you do not like. I didn’t cost the artist any lost sales — SHE lost the sale by not listening to me and by giving me a heavy handed sales pitch.Further, she spent not just one hour on me — it took nearly two hours, largely due to the disorganization of the event and the several artists being reduced to contstantly stealing each other’s tools and products.I appreciate the point you made about trying new things — I did find a different product line that I like very much and am happy with the results — and the lack of sales pressure. The woman who sold me the makeup listened to what I wanted and offered several alternatives. As you say, it’s great to find someone who knows what they’re doing and can offer more than one look. NNo, Clinique’s pain was entirely self-inflicted that day.

  8. I am a clinique counter manager and it sounds to me like you were the victim of what we at clinique call a beauty mugging. I am sorry that was your experience. The consultant(makeup artist!) had many opportunties to listen to you and she did not. We are trained NOT to do what she (they) did. But to listen and educate our clients. Not pressure them into large sales of items they don’t want or understand. She should have helped you select what you needed/wanted most and then followed up with you days later to make sure you were happy with them. Then, called you when the rest came in or when a new promotion was going on. You were right to walk away. Those ladies only cared about their bottom line. Not you.

  9. i work at a clinique counter and yes unfortunitly you were a victim of a beauty mugging.We are trained only to demonstrate your suitable skin and colour treatment and record them for your time benifit. We value each and everyone of our clients and although it is good to get a sale after you have freely treated your client to a small pampering.Its not our main goal.Our main goal is to build client relationships so they trust in you with their skins needs and feel confident in returning knowing that you are going to remember their name,unlike ‘the typical beauty mugging counters’ i could mention.I hope this hasnt put you off and if you want to return to a more friendlier counter come to us at the house of fraser belfast!

  10. Wow…sounds like you really didn’t like that look…or maybe makeup in general? I have a question for ya though did the picture they were showing you have a lot of eyeliner in it? That might have been what they were working from…if you want a “less is more” look you need to specify. There is a benefit to these counters – you get to try before you buy, but for public knowledge, is it really that crazy to have them try to sell you their product after an hour of work/demonstration? would you go to a hair stylist and tell her that you want a new ‘polished’ look and then leave without paying claiming to wear it around and see how you like it? At a certain point you have to realize that there is a business aspect behind the motives. It does not mean that you couldn’t trust their advisement in product, because if you go home with a product that won’t work for you then you probably won’t come back…and then where would they be??? They are trained very carefully in skincare and product knowledge. Not just pushy broads in boas…I understand it can be overwhelming, but try to look at it from a positive point of view every once in a while….because it actually can be an investment for you and good skin. If you don’t like the makeup- say so, politely, and yes stick with the skin care – because makeup only looks as good as the skin beneath it!!!

  11. She wasn’t working from a picture, she was working from a description of what I wanted — I didn’t just say polished and professional, I specified a minimalist approach. I’ve goofed on the eyeliner in a self-deprecating way, but the whole system felt like a pile of goop. I think I made it pretty clear that I didn’t want to look like a prostitute. OK, it was just for the day, and I did say politely that I didn’t like the eyeliner.I was willing to try a few things, which is what started the conversation about the prices for individual products. That’s when the high pressure sales tactics started, along with the refusal to give price information. As two Clinique counter managers have themselves commented here, what happened was inappropriate.

  12. still…i for clinique also and you should understand that this is a business and its very rude for u to have even wasted the makeup artists time and not buy a single thing…these ladies do not get paid to pay dress up with u all day…even if u didn't like the eyeliner you should have at least purchased the things you knew you like or could use. just keep that in mind next time u go to a cosmetics counter..we are there to help, and if you don't want it then maybe you might find shopping for your makeup in a drugstore more beneficial for you personally.

  13. Dear Anonymous,If I test drive a car, I am not obligated to buy. If I try on a dress, I am not obligated to buy. Actually, you're proving my point. Apparently many Clinique makeup “artists” have a difficult time listening to customers.Tell you what: I'll buy some eyeliner from you if you promise to invest that money in taking a class in basic spelling and grammar.Oops. Now THAT was rude.

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