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