If you've ever worked in a shop, you'll know what I mean when I say retail work is ...interesting. If smiling and being preppy for 8 hours a day wasn't a struggle enough, someone decided that it would be a good idea to leave me with the responsibility of doing people's make up...
Fortunately, they didn't know I'd been fired from my previous job as a waitress - because the thing is I am the clumsiest person that ever existed. However, getting a job for Benefit Cosmetics was one of the best experiences of my life - meeting new people, discounted make up, working in an amazing team... but there are a few things I've learnt which I never expected to.
1. Peoples eyes twitch. A lot.
Which is fine and all, apart from the fact I'm trying to put mascara on your lashes. I mean c'mon, we all know how hard it is to put liquid eye liner on. So when a customer is talking to their husband, looking around the shop, and just generally not sitting still, it makes things pretty awkward. A lot of the time I would just hold the mirror up far away, so they couldn't see all the gaps and uneven lines... oops.
2. No one gives a sh*t about the science-y stuff.
News to me. At the start of my training we were required to learn all of the ingredients of the skin products, so for the first few months I'd give every other customer a biology lesson, discussing the different levels of the skin, how this moisturizer contains coco butter and that serum vitamin C... and then I realized somewhere down the line people couldn't care less. I could have been reading out a pensioner's shopping list and they would have been none the wiser. I guess it made my job easier!
3. Mean people are always loaded.
Yeah, this is a correlation I will never really understand; it was always the bitchy customers that would buy everything! I'd spend the best part of an hour desperately trying to please and getting the make up just right, only to be batted down with criticism. And then, they'd end up spending a hundred pounds. It makes no sense. Someone needs to clear this up.
4. People will buy anything for free stuff.
I remember we released a new product some time around June, a product that happened to be particularly difficult to sell. Then we had a promotion: if you purchase the product, you get a goodie bag full of luxury samples. The very moment the word 'free' was uttered suddenly it was all green lights - we had almost sold out of stock by the end of the week. Future contestants of The Apprentice - take note.
5. On the whole, the general public are quite cool people.
They really are. I'd have the difficult customers, the awkward teenagers, the clueless boyfriends, and then I'd have the people who were so grateful and open-minded and kind. Coming from a sales assistant, politeness from a customer is always refreshing and very well appreciated.
I had customers who told me I'd made their day, or they'd like to take me home and do their make up every morning, or with that little bit of make up confessed they felt more confident than they had in a while. One of the most memorable customers was a middle aged woman who hadn't left the house in years, and after a little pampering expressed tearfully that she had never felt this beautiful. Then there were the prom girls telling me about their dates, the clearly intoxicated hen parties who tried to use Benetint as nail varnish, the old ladies who cackled with laughter when I 'magically' made their eyebrows appear for the first time in decades...It's a pretty rewarding job. And finally, last but not least, the customer who barely spoke English, and who when I tried to explain how her foundation was dewy nodded knowingly, leaned in and whispered "bling bling."
I guess the moral of the story is be nice to sales assistants, and we'll return the favour.
Oh also, if you're working for a make up company and have a particularly difficult customer, always use the most expensive moisturizer. Thank me later.