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Snake bit at the cosmetic counter

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Opinion column: The opinions expressed by the author do not necessarily refl ect the opinions and viewpoints of The Examiner.

I had some pretty disappointing shopping experiences in the city to the north recently, particularly as it relates to customer service and cosmetics. Perhaps I’m living in the past but was it really that long ago when you could go to Foley’s, Macy’s or Dillard’s and find the Clinique, Estee Lauder and Lancôme makeup counters fully staffed with cosmeticians who knew their products and understood the varying skin types?

When I was a teenager, my best friend and I would ride the Studewood bus to downtown Houston and one of our traditions was to get little sample tubes of lipstick from the downtown stores. Until recently, cosmetic departments were service oriented - from in-store makeovers to wedding day makeup application - just like one my youngest daughter had on the morning of her wedding.

My tale of two cosmetic counters began at a cosmetic specialty store. I’ve been a faithful user of a particular cosmetic brand for about 30 years but another potential skin cancer scare prompted me to explore a different brand touted to be carcinogen-free. Off I went to this particular store with visions of sugarplums and knowledgeable clerks in my head. I needed help! It’s not easy changing brands.

I hate to play the age card but the sales associate sent to help me looked no older than 16; however, knowledge of skin types and skin tones and experience with product trumps age but both were MIA.

Dissatisfaction with that purchase sent me back to the arms of my old faithful makeup line so I went to a mall department store I frequented before the pandemic. Covid’s collateral damage was apparent in this ghost town, especially in cosmetics.

There was only one sales associate for the entire cosmetics department and she was busy with another customer. She called for reinforcements and I silently sighed when a young man appeared. The minute I began explaining that my foundation’s product number had changed, I could see panic in his eyes. I will give him an A for attitude because he truly wanted to help.

Eventually, with the “real” cosmetician free to wait on me, I bought what I needed but fretted all the way home about the demise of customer service in brick and mortar stores. Since they’re holding on by their unpainted fingernails in this online world, you’d think customer service would be a priority.

I do have one more frustrating experience at a party supply store I’d like to share. All I wanted was a patriotic bow and wrapping paper – something as simple as stars would suffice.

I was referred to aisle No. 1 for patriotic decorations but when I got over there all I saw was a wall dominated by everything St. Patrick’s Day. After walking up and down the aisle multiple times, asking the young female stocker twice and STILL not seeing anything patriotic, I tried a third time.

Being very specific, I said, “You know, red, white and blue?”

This fast-talking young lady showed her annoyance with me while pointing to the St. Patrick’s Day display on the wall behind me. Firing back, she said, “That’s patriotic!”

Well, I guess it is if you live in Ireland!

All I can say is that it’s a national malaise and perhaps the antidote will come only when those now providing the service are the ones being served.

Connie Clements is a freelance reporter for the Navasota Examiner and an award-winning columnist.