Can't remember when was the last time I tried a skincare sample and then liked the effects from one or two applications so much I went looking for the actual product... Maybe because I usually save all my samples in a goodie bag for my mum (you know mums - buy for them never as enjoyable as the FREE stuff - and if Penangites see her walking her obese, horribly spoiled Border Collie and weird* rescue mutt in Gurney Drive please don't tell her sometimes I buy stuff to put in the "goodie bag", and then I lie to her that it's free). Anyway I ran out of my regular moisturizer and couldn't make it downtown for more so I opened up a sample sachet.
*don't know how to explain. It's a weird animal. Next time I visit the parents' I will try to put up a picture. Or video. It looks and moves weird (but is healthy and even-tempered - and the SPCA has assured my mother it really is a dog).
Anyway. The product is Helena Rubinstein Prodigy Re-Plasty face cream. Oh, btw I haven't gone for a facial in maybe 5 or more years. Nor massages (except a period of back pain). Massages are otherwise for accompanying my mum because she likes them and though she is pushing late 60s and has a knee problem, insists on carrying Rockstar.
I'm the antithesis to the beauty/ makeup blogger - I use a grand total of 3 items:
1) Clinique concealer stick
2) Revlon (yes from Watson's) dark brown eye pencil (as eyeshadow, eyebrow pencil, whiskers etc for Rockstar dress ups)
3) MAC cream blush. Well, I have a MAC lip glass that is a few years old lying about and a similarly aged red Revlon lipstick I bought for a function... Next time I feel the need to put on lipstick/ gloss I need to buy some. Otherwise there's whatever tinted lip balm Watson's sells... Oh, I don't own brushes either, I apply/ blend with fingers (You have to wash brushes...)
I don't believe in your average facial because I thought I could spend the money on better beauty product than what they use on you at your average beauty place, not to mention I would use the product less sparingly than the facial people. (I also believe if you keep your insides healthy - lotsa water, veggies, no smokes (have never even taken exploratory puff), limited pollution* - your outsides, hair and skin, will show it. I hope.)
*(I know, avoiding pollution in Hong Kong?? I fill the apartment with ugly spider plants that we rotate around, to clean the air - my dad bought us some air and water filters, but I'm thinking cost of 1 filter = can buy umpteen spider plants from Wellcome)
So about a week ago I hop down to Times Square's Lane Crawford, because I'm also out of body moisturizer - the only time I don't simply use Rockstar's Mustela is when pregnant. Because I credit La Mer The Concentrate with the fact despite having a formerly washboard stomach (carried weight on my hips pre pregnancy), and then ballooning 25kg with Rockstar, I didn't have a single stretch mark wherever I applied Concentrate. But it's horribly expensive so to make it last longer I mix it with the cream or lotion which costs half the price.
(I had happened on The Concentrate after coming across an article about how the founder was a scientist who had developed it to heal his own facial scars post-horrible lab accident. I'd rather splurge on La Mer Concentrate at HKD 3,500 and mix my own body scrub from sugar and honey, than buy 10 or 20 salon beauty treatments in a package with an expiry date and then keep having a problem using all 10 or 20 treatments in that 12-18 month period; some of the beauty places in HK that I bought packages from when I first got here would then relocate, making it harder for me to get to another outlet to finish the package - AND I've also had the problem of "beauticians" who don't seem to know anything anyways. So I figured may as well DIY and with much better quality beauty product...)
Back to my current quest. I get farmed off to a second salesgirl when the first finds it "too hard" to serve me in English. (I maintain it's because she is speaking the whole time I'm trying to tell her what I'm looking for as she has already decided to sell me a skin whitening product - despite my not wanting white skin.)
Second salesgirl is a little better. But when I try the tester, it feels (and smells) nothing like the sample. She hands me another. Not it either. She gets a little pushy. I stand my ground. She reads the labels and discovers both testers she has given me are for the exact same product (that is nothing like the sample.) At which point I'm uncomfortable - I hate salesgirls who push you to buy stuff and have no idea what they are pushing you to buy. Except I don't want to have to make another trip down.
"Can I see the samples you give out please? Then I can show you which one it was."
<rather huffily without really checking> "We don't have that sample anymore."
"I'm not asking you to give me a free sample. I am asking to show you what sample it was that I tried so you can sell me the right product!"
<defensive> "I know, I know." <pause> "You probably want the Prodigy Re-plasty for normal/ combination skin. All 3 testers we have open (2 of which are the ones I tested) are the product for oily skin. We have no tester open for the normal skin version. I've got one sealed jar left. You're going to have to buy it."
Speechless. This is a freaking HKD 2,500 jar of face cream I am trying to identify from a sample they can't show me and have no tester for. How can they possibly expect me to buy it?
My regular face cream in the past was ~HKD 300 so to me this one is quite expensive. In fact it's still the most expensive face cream I've bought by far, unless you count La Mer Concentrate.
As I'm standing there blinking, the salesgirl this time locates the right sample, I try it and confirm it's what I want. As she readies my purchase, I even try to say something nice to the first salesgirl. She doesn't respond or look me in the eye. I'm thinking Ok, plus she was trying to sell me something totally off just now, maybe she simply doesn't hear very well.....
Then a Putonghua-speaking couple arrives at the counter looking for a face cream recommendation, and "deaf" salesgirl picks up the jar of cream from right in front of me and the other salesgirl as she is writing the sales receipt for me, recommends it to them and swiftly closes the sale with the Putonghua-speakers.
Ok, not deaf.
"It's gone, I've sold it." The second woman serving me responds in Cantonese, "You can't do that, <indicating me> she was going to buy it first." Not-deaf salesgirl shrugs, smiles, glances at me and says sweetly, "Oh, and it's the only jar we have left."
NOW I understand how they can expect me to buy a HKD 2,500 jar of face cream without knowing if it's what I'm really looking for. (My girlfriend would later laugh and remind me places frequented by wealthy Mainlanders often have very spoiled salesgirls.) Perspective is everything. Through these salesgirls' eyes I must be a helluva fussy bitch customer: I actually care whether I'm getting the right face cream for my skin type.
Let's Show Her How We REALLY Make Budget. None Of These English-speaking Time-wasters, With Their Stupid Questions!
If they have to ask if they're buying the right product, they can't afford to buy the wrong one! Viva la Putonghua-speaking shoppers!
In which case second salesgirl must have been making a "humongous sales effort". I'm about to tell her I'm sorry (I don't have anything to buy from her, I mean) when she asks me to wait. Determinedly, she disappears from the beauty department for some 15-20 minutes (an eternity, HK time) only to return with an unopened jar she'd remembered had been left I-don't-catch-where.
For the valiant customer service effort (If I handled Mainlanders who don't care what they buy for HKD 2,500 a pop I also would think I'm being a bitch - for all you know the Mainland lady buying it didn't care because she was using that HKD 2,500 moisturizer as a hand cream), I request a customer service feedback form.
Come to think of it, "Can I have your name too please?" I ask English-speaker-avoiding, last-jar-of-cream-swiping, Mainlander-queue-cutting-facilitating Other Salesgirl, as I fill in my Lane Crawford VIP membership number (earned from my working days lah!) This time she flicks a surprised look in my face, before looking away. I'm careful to keep my facial expression polite - and get her name off the tag she is wearing.
Then I sit at their counter for as long as it takes to fill out a detailed account of my shopping experience, which I later mail to their customer relations main office.
My next stop is the La Mer counter right next to them. The staff respond to me in English, and are extremely professional and polite.